Group 1

Origin of Native Americans

KEYWORDS: exact date and routes matters of discussion and research, last continents to gain human habitation, traditionally hunter-gatherers, some groups practised aquaculture and agriculture, land bridge of Beringia, Wisconsin glaciation, 17000-50000 years ago.

The exact date of the first settlers and the routes travelled are still matters of discussion and research to this day. However, we are able to claim that North and South America were the last continents to gain human habitation. These settlers were traditionally hunter-gatherers but some groups also practised aquaculture (fish farming, seaweed farming, etc) and agriculture. There are many theories about how the settlers got to America but the widespread theory suggests that they used the land bridge of Beringia that surfaced during the Wisconsin glaciation about 17 000-50 000 years ago.

Different tribes and their way of life

Many tribes and their civilizations achieved great complexity during the pre-Columbian era (before Christopher Columbus’ voyages). This complexity included permanent or urban settlements, agriculture, engineering, astronomy, trade, civic and monumental architecture, complex societal hierarchies. The most known tribes are the Navajo, the Pueblo, the Apache and the Iroquois.

The Navajo tribe is now the second biggest tribe by population. They live mainly in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, whereas they also have their own Navajo Nation. The Navajos had a semi-nomadic lifestyle. As a part of their traditional economy, the Navajos have been supposed to form trading and raiding parties, travelling between vast distances.

The Pueblo tribe share the same region with the Navajos. The Pueblos are known to be skilled at pottery and architecture. Their houses were carved into the faces of cliffs (called pit houses), having more permanent and compact villages. The Pueblos had a more static lifestyle.

The Apache tribe is distantly related to the Navajos. They share similar languages and somewhat similar habitation areas, living in Oklahoma and Texas, having reservations in New Mexico and Arizona. The Apaches had a nomadic lifestyle. They lived together with their extended families, crammed in a house called tipi. Most of the Apache tribesmen were hunters or farmers.

The Iroquois tribe live mainly in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Similar to the Pueblos, the Iroquois tribe also had a more static lifestyle. They lived in longhouses. Their tribe has now formed a confederation, uniting the regions of the tribe.

Nowadays, the list of federally recognized tribes consists of 523 Native American tribes that are recognised by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs). There are also 573 federally recognized tribal governments.

Legend of Pocahontas

KEYWORDS: Native American woman, saved a colonist from execution by her father in 1607, in 1613 was captured, converted to Christianity, Rebecca, didn’t return, married an Englishman, gave birth to a son, died in 1617 mysteriously at 20/21 years of age.

Pocahontas was a Native American woman who lived from circa 1596 to March 1617. She saved a Colonist named John Smith in 1607 from execution by her own tribe. She saved him by placing her head on John’s when her father was about to execute John using his warclub. Pocahontas wished for peace between the indigenous settlers and the colonists. During hostilities in 1613 Pocahontas was captured. During captivity, she converted to Christianity and took the name of Rebecca. When the opportunity came to return to her tribe, she chose to stay with the Colonists. Rebecca then married an Englishman and gave birth to a son. She died mysteriously in 1617 when being 20 to 21 years old. She showed that Native Americans could be civilized. She was called “the Reformed Savage”.

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

KEYWORDS: an organic act of the Confederation Congress, formed the Northwest Territory as the first ever organized territory, the land between rivers Ohio and Mississippi, before it many problems, first to abolish slavery, began the process of admitting new states, the border between free and slave states.

Also named as An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio. It was the organic act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States. The act created the Northwest Territory, the first ever organized American territory. The territory included the land between rivers Ohio and Mississippi. Before the Northwest Ordinance, there were many problems like an empty US treasury, violent confrontations with the indigenous, a lack of a strong central government to implement changes, etc. The Northwest Territory was one of the first regions to abolish slavery.

Indian Removal Act of 1830

KEYWORDS: signed into law by Andrew Jackson, relocating Native American tribes westwards, acquiring their land, considered genocide because of the discrimination and deaths, enforcement lasted until 1841, being finished by Martin Van Buren, Trail of Tears, 4000 dead.

It was an act signed into law by US president Andrew Jackson. It allowed Andrew Jackson’s administration to negotiate for Native American tribes’ removal to the land west of Mississipi River. The act also allowed the white settlers to acquire Native American land. The act has been considered genocide because it discriminated to an ethnic group leading up to many deaths. The enforcement of the act lasted until 1841, being finished by the administration of the US president Martin Van Buren.


KEYWORDS: first reservation in 1758, the system in 1763, Indian Removal Act of 1830, forced assimilation in 1868, president Ulysses S. Grant wanted to make peace, nowadays 326 reservations, 1 million living on them, 2.5 million living elsewhere.

The first reservation was established in 1758 in southern New Jersey. The American Indigenous Reservation system was founded in 1763 when Great Britain set aside massive resources for Native Americans. Then there was the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which was then followed by forced assimilation in 1868 started by the US president Ulysses S. Grant in a push to pursue “Peace Policy” to avoid violence. Nowadays, there are 326 Indian Reservations throughout the US which have about 1 million Native Americans living on them, whereas the majority, 2.5 million live elsewhere, for example, in big western cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Indian Citizenship Act of 1924

KEYWORDS: Homer P. Snyder -> Snyder Act, granted full US citizenship to Natives, signed into law by Calvin Coolidge, recognition to the war veterans, Fourteenth Amendment didn’t apply to the Natives.

Also known as the Snyder Act because it was proposed by a Representative from New York named Homer P. Snyder. The act granted full US citizenship to the indigenous peoples who were named “Indians” in the act. It was signed into law by US president Calvin Coolidge. Partly a recognition to the thousands of Indians who served in the First World War.
According to the Fourteenth Amendment, any person born on the US soil was to be granted a full US citizenship but the amendment was interpreted not to be applied to Natives.

Trail of Broken Treaties of 1972

KEYWORDS: cross-country protest, autumn of 1972 by American Indian organizations, national attention to Natives’ issues, biggest American Indian gathering in D.C., from the west coast to Washington D.C., Nixon refused to meet, Twenty-Point Position paper, protesters occupied BIA, after a week Nixon’s administration negotiated, made concessions.

It was a cross-country protest staged in autumn of 1972 by American Indian organizations. They wanted to bring national attention to widespread American Indian issues, such as treaty rights, living standards and inadequate housing. The protest brought the biggest American Indian gathering to the capital city, presenting their hopes. The caravan began on the west coast in October and reached Washington D.C. in early November. Protesters travelled by bus, van and car. The Nixon Administration refused to meet the protesters to receive a Twenty-Point Position paper that defined the Native American demands. In response, the protesters occupied the Department of Inferior Affairs headquarters building which also housed the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs). After a week-long stand-off, the Nixon Administration was agreed to negotiate with the protesters and made concessions including further treaty negotiations.

Present situation

KEYWORDS: same obligations (taxes, military service, no additional payments), some old problems (education, living conditions, housing), reservations -> big cities, tribal sovereignty, 0.8% is of American Indian or Alaska Native descent, scattered all around the US.

American Indians have the same obligations as the US citizens as they still have to pay taxes and attend military service. They don’t receive additional payments from the federal government simply because they have Indian blood. However, there are still some old problems considering the American Indians. There’s still a big difference between them and Americans as the indigenous have a lack of education, poor living conditions and housing. As mentioned before, many American Indians are emigrating from their reservations to bigger cities. There are also still some problems considering tribal sovereignty. In 2010, the US Census Bureau estimated that about 0.8% of the American population is of American Indian or Alaska Native descent. The population is scattered unevenly around the US.

Group 2

Jamestown Colony (living conditions, population, plantations, import of slaves)

Jamestown Colony was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. It was created by the Virginia Company of London as “James Fort” on May 4 (O.S.), 1607. At first, 100 people were brought to the Jamestown Colony. Before the arrival of new settlers and supplies in 1610, Jamestown Colony faced a near failure because of different diseases, famine and conflicts with the locals. In fact, the Jamestown Colony actually suffered a brief abandonment in 1610. Jamestown was named after King James I.

The living conditions were especially difficult at the start. That’s also why about 80% of the settlers died within the next few years. The land chosen wasn’t inhabited by the locals because it was considered too swampy and not usable for agriculture. The settlers also arrived during a drought and too late to plant down any crops. Furthermore, the settlers weren’t accustomed to hard labour due to the fact that most of them were high-class gentlemen and their manservants. The deaths of many were also contributed by a harsh winter and the almost instant return of Captain Newport (who led the fleet to Jamestown) to gather more supplies and report to King James I. There were also many conflicts with the locals, though at the start the settlers were welcomed with great hospitality.

The population decreased and by 1608 (before the First and Second Supply missions) two-thirds of the settlers had died due to starvation and diseases. During the “Starving Time” (1609-1610) only 60 of the 214 original settlers survived (the data varies hugely). The Third Supply brought much-needed supplies and new settlers to Jamestown. By 1699, there were 60 000 people living in the colony, including 6000 slaves.

Plantations. Initially, the Natives taught the English how to harvest corn and by 1611 the English had harvested a decent amount of corn themselves. The rise of Jamestown’s economy started when a tobacco planter named John Rolfe introduced a new type of tobacco.

The import of slaves, and with it the long-lasting tradition of slavery, began in 1619 when about 50 African men, women and children were settled in Jamestown Colony. These slaves were from a Portuguese slave ship that was captured in the West Indies. They were assigned to work in tobacco fields. This event led to the formalization of slavery in the United States in 1640.

Mayflower and Pilgrim Fathers

Mayflower was the main ship that carried the first English Puritans (now known as the Pilgrims) to Cape Cod in 1620. There were 102 passengers and 25-30 crewmen on the ship. Mayflower’s maiden voyage was in 1609. It was meant to be a cargo ship. The Pilgrims didn’t use a passenger ship because at that time the transportation of people by sea wasn’t really developed yet, so there was a lack of passenger ships. The captain of Mayflower was Christopher Jones who also owned one-fourth of the ship. Mayflower weighed around 180 tons and had 4 decks. The ship was most likely taken apart a year after returning from the voyage to America.

This is the restored version of Mayflower named “Mayflower II”. The replica was built in Devon, England in 1955-1956. It weighs 242 tons (the original Mayflower weighed around 180 tons) and is now a museum ship.

The Pilgrim Fathers or Pilgrims were the first English settlers of the Plymouth Colony. The Pilgrims held Puritan Calvinist beliefs, but unlike other Puritans, they believed that their congregations should be separated from the Church of England. They initially fled England due to persecution to Holland which was relatively secure and tolerant. As they feared that they might lose their cultural identity in Holland, they decided to emigrate to America.

Mayflower Compact

Mayflower Compact was a set of rules established in the Plymouth Colony in 1620. It was the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony. The rules were signed aboard Mayflower (while anchored) by male passengers including adventurers and tradesmen who were separatist Puritans. These rules were established to avoid disobedience, violence, criminality and overall a total disaster. These laws were applied so that a functioning social structure would prevail.

The text of Mayflower Compact is now on the Pilgrim Monument in Princetown. The monument commemorates the Pilgrims arrival in Princetown. Eventually, the Pilgrims deemed Princetown inhospitable and moved on to Plymouth where they established a permanent colony. Nevertheless, the event has great importance for the residents of Princetown.

Puritan Colony in Plymouth, New England

Puritan Colony in Plymouth was founded by the Pilgrims in 1620 due to emigration from England and Holland known as the Brownist Emigration. It was one of the first successful English colonies in America. In 1620, over a hundred settlers arrived in Plymouth on the Mayflower. More than half of them died in the first winter. Despite that, they managed to establish a permanent colony and remain in good relationship with the locals who taught them a lot in survival. Due to good relationships, the colony didn’t have to worry about defending the area. The colony became self-sufficient in 5 years.

Puritan ethics and ideology

Puritans believed in hard work, thrift, efficiency, education for everyone (to read the bible) and closeness to God. They led a simple life. The Puritans believed that we should always be uncertain of another day. They believed that we are all equal in the eyes of God which practically meant that the Catholic church in their opinion hasn’t got any special power. The Puritans wanted the Church of England purified, reformed. In contrast, the Separatists wanted a whole new church because in their opinion the church shouldn’t be attached to the civil power, whereas the Puritans believed that it is the government’s mission to enforce moral standards and ensure that the religious worship was established and maintained.


The celebration of Thanksgiving dates back to November 1621 when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe gathered to celebrate the autumn harvest. There were large celebrations for several days. The locals and the settlers had competitions in archery and wrestling. The original event is considered a symbol of friendship, though it’s believed that the locals turned up uninvited. Thanksgiving is celebrated to this day by gathering with the family and feasting.

Thanksgiving is nowadays often celebrated in countries like the US, Canada, Liberia, etc. In North America, it is a tradition to gather with the family and eat traditional food like turkey.

Religious issues (freedom)

During the reign of King James I of England, by law, everyone was supposed to belong in the Church of England. King James I and William Laud (the archbishop of Canterbury) opposed the Puritans and suppressed them which led to the Puritans emigrating to Holland or remaining underground.


The Quakers are a historically religious group of movements. They are Christian Protestant. Their church is called the Friends Church. They believe in pacifism and in the fact that God exists in every one of us. The movement was founded by George Fox in mid-17th-century England. They were persecuted for their beliefs. First missionaries arrived in America in the 1650s. The Quakers don’t have any elaborate religious ceremonies, nor an official clergy. They believe in the spiritual equality of men and women. The Quakers are pacifists. They also played a huge role in the abolition of slavery and women’s rights movement.

The symbol used by the Quakers’ Friends church named “Quaker Star” since late 19th century.

Preparation for discussion leading (Q&A)

Based on the film

Why were the Puritans forced to emigrate to America? (notion: Religious Issues)
By law, everyone was supposed to belong to the Church of England. Charles I was strongly opposed to Puritans was determined to suppress them. The life in Holland was also not good enough because Pilgrims thought they would face extinction there. They had to do hard labour and their children were becoming more Dutch, so they decided to leave. The culture and language were simply strange for the Puritans.

Who were John Carver and William Bradford and what happened to them?
John Carver was the initial governor died of an illness in 1621. William Bradford succeeded him and died in 1657 (and by that outlived most of his friends).
Was the first voyage initially a success? Or how did it turn out?
There were 3 attempts in total. At the start, the Mayflower was supposed to reach America while accompanied by a smaller ship named Speedwell. However, the first two attempts were failures as Speedwell started leaking and they had to return to England. Ultimately, they abandoned Speedwell and sailed for America using only the Mayflower.

How many passengers were there on the Mayflower and what were the living conditions like? How was the food and what did they drink?
There were 102 passengers + 25-30 crewmen. The living conditions were horrible. Many illnesses, poor hygiene, low motivation (the man who cursed them), lack of privacy, lack of room (only 5 ft tall), living with animals, dirty. The food was awfully salty which caused dehydration. During that time, there wasn’t really any clean drinking water and so they drank beer. Even children.

What happened to the main beam and how was it fixed?
Due to the strong storms, the main support beam started cracking up. The ship had already suffered many delays, food shortages, illnesses, etc. Now, the whole ship was included in the repairment of the main beam. It was repaired using a device called jackscrew. It was loaded on board to help the construction of homes. The jackscrew was used to secure the support beam and by that, they prevented any further cracking.

What happened to the Mayflower after they reached Cape Cod?
The captain Christopher Jones set sail towards England. Ship’s empty hold was ballasted with stones. A year after the arrival from America the captain died and the ship was probably taken apart.

How were the relations between the new settlers and the Native Americans?
The Puritans managed to make permanent peace with the Natives. They learned a lot from each other and celebrated Thanksgiving together. They held competitions and parties. A great deal of mutual hospitality. They became allies. Of course, the Natives also showed their authority but the new settlers remained unnerved.

What did they think of the Natives at the start?
They had many stereotypical thoughts about the Natives. Some of them thought that the Natives are uncivil, cruel and barbarous cannibals. Some thought that the countries in America are fruitful and fit for habitation.

What was the difference between the Puritans and the Separatists?
The Puritans believed that the Church of England can be purified, changed and made better. The Separatists believed no Church of England can exist because the church cannot be connected to the civil power.

What do you think why were the Pilgrim Fathers able to make peace with the locals, whereas the British could not? (AN OPEN END QUESTION)
I think they had a more positive mindset. Though some of them actually thought that the Natives were cruel cannibals some of them truly believed that the Natives can be civil. They concentrated more on collaboration and cooperation than violence. They were happy to live alongside the Native Americans.

Based on the notions

What is the origin of Thanksgiving?
In 1621 the newly arrived settlers and the Native Americans gathered in Plymouth to celebrate the autumn harvest. There were competitions in wrestling, archery, etc.

Who are Quakers?
A historically religious group of movements. They were Christian Protestant. They believed in pacifism and in the fact that God exists in every one of us. The movement was founded by George Fox in the mid 17th century England. They were persecuted for their beliefs. First missionaries arrived in America in the 1650s.

What was the Mayflower Compact?
A set of laws applied in the Plymouth Colony in order to avoid disobedience, violence and a total catastrophe. These laws were applied so that a functioning social structure would prevail.

What did the Puritans value?
Hard work, thrift, efficiency, closeness to God, simple life, the uncertainty of another day.


“Desperate Crossing – The True Story of the Mayflower” is a 2006 film made in the USA depicting the Mayflower voyage to America and the story of the colony through the eyes of the second governor William Bradford. The film was made based on the diary entries of William Bradford.

The historical integrity and accuracy of the film are somewhat doubtable. While the main events were included, the depiction could have been more accurate. For example, the horror on the ship Mayflower was relatively not harsh enough. It is said that the ship suffered much more casualties, disease and horror than the film depicts. The harsh winter that followed the arrival to America and greatly affected the population of the colony was also not included.

One classmate of mine considered the film to be so boring that he almost fell asleep during the film. I, however, did not fall asleep during the film but personally, I am having a hard time deciding whether to agree with him or not. On the one hand, the film was interesting. On the other hand, the film was frankly nothing fascinating and definitely had its flaws. For example, I failed to sometimes understand where one scene ended and another one began. So, sometimes the time-shift was way too unexpected for me to instantly acknowledge. I also failed to understand what this film was exactly meant to be. The term “fake documentary” tends to suit that film very well. I guess some of these previously mentioned flaws may have been caused by the fact that we were actually watching only an excerpt of the film. The original film is 3 hours long, whereas the film we watched lasted for around 40 minutes in total.

The film did a great job in making the history it depicts understandable for everyone. As one review says: “The events are largely seen through the eyes of William Bradford and based, primarily, on his journals. That gives Lisa Q. Wolfinger’s production a clear point of view, leaving it to the commentators to fill in historical gaps and provide balance.” These historians explained simply and clearly what was going on in the film and what each scene meant. They helped a lot to gain a fuller understanding of the film. This film has also received a good reputation from the viewers as it has received a score of 8.2 out of 10 according to the IMDb site which has compiled the score based on 93 user reviews.

“Desperate Crossing” succeeds in helping to understand and visualize the events depicted. There are small historical inaccuracies which can be forgiven. Few events went missing due to the fact that I only saw an excerpt of the film. Otherwise, the content of the film was clear, simple and easily understandable. In addition, the film has received positive feedback from other viewers as well. Though it is hard for me to evaluate the film as I have not seen the whole film, I give it an 8.

Essay sources

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