1. Shift students attention to the colonial period at the time when colonists first encountered Native Americans and continued to make contact as they moved west in search of new land.
Set the Stage
Ask them to imagine that they are colonial settlers in New England who are meeting Abenaki Indians for the first time.
- How did they communicate?
- Point out that while initially a lot of gestures were used, some colonists learned Abenaki vocabulary, just as some Abenaki learned English words.
- Ask students about the impact of language exchange and the sharing of ideas from different cultures.
In the colonial period, these exchanges likely took place at trading posts as the two groups transacted business. Sometimes exchanges occurred when colonists were taken captive and sold to the French during the series of French and Indian Wars. Phineas Stevens from Fort No. 4 in Charlestown, New Hampshire is an example of a colonist who learned Abenaki words during his captivity as a young man. Like other colonists of his time, Stevens used that knowledge throughout his life to trade and negotiate with the Abenaki tribe.
Speak the Language
Explain to students that they have an opportunity to learn some Abenaki vocabulary that is still spoken by some people.
Distribute the handout: Alnôbaôdwa! Speak Abenaki! and review the directions at the top of the page. Go over the pronunciation guide at the bottom of the page.
Give the partners time to write their dialogue and help with pronunciation where needed.
Have the partners perform their conversations in front of the class. If time permits, allow the teams to gather and use props to add to their presentation.
Engage students in a whole class discussion about how colonists and Native Americans communicated with one another and draw parallels to students lives and other examples of contact between different groups.