|How has life changed for people over time?|
As California’s Native American population knows, change is inevitable. Students will discover how people from Native American groups once lived. They also will see how Native American people play a part in today’s world, even as they work to preserve their ancient cultures.
What Primary Sources Can Tell Us about Native American Communities
Native Americans were the first people to live in what we now call California. Through the many changes that have occurred in the thousands of years Native Americans have lived here, they have worked hard to preserve their heritage.
Native American Artifacts
According to archaeologists, people were traveling through the Yosemite region as much as 7,000 to 8,000 years ago. Though the Miwok believe that they were created in the Yosemite area, anthropologists have estimated that their ancestors first arrived there about a.d. 1000. There they adapted to changes in the seasons by living in brush-covered lean-tos during the summer and conical bark-covered structures or dome-shaped thatched homes in winter. They also stored food for the winter and set fires to improve the land for growing acorns. These fires also opened up the land to make hunting easier. From late spring to early autumn the Miwok—known in their own language as Ahwaneechee (ah-wah-nee-chee) or “People of the Gaping Mouth”—often took trips to trade with the Mono Lake Paiute. In the early nineteenth century, many Yosemite Miwok were forced, by white settlers, to live in a reservation near Fresno. Later, however, they were allowed to return.
Waterfall and valley at Yosemite
History of the Mortar and Pestle
Long before the mortar and pestle became the primary icon associated with the pharmaceutical industry, Native Americans used these tools to grind corn into cornmeal and to grind acorns and other nuts into paste for cooking. In Southeast Asia and elsewhere, granite mortars and pestles are used to grind spices. In Japan, a very large mortar (called an usu) used with a wooden mallet (called a kine) is still used to pound white rice into a type of rice cake called mochi.Archaeologists have discovered mortars and pestles that date back to Neolithic times, which is the era that scientists believe they were first used.
Comparing Tools of Ancient and Modern Peoples
1. Point out to students that the Miwok people have lived in Yosemite long before it was a national park, or even before explorers from other lands came to these shores. If you like, you might also wish to share with students the Miwok myth of how the world grew
2. Distribute to each student a copy of the Miwok artifact (from page 28 of the Primary Sources Handbook). Then show students an image of a mortar and pestle from an earlier time.Tell students that today most cooks and pharmacists who once relied on these items now use a blender or other type of electric crusher. Have students discuss why they think the tools have changed. Ask them what they think are the benefits and drawbacks of both types of technology.
4. Instruct students to flip through Unit 2 of their textbook and select another tool that the Miwok or members of another Native American group once used. (Or, if you prefer, assign each student a Native American artifact from one of the web sites above.) Distribute two large (5” x 8”) index cards or other sheets of stock paper to each child. On the first card, have the student draw and label the item from the textbook or web site that she or he has selected or been assigned. (To make sure students using the textbook draw a variety of items, you might assign students to different pages in the book.) On their second index card have students draw and label a present-day item that fulfills the same or a similar purpose as the one that they drew on the first card. Take a poll asking which students found that the present-day items they drew were similar to the ones used in the past. Then ask how many students found that the two sets of tools were notably different. Discuss for a few minutes why those students think that might be.
5. Divide a bulletin board into five sections. Label each section with one of these categories:
Ask students if they think the items on their cards belong in one of these categories. If not, have students suggest any other categories you might need. Then, one at a time, invite youngsters to come up to the board and pin their cards in the appropriate section.
6. Now ask students to think of some other ways in which they might re-group these items (for example: color, shape, or materials from which they were made). Invite volunteers to come up and re-group some or all of the items in a new way, and then challenge classmates to try to determine in what new way the items were re-grouped.
Additional Primary Sources
Image credits: a. Steve Cole/Getty Images; b. Royalty-Free/CORBIS