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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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2. Exploring Borders   

2. Exploring

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•  Using the Video
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•  Activities
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Activities: Author Activities

Samuel de Champlain - Teaching Tips

Back Back to Samuel de Champlain Activities
  • Ask your students to pay close attention to the incident in Chapter VIII of The Voyages of Sieur de Champlain in which French sailors and Indians have a violent skirmish over possession of some large iron kettles. In this passage, Champlain narrates the way cultural misunderstandings and the ill-considered actions of a few individuals can ignite destructive, large-scale confrontations. Have your students outline the progression of events and the actions that lead to the escalation of the fight. Who are the principal actors? What motivates them? What kinds of communication difficulties cause and exacerbate the situation? How do the French and Indian leaders ultimately diffuse the tension? Is the situation resolved satisfactorily for all parties? It might be useful to ask your students to compare Champlain's account of this encounter with some English and Spanish narratives of violent confrontations with Native Americans (William Bradford, John Smith, Christopher Columbus, or Bernal Díaz del Castillo, for example).

  • In Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, J. Brian Harley and David Woodward argue that "maps are graphic representations that facilitate a spatial under-standing of things, concepts, conditions, processes, or events in the human world." Have your students examine Champlain's "Map of New France," which is featured in the archive. How does this map help facilitate Champlain's view of New France and the Americas more generally? What key concepts and processes are represented in Champlain's map? You might call attention to details such as how he pictorially represents the landscape and the relative scale of the various pictures. How does Champlain depict Native Americans? Plants and animals? Natural resources? Europeans? How does the map differ from current maps? After you have discussed Champlain's map, ask your students to borrow his techniques to produce a map of their own city, their neighborhood, or an area they have visited recently. Discuss their maps as a class.

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