Digital Paxton: Digital Collection, Critical Edition, and Teaching Platform

Differences in Worldview

When Swedes and English interacted face-to-face with the Lenni Lenape or Shawnee, they encountered one another in the fundamental differences, not only of language and culture, but of underlying worldview as well. The differences in worldview between Indians and Europeans informed early negotiations between the groups, which involved moving back and forth between differential understandings of property, language and writing, social customs, and notions of reciprocity. This activity introduces the concept of cultural worldview and allows students to understand how Native and European ideas of time, the spirit world, property and social relations differed from one another. Students are encouraged to speculate on how these differences informed both accommodation and misunderstanding between the two groups.

Essential Questions


Primary Sources

Other Materials

Suggested Instructional Procedures

1. Warm up: Activate prior knowledge by conducting a warm up exercise in which students react quickly to a series of words related to the colonial encounter of Native Americans and Europeans. Explain to students that you will be reading a series of words related to Native Americans and when Europeans first encountered one another on North American shores. Ask them to write down the first word that comes to mind when they hear each term. You will then call out each term and give them only about 10 seconds to write a response. The effectiveness of this exercise is to determine the prior knowledge of the students and to turn their minds towards thinking about words associated with the unit. Words you might use include:Review each word and ask students to share their responses, listing them on the board. Afterward, go back and look at what is written down. Assign a plus, minus, or 0 beside each word according to the kind of feeling (positive, negative, or neutral) evoked by the term. When the exercise is completed have the class discuss: What kinds of feelings are evoked by specific terms? What patterns do they see in responses that were neutral, positive, or negative? Are any of the responses stereotypical? How and why?

2. Infer worldview: Have students examine the engraving The Indians Giving a Talk to Colonel Bouquet... by Benjamin West, from An historical account of the expedition against the Ohio Indians, in the year 1764.

Note the location of the engraving: The caption of the engraving reads, "The Indians giving a talk to Colonel Bouquet in a conference at a council fire near his camp on the banks of the Muskingum in North America in Oct. 1764." It is important to note that according to An historical account of the expedition against the Ohio Indians, the Muskingum camp was selected as the site for the negotiation of prisoners because many Native American settlements were situated in close proximity to this location. It was the intention of the Europeans to display their military strength and to easily engage these settlements in battle if the negotiations were not successful.

In groups have students quickly write down the differences in the ways Native Americans and Europeans are represented in the engraving. You can either hand out a print out of the engraving or use a Smart Board or projector. Some patterns they should notice include:
3. Introduce and discuss the concept of cultural worldview. Ask the class "Who created the engraving?" Tell students that the engraving is an example of the worldview the Europeans held during the colonial era. Describe worldview as a kind of "cultural sunglasses" through which we see and experience the world. Discuss how worldview is a deep kind of cultural understanding that shapes our reality but usually lies beneath the level of everyday awareness. Thus, worldview seems "natural" even though it is cultural.

Compare and contrast Native and European worldviews in terms of time, relationship to nature, ownership of property, and social interaction. Using the Worldview worksheet, create a diagram with students that map out these differences. Have students discuss, in pairs or small groups, how the patterns represented in the engraving embody these differences.

4. Process ideas. Write two of the following questions on the board:Have students pick one these topics and write a short essay answering the posed question. Collect the essays at the end of the class period. This could also be used as a take home activity.


To take this lesson deeper, have students read Apology of the Paxton Volunteers in light of the documents about grievances, killings, and capture. Discuss the differences in worldview. Examples include city residents (Quakers) vs frontier residents (volunteers) and Europeans vs Native Americans. Some possible discussion questions include:


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