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Mary's Choice: To Go or Stay?
Equipment & Supplies
  • Map of New York Map of Pennsylvania Several dictionaries Overhead projector and transparency

Day One

a. What facts did you learn from these stories about Indian culture?
b. What did you learn about the experience of the person in captivity? What lessons learned, moral or spiritual ideas or changes, or skills were developed as a result of the time in captivity?

a. How are whites/Indians/women/men portrayed in the stories?
b. Is there plot development, a villain and a hero, a resolution to the story?

a. Does the author have an agenda for publishing this?
b. Are societal prejudices against Indians apparent in the text?
c. Do stories reinforce the importance of 18th century ideas about the roles of women or importance of faith?

  1. Begin class discussion by asking children to respond verbally to the following questions:

    • "How would your life change if you woke up tomorrow and found yourself living in a different culture? (for example, in China, in Africa, in the Middle East?)"

    • "What would be different?" (Food, clothing, language, religion, responsibilities, rules, taboos, music, customs, etc.).

    • "How do you think you would feel?" (Frightened, lonely, excited, nervous, abandoned, curious, etc.).

    • "What do you think would be the hardest change for you and why?" (being without friends and family, making new friends, fitting in, doing chores, understanding the language, etc.).

  2. Explain that:

    • Before the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War, many different groups of settlers from Europe came to North America. They acquired land in what was then the "western frontier," where there was land to farm, natural resources like wood, plentiful fish and game, and rivers to travel.

    • Indian peoples from a number of nations-Delaware, Susquehannock, Conoy, Tuscarora, and Shawnee-were also settled in the Susquehanna Valley in the early eighteenth century. Most came there after being displaced by colonies settling elsewhere in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. They formed new communities in villages such as Conestoga and Shamokin and became fur traders. In diplomatic councils with colonial leaders, these Indians often reminded the settlers of William Penn's pledge to always deal peacefully and fairly with them. But the colonists after Penn did not always uphold those promises. Broken promises led to distrust and anger among the Indians. When the Scots-Irish settlers came to central Pennsylvania, many of the Indians there moved further west where they could live apart from the colonial neighbors and still find plenty of game for the fur trade. There was unrest between the Europeans and the Indians.

    • These tensions led to war from 1754-1764. There were conflicts among the settlers themselves–the French and the British were at war. Some settlers and Indians chose sides, some remained neutral. European armies made roads through the wilderness and built forts on important rivers. Indians conducted raids against colonial homesteads for scalps and captives. Colonial militias attacked and murdered Indians.

  3. Display or project a copy of Painting by Robert Griffing of the kidnapping of colonist Mary Jemison and other colonists by Shawnee Indians and French raiders

    • Ask students to describe what they notice about the scene and ask them to describe the dress, hair style, attitudes of the colonists and the Indians.

    • Ask students where they think they're taking the captives? What do they think the captives are thinking about? What might have happened next?

  4. Explain to your class that they are going to see what happened to Mary by reading an excerpt taken from a captivity narrative about her life. Mary was interviewed in her later years by Dr. James E. Seaver, who transcribed her story in The Life of Mary Jemison: "The White Woman of the Genesse" in 1824.

  5. Define captivity narrative: These were the "bestsellers" of the eighteenth century. They told the stories of women and children captured by Indians.

  6. Before reading the excerpt, invite the class to think about the different ways we can read a captivity story. In three columns, write these on the board:

  7. Tell students you are going to look at this excerpt in all three ways. Handout Student Worksheet 1-Interpreting a Captivity Narrative and ask students to look over the questions. Then disseminate Student Handout 1-Adoption Excerpt. As a class read this handout of Mary Jemison's adoption and answer corresponding worksheet questions.

Day Two

  1. Review information from yesterday.

    • What is captivity narrative?

    • What have we learned about Mary's capture?

    Ask students what they think will happen to Mary. Do they think Mary will eventually return to the culture she was born into, or do they think she will live out her remaining days with her new Indian family?

  2. Divide the class into two groups–Group 1 and Group 2. Place your more advanced readers in Group 2 (as they will have a passage of slightly greater length to read than Group 1). To Group 1 pass out a Pennsylvania map for the group, several dictionaries, and to each individual in the group Student Handout 2-The Encounter at Ft. Pitt and Student Worksheet 2-The Encounter at Fort Pitt. Group 2 will receive the following: one New York map for the group, several dictionaries, Student Handout 3-Escape from the Bounty Hunters and Student Worksheet 3-Escape from the Bounty Hunters to each person in the group.

  3. Each group will be reading more of Mary Jemison's captive narrative and answering the corresponding worksheet questions for assessment of reading comprehension. To aid assessment, see Teacher Guide to Student Worksheet 2-The Encounter at Fort Pitt and Teacher Guide to Student Worksheet 3-Escape from the Bounty Hunters. When students have completed their reading and worksheets, bring the class together.

  4. Ask for a volunteer from Group 1 to explain to their classmates what happened to Mary in his/her reading. Have them point out on the Pennsylvania map where the events took place. Perhaps they could refer to Question Five in their worksheets (and you could refer to the same in the teacher guide) to help their responses. Ask the class, did Mary want to stay or leave her Indian tribe in this excerpt? [Leave.]

  5. Next, solicit a volunteer or two from Group 2 to show the geographic location where their story takes place and to explain to their classmates the plot of their reading. Again ask, did Mary want to stay or leave her Indian tribe? [Stay.]

  6. Now ask your students to guess which order these events happened. [The encounter at Fort Pitt took place years before her escape from the bounty hunters.]

  7. Ask students why they think Mary changed her mind and decided to stay with her Indian tribe? [Possible responses: she grew accustomed to Indian culture; she had Indian family and friends; she loved living close to the land; it was familiar to her; she no longer had a biological family to return to; she might have been afraid of forgetting her old customs and ways of living.] Write class responses on the board.

  8. Ask students what they would do if they were given Mary's choice. As a culminating activity, ask each person to decide if they would stay with their Indian family or return to their own culture after years of living with Indians. Have them write their decision and back it up with three supporting reasons. For writing assignment instructions, pass out Student Handout 4-Writing Assignment "Your Choice: To Go or Stay?" to each student and go over each writing element:

    • An Introduction

    • A Position Statement

    • Three Supporting Reasons

    • Elaboration of Supporting Reasons

    • Conclusion

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