Teach PA History
Cornplanter and the Fate of His Land
Equipment & Supplies
  • Overhead projector Transparencies Podium for debate (optional) Container (box, basket) to collect ballots

  1. On an overhead transparency, project the image Frederick Bartoli, Cornplanter (1796) for the class. Do not mention the identity of the person in the portrait, but ask students to study the painting without discussion. (Allow 1 minute). Then disseminate Student Worksheet 1- Graphic Organizer.
    In the graphic organizer students will list all the objects they see in the painting, distinguish Native American objects from European objects, and interpret the mood of the person. The columns labeled "additions" are to be filled in later.

  2. Lead a discussion about the portrait. Ask your students

    • What do you notice about this man? (Accept reasonable responses. Perhaps students will notice that his facial features do not look completely Native American, however details such as his torn and stretched earlobes, the nose ring, colorful feathers, and the pipe make him appear more Native American. Their eyes may be drawn to the red material about him (giving a sense of power), or the metal objects on his clothing. They may also notice the sense of his strength, courage, and directness in his demeanor.)

    • What does his clothing say about him? (He is Native American, probably of high rank.)

    • Do the objects in the painting tell you anything about him? If so, what? (His tribe most likely had contact with European or Colonial settlers judging by the red cloth and metal objects. His pipe is also a tomahawk. This could be interpreted as appropriate symbolism for his dual role as a great war chief during the American Revolution, and his role as a peacemaker afterwards.)

    • How did you interpret his mood?
      After students give various responses, have them do the following small interpretive activity. Ask students to cover the right half of his face/left side of painting with their hand or a piece of paper and ask them to interpret his mood. (He looks as though he is staring off in the distance, serious, warrior-like.) Now have them cover the opposite side, and ask again what his mood appears to be. (He has a completely different demeanor. He looks like he is staring straight at you and smiling, much like a peacemaker.) Ask your students if they think Bartoli did this on purpose. If so, why? (To capture the two main roles of this chief.)

    • From the painting, would you say he is a man of importance? (Yes. His clothing and his pose lend one to think he is important.)

    • Who do you think he is? (Students may surmise he is a Native American war chief. At this point, you can tell them they are right. His name is Cornplanter, and he is a Seneca chief.)

  3. Handout Student Handout 1-Cornplanter Biographical Sketch. This one-page summary of Cornplanter's life will give students more information about the man they have been studying in Frederick Bartoli's portrait. Ask students to read this handout. When they have completed the reading, direct your students to look at the portrait again. Now based on the information they have read, students are to interpret the painting again, adding to Student Worksheet 1-Graphic Organizer any further observations about the objects or mood in the painting. These observations are to be placed in the "Additions" column of the worksheet.

  4. Your students have explored the basic identity of Cornplanter. The remainder of this lesson will focus on Cornplanter's tract of land and the building of the Kinzua Dam. Ask your students if they recall from the reading why Cornplanter was granted the land. [He was given the land as a gift by the government for his help as a negotiator with the Native Americans.]

  5. Project Map of Cornplanter's Land on an overhead transparency and have students note the location of Cornplanter's land and the Kinzua Dam.

  6. Divide the class two groups. Group one will read about the Kinzua Dam from the perspective of the United States Government. The other group, Group 2, will read about the Kinzua Dam from the Seneca perspective. Pass out Student Handout 2-Debate Information for US Government for Group One to read as homework, and Student Handout 3-Debate Information for Seneca Perspective for Group 2. Explain that they will be debating each side of the land/water rights issue tomorrow.

Day Two

  1. Ask your students if they had any questions about their homework reading, and answer any comprehension questions they may have about their respective readings.

  2. Divide the class into the two groups: United States Government and Seneca. Pass out to each group Student Worksheet 2-Debate Preparation. Tell each group to use the worksheet and work together to prepare their points and supporting examples for their debate. Also ask them to try to anticipate what the other group may say, and come up with arguments against their points. Finally, have the students select the two people from their group who will be presenting their points and arguing their side. (allow 20 minutes)

  3. Hold the debate. (16 minutes-8 minutes per side). During the debate each group can use Student Worksheet 2-Debate Preparation to take notes on the arguments of the other side.

  4. At the end of the debate, have the class take a vote. Which side was more persuasive? Have them write this on a slip of paper, fold it, and turn it in. Tally the votes to decide the debate winner.

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