Analyzing Sources Related to Local Indigenous Groups

Submitted in 2016 by Samantha Crisp, Special Collections Librarian, Augustana College

Originally used in the course Native Americans and their Interpreters (HIST336), this activity is designed as an introductory exercise for students to get a feel for primary source analysis. The librarian projects the document onto a screen using a document camera, and then walks students through the process of analyzing a primary source, asking them to consider the historic context of the document, visual elements, text elements, format, and significance. Students would then put these skills to work on their own, working individually or in small groups with a similar or related document. In actual practice, students were researching images and representations of Black Hawk, the Sauk leader known for the Black Hawk War of 1832, and interrogating the source in a similar manner.

Learning Objectives:

1) Critically interrogate a primary source connected to a marginalized group, including analyzing images, textual content, and format.

2) Explore how to date photographs and documents

3) Learn to situate sources in a historical context

Course Profile: Native Americans and their Interpreters (HIST336), designed for undergraduates as an introductory exercise to primary source analysis. This approach could also be used with other classes researching Native Americans, or marginalization / oppression. Could be appropriate for first year and upper level classes.

Collection Profile: The scrapbook pages show a narrative and images from the disruption of Native burial grounds in 1918. Original item: Item: John Henry Hauberg Papers, Augustana College: United Sunday Schools Band boys with Native American bones: MSS 27 box 39, notebook 39-2(b), items 26h-k

Preparation: Prepare image under document camera.

Class Discussion Outline: 

1) After describing the class plan, allow students to look at the projected image for several moments before proceeding.

2) Lead students through a physical analysis by asking them to identify what we are looking at. Physical details such as the carbon paper, holes on the left indicating binder use, photographs, and typewritten/handwritten text.

3) Ask students to try dating this image. After some participation, reflect together on what elements are considered in this exercise: the boys’ clothes, use of a typewriter, carbon paper, etc.

4) Ask someone to read the first paragraph aloud and prompt: what is this a picture of?

5) Ask someone to read the second paragraph and prompt: how does this help us better understand the top image? Look for answers regarding the location, the references to graves so we know these are human bones.

6) Ask students to reflect on what is going on in the picture: what are the boys holding? What facial expressions do they have? 

7) Ask students to discuss how these images make us feel. 

8) Discuss what this item shows about attitudes toward Native peoples at the time, and have students contrast this to now.

9) Discuss Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act

Assessment: Students later filled out document analysis worksheets prompting them to perform the same analysis of a different resource, which were collected and graded according to a rubric.

Image of the document used for the exercise

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