- Describe how and why historians study the past.
- Describe the geographical and human origins of North American history.
- Explain the development and characteristics of major indigenous cultures found in six distinct regions of the area that would become the United States of America.
- Describe the Mexican culture of Meso-America prior to contact with Europeans.
- Assess the legacy of Native American cultures and their status as of 1492.
This first video provides you with some perspectives on why history matters and introduces the themes that recur throughout the course: freedom, equality, and identity. Featured historians also share their thoughts on how to approach the study of history. Why does history matter to you?
Looking at American history as a whole, Defining America examines America both as a place and an idea, and describes how these two elements helped shape the American identity. American identity comprises ideas that developed and eventually became associated with the nation. Foremost among these ideas are freedom and equality, concepts that are contested from beginning to end. As a third part of American identity, consider an old and persistent question: Who is an American? How do race and ethnicity fit into being an American? How and why has this changed over time?
Lesson Focus Points
Look for answers to these questions as you study the lesson:
- What sources other than written records tell us about history?
- How do we learn about ancient Americans? What limits our learning?
- How do historians differ from archaeologists in their study of the past?
- What affects how people interpret events? What does their interpretation tell us about the world they live in?
- How have experts reconstructed what life was like for prehistoric peoples?
- Why were human beings relatively late in arriving in the Western Hemisphere? What made it possible for them to get there? Who were the First Americans?
- Why did Paleo-Indians spread relatively rapidly across the Americas? What characterized this culture?
- Why did Paleo-Indians face a crisis about 11,000 years ago? How did they adapt? What resulted from these adaptations?
- What does the term "archaic" connote about cultures indigenous to America?
- How did environmental factors help define the cultural boundaries and characteristics of the First Americans?
- What characterized the Mexica culture of Meso-America before European contact?
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