"Without the past, we are bereft of the future," explains the renowned historian William Leuchtenburg about his intrigue with history.
The past, Leuchtenburg believes, shapes the person we are today and conditions who we become tomorrow. For those of us from dominant cultures, our past grounds us firmly. The histories we learn in school walk us through our country's burgeoning development, with all the attendant glories and pain. How our ancestors prospered, failed, and endured lend us perspectives on who we are, personally and culturally, so we readily find our place in society.
For most of North Carolina's Indian peoples, however, the past is elusive. Few know about the state's 12,000-year Indian history. Texts for public school social studies and history classes tend to include scant reference to the state's Indian cultures, typically limiting discussions to their geographic range at contact and subsequent removal when Europeans settled the area. With so little available, the diversity and longevity of Indian peoples' histories, along with the contributions they made are obscured. For Indian children, this historical void has intensely personal ramifications, as well as cultural and ultimately societal ones. For non-Indian children, they grow to adulthood thinking North Carolina history is limited to the 500-year window after Europeans arrived.
Archaeology is a key to help change such perceptions and to help, in particular, North Carolina's more than 80,000 Indian people understand their ancient past.
Archaeology tells stories not found in the pages of books, but in the earth's layers. The words are the things, or artifacts, Indian peoples left behind; they are the dark stains of decayed house posts, the fire-cracked rocks and charcoal of cooking hearths or any number of other traces left untouched by generations. Fragile and irreplaceable, hundreds of sites where Indian people in North Carolina lived, worked, and died have been mapped; some have been scientifically excavated and studied. What archaeologists find in these places answers, at least partly, key questions: How did Indians live in the very places we live now? How did long-term climatic changes affect them? How did they solve problems? Who did they interact with? How were they different from each other? In what ways were they alike? What can we learn from their experiences?
Until recently, much of what archaeologists had discovered was tucked in technical reports written mostly for other scholars. Committed to make the information more widely available, two of us (VPS and MP) conceived the North Carolina Indian History Project in 1992. Based in the Research Laboratories of Archaeology (RLA) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this project is guided by the assumption that teachers in the state's schools are one of the best ways to share what archaeologists have learned about Indian history. The project's goal is to raise public awareness of this state's long history of Indian settlement. One means of achieving that goal is to organize and give workshops for teachers that let them understand how archaeologists as scientists work and what archaeology can and can't say about a people's past.
Early on, we had to face the issue of how to present archaeological information to K-12 teachers. We realized that teachers had limited classroom time and that they had to fulfill very specific curriculum requirements. So we turned for help to another university unit: the Center for Mathematics and Science Education (CMSE), a part of UNC's School of Education. The staff at CMSE, experienced in organizing continuing education courses for teachers accredited by the North Carolina Department of Instruction, became our partners. They helped chart and administer a pilot two-week teacher residency workshop funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Dedicated to showing teachers how to teach science in innovative ways, the CMSE's internal mission dovetailed with the RLA's. Archaeology inherently fascinates students, luring them into the realms of hypothesis testing, classification, and other science processes at the same time it crosses multidisciplinary borders like social studies, history, geography, math, and art.
Preparing for the pilot workshop soon led us to another partner. Contacts through the Society for American Archaeology's Public Education Committee led to the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) Cultural Heritage Education Program based in Colorado. In their own multi-agency effort, they had devised Project Archaeology, an archaeology-education program for teachers of grades 4 through 6 built on a Utah curriculum called Intrigue of the Past. Talking with the BLM staff, RLA and CMSE organizers found the BLM not only shared similar goals, but they had a jump start. Their Intrigue of the Past held a series of extensively tested and teacher-friendly lessons designed to draw on students' interest in archaeology and simultaneously to enhance their skills in science, math, higher-order thinking and communication. Intrigue's lessons also fostered a sense of responsibility for stewardship of irreplaceable archaeological sites.
The Intrigue curriculum was used in the North Carolina Indian History Project's pilot workshop. Even though its text featured examples and illustrations drawn largely from archaeological research in the West, the approach to teaching archaeological processes, concepts, and ethics was generic. North Carolina archaeologists and instructors verbally substituted information relevant to North Carolina. Teachers applauded it. Yet they pointedly said they needed the verbal input in writing.
Today, the North Carolina Indian History Project is the child of the three partnerships and the experience of the pilot workshop. With BLM's permission, the Project Archaeology curriculum has taken on a distinctively North Carolina look to become Intrigue of the Past: North Carolina's First Peoples.
While the integrity of BLM's Project Archaeology lesson structure remains, most of its original text has been modified. In this version, all background texts, examples, and illustrations reflect local archaeological research. Also, 13 additional lessons have been created, each of which, like the original Intrigue's, satisfies an array of skills requirements and is cross-linked to complementary lessons within the guide. Newly created Part 3 is written mostly for teachers; four essays give teachers additional background on what archaeologists have learned about North Carolina's pre-European past. Yet even this part is designed with students in mind. Each essay has a "Quick Study" of salient points. These can be used in conjunction with Part 4's lessons, which build on information in Part 3's lessons.
There is one caveat for those who wish to use this book of the lesson plans: it will never be finished. Over time, the guide will be modified as teachers, Native Americans, archaeologists, and other educators give feedback about what works, what doesn't, and what else they would like.