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Native American-European Contact in Colonial Times

Native American-European Contact is a cross-curricular lesson plan that explores the nature of the first encounters between Native Americans and Europeans in colonial Pennsylvania. Drawing on the concept of worldview, students learn to think critically about the cultural differences between Europeans and Native Americans, and how those differences shaped interaction and potential misunderstandings between the groups as they negotiated trade and diplomatic relationships.


17th century

18th century

Colonial period

Native American

Big Ideas

Historical Context

Pennsylvania History

Essential Questions

How has social disagreement and collaboration been beneficial to Pennsylvania society?

What role does analysis have in historical construction?


  • Textual evidence, material artifacts, the built environment, and historic sites are central to understanding the history of Pennsylvania.

  • Conflict and cooperation among social groups, organizations, and nation-states are critical to comprehending society in the Pennsylvania. Domestic instability, ethnic and racial relations, labor relation, immigration, and wars and revolutions are examples of social disagreement and collaboration.

  • Artists often address social issues or concerns in their artwork.

  • People use analytic processes to understand and evaluate works of art.


  • Summarize how conflict and compromise in Pennsylvania history impact contemporary society.

  • Analyze and interpret the work of a contemporary artist who addresses social issues or concerns.

Background Material for Teacher

End of Unit Assessment

Have students create a presentation or write an essay comparing and contrasting how artwork and literature depict the relationships between the Native Americans and Colonists. Students should use the engravings and pictures from the unit as well as the letters and journals.


William Penn to the Kings of the Indians in Pennsylvania, October 18, 1681

Deed between William Penn and the Delaware Indians, July 15-August 1, 1682


Plans in this Unit

Differences in Worldview

Imaging and Imagining Encounter between Europeans and Native Americans

Worldviews in Action: Diplomacy

Worldviews in Action: Trade

Grade Level

High School

Standards/Eligible Content







PA Core Standards

CC.8.5.11-12.G   CC.8.6.11-12.A


This unit plan was created with funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Lindback Foundation, the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, William Penn Foundation, the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.

About the Author

This unit was created by Kathryn Wilson.   Updated for SAS by Elizabeth Fox and Kendl Hommel, Education Interns, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


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