Texas Insights - August 2012

Volume III, Issue 1

What’s New?

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is observed each year on September 17 to commemorate the formation and signing of the Constitution and to recognize those who by coming of age or by naturalization have become citizens of the United States of America. Each year, the president issues a proclamation which calls on educators to celebrate this day, through appropriate instruction in schools.

Many organizations have put together resources to help make teaching the Constitution a fun and rewarding experience. Law-Related Education has put together a series of lesson plans, specific to each grade level.   On their website and found on TeachingTexas.org, they also have many Constitution Day related interactive games, for all ages, including: a Constitution Relay game, Pirates of the Preamble, a Pledge of Allegiance game, Declaration Clarification, Preamble Scramble, the Branches of the Federal Government, the Bill of Rights match game, and a game to learn about American Symbols.

Other sites offer Constitution Day resources as well.  Scholastic has a series of interactive games, background information, and lesson plans. Oak Hill Publishing has a variety of activities, lessons, quotes, puzzles, and downloadable apps for iPhone or iPad. Teachers can also request free pocket size Constitution booklets for their students. Like competition? Oak Hill is inviting teachers and students to participate in their Constitution Day Poster Design Contest, which is open to K-12 students. Participants should design a poster which shows how they have benefited from the freedoms embodied in the U. S. Constitution. Teaching the Constitution can be fun and exciting, for more lesson plans and activities for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, search TeachingTexas.org.


Region 7 Texas History Workshop 

The Region 7 Education Service Center and the Texas State Historical Association invite you to join us for a fun filled Texas History workshop on October 2, 2012. Enjoy presentations and breakout sessions addressing historical content, geography, economics, civics, teaching strategies, and resources. General Sessions include the keynote presentation by Ricky Dobbs and lunch presentation by Scott Sosebee. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.


Primary Sources from Texas Tejano.com

Texas Tejano.com is proud to announce the release of a primary source collection for educators. Texas Tejano’s mission is to bring awareness and education about Tejano pioneers from the early 1600’s through the 1800’s. They have produced a new publication line, posted images of artifacts, documents, photographs, and maps. Teaching Tejano also celebrates the Tejano experience through the use of re-enactments, their website, on site and traveling exhibits, student and adult contests, and documentaries.

Featured Institution

Texas Beyond History
Using Archeology as a Lens for Discovery: Students (and Teachers) Dig this Virtual Texas History Museum!

Texas Beyond History (TBH) is a unique virtual museum with hundreds of “nooks and crannies” to explore right in your classroom. The website’s interactive format, wealth of imagery, and layers of authoritative information are effective teaching tools allowing for enriched, interdisciplinary learning for students at all levels.

Created at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with Texas State University, the free public education website combines vividly illustrated, online “exhibits,” interactive learning activities for students, and standards-based lessons about the cultural history of Texas. Spanning at least 13,500 years, that legacy represents over 540 generations and hundreds of diverse cultures. From Paleo-Indian mammoth hunters and Archaic “Iron Chefs,” to Spanish empresarios, French explorers, Buffalo soldiers, frontier settlers, sharecroppers, sugar makers, and Piney Woods loggers, their stories can be discovered on TBH.

Texas’ rich heritage can be explored geographically as well as culturally through time. While learning about the ingenious ways in which Texas’ native and early historic peoples adapted to challenges in different parts of the state, students also gain understanding of the varied natural resources in each region and how environments changed through time. Understanding that complex legacy helps students appreciate their place in the long march of human history.

For some students, the excitement of archeology and the thrill of discovery spark a greater interest in learning. For most of the immense span of human history in Texas, there is no record—there are no books, and no eyewitness accounts. Instead, all we can use to tell the stories of Texas are the remains of ancient campfires, stones, bones, and other mysterious traces of once-flourishing Native American societies. This is the "material evidence" upon which archeologists base most of their interpretations, using a variety of interdisciplinary techniques. As Dr. Dirt, the Armadillo Archeologist tells us on TBH, archeology is the science that makes history.

How TBH Works
Students tell us that using the website is like digging through an archeological site. With information presented in “layers” of varying detail, students can follow their own interests, particularly in the Kids Only sections. There, students enter a 3-D carousel where the hands of a clock on the state of Texas turn backwards in time. By selecting one of several pathways, such as “Adventures into the Past,” students can join Dr. Dirt traveling back in time and across thousands of miles to visit peoples of different cultures in the state’s distinctive geographical regions. They can choose from dozens of interactive activities such as “Imagine It,” with its multiple doorways to learn about ancient foods, weaponry, and shelter. Or they may choose a specific culture, such as the East Texas Caddo World of the Caddo). Getting into later history, students can travel with Cabeza de Vaca in south Texas in Journey with an Explorer, or travel to the Texas frontier to Meet the People of Fort Griffin and the Flat!. For extra enrichment, many students will enjoy perusing the related general-audience exhibits to learn more about the sites and subjects. There also is an illustrated student glossary, a section for fun and games, and a guide for doing student research using TBH.

In the Teachers section of the website, content is organized by subject area, offering tools for interdisciplinary learning in social studies, science, math, art, and language arts. Developed by teachers and curriculum specialists, the lessons (more than 60) and multi-day unit plans, including handouts and graphics, may be downloaded as pdf files. Many of the lessons are correlated to the exhibits and student activities, making a rich learning package. For example, the lesson Whose Buffalo?, is correlated to the Red River Wars exhibit. In the two-part lesson, students examine how the Plains Indians vied with white commercial buffalo hunters for the millions of Great Plains buffalo, and are asked to  create an illustrated broadside supporting the interests of either the Indians or the commercial hunters.

Who We Are
Created in 2001 in collaboration with 17 different institutions, Texas Beyond History is an educational outreach developed to share the treasures of the past curated at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory and other facilities and museums across the state. Praised by scholars and students for its accuracy and depth of content, TBH has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities in EdSitement, the Best of the Humanities on the Web and by the Society for American Archaeology with its 2008 Excellence in Public Education Award. By working in partnership with dozens of individuals and organizations, TBH helps tell the stories of the millions of people who have settled the land we call Texas.

Historian's Corner

Teaching about Texas Indians Before 1836
By Thomas A. Britten
The University of Texas at Brownsville

Texas was a place full of indigenous peoples long before longhorns and cowboys moved in. If a pencil symbolized the chronology of the state, the “Indian period” would encompass virtually the entire writing instrument from the tip of the eraser all the way down to the beginning of the lead. That said, the task facing teachers of fourth and seventh grade students is to provide their classes with a broad survey of the origins, subsistence activities, political structures, and cultures of Texas Indians in about two weeks (or less). When you add geography and Indian interactions with European colonizers to the mix, the time teachers spend specifically on Texas Indians declines further. Given these time constraints, teachers invariably do their best to cover as much as they can before curricular demands force them to move on. The following suggestions are designed to assist teachers prioritize their coverage of Texas Indians and to enrich their lessons further through the inclusion of critical thinking prompts. Teachers can assess critical thinking and subject matter mastery simultaneously via short writing assignments and/or objective tests. 

Teaching about the origins of Texas Indians offers teachers an opportunity to introduce the critical skill of perspective. The ability to see or understand something from another’s point of view is a talent that can be taught and is crucial not only for academic achievement but for building successful social relationships. Many Native peoples have oral traditions that contain unique genesis stories—often speaking of an underworld or place of emergence—that explain their origins in Texas. The Tonkawas of Central Texas, for example, maintain that wolves assisted in their ascent from the underworld by digging into the soil to uncover them. From the Tonkawa perspective, they are native to Texas from the beginning of time. Most modern scholars, on the other hand, accept the Bering Strait explanation (first articulated by Fr. Jose de Acosta in 1590) that American Indians are immigrants from Asia who traversed across a land bridge that emerged as a result of glaciation and declining water levels. Many Native Americans, especially traditionalists, not only reject such a theory but also consider it insulting—another case of non-Indians telling Indians who and what they are. So when testing classes about the origins of Texas Indians, you might consider asking about the two differing perspectives and how they differ, why Indians may dislike the Bering Strait theory, and how modern scholars (archeologists, anthropologists, geneticist, and linguists) have attempted to prove their theory. How might Native Americans interpret the inability of modern scholars to reach consensus?

The Three Sisters, the Agricultural Revolution, and Time  
A watershed event in the history of early Texas was the arrival or dispersion of agriculture from Mexico at some point between 300 and 700 AD. Native Americans refer to corn, beans, and squash as the “Three Sisters” and their influence in early Texas was nothing short of revolutionary. A lesson on the significance of agriculture provides an opportunity to introduce the critical thinking skill of cause and effect reasoning. Agriculture freed many Native Texans from the stresses related to feeding their families—what anthropologists call the “food quest.” Now that family heads no longer had to depend exclusively on hunting or gathering for subsistence, they had excess time. What did they do with this time? What was the effect of possessing this precious new commodity? Teachers might initiate a class discussion of what students do in their free time. Read, watch television, Facebook, play sports, listen to music? Absent these modern time-fillers, what might Indian peoples have done? Anthropologists argue that a cultural revolution followed in the wake of the agricultural revolution, that Texas Indians used their time for new pursuits—improved housing, more substantial clothing, handcrafts, art, and religious expression. As nomadic ways gave way to sedentary villages and as people found themselves living in closer proximity to each other for extended periods, more centralized forms of government developed. A discussion might ensue about other possible causes that might have led to these developments. Absent other possible causes, is the cause and effect relationship (agricultural revolution brings on a cultural revolution) confirmed?

The “Major” Tribes
The TEKS requirements specifically mention that students develop a degree of familiarity with Lipan Apaches, Karankawas, Caddos, Comanches, and Jumanos (Coahuiltecans and Tonkawas might also be included). The critical thinking skill that teachers can readily apply to a lesson(s) describing the social, political, and economic characteristics of these groups is compare and contrast. How are these groups alike and how are they different? A key theme that will undoubtedly surface repeatedly is diversity. To assist students in assessing differences and similarities, teachers should consider devising a chart that students can fill in as the lesson unfolds. Categories might include kinship reckoning systems, subsistence activities, dwellings, religion, geographic location, allies, language, and the role of women. Once students have the chart completed, they should be prepared to assess similarities and differences. Teachers might solicit additional discussion about how these factors influenced their relationships with non-Indians, how they influenced their security, and how non-Indians may have interpreted (or misinterpreted) them.

A final theme around which teachers might construct a lesson is the importance of avoiding generalizations and stereotypes that depict Texas Indians as uncivilized barbarians, noble “savages” that inhabited utopia, as “obstacles” to the inevitable progression of “superior” or “more advanced” civilizations, or as victims—helpless, defenseless, and naïve aboriginals who never stood a chance against their powerful foes. Such depictions are not only historically inaccurate but dehumanizing as well; they deny Native Americans an accurate depiction of their histories, their accomplishments, and their important legacies to Texas history. Instead, teachers should make clear that Native peoples were people who shared many of the same hopes and fears as non-Indians living then and now. As David LaVere writes in his excellent survey The Texas Indians (Texas A&M Press, 2004), “at the most basic, Indian people wanted full bellies, peaceful sleep, good families, friendly neighbors, prosperous times, helpful gods, and an easy afterlife.”

A Vanishing Race?
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a number of so-called “Indian experts” lamented (or cheered) what they considered was an indisputable fact: American Indians must either assimilate into the majority culture or face extinction. Either way, so the thinking went, they constituted a “vanishing race.” Boy were they wrong! A nice conclusion to a unit on Texas Indians might include a discussion of contemporary Indian life, the resurgence of the Indian population in Texas, the prevalence of pow-wows and other celebrations of Indian cultures, the demand by various Native American organizations for fair treatment in textbooks and for respectful handling of gravesites and remains. The ongoing battle by Indian Nations in Texas and nationally for sovereignty and government compliance with historic treaties provide ample proof that the story of Texas Indians did not end in 1836 and that they remain exceptionally resilient and remarkable peoples.

Featured Lesson

As you plan instruction on Native Americans in Texas, check out this issue’s featured lesson plan from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Available on TeachingTexas.org, Teaching About Texas Indians is a learning and activity book which guides students through the evolution of the different tribes of Native Americans in Texas. Containing information pages, as well as, coloring and activity pages, this booklet is sure to spur interest in any 4th or 7th grade student.

Texas History News

Several opportunities for Texas history educators and students are available or are on the near horizon:

Help the George W. Bush Presidential Library pack up and move to their new facility, while at the same time viewing many of the libraries primary and secondary resources. Volunteers are need now through August 31, 2012. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.


The Texas General Land Office is proud to present the 3rd annual Save Texas History Symposium: the Civil War in Texas: Death, Disease and Mini Balls, September 15, 2012 at the Thompson Conference Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information.

The University of North Texas Department of History is proud to host their annual Teaching of History Conference, September 15, 2012. This one day conference will feature presentations by Sam Haynes, Todd Moye, Owen Stanwood, Light Cummins, Alan Gallay, Nancy Stockdale, Robert Citino, Ricky Dobbs, and Christian Fritz. This year’s conference will be held at UNT’s new Business Leadership Building. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.


Join the Terrell Flight Museum as they salute veterans of all branches and recognize the honor and valor of our fallen service men and women. On September 15, 2012, events include static airplane displays, a BBQ cook-off, classic car show, a food court, museum tours, a kid’s zone, and the Texas Heatwave Aerobatic Team and Dinner Dance. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.

Celebrate our great state heritage with the Region 6 Education Service Center and the Texas State Historical Association at the Region VI Texas History Conference in Huntsville, November 1-2, 2012. Presentations will focus on Texas history, geography, government, and economics. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.


Humanities Texas will hold a workshop in San Antonio for Texas history teachers on October 5, 2012. This workshop, titled Texas History: Spanish Texas through the Civil War will be held at the Witte museum. Workshop presenters include Frank de la Teja, Juliana Barr, Walter Buenger, Caroline Castillo Crimm, and Robert Wooster. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.

The Texas Archive of the Moving Image is proud to introduce the new KHOU TV Collection. These 1962 to 1972 films contain footage of George H.W. Bush, Barbara Jordan, Robert Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Dr. Michael DeBakey, and John Connally as well as news coverage of NASA and the building of the Astrodome. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org.


Visit Fort McKavett State Historic Site on November 3 – 4, 2012 to participate or view the living history event, Fort McKavett, ca. 1853. Interpreters representing the soldiers of Company H, 8th US infantry will be drilling on the parade ground, carrying out fatigue details, and living the life of a soldier stationed at Fort McKavett in 1853. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.

Step back in time with the Brazoria County Historical Museum as it presents the Ninth Annual Austin Town, November 2-3, 2012. A living history re-enactment, Austin Town recalls and celebrates the lives of pioneers who settled Colonial Texas from 1821 to 1832. Set just north of Angleton, the fictitious “Austin Town” features character interpreters, demonstrators, sutlers, militia drill units, and period games. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.


TeachingTexas.org welcomes a new partner, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, in Dallas. The Sixth Floor Museum chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy, interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historical Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza, and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history. For more information on the Sixth Floor Museum, visit the partner’s page at TeachingTexas.org.

Texas Insights is a publication of the Texas State Historical Association
in cooperation with the University of North Texas.

Texas State Historical Association
1155 Union Circle #311580
Denton, TX 76203-5017

Stephen Cure - Editor
Kim White- Associate Editor
JoNeita Kelly- Associate Editor  


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