New Lesson for Students from the National Museum of the American Indian Examines the “Sale” of Manhattan

September 23, 2020
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Logo for educational program Early encounters in Native New York

In its continued effort to transform teaching and learning about American Indians, Native Knowledge 360°, the national education initiative of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, has released its latest module, “Early Encounters in Native New York: Did Native People Really Sell Manhattan?” The module provides Native perspectives, images, documents and other sources to help students and educators understand how the 17th-century fur craze brought together two cultures—Native and Dutch—each with different values and ideas. The module leads students and educators through what took place in Manhattan and the Lower Hudson Valley between 1609 and the so-called sale of Manhattan in 1626. This lesson aligns with grades 4 and 5 Common Core and social studies for New York State standards.

This module is designed to work in combination with the museum’s upcoming exhibition “Native New York,” scheduled to open in spring 2021. The lesson explores how differing cultural values and world views about land exchange led to misunderstandings between the Dutch and Native peoples. The lesson uses videos, maps and online interactives, making student engagement possible in the classroom or through remote learning.

In addition to meeting state education standards, the lesson addresses five of the 10 Native Knowledge 360°’s Essential Understandings, which the museum developed in collaboration with Native communities, national and state education agencies, educators and others. The five Essential Understandings in the lesson are: American Indian Cultures; Time, Continuity and Change; People, Places and Environments; Production, Distribution and Consumption; and Science, Technology and Society.

The Essential Understandings is a framework that offers new possibilities for creating student-learning experiences. The framework builds on the 10 themes of the National Council for Social Studies’ national curriculum standards. They serve as the foundation for educational material developed by the museum.

Professional Development Webinars

To support the launch of the lesson, the museum is offering four free professional development webinars, scheduled for Sept. 24, Oct. 1, Oct. 8 and Oct. 15. Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) credit will be provided for New York State teachers. The webinar themes are:

  • Sept. 24: The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience will lead a webinar on facilitated dialogue fundamentals. Sites of Conscience developed the facilitated dialogue toolkit for the Native New York exhibition, and this toolkit is informing the creation of a virtual student program connected to it.
  • Oct. 1: Museum staff will demonstrate the Native New York virtual student program for teachers and share details about the programming the museum is offering for the 2020–21 academic year.
  • Oct. 8: This workshop will address the history of problematic narratives about Native Americans, its impact on society and why it matters today.
  • Oct. 15: The workshop will focus on the NK360° digital lesson “Did Native People Really Sell Manhattan?”

Visit the registration page for more details. Questions about the webinars should be directed to

Virtual Field Trips

Starting in fall 2020, the museum will offer free virtual field trips to supplement the lesson. During the 45-minute session, “Living in Native New York,” students will learn more about the rapid changes that occurred after the arrival of European colonists and how some of the Native Nations maintain, and continue to preserve, their connections to their New York home in the face of adversity and change. Developed in collaboration with International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, the field trips will be based in the practice of facilitated dialogue. The field trips will be conducted through Skype in the Classroom.

About NK360

Native Knowledge 360° (NK360°) is a set of teaching resources that provides educators and students with new perspectives on Native American history and cultures. Most Americans have only been exposed to part of the story, as told from a single perspective through the lenses of popular media and textbooks. NK360° offers educational materials and teacher training that incorporate Native narratives, more comprehensive histories and accurate information to enlighten and inform teaching and learning about Native America. It challenges common assumptions about Native peoples—their cultures, their roles in United States and world history, and their contributions to the arts, sciences and literature. The initiative provides a view that includes not only the past but also the richness and vibrancy of Native peoples and cultures today.

Lead funding for the Native Knowledge 360° education initiative provided by Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, Cherokee Nation, and Elizabeth Hunter Solomon. Major funding provided by the Booth Ferris Foundation, The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation, the National Museum of the American Indian’s National Council, Bonnie and Jere Broh-Kahn and Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation. Additional funding provided by Mr. Rodney Coenen, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, Mr. William Lomax, the Secretary of the Smithsonian and the Smithsonian Seattle Regional Council.

About Native New York

Native New York” journeys ​through city and state to explore the question “What makes New York a Native place?” The exhibition encompasses 12 places in present-day New York, introducing visitors to the Native nations that call the region home. Stretching from Long Island through New York City and on toward Niagara Falls, it covers pre-Revolutionary War exchanges through contemporary events. From Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) ironworkers who helped build Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers to Lenape (Delaware) teens visiting their ancestral home, stories of Native New Yorkers provide an expanded understanding of the region’s history and reveal that New York is—and always has been—a Native place.

Major support for Native New York provided by the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation. Support is provided by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and the National Council of the National Museum of the American Indian. Additional funding provided by the Hudson River Foundation.

About the Museum

The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present and future—through partnership with Native people and others. For information about the museums, including hours and directions, visit; additional information is on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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Becky Haberacker


Lisa Austin


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