Worldviews in Action: Trade

Worldviews in Action: Trade

This activity examines the nature of trade between Native Americans and Europeans: what was traded, by whom, and on what terms. 

Essential Questions

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


• Understand how differences between Native Americans and Europeans shaped interactions such as diplomacy and land transactions.
• Understand the cross-cultural exchanges that accompanied trade between Native Americans and Europeans
• Understand the imbalance of trade between Indians and Europeans and its consequences



Other Materials

Suggested Instructional Procedures

1.  Read the account by James Kenny. Have students consider the following questions.

a. Where does cross-cultural exchange take place or become and issue? i.e.: Kenny learns Delaware to communicate with some of his customers, Indians worry about being cheated, Some Indians have English names, like “John Armstrong” and Kenny refers to an Indian with his namesake.

b. What attitudes does Kenny seem to have about the Indians?  Why do you think he has those attitudes? Would these attitudes affect his trade?  How or why?

c. What is the structure of trade between Kenny and the Indians?  Who is trading what for what? i.e.: Indians are trading animal pelts for liquor, gunpowder, wire, butter, etc.

2.      Review receipts and invoices in the primary sources.  Using the Trade Documents worksheet as well as evidence from Kenny’s narrative, have students map what goods are exchanged, between whom, and noting whether these goods are raw goods or finished goods.  Students should note that Native Americans trade raw goods, such as pelts, for finished goods such as wire, foodstuffs, and gunpowder/guns. 

3.      Discuss: What effect might this kind of trade have on a society?  Does one side of the trading relationship have an advantage?  Why or why not? 

4.      Tie student conclusions into a discussion about the effects of the trade with Europeans on Native societies.  Explain the concept of imbalance of trade, and the devestating effect this had on Native American societies, making them dependent on European goods.


Deed: a legal document that transfers property from one person to another and shows the legal right to possess it

Peltry: animal skins, or pelts, an important Native American trade good.

Wampum:  from the Algonquin wampumpeag, polished shell beads often strung into belts in designs representing events of significance. Leni Lenape and other Algonquin groups used wampum as symbolic gift and currency in trade with European colonists.