Activity: Identifying the Native People
An important activity for the students is the identification of the different people that were living in the region before the arrival of the European forces. A map of the region is an indispensable tool to show where exactly those people were located. It is also important to talk about their culture and clarify the concept of civilization, since some of those ancient cultures already presented complex organizations and can be considered civilized. Don't forget to include the dates of important happenings.
Details of the Activity. Divide the class into several groups and ask the students of each group to pick people of a specific ethnicity that lived in a certain region of Latin America before the European conquest (the concept of conquest can also be discussed, since it represented the destruction of the native cultures).
Besides the well known Aztecs, Incas and Mayas, there were several indigenous groups living in South America by the time, such as the Tupi (Brazil) and Guarani (Paraguay) tribes. The goal of this activity is to understand the impact of colonization on the native cultures and how people that were not killed by the intruders had their lives completely changed. It is also important to emphasize the relationships established between Europeans and native inhabitants.
Appendix. If you choose to go any further with the discussion on "civilized" and "wild" cultures, you can tell the students that these concepts depend on who is writing the story. In this sense, many indigenous peoples that lived in the region before the foreign intervention had what can be considered advanced civilizations, especially the Aztec, Inca and Maya.