After watching a video about a theory positing that the Pacific Northwest coast was a key location welcoming the first humans to North America, students consider past and ongoing features that make Oregon’s coast a desirable place for human settlement.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Oregon | Unit 1: Introduction to Oregon." In this introductory unit, students will look at what makes Oregon special. Students will learn about early Oregon history, settlement patterns, and cultural groups who live there. The materials and activities in this unit will give students a more nuanced understanding of how to set about learning about their state.
4.9: Explain the influence of Oregon and the Northwest’s physical systems on humans, including Native Americans.
4.10: Compare and contrast varying patterns of settlements in Oregon, past and present, and consider future trends.
An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
Map: Bering Land Bridge
To begin the lesson, project the map, Bering Land Bridge. Show students the Bering Strait. Explain that for many years scientists have believed that the earliest humans to come to North America got here by crossing a land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska. Indicate that they will be learning about an alternative theory about the earliest North Americans, one in which Oregon’s coastline plays an important role.
Play the video, How the First Americans Arrived | First Peoples: Americas. [4:43]
Have students work in pairs to summarize Erlandson’s theory in one sentence. Ask pairs to share their responses and work toward creating an accurate consensus summary.
Show the map, Oregon’s Population Density, and point out that the coastal regions and rivers continue to have areas of high density compared to most other parts of the state. Ask students why the coast and rivers of Oregon, both thousands of years ago and today, are conducive to human life.
Erlandson’s theory is that the first humans came from Asia by traveling in boats on a “kelp highway” along the Pacific Coast of North America, sustaining themselves on food resources produced in the “kelp forest” and staying in temporary sites on headlands along the coast, eventually traveling inland on the continent’s major rivers.
The Pacific Coast of Oregon provides a food source (fish and other organisms), a habitable climate, and a port for trading with other areas of the continent and the world. Rivers are sources of water for hydration, irrigation, and other important uses.