Performance Standard: Students will analyze how differing historical memories of a past event can contribute to a variety of views on contemporary history by identifying and discussing the social, political and economic significance of cultural difference/misunderstanding evidenced in the film Smoke Signals.

Performance Assessment:  Smoke Signals Viewing Assignment

Your task:  identify scenes in the movie that illustrate the differences between the values of the dominant society and of Native peoples as shown on the chart. Choose the scene you found most compelling and post 1-2 paragraphs on merkipedia discussing how cultural differences/misunderstandings are addressed in the scene and how/if they are reconciled by the end of the film. Respond to at least one of your class mates who chose an alternate scene and share thoughts. Feel free to comment on the chart descriptors themselves as well.  Due Monday 2/2

Indians are not "just like us"...

White Man's Moccasins



Values differ, sometimes radically, from culture to culture. Worldwide, we see again and again the tragic results of conflicts that arise when one national, ethnic, or religious group attempts to force another to accept its values. In its current position of economic and military dominance, the United States is seen by many peoples in the world as imposing its values beyond its borders, as refusing to learn the lesson that different ways of life are as legitimate and sacred to others as our ways are to us. In truth, Americans do not have to look overseas for this lesson. Here within our own borders, Native people have been telling the dominant society for 500 years that they have a way of life different from that of the mainstream society and that they do not want to change, join up, or assimilate. The message could not be clearer. Even at the high price they have paid—and are still paying—many Native people today retain their right to hold their own values and beliefs, as summarized in the chart below. As you study the chart, try not to be disturbed about the fact that it is vastly oversimplified. There are obviously many exceptions and gradations, and parts of the Native American side of the chart are perhaps more descriptive of the past than of today. The chart serves only as a rough guide and a stimulus to further study.


U.S. Mainstream, Dominant Society  Native Peoples (Mainland, Alaska, Hawaii)

Fundamental belief in private ownership of land and resources

Fundamental belief in impossibility of private ownership of land or other resources

Materialistic  Non materialistic
Written tradition important  Oral tradition important
Immediate (nuclear) families Extended families and clans
Reverence for the young  Reverence for the old

Earth viewed as “dead,” inanimate object; mastery over nature

Earth viewed as living; harmony with nature

Humans seen as superior to other life forms

Humans viewed as equal and integral part of web of life

The dead seen as gone The dead seen as present
Saving and acquiring emphasized Sharing and giving emphasized
High-impact technology  Low-impact technology
Futuristic/linear concept of time  Circular, flexible concept of time
Speaking valued Silence and listening valued
Confident and assertive Modest and non interfering
As much as possible desired As little as possible desired
Principle of independence  Principle of interdependence
Competition valued Cooperation valued
Impatient Patient
Skeptical Mystical
Seeking converts to own religion Respecting others’ religions
Separation of church and state

religion a part of life; Spirituality embodied everywhere and at all times; religion a way of life

Leadership often by command or authority; “top-down”

Leadership by example and consensus

*Adapted in part from Jerry Mander’s In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1992), 214–21.