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IMG_0039The European Explorers Traveling Trunk tells the story of the first Spanish and French explorers of the area now known as Mississippi and the effects of their colonization on the Native Americans who controlled the region.

With this trunk students will have an opportunity to:

  • Map the path of Mississippi’s first explorers
  • Use the example of La Salle and journal about their daily experiences
  • Graph the decline of Native Americans during the period of European exploration
  • Handle  everyday reproduction artifacts belonging to the European explorers and the Native Americans they encountered

A teacher’s notebook and material list is included in the trunk. This trunk is organized as a five-day unit but teachers are encouraged to organize, revise, and adapt its contents to best fit the needs of their students.

Day One

The first lesson begins with a discussion of the reasons for European exploration of southeastern North America and the nature of their interactions with the natives they encountered. Activities include mapping the path of the Hernando de Soto expedition.

Day Two

IMG_0053Students focus on trade between the Europeans and Native Americans using items from the trunk typical of the period: a tobacco twist, pipe bowl and stem, pendants, glass beads, brass bells, antler-handled stone knife, sundial compass, red flannel trade cloth, and other objects. Students also become aware of possible reasons for the rapid decline in Native populations during the European period of exploration.

Day Three

The importance of recording historical facts and daily events within journals are demonstrated to students with the illustrated booklet, Nicholas de La Salle: A Tale of Discovery. Drawn from his diaries, it follows the young Frenchman La Salle as he participates in the first trip by Europeans down the Mississippi River to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. Students are asked to identify the important elements of a journal entry and create their own.

Day Four

Students continue to utilize the book Nicholas de La Salle: A Tale of Discovery, with a close reading of selected passages that reveal details about travel supplies, plants and animals, food, and Indian objects and societies.

Day Five

Food eaten by European explorers and Native Americans are compared by students. If desired, students may create a dish at home based on the included food table and share it with the class.


Trunk Competencies Chart

Contents of Trunk

Trunk Weight and Dimensions

  • Weight: 43 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 18” (h) x 23” (w) x 30” (l)


To learn more about the Traveling Trunk Lending Policies and Procedures, the content of specific trunks, or to book a trunk, please contact:

Outreach Programs Coordinator
Museum Division, MDAH
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205-0571
Phone: 601-576-6997