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Chronological Reasoning and Causation

Why do maps change over time?

  1. Load Map of New York with Indian Reservation Locations, 1890 in Main Image Viewer
  2. Load Roemer Map, 1700 in Main Image Viewer
  3. Load Map of the State of New York with its Counties as defined by statute, March 7, 1788 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Google Slide Presentation:

Historical Context: History is known to be written by the winners, and so are maps. Maps depict the borders and land features of an area. Depending on who created a map and at what time, two maps of the same area could look very different. As society changes and events occur, inhabitants of lands change and updated maps show those changes. New York State has a history where much change has occurred. It is important to remember this as we look at New York State maps.

Standards/Skills: (Social Studies Framework Key Idea and Conceptual Understanding, Social Studies Practices, NextGen Literacy, CTS Thinking Skills)

7.6 WESTWARD EXPANSION: Driven by political and economic motives, the United States expanded its physical boundaries to the Pacific Ocean between 1800 and 1860. This settlement displaced Native Americans as the frontier was pushed westward. (Standards: 1, 3; Themes: ID, MOV, TCC, GEO)

7.6a Some Native Americans who aligned with the British during the American Revolution lost land and were forced to move.

Method of Delivery: 

This lesson could be set up as whole class instruction or in small groups. 


  • Why might two maps of the same location be different?

Lesson Plan:

  • Hand out the Roemer map and the NYS Timeline.  Students can also have their own paper copy of the map if desired. The lesson should begin by asking students to point out what they see and what they do not see in the Roemer map.

    • What was important to label in the 1700s?

    • Is this what students think of when they found out they’d be analyzing a New York State map today?

    • Why might the map look like this? 

  • Reference the timeline. Ask the students: 

    • What might life have been like when the Roemer map was created? 

    • What might the population have been like? 

    • What was the attitude towards Native Americans in the 1700s?

*Note: younger students might need a lesson to explain what “historical context” means, while upper level students might already undersand this language.

  • Now, compare the Roemer map with the NYS Map from 1788. Using the historical context sheet discuss the differences between the maps. Depending on your class and level, this could be done as a whole class discussion or small group.

    • What was important to label in the 1700s? Why is it different than what was important in 1700?

    • Has the population changed between the New Yorkers and the indiginous? How can you tell? Who has more power?

    • Why might the two maps of the same place be so different? 

  • Lastly, if time permits, show the students map C. Depending on your unit and the student’s understanding of reservations, this map could be omitted. 

    • What changes occurred to the map between the 1700s and the 1890s?

    • How has power changed over time?

Closure: (Sharing/Reflection)

  • What are some predictions you would make about what would be labeled on a map of New York in 1800? 1900? Today?

  • What is the major issue surrounding the mapping of land?

  • Does every community have the same right to obtain land?

Summative Performance Task: (Assessment of Student Learning)

After you have read and analyzed the following documents, apply your social studies knowledge and skills to write a paragraph in which you identify and explain the cause and effect relationship between the events and/or ideas found in these documents.

Taking Informed Action: (Civic Engagement) 

  • New York Governor Kathy Hochul and the Department of the Interior have returned land to the Onondaga Nation. 

  1. How can you show support to this transfer of power? 

  2. Are there other wrongs related to the maps studied that could be rectified by the government?

  • Part of that land returned to the Onondaga Nation includes Onondaga Lake, which has been polluted by industrial waste for the past century. Swimming was banned in the lake in 1940 and fishing was prohibited in 1970. 

  1. Where does your community get its drinking water? What can you do as an individual to help conserve that water? 

  2. How can you work to bring awareness to water pollution and help clean other waters in the state?