Learning Resources Bank

Identifying and analysing different values, motives and actions and reasons for these in an Mock Trial

This tutorial activity is part of a subject called ‘Indigenous Peoples in Settler Colonies’.

Students have had a lecture and have undertaken readings on the historical period. They read the story prior to coming to class (Johnson, 1989).

The story is about a Canadian Indigenous girl, Esther, whose parents allow her to be taken to live with a missionary during the late 19th century. The missionary provides Esther with a good education and brings her up as an equal in the house. When she and the missionary’s nephew, Laurence, fall in love however, the missionary forbids their marriage. Laurence agrees and the girl is devastated. She kills Laurence with an arrow head provided to her by her mother when she went to live with the missionary.

The mock trial is to determine who is the most responsible for the murder (not necessarily who is guilty by law.)

1. The class is divided into five groups. Each group is given one of the five main characters from the story to ‘accuse’ (Esther, mother, father, missionary, Laurence himself). They write down on their form why they think that character is responsible for Laurence’s death.

2. The pieces of paper are circulated and each group has a new character and must provide a defence for this character. Sometimes there is a little confusion here. We’re not asking them to come up with alibis but we want them to explain their character’s motivation and show that the actions they committed were not what ultimately led to Laurence’s death.

4. Finally, we run a mock trial. One character at a time, one person from the group that accused them and one person from the group that defended them come to the front of the class and read out what they have written down (accusation followed by defence).

5. After each character has had a ‘trial’ the class is asked to vote on who they feel is most responsible for Laurence’s death.