Lesson Plan: Native Americans During the 19th and 20th Centuries

Date: Week of December 4-8, 2000

Objectives: The students will

I. list the major events of the Indian wars of the late 1800s and their causes;

II. describe the culture of the Plains Indian and the impact of white expansion and settlement on that culture.

III. Identify characteristics of the European-Indian conflict in both 19th and 20th centuries and develop a piece of creative writing based on the aspect of the conflict they chose to examine.
Warm Up Activity (Anticipatory Set): What are some Myths Regarding Indians?

A) Post this question on the board or overhead.
B) List myths associated with Indian life. Possible answers may include warlike nature, wearing traditional head-dresses, feathers, etc.
C) Ask the students to share what they already know about Indian life and culture. Students can point out geography, religion, or cultural aspects of life such as reliance on the buffalo during the 1800s.

Main Activity (Instructional Input): Lecture Discussion

A) Display lecture notes on the history and culture of the Plains Indians.

B) Discuss key points. Have students take notes.
Lecture should include:

1) Impact of the Horse on hunting and warfare
2) Diverse uses of the buffalo
3) Nature of Indian religion and differences with European religion, ie., Christianity
4) Major conflicts between US troops and native peoples, such as Sand Creek, Little Big Horn, Chief Joseph's Surrender, Massacre at Wounded Knee.

C) Use the web or Encarta CD-ROM to illustrate key ideas and people during the lecture. Play the sound clip of Chief Joseph's "I Shall Fight No More, Forever" speech.

D) For lower level students: distribute notes in printed form with key words left out. have them insert words in fill-in-the-blank fashion as they appear on the overhead.

E) Have students use their textbooks to gain a basic understanding of the historical events of the period; especially, the westward expansion of the railroads, mining, and business after the Civil war and its impact on Indian life.

Examples (Modeling): Listening to Lyrics for Historical Information
A) Play Elton John's "Indian Sunset" and display lyrics
Located on the WWW at http://www.eltonography.com/songs/indian_sunset.html

 or http://guard.dhs.org/~cos/music/EltonJohn/songs/indian.sunset.html

B) In preparation for discussion, have students examine the lyrics for these elements:
1) Examples of Indian culture
2) Historical accuracies or inaccuracies
3) Symbolic meaning of "Yellow Moon." What is it?
4) What happens to the narrator in the end: death in battle or suicide?
5)How does the song reflect the conflict between white and Indian in the late 1800s?

C) Play or display the song entitled "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" located on the WWW at

Discuss the concepts of justice and betrayal by the Federal government and its Indian policy. Discuss the question of the guilt or innocence of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian accused of killing federal soldiers without evidence. His story can be found at http://www.freepeltier.org/story.htm#top

Guided Practice: Reading and Writing on the Indian Experience
A) Obtain books from the school library on the life of the American Indian during the last half of the 1800s (one can certainly include the Trail of Tears and Indian Removal of the 1830s if the lesson is being presented thematically rather than chronologically).

B) Display the following list of topics for students to choose from. Students can read with a topic in mind, or they can explore a number of topics and then choose one to write about:

The place of the Buffalo in Indian life
The Hunt
Tribal Law
The role of Women in Society
Warfare and Counting Coups
The role of Spirits and "medicine"
The arrival of the White Settlers
Ft. Laramie Treaty

The impact of Christianity
Minnesota Massacres (1862)
Black Kettle and the Sand Creek Massacre (CO, 1864)
Red Cloud
Buffalo Bill Cody
The railroads and telegraph
Sitting Bull
Custer's Last Stand
Crazy Horse
The Ghost Dance
Wounded Knee: 1890 and 1973

Check For Understanding:   Creative Writing

A) Once students have researched their topic, have them choose one of the following writing exercises:

Poetry on Indian Life and History

Write a poem that illustrates some aspect of Native American life during the 1800s. The poem does not have to rhyme, but it can. It can be an acrostic poem or a visual poem. The poem should have at least 15 lines. Be sure to express a viewpoint and that your viewpoint is based on some kind of historical fact. You can write the poem on the computer using illustrations from the Web or CD-ROM. You can also hand-write the poem in calligraphy on construction paper with illustrations.

You Are There: Reporting from the Plains

Imagine that you are a newspaper reporter in the time period of the Indian Wars (1865-1890). You have been sent to the plains to witness and write about a battle or event that is taking place. Write a report that will appear in the next edition of your eastern city's newspaper. You can also include "interviews" with Indian leaders or white settlers. Use existing illustrations to help your "readers" get an visual picture of the newspaper story you are writing.

Homework (Independent Practice): Have students work on project at home if needed.

Wrap-Up Activity (Closure): What have you learned?

A) Have students identify several major themes about the American Indian in US history.

B) these may include but are not limited to:

1) the settlers lack of respect for Indian ways, land and culture;
2) The use of technology by the Federal government and settlers to oppress the Indian.
3) The failure of the federal government to make amends to the Indian for crimes committed against the Indian people.
 Take the 15 question quiz on the Changing West

Evaluation: The lesson will be evaluated by:

I. the accuracy of student's written responses;

II. student's scores on future tests and quizzes.

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