This month students continue the study of Westward Expansion. This unit consists of four lessons. In the first lesson, students learn about the Homestead Act, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the purchase of Alaska. Students also engage in a writing exercise in which they focus on a modern-day frontier. Cowboys, "Buffalo Soldiers" and the "Wild West" are the topics covered in the second lesson of this unit, and students learn about the cultures of Western Native Americans in the third lesson. Finally, in the fourth lesson, students study the conflict that arose between Native Americans and the U.S. government and army as settlers continued to spread west. Note that in all of these lessons the terms "Native American" and "Indian" are used interchangeably; you may want to explain this to students.
Readings accompany two of the lessons, the lesson on Cowboys, "Buffalo Soldiers" and the "Wild West" and the lesson on the cultural conflict that arose as settlers moved in increasing numbers onto land the Indians considered their own. Students should store these readings in a safe place (perhaps with you) and then use them to study for the quarterly assessment. Within the reading on the cultural conflict, important people, terms and ideas have been typed in bold; point this out to students as a guide for what they should focus on as they study.
There are several lessons in the Literature curriculum this month intended to complement these American History lessons: a lesson on Chief Joseph's speech, "I Will Fight No More Forever" (which should be taught after American History Lesson 37), a lesson on the Plains Indian legend "Morning Star and Scarface," a lesson on American Indian Trickster Stories and a lesson on Emily Dickinson's poem about the locomotive, "I like to see it lap the Miles" (which should be taught after American History Lesson 34).
Fifth Grade - American History - Lesson 34 - Westward Expansion Part
Place important events in the history of Westward Expansion on the class time line.
Identify the role the Transcontinental Railroad had in Westward Expansion.
Describe a modern-day frontier.
Sentence strips for the continuation of the class time line
Classroom-size map of the United States
Transparency made of Westward Expansion map (attached)
For each student
Copy of the "Modern-Day Frontier" worksheet
Duncan, Dayton. People of the West. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1996. Has a chapter dedicated to the immigrants who helped to build the Transcontinental Railroad.
________. The West: An Illustrated History for Children. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1996. Contains plenty of information on the Homestead Act, homesteaders and the Transcontinental Railroad.
Elish, Dan. The Transcontinental Railroad: Triumph of a Dream. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1993. Describes the building of the railroad in text written at a level appropriate for fifth graders, complemented by photographs, drawings and maps.
Hakim, Joy. Liberty for All? New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Discusses the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.
Cohn, Amy L., compiled by. From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1993. Contains songs and stories about the Transcontinental Railroad.
Hirsch, E.D., Jr., Joseph F. Kett and James Trefil. The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993. Contains an explanation of "Seward's Folly" on page 294.
Hirsch, E.D., Jr., edited by. What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993. Contains information on the Transcontinental Railroad.
"Headin' West!" The Intermediate Mailbox. February/March 1998, pp. 36-41. Suggests a variety of activities for students studying westward movement.
Hurst, Carol Otis and Rebecca Otis. In Times Past: An Encyclopedia for Integrating U.S. History with Literature in Grades 3-8. New York: Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, 1993. Has both information on the era of Westward Expansion and ideas for students to use to explore this part of American history.
This lesson picks up where February's study of westward movement left off. In it, students first hear about the Homestead Act, the Transcontinental Railroad, the purchase of Alaska and the closing of the American frontier, and place these events on the class time line. Then, students engage in a writing exercise in which they identify a frontier they would like to explore. The frontier need not be geographical, but could be in any area of study.
Students may remember information they learned about the Transcontinental
Railroad in Second Grade (see Second Grade American Civilization Lesson
Begin today's lesson by telling students that this month, they will continue the study of Westward Expansion they began in February. Ask students what they learned as a result of that month's lessons and allow about five minutes of brainstorming facts and information as a class.
Tell students that in 1862, the U. S. government decided to encourage people to populate western lands, and Congress passed the Homestead Act (write "Homestead Act 1862" on a sentence strip). The Homestead Act gave 160 acres of public land to any person who was willing to pay a ten dollar fee and farm the land for five years. For many people, this was an offer too good to resist. One hundred and sixty acres of land could change the life of a poor man. For those seeking to avoid the bloodshed of the Civil War, the Homestead Act was a good excuse to travel west, away from the fighting. The Homestead Act also prompted immigrants from countries such as Norway, Russia, Ireland and France to travel across the ocean for a chance to become successful farmers in America. Once the Civil War was over, many people thought that moving west was a good way to get a fresh start in a land they considered full of hope and possibilities. In 1865, the editor of the New York Tribune, a man named Horace Greeley, wrote advice many would follow: "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country." Because the paper was so widely read, "Go West, young man" became a popular phrase across the country.
The number of people traveling west to take advantage of the land available through the Homestead Act increased dramatically after 1869. Up until then, the only ways to get out West were to walk, travel by covered wagon, follow the path of rivers, or travel by ship down and around the tip of South America. Traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast could take months! In 1869, however, a project was completed that allowed people to make the trip in only days, instead of months. Ask: What method of transportation, do you think was now available to carry people west? (the railroad) Tell students that this particular railroad was called the Transcontinental Railroad. (Write "Transcontinental Railroad completed 1869" on another sentence strip.) Ask: What familiar word do you see inside the word transcontinental? (continent) Tell students that the prefix "trans-" means across. Ask: What do you think the word transcontinental therefore means? (across the continent) This railroad line did stretch across the continent, and prior to its existence, there were railroad tracks only as far west as Nebraska. To prompt its building, the government sponsored a contest between two railroad companies to see who could lay the most track. The Central Pacific Company started in Nebraska and laid track going west, and the Union Pacific Company started in California and laid track going east. (Point out both locations on the map.) Everyone wondered where the two tracks would meet, and which company would lay the most track, and therefore win the most money and glory. It wasn't long before the Union Pacific Company ran into trouble. They had to blast their way through the Sierra Nevada mountain range (point out this range on the map), and faced a desert beyond that. As students may remember from Second Grade, all the work had to be done by hand, as there were very few machines in existence at the time that could help in such a job. Workers quickly tired of the danger and harsh conditions involved in laying track through such rough terrain and kept quitting. The construction boss for the Union Pacific decided to try hiring recent immigrants who had traveled across the Pacific Ocean from China to work laying track. At first, people thought this was a bad idea, and didn't think the Chinese could handle such physically demanding work. They were wrong--and thousands of Chinese worked hard through winter in the Sierra Nevadas, living in snow tunnels, and continued to work hard laying track through temperatures of 120 degrees in the desert the following summer.
After years of hard work, finally on May 10, 1869, the two tracks met at Promontory Summit, in Utah (show students this location on the map). When the president of the Central Pacific Railroad Company drove a golden spike into the tracks where they met, people rejoiced everywhere. In Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell was rung (but gently, so as not to widen the crack), in Washington D.C. an illuminated ball dropped from the dome of the Capitol to great cheers, and in San Francisco, a huge celebration began. On the gold spike that connected the two tracks was this special prayer: "May God continue the unity of our Country as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world."
Display the transparency of the map entitled "Westward Expansion" and point out to students the various blocks of land acquired from other countries. Tell students in 1853, the United States consisted of all of the states they see on this map. The next addition to the United States was land bought from Russia; it is now a state which lies close to Russia. Ask: Which state do you think this could be? (Alaska) Tell students that in 1867, a politician named William Seward arranged the purchase of Alaska from Russia for seven million dollars. (Write "Purchase of Alaska 1867" on a sentence strip.) Many people thought buying this arctic territory was a waste of money, and called the land "Seward's Folly" (folly meaning foolishness) or "Seward's Icebox." When gold was discovered there, however, the criticism dwindled.
Tell students that like all other states, Alaska has a nickname. Ask: Does anyone know what this nickname is? (The Last Frontier) Ask: What is a frontier? (an area not explored; an unknown or unsettled region, etc.) Tell students that because the West was rapidly becoming populated, it was no longer truly a frontier. In 1890, the closing of the American frontier was acknowledged by the U.S. Census. At that point, Americans felt that geographically, there was no more unknown territory within the country--no land left unexplored. Ask: How do you think this made Americans of the time feel? (Answers will vary, but encourage students to explain the reasoning behind each response.)
Ask: Where are there frontiers still today? (Answers will vary, but may include space, the bottom of the ocean, etc.) Tell students that a frontier need not only be geographic. Any area of study where there are unanswered questions could be considered a frontier. For example, there are frontiers in the area of medicine--some people exploring these frontiers are looking for a cure for AIDS, and for ways to prevent cancer. The technological frontier is another area where exploration goes on today. Pioneers of this frontier have discovered new uses for computers, and have invented products, such as the cellular phone, that people would have never dreamed of fifty years ago. Write "Frontiers" on the board, and begin a list under it with space, the ocean floor (and any other geographical frontiers students named), medicine and technology. Then, ask students to name other, non-geographical frontiers that could be explored, and add these frontiers to the list. (Possibilities include education, the use of resources from the rain forest, animal communication, psychology, etc.)
Tell students that they are to pretend that they are pioneers of a modern-day frontier. They need to select a field they would like to explore and record their thoughts about their choice. Distribute the Modern-Day Frontier worksheet and instruct students to complete it thoughtfully. As students work, place the sentence strips in their appropriate places on the class time line. When all students are finished, ask volunteers to share their thoughts.
A MODERN-DAY FRONTIER
What modern-day frontier will you explore?_________________________________
What good will come out of exploring this frontier? What do you hope to find out?
Pioneers exploring the West faced a number of problems. What types of
problems might you face in the exploration of your chosen frontier?
Chances are you won't need a covered wagon, or a supply of flour and
beans, to explore your frontier. What types of items will you need?
How will your exploration be like that of the pioneers on the western frontier? How will it be different?
Fifth Grade - American History - Lesson 35 - Cowboys, Buffalo Soldiers
and the "Wild West"
Read to be informed about cowboys, buffalo soldiers and famous and infamous personalities of the West during Expansion.
Design an advertisement for a movie based on one of the above subjects.
For each student
A copy of the reading "Cowboys, Buffalo Soldiers and the 'Wild West'"
A large sheet of light-colored paper or poster board
Crayons, markers or colored pencils
Bingham, Caroline. Incredible Wild West. New York: Covent Garden Books, 1995. This book contains plenty of colorful pictures of western artifacts and cowboys on the job, and would be considered easy reading by fifth graders. A brief amount of information is given on both Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill.
Cody, Tod. The Cowboy's Handbook: How to Become a Hero of the Wild West. New York: Cobblehill Books, 1996. This book features cowboy-oriented projects that kids can complete, and data on the life of a cowboy.
Coffman, Ramon P. and Nathan G. Goodman. Famous Pioneers for Young People. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1945. Contains chapters on "Wild Bill" Hickok and "Buffalo Bill" Cody.
Duncan, Dayton. The West: An Illustrated History for Children. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1996. Fascinating photographs fill this comprehensive text. Information on all of the subjects of today's lesson is included.
Hirsch. E.D., Jr., edited by. What Your Second Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell Publishing, 1991. Contains information on Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and features a photograph of Annie Oakley.
Katz, William Loren. Black Women of the Old West. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1995. This is a fascinating book with marvelous photographs and would serve to remind students that the West was settled by a variety of brave people.
Miller, Robert. Reflections of a Black Cowboy: Pioneers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1991. This is a collection of stories about actual African-American pioneers and explorers of the West. The stories are told by "Sundown," an old man, and are written in a style fifth graders may find enjoyable.
________. Reflections of a Black Cowboy: The Buffalo Soldiers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1991. Like the book noted above of the same series, this book is a collection of stories of actual men who showed bravery as Buffalo Soldiers.
Ross, Stewart. Fact or Fiction: Cowboys. Brookfield, CT: Copper Beech Books, 1995. Written in a format fifth graders would find appealing, this book contains information on the life of a cowboy, including facts on and illustrations of Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley.
Hirsch, E.D. What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993. Contains information on both cowboys and personalities of the "wild west," and is the source of excerpts in today's reading.
"Headin' West!" The Intermediate Mailbox. February/March 1998, p.36. A variety of activities to do while studying Westward Expansion are described, including some that could be used as enrichment for today's lesson.
Search Historic Sites. Http://www.historytravel.com/cgi-bin/print_site.cgi?ID=2248&. This site gives details about Annie Oakley's life and Annie Oakley Days, celebrated in her hometown of Greenville, Ohio. To access the general history travel site, use Http://www.historytravel.com/.
In today's lesson, students pretend to be movie producers looking for
material for a new film. They will read the attached selection entitled
"Cowboys, Buffalo Soldiers and the 'Wild West'" and choose, as the subject
of their film, either cowboys or buffalo soldiers in general, or one of
the personalities of the "wild west" from the reading. Once they have made
their selection, they will design an advertisement for their movie in the
form of a poster. The poster will need to be historically accurate, but
should also be flashy and interesting.
Tell students that today, they are going to pretend to be movie producers. They want to produce the next blockbuster about either a person or a group of people in the West during the 1800s. Explain that there were some very interesting people who became famous, or infamous (meaning famous for misdeeds), during this time, and as movie producers, they will need to know more about these people so that they can choose the subject of their film wisely. In order to get information, they will read a selection entitled "Cowboys, Buffalo Soldiers and the 'Wild West.'" After doing the reading, they will choose one of the following to base their movie on: Cowboys; Buffalo Soldiers; Billy the Kid; Wild Bill Hickok; Jesse James; Annie Oakley; Buffalo Bill. (Write this list on the board.)
Once they have done the reading and have chosen the subject of their movie, they will design and create an advertisement for it in the form of a movie poster. Tell students that movie posters are frequently hung outside and in the lobby of movie theaters and miniature versions are placed in the newspaper as advertisements as well. Ask: Why are these posters hung in movie theaters? (to show audiences what will be playing soon and to make them want to come see the movies) Tell students that their posters, too, should encourage people to want to see these movies. Ask: How do movie posters make you want to see the films they advertise? (Accept all reasonable answers, but elicit if necessary that there is a picture meant to appeal to the viewer, there is some text that tells a little about the movie and makes it sound interesting, and frequently big stars are advertised as having roles in the film.) Tell students that their movie posters should also include these elements, and if you deem it necessary, write them in a list on the board. The movie posters should include at least two sentences that tell the viewer a little about the movie, and make it sound exciting. Students may be creative in listing the stars of their film--they can be real Hollywood stars, or perhaps the title roles will go to them and their friends! Remind students that movie producers and directors go to great lengths to make their movies seem realistic and accurate. They need to use the information in the reading to draw an appropriate picture on the movie poster, and as a basis for the text on the poster. Remind students to give their movies great titles as well. When you are confident that students understand the assignment, distribute the reading. As students begin to read, distribute the paper or poster board and the crayons, markers or colored pencils.
When students have completed their posters, allow them, if time permits, to share them with the class. Ask: What is it about the life of the group of people or person you selected that would make it a good subject for a movie? Which of these people, or groups of people, would you like to travel back in time to meet? Why? In your opinion, was the West, during Expansion, truly "wild"? Why or why not? What are some other adjectives that could be used to describe the West during this time period?
Display the posters in an arrangement titled "Now Playing in American History Class."
After the Civil War, African Americans had a hard time finding work.
Not many businesses were willing to hire them, even though their efforts
as soldiers helped the North gain victory over the South. At the same time,
as more and more settlers moved west, violence between the settlers and
Indians increased. The government thought something needed to be done to
protect the settlers, and began to send army regiments out to try to prevent
any more settlers' deaths. In 1866, Congress decided to add four all-black
infantry regiments to the army. When African-American men heard about the
opportunity to join the army and earn a monthly wage, plus food and shelter,
many signed up to join. These groups of soldiers showed great courage and
soon earned the respect of the Native Americans they defeated. They fought
in nearly two hundred battles and won seventeen Medals of Honor for bravery.
The Indians thought their hair resembled that of the buffalo and called
them "Buffalo Soldiers," a name the men used and became proud of.
A Wild West Show
In the early 1880s, a man named William Cody noticed that people seemed
interested in knowing more about the West. Cody had some experience with
the West: he had been a pony express rider, a cattle rancher, a gold seeker
and an army scout. During the building of the transcontinental railroad,
he had hunted buffalo to feed the hungry workers, and during this time
had earned the nickname "Buffalo Bill." In 1883 Cody gathered a group of
cowboys, sharpshooters and Native Americans and began what he called "Buffalo
Bill's Wild West Show." Though the show was mostly myth, audiences cheered
the demonstrations of riding, roping and marksmanship and loved to watch
the scenes of cowboys and Indians enacting battles. Buffalo Bill had fought
against Native Americans and had great respect for their bravery and warrior
skills, but the show needed villains, and Indians met this need. Native
Americans in the show acted out raids on settlers' cabins and stagecoaches,
and were defeated each time when Buffalo Bill saved the day. The show was
a huge hit all over the country, and Buffalo Bill toured the world with
it. Many people came to believe that Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show represented
the true history of Westward Expansion, thus increasing the view that the
west was truly wild, and popularizing the view of Native Americans as fierce
Little Miss Sure Shot
Phoebe Ann Oakley Mozee was born in Ohio in 1860. She started shooting a rifle when she was just nine, and by the time she was fifteen, she had won her first major shooting contest. Buffalo Bill decided that she would be perfect in his Wild West Show, and hired her to perform amazing trick shots under the name Annie Oakley. She was challenged to compete with the sharpshooter of a rival show, and not only did she beat him, she later married him! Posters advertising Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show boasted of the aim of "Little Miss Sure Shot," and the posters did not exaggerate. Oakley shot cigarettes out of her husband's mouth and holes through the pips of playing cards thrown into the air. She could even hit tiny targets from the back of a galloping horse. Soon Annie Oakley became the favorite of audiences around the world, and a musical was written about her entitled Annie Get Your Gun.
Fifth Grade - American History - Lesson 36 - Western Native American
Culture and Life
Infer characteristics of Western Native American tribes, given lists of artifacts.
Hear further details about the culture and life of tribes in the Great
Plains, the Great Basin and Plateau and the Pacific Northwest.
Classroom-size map of the United States
For each cooperative group
A copy of each of the lists of artifacts (attached)
Duncan, Dayton. The West: An Illustrated History for Children. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1996. The first chapter, entitled "The People," is about Native American culture and life through 1805.
Freedman, Russell. Buffalo Hunt. New York: Holiday House, 1988. This book describes various aspects of buffalo hunting among the tribes of the Great Plains. The text is written at an appropriate level for fifth graders and the illustrations are drawings and paintings done by artists who traveled the West in the 1800s. Students may find particularly interesting the details regarding the use of every part of the animal.
Griffin-Pierce, Trudy. The Encyclopedia of Native America. New York: Viking, 1995. This book is divided according to seven geographical/cultural regions, and gives the history of the Native Americans in each region. The author also discusses the current standing of Native American affairs in each region, and there are plenty of paintings, photographs and maps.
Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane. Totem Pole. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1990. This book tells of the modern-day creation of a totem pole through the perspective of the carver's young son.
Kids Explore the Heritage of Western Native Americans. Sante Fe, NM: John Muir Publications, 1995. Seven tribes are explored in this book, which was written by children. As a part of the exploration of each tribe, customs and traditions are described, as are food and crafts that readers can make at home.
Murdoch, David. Eyewitness Books: North American Indian. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. The photographs of Native American artifacts in this book are outstanding, and the text is written in a format that fifth graders would find inviting.
Upton, Harriet. Indian Chiefs. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Publications, Inc., 1990. Brief biographies are given of seven chiefs from different tribes.
Baker, Olaf. Where the Buffalo Begin. New York: Puffin Books, 1981. Breathtaking pencil drawings illustrate this Great Plains legend, which could be read by fifth graders in one sitting.
Cohlene, Terri. Quillworker: A Cheyenne Legend. Vero Beach, Florida: Watermill Press, 1990. This picture book tells the traditional Cheyenne legend, which includes many aspects of Plains Indian culture. Factual information about the Cheyenne is given at the back of the book, along with a timeline and glossary.
Krensky, Stephen. Children of the Wind and Water. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1994. This is a collection of five stories about the lives of Native American children from five different tribes. The stories take place before the influence of European explorers, and give the reader a sense of what life was like for Native American children during this time. Three of the tribes, the Dakota, Tlingit and Nootka, are from the regions discussed in today's lesson. The stories are written at a level that fifth graders could easily read, and could be read in one sitting.
Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk, selected by. Dancing Teepees. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1989. This is a collection of American Indian poetry, both contemporary and traditional, selected with the young reader in mind.
Turcotte, Mark. Songs of Our Ancestors. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1995. This is a collection of poem-songs about prominent Native Americans and events important in Native American history.
American Indian Activity Book. Dana Point, CA: Edupress. A variety of crafts and projects are described within this book.
Hoven, Leigh. Thematic Unit: Native Americans. Huntington Beach, CA: Teacher Created Materials, Inc., 1990. This is a literature-based thematic unit, with worksheets and activities. Many of the activities could be adapted for use with any study of Native Americans.
"Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest." Copycat. November/December 1996, p.4. Information on the tribes of the Pacific Northwest is provided, along with crafts and activities with accompanying reproducibles.
"Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest." The Intermediate Mailbox. October/November 1994, p.3. A number of activities and books relevant to today's study of the Indians of the Pacific Northwest are suggested within this issue.
Strohl, Mary and Susan Schneck. Native Americans: Cooperative Learning Activities. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1991. Students would enjoy the projects outlined within this book.
In today's lesson, students are put into cooperative groups and are asked to infer the characteristics of Western Native American tribes, given lists of artifacts from the tribes. Acting as archaeologists in this manner should prompt students to use reasoning skills. Once students have made conclusions about the location, shelter, food and culture of each tribe, they are asked to share their thoughts, and find out how correct they were. They also listen as you give more detail about each of these aspects of tribal life. The artifacts lists have been printed so they may be copied and separated to give to students one at a time, as the lesson dictates.
Students have studied Native Americans in previous grades. In Third
Grade the following cultures were covered: Inuit; Anasazi; Mound Builders;
Pueblos; Dine; Apache; Eastern Woodland Indians. In Second Grade, students
learned about the Trail of Tears.
Tell students that as settlers continued to move west, they came into contact with the first inhabitants of the West. Ask: Who were these people? (Native Americans) Exposure to a new culture and conflict with settlers and the United States Army and government changed the way of life for Native Americans. Tell students that today, they will learn more about the culture and life of Western tribes prior to this change.
Inform students that to learn more about these tribes, they will assume the role of archaeologists. Ask: Who knows what an archaeologist does? (Accept all reasonable answers, but elicit, if necessary, that an archaeologist studies ruins, objects and other evidence of life in the past.) As highly respected archaeologists, they have been asked to read lists of artifacts (define if necessary) found in several different locations and to make observations, based on inferences, about the culture and life of the Native Americans who used the artifacts. So that students understand the nature of this task, tell them to consider, for example, an arrow head. Ask: What might this artifact tell you about the people who used it? (Accept all reasonable answers, and encourage students to verbalize the reasoning behind their answers. Possible answers include: they were hunters; they fought in battles; they ate meat; they were able to use tools to sharpen rocks.)
Put students into cooperative groups and tell them that they will be
getting several lists of artifacts. When they receive a list, students
should consider and discuss the artifacts as they use them to infer answers
to the following questions: (write on the board)
What type of environment, or where, might this tribe have lived?
What might they have eaten?
In what might they have lived?
What can you tell about their customs and culture?
Distribute List One and give students five to seven minutes to discuss it and infer answers to the questions. (You may also choose to work through the questions as a class for this first list.) Encourage students to read a question, then consider how each of the artifacts listed may provide clues to the answer. Tell students that you do not expect exact answers, only observations based on inferences. For example, in response to the first question, "in a hot environment," or "near a forest" would both be satisfactory answers. Emphasize that they should be able to explain the reasoning behind the inferences they make; responses should not be wild guesses.
When the allotted time is up, have students end their discussions and direct their attention to you. Ask: Were you able to tell, from this list of artifacts, where this tribe might have lived, and if so, how? (Accept all reasonable answers, but congratulate those groups which concluded that this tribe must live near water, because of the paddle, and that the water would have to be the ocean, because of the sealskin robe.) Ask: Do you think they lived on a bare, sandy beach? Why or why not? (No, they must have lived somewhere where there were trees because of the large piece of carved wood.) What else can you tell about their environment? (The robe may prompt students to realize that the weather could be cool, and hats such as the one described were used in the frequent rain.)
Tell students that the tribe from which these artifacts came was a tribe of the Pacific Northwest. On the classroom-size map, point out the coastal area of Oregon and Washington and tell students that there were many Native Americans that lived in this region of rocky coasts and damp forests of huge trees. Some of these tribes were, and are, the Chinook (shi NUHK), Kwakiutl (KWAH kee EWT l) and Yakima (YAK e mah). On the board, write "Pacific Northwest" and list these tribes under it.
Ask: What might the tribes in this region have eaten? (Again, accept all reasonable answers, but congratulate the groups that inferred that they would eat fish and seal meat, and berries, too, as evidenced from the berry-stained hat.) Tell students that the sea and forest provided so much food for the tribes in this region that they did not have to farm. They were able to get fish, seal and even whale from the sea, and the forest was plentiful with wild game, nuts and berries.
Ask: In what might these tribes have lived? (Once students have shared inferences, tell them, if it is not suggested, that the tribes used the supply of large trees to build huge houses out of wood planks.) Inform students that the houses could be as large as 60 x 100 feet (compare to the size of your classroom) and that one house may have been the home to many families.
What else can you tell about the culture and customs of this Northwest Pacific tribe on the basis of the artifacts? (They were wood carvers, and participated in trading, as evidenced by the glass bead.) Lead students to see that because of the resources found in the sea and forest, the tribes in this region did not have to spend all their time hunting and gathering food, and could therefore take the time to participate in the creation of art, as evidenced by the carved wood. In fact, food was so plentiful that most tribes could spend most of the winter participating in ceremonial and social activities. Tribes of this region became well-known for their totem poles, which held special meaning for the family to whom they belonged, because their carved figures told about family history. The glass bead indicates that the tribe has had some contact with European traders. The tribes of this region were able to engage in much trading. Their canoes allowed them to travel hundreds of miles from the shore up the Columbia River and trade with other tribes as well.
Now tell students that they will be reading and discussing the next set of artifacts, and should again use them to try to infer the answers to the question on the board. Distribute List Two and again give students five to seven minutes. When this time is up, ask: Based on these artifacts, in what type of environment do you think this tribe lived? (The basket that was treated with pine gum, which was used for collecting and storing water, indicates that this tribe lived in an area where water was scarce and had to be saved in this manner. The blanket made of jackrabbit skins should have caused the students to realize that the environment could get cold.) Tell students that this tribe lived in an area called the Great Basin. The Great Basin is a baking desert in the summer, and is pounded by fierce snowstorms in the winter. On the classroom-size map, point out the location of the Great Basin: the area east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and west of the Rocky Mountains, including parts of the following states: Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming and Colorado. This region includes the Great Salt Lake, which contains water much too salty too drink. Two of the major tribes in the Great Basin were the Shoshone (show SHOW nee) and Ute (yewt). Sacajawea, the Native American woman who acted as a guide for Lewis and Clark, was a Shoshone, and the state of Utah took its name from the Utes. On the board, write "Great Basin" and the names of these two tribes below it.
Tell students that since this tribe lived in the desert, their diet must have been quite different from that of the tribes in the Pacific Northwest. Ask: Considering the artifacts, what do you think they ate? (The artifacts point to the fact that these tribes ate insects, plant roots and an occasional jackrabbit.) Tell students that the harsh environment of the Great Basin meant that food and water were not found in abundance. To survive, the tribes that lived there spent most of the day foraging. Their diet primarily consisted of insects and the seeds, roots and leaves of over a hundred different plants. On lucky days, they were able to catch an antelope, bird, snake or rat for dinner.
Inform students that the artifacts provided a clue as to what these
tribes used as shelter. Ask: Who was able to recognize this clue? What
was it? (the long stick with brush tied to it)
Based on this artifact, what type of shelter do you think this tribe lived in? (Because they were constantly on the move, searching for food, the tribes of the Great Basin built only rudimentary brush shelters, which needed only to protect them from the sun.) Tell students that some tribes lived in caves, where they could find them, during the winter.
Next, ask: What could you tell about the customs and culture of the tribe to whom these artifacts belonged? (The tribe was able to weave baskets.) Tell students that, in fact, the Great Basin tribes were expert basket weavers. Another aspect of their culture was that because survival was so difficult for these tribes, and starvation was a constant threat, they were especially aware of their relationship with the Spirit Powers in which they believed. Ask: Why do you think the tribes of the Great Basin did not have elaborate arts like the tribes of the Pacific Northwest? (The tribes of the Great Basin had to spend much more time hunting and gathering food and did not have time to engage in elaborate arts.)
Distribute the third list of artifacts and have students follow the pattern established through the study of the first two. After they have had time to discuss the artifacts and have used them to try to answer the questions, ask: In what type of environment do you think this tribe lived? (The heavy moccasins and the fur blanket indicate that the weather could get cold, and the beaver pelt means that they must have lived near water.) Congratulate students who successfully inferred this much, then ask: What does the Chinook pipe tell you about their location? (They must have been in a geographical position that would allow them to trade with the Chinook.) What river did the Chinook use to travel inland to trade with other tribes? (the Columbia River) So, where do you think this tribe probably lived? (along the Columbia River or its tributaries) Tell students that this tribe was one of the tribes of a region called the Plateau. (Write "Plateau" on the board.) Show students on the map where the Plateau is: north of the Great Basin stretching into Canada, and from the Rocky Mountains west to the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. True to its name, this land is a large plateau. Ask: What is a plateau? (an area of high, flat land) Tell students that this plateau does indeed get harsh winters, but that its springs and summers are temperate, unlike the Great Basin. This region also has more streams and rivers than the Great Basin, and the climate is less dry. Tribes of the Plateau included the Nez Percé (NEZ PURS) and the Cayuse (ki YEWS). (Write these names under "Plateau" on the board.)
Ask: Which artifact gave you an idea about the shelters built by the people of the Plateau? (the large hole dug into the hill side) Tell students that the Plateau tribes lived in partly-underground houses in the winter. The artifact on their list is the underground part of one of these houses. The tribe that built it would have also built an extension of it in the form of a protected passageway, coming out of the hill. The passageway's purpose was to protect the inside of the home (the underground part) from the wind, snow and rain. Tell students that during the summer, the tribes in this region lived in tepee-like structures. (If necessary, describe a tepee for your students as a cone-shaped tent.)
Ask: What do you think the this tribe ate? (The artifacts clearly indicate that they ate beaver, wild corn and roots. Congratulate any students who also inferred that the net was for catching fish, another main source of food for the people of the Plateau.)
Ask: What can you tell about the culture of the tribe from whom these artifacts came? (They hunted and traded and were able to weave bags from corn husks. Additionally, the saddlebag points to the presence of horses.) Tell students that the tribes of the Plateau were famous for breeding and trading horses, which were brought to North America by Spanish explorers. The Native Americans from this area traded horses with the early pioneers on the Oregon Trail. The settlers were glad to trade several of their tired horses for a fresh Indian pony. After horse trading and breeding, they people of this region were most well-known for the corn-husk bags they wove. They traded both horses and bags with the tribes to the east and west of them.
Next, give students the final list and again instruct them to use it to answer the questions on the board. When students have had about five minutes to discuss the list, ask: In what type of environment do you think this tribe lived? (The sled indicates that there would be snow, and students may also suggest that the abundance of buffalo parts indicates that the tribe lived on the Great Plains.) Tell students that this tribe did live on the Great Plains, where large herds of buffalo once roamed. Ask: If a plain is like a prairie, what is a plain? (A large area of flat, grassy land.) Write "Great Plains" on the board, and show students on the classroom-size map the location of the Great Plains: from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Mississippi River in the East. Tell students that many Native American tribes lived on the Great Plains. Some of these tribes were the Blackfoot, Kansas, Arapaho (ah RAP ah HO), Missouri and Iowa. (Write these names on the board under "Great Plains." Ask: Do any of these names sound familiar? If so, which ones and why? (It is anticipated that students will recognize three of the tribes, the Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, as names of modern-day states.) Tell students that though the climate of the Great Plains was warm in summer, it did get very cold in winter.
Ask: What do you think the tribes of the Great Plains ate? (buffalo) Tell students that buffalo was indeed the main source of food for the tribes of the Great Plains, and that the Native Americans in these tribes did not waste any part of the buffalo. Parts that were not edible were used in other ways, for example as clothing and shelter and for ceremonial purposes. Ask: What other artifacts on your list are examples of additional uses of the buffalo? (the sled made from ribs, the painted skull and the shield) Inform students that the tribes of the Eastern Great Plains, who lived where rain was somewhat more abundant, also farmed.
Next, ask: In what do you think this tribe, and the other tribes of the Great Plains, lived? (The buffalo hides sewn together may prompt some students to realize that the predominant shelter was a tepee.) Related to this, ask: What use might this tribe have for a travois: why would they need to move their belongings? (They had to follow the buffalo herds so that they had a constant supply of food.) Why do you think a tepee was the best form of shelter for a tribe that moved frequently to follow the herds? (Tepees could be erected and taken down quickly and made compact for travel.) Tell students that when scouts spotted a herd of buffalo moving, the people of a tribe had very little time to pack up--they needed to move fast so that they did not lose sight of the buffalo. Inform students that some of the Eastern tribes, who farmed in the summer in addition to hunting buffalo, lived in earth lodges like those of the people of the Plateau. Ask: Why did these Eastern tribes set up this different type of housing in the summer? (Their main source of food, the crops they grew, was stationary, so they did not have move during this season.)
Ask: What type of animal do you think pulled the travois? (a horse, whose presence is evidenced by the painting on the buffalo skins) Tell students that though the tribes of the Plateau were well-known for breeding and trading horses, the tribes of the Great Plains were known for their riding skill. They used horses to hunt buffalo, and both horse and rider had to carefully avoid being trampled in a stampede. Indians of the Plains also had to be able to stay on a horse at full gallop and use both hands to shoot arrows with precision into a buffalo. Prior to the use of horses, these tribes had to hunt buffalo on foot, sometimes guiding a stampede over a cliff to kill some of the herd for meat, sometimes approaching the herd disguised in wolf skins, since healthy buffalo do not fear wolves.
Ask: What could the shield mean in terms of the culture of this tribe? (Accept all reasonable answers, but congratulate students who inferred that the shield would be used to protect a warrior in battle with another tribe.) Tell students that the tribes of the Great Plains frequently raided one another's camps, so shields and weapons were necessary in this culture. This is quite different than the culture of most of the tribes on the Plateau, who valued peace and sought to maintain it.
Ask: What inferences did you make about the culture of this tribe on the basis of the painted and decorated buffalo skull? (The skull was used in religious ceremonial rites.) Tell students that because the buffalo was the most important resource for the tribes of the Great Plains, and was the at the center of their way of life, the buffalo played a major role in religious ceremonies.
Collect all lists of artifacts back from students and compliment them
on their ability to use the artifacts to make inferences. To summarize
today's lesson, direct students' attention to the names of the regions
and tribes now written on the board. Ask for volunteers to point out on
the map the location of each region. Students should also be able to state
facts about the shelter, food and culture of the tribes in each of the
regions, and should be asked to do so as you go through each. Tell students
that in the next lesson, they will learn more about what happened when
the cultures they learned about today began to clash with the culture of
the settlers and pioneers.
Suggested Follow-up Activity
Most public libraries have a large collection of student reference books on Native Americans. Check out books pertinent to the content taught today, (there are many good titles listed under Suggested Books) and have students use the books to do further independent research. Assign each student a specific tribe with the task of finding and writing at least five interesting facts about the tribe. (Below are lists of tribes in each of the regions.) Students should also identify the region where the tribe lived, and should note how the culture and life of the tribe conforms to and differs from the generalities made today about other tribes from the same region. (For example, if it is a tribe of the Great Plains, perhaps they used tepees like most other tribes in this region, but differed from other tribes in this region in that they did not engage in frequent warfare.)
Students may also enjoy drawing and labeling artifacts that could have belonged to the tribe, and challenging their peers to make inferences on the basis of these artifacts. If this is done, the drawings could be placed within file folders, with a key on the back describing what each of the artifacts indicates. In extra time, students could examine the drawings, make their own conclusions, then check the back of the file folder to see how accurate and perceptive they were.
As a variation of this assignment, you could assign particular aspects
tribal life for students to research. Suggestions include totem poles,
the buffalo hunt, and Native American sign language. Students doing the
research should share their findings with the rest of the class either
orally, or as a list of facts posted on a bulletin board entitled "Did
TRIBES OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
TRIBES OF THE GREAT BASIN
TRIBES OF THE PLATEAU
TRIBES OF THE GREAT PLAINS
ARTIFACTS: LIST ONE
A piece of a wooden paddle
A sealskin robe
An axe made from sharpened stone tied to a stick
A large piece of wood (the size of a tree trunk) carved into the shapes of animals
A glass bead
A wide hat, woven from cedar bark, painted with berry juice
ARTIFACTS: LIST TWO
A woven basket treated with pine gum, used for collecting and storing water
A long stick with brush tied to it
A blanket made from jackrabbit skins
A small pit with the remains of several dried caterpillars in it
A pouch containing roots
ARTIFACTS: LIST THREE
A saddlebag made with beaver pelts
A large hole dug into the side of hill, with heavy moccasins and a fur blanket within it
A net woven from reeds (water grasses)
A pipe carved by a Chinook woodworker
A bag made of corn husks containing roots
ARTIFACTS: LIST FOUR
Several buffalo hides sewn together, painted with images of men on horseback
A shield, made of the neck of a buffalo
A sled made out of buffalo ribs
A painted buffalo skull decorated with sage and grass
A travois (two long poles tied together, used for transporting belongings
and meant to be dragged by an animal)
Fifth Grade - American History - Lesson 37 - Cultures in Conflict
Prediction Chart activity adapted from The Intermediate Mailbox
Predict how changes wrought by conflict with white civilization affected Native Americans' way of life.
Read to be informed about American government policies toward Native Americans and about battles between Native Americans and the U.S. Army.
Hypothesize the outcome of given situations that represent changes in
the history of Westward Expansion and its affect on Native American culture.
A classroom-size map of the United States
For each pair of students
A copy of the Prediction Chart (attached)
For each student
A copy of the reading "Cultures in Conflict" (attached)
A copy of the worksheet entitled "What If..." (attached)
Duncan, Dayton. The West: An Illustrated History for Children. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1996. Information and photographs are provided on the content covered in today's lesson.
Griffin-Pierce, Trudy. The Encyclopedia of Native America. New York: Viking, 1995. All of the subjects of today's lesson are addressed in this text.
Kids Explore the Heritage of Western Native Americans. Sante Fe, NM: John Muir Publications, 1995. Seven tribes are explored in this book, which was written by children. Time lines are given for the tribes, and they include many of the events covered in today's lesson.
Upton, Harriet. Indian Chiefs. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Publications, Inc., 1990. The author describes the hard decisions chiefs faced when confronted with the clash of cultures, and the outcomes of the decisions made. A helpful time line is provided on the last page.
"Headin' West!" The Intermediate Mailbox. February/March 1998, pp.36-41. A variety of activities to do while studying Westward Expansion are provided, including some that could be used as enrichment for today's lesson.
Hurst, Carol Otis and Rebecca Otis. In Times Past: An Encylcopedia for Integrating U.S. History with Literature in Grades 3-8. New York: Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, 1993. Contains suggestions for activities to use in a study of the conflict between white and Native American cultures.
"Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest." The Intermediate Mailbox.
October/November 1994, pp.3-13. Today's activity in which students predict
the effect the white culture had on Native Americans is an adaptation of
an activity on page 10 of this issue.
In today's lesson, students learn about the conflicts that arose between Native Americans and whites as settlers and miners continued to pour west. After hearing a little background information, students are asked, in pairs, to predict the outcome of changes caused by exposure to and conflict with the white man's culture. Pairs share their predictions, then the class reads to find out about what really did occur as a result of some of those changes, and about U.S. policy toward Native Americans. As the class reads the attached selection together, pause to discuss the answers to the questions in brackets, in bold. Finally, students are asked to respond individually in paragraph form to questions based on today's reading.
Related to this lesson, students learned about the Trail of Tears in
Second Grade and the Indian removal policies under Andrew Jackson in Fourth
Begin today's lesson by telling students that as they learned in Lesson 34, by the mid-1800s, the United States reached from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west. Not very many United States citizens, however, lived farther west than Kansas. Ask: What population could be found west of Kansas? (Native Americans) Tell students that at this time, Native Americans were not considered citizens of the United States, though they had been living on the continent for centuries before the first European explorers set foot on North America. As more Europeans came to North America and set up colonies along the eastern seaboard, they forced many Eastern Indians to move further west. In the 1800s white settlers began to push west looking for new opportunities offered in the land there, and the Native Americans started to feel threatened. Ask: Why do you think the Native Americans felt this way? (Accept all reasonable answers, which may include that they knew how whites had pushed Eastern Indians off of their tribal homelands, that they were afraid that the influence of whites would affect their culture, etc.) Tell students that indeed, struggles did take place between Native Americans and white settlers--struggles that sometimes led to violence and a change in the way of life for Native Americans. Tell students that today, they will find out more about this conflict between the culture of the white settlers and that of Native Americans.
Put students into pairs and distribute the Prediction Chart. Instruct students to read each of the changes, then to write what effect they think each would have on the culture of Native Americans. When students have completed the chart, ask pairs to share their predictions with the class.
Tell students that they will read a selection that will tell them if some of their predictions are correct. Distribute the reading entitled "Cultures in Conflict," and read it together as a class, either reading it to students or allowing students to take turns reading aloud. Pause to discuss the answers to the questions in brackets.
Once the reading is complete, instruct students to complete the accompanying
worksheet, "What If...," on a separate sheet of paper. When all students
have completed the worksheet, ask volunteers to share their responses to
each of the scenarios.
Suggested Follow-up Activities
Adapted from In Times Past by Carol Otis Hurst and Rebecca Otis
Have students write to an authority within a Native American tribe to
find out about current problems or disagreements with the United States
A Change in Political Geography
Assign groups of students the task of drawing what the borders of the United States
would look like today if the government had honored all of the treaties it made with Native Americans.
|THE CHANGE:||THE EFFECT ON NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE:|
|Tribes are forced to move to areas of land the U. S. government has set aside for them.|
|Settlers cut down forests to make land suitable for farming.|
|White hunters begin killing buffalo at a rate of several million every year.|
|Diseases brought by settlers kill whole villages of Native Americans.|
|Miners find gold on land belonging to a Native tribe.|
|Some Indian ceremonies are outlawed by U.S. officials who don't understand them.|
|Some Native Americans are attracted to white culture and the things in it money can buy.|
|Indian children go to schools where they are taught not to speak or dress in native ways.|
Directions: Respond to any two of the scenarios below. Each response
should be in the form of a paragraph, and should include information from
the reading. Be sure to answer all of the questions posed in your selected
What if...the West really were a wasteland (as whites originally thought),
not suitable for farming, mining or the building of the Transcontinental
Railroad? How might American history be different? How would this have
affected Western Native American tribes?
What if...the Sioux had won the war of 1875-76? How might history be
different? If the Sioux kept their rights to live on land, part of which
contained gold, how might this have affected Sioux culture and changed
what actually happened?
What if...the Ghost Dance really did turn the shirts of the dancers
into iron at Wounded Knee? What might have happened there, and elsewhere?
What if...Sacagawea had known what would happen to Indian tribes and
culture as white settlers moved west? Do you think she would have helped
Lewis and Clark anyway? Why or why not? Should she have helped Lewis and
Clark anyway? Why or why not?
What if...instead of dividing reservations into individually owned pieces
of land, the United States government decided to adopt the Native American
practice of owning land in common? How would life today be different? What
does owning land in common have to with what Senator Dawes said about selfishness
being at the bottom of civilization?
American Indians Are Removed to Reservations
Back in 1840 the United States Government had promised American Indians they would be allowed to live freely on Western lands. The land west of Missouri and Iowa would remain a "Permanent Indian Frontier," closed to whites except for trading purposes. At the time this promise was made, most Americans thought of the Great Plains as a wasteland. As far as the government was concerned, the Indians were welcome to live on such useless land. But, as we have seen, the Gold Rush, cattle ranching, and the spread of railroads showed that the West was far from useless. When Indians resisted attempts by settlers to take their land, the federal government came to the aid of the settlers. The government broke its promise; the "Permanent Indian Frontier" turned out to be only temporary.
The United States Government began pressuring Indian tribes to give up land to make way for settlers. To persuade them to give up land, the government made a new promise. If a tribe would agree to stay within a smaller area, the government promised the tribe could live there forever, free from the threat of more settlers. A tribe would be limited to an area set aside, or reserved, for them. Each of these areas was called a reservation. [If one promise was broken, do you think another promise would be kept?]
Reservations tended to be much smaller than the tribes had once lived in. Sometimes Indians were forced to move to reservations far away from their homelands. Some Indians who had been farmers were forced to accept dry, rocky lands not suited for farming. Indians who had once roamed over vast stretches of the Great Plains hunting for buffalo might be forced to stay on small reservations where the hunting was poor.
Though the government promised Indians they could stay on a reservation forever, the government sometimes broke its promise. If the government decided the land was needed by settlers or other Indians, the government might force a tribe to leave its reservation and move to another.
A federal agency called the Bureau of Indian Affairs administered government
policies toward Indians. Agents of the bureau also had responsibility for
protecting the rights of Indians under their various treaties with the
government. Sometimes the bureau did help Indians and guard their rights.
But many bureau officials had no knowledge or experience of Indian life,
and more than a few officials were corrupt. [Who were these officials most
The Indian Wars
Some Indians decided to fight to keep their lands and their way of life. Shortly before the Civil War began in the East, events in the West touched off a series of wars that pitted Indians against settlers and the United States Army.
In 1859 thousands of miners looking for gold in Colorado forced Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians to leave their homes. Federal officials tried to force the Indians to accept a smaller reservation away from the miners. Angry Indians took to the warpath and fought for over three years. Then the weary Indians tried to make peace. Led by Chief Black Kettle of the Cheyenne, the Indians offered their surrender at a federal army outpost.
The Indians thought the war was over, but a band of white volunteers led by Colonel J. M. Chivington attacked them at a place called Sand Creek. Black Kettle waved an American flag and white flag as a sign of peace, but Chivington's men brutally killed all the Indians except a few who escaped. Even babies and children were killed. When the Cheyenne and Arapaho signed a peace treaty the following year, the federal government apologized for "the gross and wanton outrage" of the Sand Creek Massacre.
To the north, another war broke out when Sioux Indians led by Chief Red Cloud vowed to block a road that the government wanted to build. The Sioux opposed the road because it would pass through their favored hunting grounds. [Was this justified?] Federal troops manned a series of forts in an effort to put down the uprising. For two years the Sioux attacked the forts and the white people who tried to travel through their lands. In the most famous battle, Indians ambushed and killed eighty federal soldiers.
General William Tecumseh Sherman called for revenge against the Sioux,
"even to their extermination, men, women and children." But many Easterners,
horrified by reports of the earlier Sand Creek Massacre, wanted to try
peace instead. In the spring of 1868, the government signed a peace treaty
ending the Sioux War of 1865-68, sometimes called "Red Cloud's War." [Recall
Sherman's March to the Sea, which you learned about last month. What does
this incident tell about him as well?]
The Buffalo Disappear
The most serious threat to the Plains Indians was not the United States Army. Indians suffered much more from the rapid disappearance of the buffalo. [How did the Plains Indians use the buffalo?] It wasn't disease or any other natural cause that led to the dwindling of the once great herds, but the careless, greedy actions of white settlers, hunters, and businessmen.
To feed their workers, railroad companies hired teams of hunters to
shoot buffalo by the thousands. Many hunters simply shot buffalo for sport.
Then a leather company back East began using buffalo hides in its manufactured
goods. Even more hunters headed West to shoot buffalo and sell their valuable
hides. Millions of buffalo were killed each year. By 1883 only about two
hundred buffalo remained in the entire West. Only through the efforts of
some conservationists was the buffalo saved from total extinction.
The Sioux War of 1875-76: Little Big Horn
In 1874, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, located on the Sioux reservation. Once again miners moved into the area. The government tried in vain to persuade the Sioux to sell the valuable land, or at least rent it to the miners. The Sioux considered the Black Hills sacred ground and were ready to fight for it. By the spring of 1876, large numbers of Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors joined in a war against the United States Army.
Two of the Indian leaders were Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, both proud warriors determined to defeat the white men. For a time, it seemed they could do it.
Among the federal troops was a brash young officer, Colonel George Armstrong Custer. In June of 1876, Custer led a small band of soldiers along a stream called Little
Big Horn. Custer was under orders not to attack until a larger group of federal troops arrived, but he was confident that even a small unit of United States Cavalry could defeat any number of Indians. Ignoring his orders, Custer tried to make a surprise attack against a camp where Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were staying. [What does this say about Custer and the general opinion of Indians?]
As it turned out, the Indians surprised Custer. A force of 2,500 Indian warriors quickly surrounded Custer's 265 federal troops. Within a few hours, Custer and all his men lay dead. The Battle of Little Big Horn became famous as "Custer's Last Stand."
Despite their victory at Little Big Horn, the Indians did not win the
war. Months after Custer fell, most of the Indians were forced to surrender.
Sitting Bull and a small group of followers refused to surrender and escaped
north to Canada. Starvation later forced Sitting Bull's group to return.
The Ghost Dance
As the 1800s drew to a close, American Indians were losing the struggle for the West. They longed for the return of their lands and the old ways of life. They expressed their longing in a practice started by a Paiute Indian named Wovoka. He told Indians to dance a sacred dance, called the Ghost Dance. If Indians kept dancing, the white men would be swept away, dead Indians would return to life, and herds of buffalo would again wander the plains. Belief in the power of the Ghost Dance spread across the northern Plains. The feverish dancing alarmed white settlers. [What did the Ghost Dance give the Indians? What can hope do for people?]
Among the Sioux, Ghost Dancers began wearing guns when they danced. The Sioux were angry because the government had failed to send food it had promised. Fearing a new uprising, in late 1890 the federal government sent troops to stop the dancing. The troops began by ordering the arrest of the Sioux's chief, Sitting Bull. He did not put up a fight, but another Indian shot one of the arresting officers. That officer in turn shot and killed Sitting Bull.
Two weeks later, at a place called Wounded Knee, a group of Sioux under
Chief Big Foot prepared to surrender peacefully to federal troops. Soldiers
surrounded the Indian camp and ordered the warriors to give up their weapons.
Women and children became frightened when soldiers searched the tepees
for guns. A medicine man began to dance and chant. "You have nothing to
fear," he assured the other Indians: "The Ghost Dance has turned your shirts
to iron. No bullet can harm you." One Indian held a gun over his head and
screamed. Soldiers grabbed the gun, but a shot from another rifle rang
out. The soldiers opened fire. Powerful cannons fired exploding shells
into the camp. The frenzied cries of the Ghost Dance came to a sad end
as Indian men, women, and children were left lying in the bloodstained
Attempts to Assimilate the Indians
Many white Americans felt compassion for the Indians and wanted to help them. But even those who cared about the plight of Native Americans rarely respected Indian ways. For most well-meaning Americans, helping the Indians meant assimilating them, absorbing them into the general culture--in other words, helping them become more like white Americans.
Schools were started to assimilate young Indians. In 1879 the Carlisle Indian School opened in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Young Indians from the Western reservations were sent to the Carlisle School for mechanical and agricultural training, as well as lessons in good citizenship. [Could the white man really tell how to be a good citizen?] While many Indians understood the need for education, they distrusted the new schools, which often taught them to reject the ways of their own people. At the Carlisle School, students were forbidden to wear tribal clothes, speak tribal language, or practice tribal customs. The school's philosophy was bluntly expressed by its founder, who said, "Kill the Indian and save the man." [What did this mean?]
Splitting Up the Reservations
Traditionally an Indian tribe believed its lands belonged to the members of the tribe together. A single Indian did not own a piece of the land; he shared the land with all members of his tribe. In contrast to this idea of shared ownership of the land, Europeans brought to this country a system of private ownership, in which each piece of land could be owned by an individual person.
In the 1880s many white Americans believed that private ownership of land would help the Indians toward progress--another case of believing that the way to help the Indians was to make them more like white Americans. Senator Henry Dawes said that Indians "have got as far as they can go, because they own their land in common." According to Senator Dawes, the Indians could never be fully civilized as long as they owned their land in common. Among the Indians, Dawes reasoned, "There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilization."
Most Indians would have been puzzled by this belief that "selfishness...is at the bottom of civilization." [What do you think he meant?] The U.S. Congress apparently understood Dawes, for in 1887 Congress passed a law called the Dawes Severalty Act (also known as the General Allotment Act). Under this law, tribal lands would be divided. The head of each Indian household would own 160 acres. [How is this similar to the Homestead Act?] Once every family had its "allotment," any leftover land could be sold to settlers.
Opponents of the law said that it would simply allow whites to take over more Indian land. They were right. Once an individual Indian owned land, he could also sell it. Since most Indians were poor, they sold their land to white people for money. Once the money was gone, however, the Indians were left with little to live on. So the allotment system eventually caused Indians to lose most of their remaining lands. Not until 1934 did Congress pass a law to stop the breakup of the reservations.
Bingham, Caroline. Incredible Wild West. New York: Covent Garden Books, 1995.(1-56458-957-9)
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American Indian Activity Book. Dana Point, CA: Edupress.
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