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Title: The Displacement of the Native Americans

Subject: Us History 1877-present
Grade Level(s): Middle
Author(s): Angelina Prestipino and Susan Morahan
School: Mark Twain Middle School
Lesson Time: 4 Days

Topics Covered:
American Indians
Rural Life & Movements
Western States
Time Periods Covered:
Development of the Industrial US, 1870-1900

Part 1

Essential Learning Description

Students will demonstrate an understanding of the interaction and conflict between Native Americans and white settlers in the years following the Civil War and examine how those conflicts impacted the Native American way of life on the Great Plains.

National History Standards (Historical Thinking Standards):
3. Historical Analysis & Interpretation
4. Historical Research Capabilities
5. Historical Issues

Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Fairfax County Program of Studies (POS):
Grade 4
Grade 6
Grade 7
Grade 11

Learning Strategy Objectives:
1. Tell What You Know (Activate Prior Knowledge)
4. Use Selective Attention
7. Group/Classify
8. Use/Create Graphic Organizers
9. Take notes
10. Cooperate
11. Use Imagery

Part 2


Various assessments will be used throughout the lessons. They include RAFT (instructions and explanations on RAFT use can be found at and/or at and written responses activities, informal observations through small and large group discussions, graphic organizer sort, map analysis and interpretation of visuals.

Instructional Strategies

The following plans are written for four 90-minute classes. They are the continuation of the initial lesson submitted to the grant program: Whose Land Is It Anyway?

Day # 1

  1. As students enter the classroom, the teacher will have placed the transparency of American Progress onto the overhead projector. Students should have completed their written analysis prior to class. The teacher should ask students to share their interpretations in a large group format.
  2. After the students have shared their work, the teacher may need to guide the discussions, if necessary, to point out the images of the Native Americans being pushed off the land. The teacher should review with the students the importance of the buffalo and its importance to the Plains Indians. Students should be guided to examine the buffalo in the painting.
  3. The teacher should distribute a copy of the photograph Rath and Wright’s buffalo hide yard with 40,000 hides available online at webisode 8. The students should be asked to consider the magnitude of hides and the impact of so many dead buffalo. Students can be asked what they see, what they might smell, what noises they might hear, etc if they were in the place in which the photo was taken.
  4. The teacher should share with the students the reality that White settlers and the railroad had on the buffalo: driving the species to the point of extinction. The teacher should include examples in the discussion: buffalo killed for sport; killed for furs; meat left to rot etc. The discussion should also include the fact that the Native Americans used all parts of the buffalo and only killed that which was necessary for survival.
  5. The teacher should read the quote in American Nation p. 511 about a Native American’s memories of a sled his father had made him from buffalo bones. The quote is as follows:

    After all the meat had been cleaned from the bones, my father took six of the ribs and placed them together. He then split a piece of cherry wood and put the ends of the bones between the pieces of wood. The whole affair was then laced together with a rawhide rope…This was my rib sleigh. After sliding down in the snow a few times, the bones would become smoother than most of the steel runner sleds today.

    The teacher should then read the passage regarding the buffalo in Life on the American Frontier p. 43.
  6. The teacher should explain that the 2 cultures viewed the buffalo in different ways and this led to anger on the part of the Native American as they relied so heavily upon the buffalo for their livelihood. The teacher should place the typed quote from Reconstructing America p. 81. Students should consider the question posed by the Cheyenne chief so as to gain a better understanding of the conflict of culture and gaining perspective that the Plains Indians were naturally angry.
  7. The teacher should use this time to review the Native American and European views of land. Students were given this information in the Whose Land Is It Anyway lesson submitted as a short lesson for the TAH Grant (see attachment in that lesson). This discussion should help students understand that both groups wanted to use the land, but their lifestyles, cultures and perceptions of the land were very different-hunters vs. farmers. The US government designed what it considered to be a solution and signed treaties with the Native American populations.
  8. The teacher should distribute a copy of an excerpt from the Treaty of Greenville 1795 and a photo of the document found in The Opening of the West pgs. 5 and 6.
  9. The teacher should also give students a copy of the Document Analysis Worksheet found at The teacher should read through the document with the students and then have them work in pairs to complete the worksheet. After they have completed the worksheet, the teacher should have the class discuss the following questions: According to the treaty, what could the Indians do to a settler who violated the agreement? What could a settler do to an Indian who violated the agreement? Did it seem fair? Do they think the government enforced the treaty?
  10. The teacher should explain that many such treaties were signed with the Native Americans. Time and time again, however, these treaties were changed, not enforced and/or totally disregarded. The Native American populations were eventually pushed onto reservations. In the meantime, the government would continuously ask for more lands and sign new treaties which were not upheld. Sometimes those treaties involved the promise of supplies and money. Many times the Native Americans were cheated of those forms of compensation and/or the quality of the goods supplied was poor. Native Americans began to resist signing the treaties and wars would erupt between the various tribes and the US Government.
  11. The teacher should direct students to the look at the map entitled Indian Wars in the West found on page 74 in The Nystrom Atlas of United States History to provide a visual of these battles and the amount of land held by Native Americans up to that time. Depending on student level of understanding and/or background knowledge, the teacher can discuss/review that the lands in the eastern part of the US had also been held by Native Americans and briefly discuss/review the Trail of Tears. (This information should have been studied prior to this course).
  12. The teacher should ask students to take out their notebooks for the daily vocabulary terms. The term is LAKOTA. The vocabulary term should include the names of the chiefs who were important to the Sioux: Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Red Cloud. The teacher can have pictures available obtainable from A small photograph of Crazy Horse can be found in Reconstructing America p. 80.
  13. When the students have finished copying the LAKOTA note, the teacher should read to the students from Herman Viola’s Sitting Bull up to and including p. 17
  14. The teacher should inform the students that they will be taking on the role of a chief and that they will be faced with an important decision. The teacher should distribute a copy of “Lakota: Should we sign the Fort Laramie Treaty?” found in Key Decisions in US History p. 7. The teacher should read over the scenario with the students. The students are to make the decision as to whether or not as chief they should sign the treaty on behalf of their people. They should be informed that they are to complete a RAFT assignment:

    R=Indian chief
    A=the people of the tribe
    F=speech or letter
    T=sign the treaty or fight for the lands
  15. Working in pairs, the students should have the opportunity to begin the assignment in class. They can begin brainstorming and thinking through their ideas with each other. Students should provide at least three reasons why their decision is what it is. The teacher can also distribute a copy of the questions accompanying the Lakota decision story to help students comprehend the selection and serve as a guide to the small group discussion.
  16. Students should have their assignment ready for the next class meeting and will be asked to share their work with the class. Teacher assessment will be based on the reasons students stated for their reasoning. The assignment requests at least three. The teacher will also be able to gauge student understanding via class discussion the following class meeting.

Day # 2

  1. The teacher should place Sitting Bull’s quote found in American Nation p. 514 on the overhead projector. The quote is as follows:
    "I want to know what you are doing on this road. You scare all the buffalo away. I want to hunt in this place. I want you to turn back from here. If you don’t, I will fight you…I want you to leave what you have got here and turn back from here. I am your friend."
  2. The teacher should ask the students to read the statement and to think about who may have made the statement. Have students give evidence of their conclusion. Following the discussion, the teacher should inform the students that Sitting Bull made the statement.
  3. Students should be given an opportunity to share their RAFT assignments.
  4. The teacher should read from Reconstructing America pgs 82- 84 about Indian resistance and the viewpoint of American generals and other government officials. The teacher should ask the students to react to these statements with a partner.
  5. Students should be directed to examine the maps on pgs 72, 73 and 75 in The Nystrom Atlas of United States History Students should be instructed to examine maps showing Indian landholdings, Indian Wars in the West, and Indian Reservations in 1890. Using the map analysis documents available at students should analyze the maps. They can work in pairs or small groups. Their classwork documents can serve as further assessment of student understanding.
  6. Students should then be directed to the maps on the preceding pages and examine the maps showing the location and number of railroad lines crossing through lands that had been set aside for the Indian populations. Answers to their analysis activity should be discussed. This can serve as an informal assessment of student understanding. If necessary the teacher can point out the amount of land that had been taken over by Whites to construct railroads. Additionally, if the students have not brought up the fact that the builders of the Transcontinental RR also obtained land on either side of the tracks that they laid, the teacher can remind students of this fact and guide students to the fact that people had bought those tracts of land and began settling there as well further adding to the anger of the Native Americans.
  7. Students should complete Geography worksheet 24 as a follow-up activity to the map analysis.
  8. Students should then be instructed to copy the vocabulary for the day: “Walk the White Man’s Road” into their notebooks. This note should explain that the government wanted to force the Indian populations to become more “civilized”. They thought that misunderstandings and wars would not occur if the Native Americans could be changed and taught to act more like Whites by accepting Christianity and becoming farmers. Strategies used by the federal government included reservations, formal education and land distribution.
  9. The teacher should split the students into 4 groups. Each group should have a “before” and an “after” picture of Native American children who were taken from their homes and brought to schools intended to “educate” them in the ways of the Whites. These pictures can be found in Women of the West p.27 and Reconstructing America p. 84. Students should complete the photo analysis worksheets available at and use their answers as a point of discussion.
  10. Once the students have looked at a “before” picture, the teacher should rotate the pictures so that the students have an “after” picture. They should again complete the worksheet and use their answers as a point of discussion for comparison of the photos.
  11. As students are comparing and contrasting the photos, the teacher should place on the overhead projector the quotation by Red Bird found on pg. 516 of American Nation and ask students how the quote relates to the photos. The quote is as follows:
    "I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my thick braids. Then I lost my spirit."

    The teacher should then explain that the Native American children had been taken from their homes and placed in boarding schools for the purpose or educating them in the ways of the Whites.
  12. The students should be asked to consider if there is something about their cultural upbringing that is particularly special or unique. Students should then in pairs discuss with their partners how they would feel if they were not allowed to practice that tradition, eat that food, wear a particular piece of clothing etc. How might they feel if they were taken from their families, forced to learn a new language and customs, etc. The teacher should ask the students to consider the success level of this program of Native American education.
  13. Students should then be redirected as the teacher distributes a copy of the Dawes Act found at
  14. The teacher should explain that although the document that they have received was a law intended to reform the reservation system, it was really another attempt to “civilize” the Native Americans and make them more like the Whites. The teacher should read the document to the students as they read silently. The teacher should ask the students how the law would attempt to do that. If necessary, the teacher should guide the students to the reasoning that the hope was the Plains Indians would give up their nomadic lifestyle and become farmers using the lands allotted to them.
  15. The teacher should then ask the students to consider the predicted outcome of the Dawes Act by sharing their thoughts with a partner. Was it successful? Once regrouped, the teacher should seek out responses that indicate the conflicts of the views of land by both groups, desire to maintain/share religious beliefs, hunting vs. farming etc. The teacher should also explain that often the lands allotted to the Native Americans were considered lands that were not good for farming.
  16. The teacher should distribute quotes from Tonkahaska, Wovoka, Journeycake, and White Ghost found at (webisode 8) and the quotes by Crazy Horse and a Minnesota Indian chief found in Reconstructing America p. 84 and 85. Students should each be given one quote and asked to consider what the feeling is. They can put the quote into their notebooks opposite the “Walk the White Man’s Way” note and write about their responses to the quotations.

Day # 3

  1. Once students have been seated, the teacher should have Sitting Bull’s name on the board and his picture on the overhead. The teacher should ask the students what qualities they remember about Sitting Bull from the story read to them previously. Discussion can lead to Sitting Bull as a hero of his people. The teacher should ask students to compare him to another hero in American history-one who was willing to fight for his/her beliefs and/or defend his/her and/or the nation’s freedom. If necessary, the teacher can mention names, for example, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, George Washington, etc.
  2. The teacher should then finish reading Sitting Bull to the students. When the teacher reaches the segment of the story which discusses the Battle of Little Bighorn, the teacher should ask the students to make predictions: Were the Sioux justified in their actions? Why or why not? What would be the government’s reaction? What would happen to Sitting Bull?
  3. Once the story has been read, the students should then be instructed to put the note Wounded Knee into their notebooks. The note should include the fact that groups of Lakota Indians had fled the reservations following Sitting Bull’s death. They were pursued by US soldiers and eventually agreed to surrender. A shot was fired and the army retaliated by killing 300 men, women and children. This marked the end of the Indian Wars and the Ghost Dance religion.
  4. The teacher should distribute a copy of Ballad to a Massacre: Private Prather’s Portrait of Wounded Knee found at and read it with the students. The teacher should ask the students to determine from whose perspective the ballad had been written? What evidence in the ballad supports their suggestions? What might be the Native American perspective? What feelings do they get from reading the ballad?
  5. Students should be directed to examine the maps on pgs 72, 73 and 75 in The Nystrom Atlas of United States History so as to compare the number of buffalo on the Plains by 1890 and the lands set aside for the Native Americans in 1890. What similarities do they see? What had caused these changes? Students should indicate the many broken promises/treaties made with the Native Americans, killing of the buffalo for sport, homesteading, cattle ranching, mining, etc. as potential reasons for the changes they see in the maps. If necessary the teacher should prompt these responses.
  6. The teacher should then write Nez Perce on the board and inquire what background knowledge the students have about this tribe. The teacher should provide, if necessary, a brief background about the relationship that had been established as far back as Lewis and Clark, peaceful tribe, pacifist leader-Chief Joseph).
  7. The teacher should then read aloud to the students from Reconstructing America p. 91 about how the Nez Perce were forced off of their lands and their eventual 1,000-mile journey. The teacher can place an overhead transparency of the route on the overhead projector found on page. 93.
  8. The teacher should then distribute a copy of quotations from (webisode 8, segment 3). Students can work in pairs and should be able to identify the excerpt from the Declaration of Independence. They should be asked to compare the 2 excerpts and find similarities. The students should be given 2 different color highlighters and should be instructed to color code by highlighting phrases that share common traits in each document. For example, the students can highlight “…all men are created equal” and “All men are created by the Great Spirit Chief”.
  9. Students should be asked to consider the question: How did Chief Joseph embody the ideals upon which our nation had been founded? Had the US government lived up to these ideals? Could Chief Joseph be considered an American hero? Why or why not?
  10. As a closing activity, students will be given a graphic organizer issued by Fairfax County Public Schools (IV. American Indians) or one created by the teacher instructing the lesson (a copy is attached). The three categories will be filled in for the students: Policies, Places and People. The students will be instructed to place the smaller pieces of the graphic organizer underneath the proper categories. The teacher should monitor for accuracy. Once students have correctly identified the categories, they should glue the pieces into place and put the graphic organizer in their notebooks opposite of the note Wounded Knee.

Day # 4

  1. As the students enter the room, the journal topic will be posted on the overhead. The students will be responding to the prompt, “What would you do if someone borrowed something from you but waited so long to return it, they forgot what they lent you in the first place?’ ( The purpose of this activity is for the students to make a connection in their life to the lives of the Native Americans.
  2. The students will participate in a “Tea Party*.” A Tea Party is a reading strategy that helps students activate background knowledge, anticipate what they will read and make connections to information they already know. The teacher will select 8-10 statements (depending on the number of students in the class) from “Whose Land is this Land?” ( The statements will be written on index cards. Each student will read their statement silently. The students will then move around the classroom. Their job is to move around the room and read the quote on their index card to as many classmates as possible. The only conversation taking place is the reading of the index cards. The class will then break into two small groups and discuss what they learned about the text from the quotes. Students will jot down questions and predictions they have regarding the reading. Their goal is to anticipate what will be read.
  3. The teacher will then pass out a copy of ‘Whose Land is this Land?” to each student. This will be read as a guided reading activity with the teacher reading and the students following along with the text.
  4. After reading is completed, the students can check their predictions and answer their questions.
  5. The students will then watch the Scholastic NBC News Video: Segment 2- Native Americans.
  6. Following the video, the class will participate in a guided reading activity. The article deals with how the Cherokee tribe is trying to save a dying language. The article can be found at: (
  7. Class will end with a discussion of the National Museum of the American Indian. Students will be encouraged to visit the website for more information.

*“Tea Party” is adapted from Kylene Beers, author of Into Focus: Understanding and Creating Middle School Readers.

Materials and Resources
  • Overhead transparencies
  • Photo, map and document analysis worksheets
  • Highlighters
  • Glue
  • Index cards
  • History Alive! Resources (John Gast’s picture of American Progress)



Andrews, Elaine (1992). Indians of the Plains. Facts On File: New York, New York.
*Part of the First Americans series, this book covers the rich and varied cultures of the Plains Indians. This book has culturally and historically rich pictures of Native American life.

Beers, Kylene and Barbara G. Samuels. Into Focus: Understanding and Creating Middle School Readers. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc., 1998.
*Strategies from this book were included the Teaching American History Grant seminars/trainings.

Blumberg, Rhoda (1989). The Great American Gold Rush. Bradbury Press: New York, New York.
*This book follows the history of the California Gold Rush. Of special note is the inclusion and coverage of the treatment of Native Americans, Blacks, immigrants and women.

Billard, Jules B. (1974). The World of the American Indian. National Geographic Society: Washington, D.C.
*The book is published by the National Geographic Society. Although it is text-laden, the photographs, pictures, drawings etc. are exceptional. Good captions are included with each photograph.

Davidson, James West and Stoff, Michael B.(1998). American Nation. Prentice and Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
*This is the textbook used by all general education 7th graders in Fairfax County Public Schools, VA. This book offers information on the Native American peoples of the Great Plains and the ensuing conflicts. This text includes some primary resources and offers exercises in resource workbooks. Audio recordings are also available for students with reading disabilities. Any history book would be useful to provide the necessary background information for this lesson.

Divine, Robert A. (1991). America: The People and the Dream- Geography Skills Workbook. Scott, Foresman, and Company: Glenview, Illinois.
*This is a supplemental workbook that accompanies the textbook by the same name.

Hakim, Joy (1993). Reconstructing America 1865-1890. Oxford University Press: New York, New York.
*This book is part of an 11-volume series written by Joy Hakim entitled History Of US. The reading selections are “kid-friendly” and applicable for 5th-12th grade. There are many primary source references.

Kallen, Stuart A (1999). Life on the American Frontier. Lucent Books: San Diego, California.
* This book is part of the The Way People Live Series. This book focuses on the different groups that were a part of the history of the frontier. This book uses primary quotations from the various groups that played a part in the settlement of the West.

Kalman, Bobbie and J. Lewis (2000). Women of the West. Crabtree Publishing Company: New York, New York.
* This book describes the lives and experiences of women in the 19th century American West including immigrants, African Americans and Native Americans. It is part of a series entitled Life in the Old West. It has illustrations and some photographs and is a useful tool for read-alouds at the middle school level.

Nystrom Atlas of the United States (2000). Nystrom Division of Herff Jones: Chicago, Illinois.
*This book is an historical atlas which includes a wide variety of visual information presented in maps, charts and graphs.

Smith, Patrick Henry & Croes, John (1997). Key Decisions in US History: A Participatory Approach Volume 2: 1861-1994. J. Weston Walch: Portland, Maine.

Stefoff, Rebecca (2003). The Opening of the West. Benchmark Books: Tarrytown, New York.
* This book is a collection of primary resources including photographs, paintings, letters, memoirs, journals and diaries.

Viola, Herman J. (1998). Why We Remember: United States History. Addison-Wesley Longman, Inc.: Menlo Park, California.
* This book was written was by a distinguished historian, who was a member of the advisory committee for the Teaching American History grant . This textbook is used in Fairfax County Public Schools.

Viola, Herman J. (1990). Sitting Bull. Raintree Publishers: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Internet Sites:

Hoch, Maureen (2002). Whose Land is this Land? Retrieved September 10, 2004 from PBS website:

* This article discusses the inconsistencies of the American government in its compensation to the American Indians for lands held in trust over the past 150 years.

(2003) Cherokee Tribe tries to save dying language. Retrieved September 10, 2004 from CNN website:

* This article discusses the introduction of the Cherokee language within the public school system in Oklahoma.

U.S. National Archives & Records Administration

(2001) The Dawes Act: February 8, 1887. Retrieved September 10, 2004 from PBS website:
*This website correlates with the Joy Hakim’s History of US series. This site has links to other sites and includes a wide variety of primary sources.


USA Today September 10, 2004 Life Section D.
*This article has a layout of the National Museum of the American Indian and a description of what the museum offers.


NBC Scholastic News Video (1994-1995). Scholastic. Segment # 2: Native Americans.
* This video provides a brief historical overview of the plight of the Native Americans. It briefly discusses life on the reservations today, including the creation of casinos.

Extended/Advanced Adjustments:

The teacher can utilize the Read Aloud strategy and/or use more Guided or Shared reading if the reading levels prove to be too difficult for the students. Shortened notes or fill-in-the-blank notes can be provided for students who may have visual-motor difficulties. For activities that are independent in nature, students can be grouped in pairs or small groups. For students who are more advanced, supplemental materials used as read-alouds can be utilized by these students for enrichment.

Attachment(s) (html documents)
  • Lakota: Should we sign the Fort Laramie Treaty?
  • Geography Worksheet 24
  • Fairfax County Graphic Organizer IV. American Indians

Download/Print (Word .doc format)