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Middle Level Unit Printable Version

Rationale: The purpose of this unit is to heighten student awareness about the different vantage points from which history can be viewed; and to offer an alternative perspective on the impact of the Lewis and Clark expedition and western settlement on Native Americans. During this investigation, students learn about the experiences of the Cheyenne as a case study for understanding the U.S. policy of Indian removal during the 19th century. Students also explore selected pieces from the art exhibit, Reflecting on Lewis and Clark: Contemporary American Indian Viewpoints.

  • Students will increase their ability to understand diverse viewpoints and to look at history from multiple perspectives
  • Students will learn about the Louisiana Purchase and U.S. goals for the Lewis and Clark expedition
  • Students will heighten their awareness about traditional one-sided perspectives on Lewis and Clark and the ways in which these understandings are limited
  • Students will learn about Cheyenne culture and history as a vehicle for understanding the U.S. policy of Indian removal during the 19th century and its impact on Native Americans
  • Students will consider the impact of conceptions about property and land ownership on U.S. society
  • Students will consider contemporary American Indian viewpoints on Lewis and Clark
National Standards (.pdf format - 35 KB - requires Acrobat Reader)
Age Range: Grades 7-9
Handouts/Supporting Documents: (.pdf format - 682 KB - requires Acrobat Reader)
(Click on the link above for a master pdf file with all of the handouts or click on any individual title below for an html version of that single handout.)
This Land is Your Land
The Louisiana Purchase and the Corps of Discovery
Children's and Young Adult Books about Lewis and Clark
The Cheyenne Way of Peace: Sweet Medicine
The Cheyenne
Little Wolf, Cheyenne Chief (c.1818-1904)
Black Kettle, Cheyenne Chief (??-1868)
Native American Quotes About Land Ownership
Land Transfers from Native Americans to Whites: 1775-1894
Reflecting on Lewis and Clark: Contemporary American Indian Viewpoints
Other Materials: chart paper, markers, computer and LCD or overhead projector (optional)
Time: 2½-3 hours or 3-4 class periods

Techniques and Skills: analyzing music, analyzing visual art, brainstorming, case study, connecting past to present, cooperative group work, critical thinking, forming opinions, historical understanding, large and small group discussion, map skills, reading skills, understanding multiple perspectives, writing skills

Key Words: ancestor, ancestral, authority, band, barren, bicentennial, capitalism, civilized, communal, consumption, Cheyenne, cultivate, curator, defensive, democracy, distinction, exhibit, expansion, expedition, identity, interpreter, intervene, landscape, malaria, navigate, nomadic, ordeal, perspective, petroglyph, property, prophecy, relief, reservation, scalp, scarce, treaty, trespass, tribal, tribe, viewpoint, vantage point, worldview


Part I (30 minutes)
1. Ask students if they have ever heard the song, "This Land is Your Land." Have them do some free association about the song's meaning, feeling and intent. (Students will likely associate the song with freedom, the sharing of land, and the beauty of America's landscape). Post or distribute the lyrics to This Land is Your Land and, if possible, play a clip from the song. Direct students to read/listen to the last two stanzas closely and tell them that these verses are often left out of popular versions. Ask them if these stanzas change their ideas about the meaning of the song and engage them in some analysis. Tell them that although most people think the song is about freedom and unity, Woody Guthrie actually meant it as a criticism of the American system of land and property ownership. You may wish to refer to the following background information during this discussion:

Originally titled "God Blessed America for Me," Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land is Your Land" in 1940 in response to the popular song, "God Bless America," which angered him because he felt it ignored the reality of people's lives during the Great Depression of the 1930s. "This Land is Your Land" creates a contrast between the natural beauty of America and the suffering of people due to poverty, hunger, and homelessness. In the fourth stanza, the 'no tress passin' sign keeps people out of a part of their country that is supposed to belong to all. In the last stanza, the people lined up outside the relief office stand for the government's failure to help those most in need. Guthrie is commenting that the beauty of America's land is diminished by the ugliness of a society in which a few prosper while the many grow poor. The song challenges us to think about the ways in which America has fallen short of its values, however most people mistake it as a celebration of our country. In 1966, the U.S. government even presented Guthrie with a Conservation Service Award "in recognition of his life-long efforts to make the American people aware of their heritage and the land." Generations have changed the song's meaning to fit their own worldview.

Ask students if they can see why some people might view "This Land is Your Land" as a celebration of America while others look at it as a protest song. Ask students what types of life experiences might lead individuals to interpret the song one way or another. Emphasize that history is filled with events that have been interpreted in very different ways by people depending upon their experiences and perspectives.
2. Suggest to students that this year marks the anniversary of just such an event. Tell them that the years 2004-2006 mark an important bicentennial that some see as a cause for celebration and others view with sadness and anger. Ask students if they can describe what was happening in the U.S. during the early 1800s and if they can identify the event that took place between 1804-1806. After some speculation, ask them if they have heard of Lewis and Clark and what they know about the two-year expedition these men carried out. Provide background about the expedition by reading The Louisiana Purchase and the Corps of Discovery or another text about Lewis and Clark. This reading can be done as a class, in small groups, or as homework.
Part II (60-75 minutes)
3. Divide students into groups of 3-4 and provide each with one copy of Children's and Young Adult Books about Lewis and Clark (you may add titles from your school or local library if desired). Explain that these books are typical of the information that is available for students on this topic. Ask groups to consider what perspectives on the Lewis and Clark expedition these titles communicate. Instruct groups to discuss each title and list the inherent messages (e.g., Lewis and Clark as heroes or villains, the expedition as a success or failure, the history as a source of pride or shame, etc.). After about 10 minutes, gather the class and allow groups to share their thoughts. Highlight the following:
  • Words such as "Incredible Journey" suggest that the expedition was positive and successful.
  • Terms such as "Voyage of Discovery" and "New Found Lands" imply that no one occupied the land that Lewis and Clark visited.
  • Phrases such as "People of Distinction" attribute honor and positive achievements to Lewis and Clark.
  • Expressions such as "Let Freedom Ring" convey that the expedition extended liberty and democracy in the lands that they visited.
Emphasize that the book titles all share a particular worldview about the impact of the Lewis and Clark expedition on America, but that this is only one perspective on this part of U.S. history. Ask students to consider what groups of people may be expressing alternative viewpoints as bicentennial activities take place across the country. (Option: If time allows, gather some of the books noted above and assign each group one to review in full rather than simply considering the titles).
4. Tell students that while most people think of the Lewis and Clark expedition as a "bold adventure," for many Native Americans it is a symbol of destruction. Explain to students that as the expedition opened up the West for U.S. settlers, it also launched a century of violence against Native Americans, a time during which they lost their land, their culture, and their lives. To illustrate this perspective, read The Cheyenne Way of Peace: Sweet Medicine aloud to the class. (This can also be assigned as independent reading or homework). Use some of the following questions to process the story.
  • Sweet medicine taught that "a chief must not seek profit for himself" and that "a man could not be a soldier and a chief at the same time." "Do you agree with these ideas about leadership?
  • What treaty did the Cheyenne enter into with the U.S. in 1825? What was the outcome?
  • Why did Chief Little Wolf let the white hunters go unharmed? What would you have done in this situation?
  • What was the purpose of Chief Lean Bear's meeting with the President? How did this meeting affect the lives of the Cheyenne?
5. As a follow-up to the story, divide the class into small groups of about four and assign each group one of the following handouts (it may be necessary for two groups to read the same handout): The Cheyenne, Little Wolf, and Black Kettle. These readings provide important historical background about the lives of the Cheyenne and the leaders referenced in the "Sweet Medicine" story read aloud earlier. Instruct groups to read their handouts and then to come up with a creative way to share what they have learned (e.g., role play, recreation of a treaty or letter, use of maps, drawing, etc.) Allow time for each group to briefly present its work. Emphasize that the experiences of the Cheyenne are representative of what happened to hundreds of American Indian tribes during the 1800s. Use some of the following questions to conclude your discussion:
  • How does the perspective of the text you read/listened to today differ from that of the book titles considered earlier?
  • Were the areas that Lewis and Clark visited "new found" lands, or did people already occupy them?
  • Did western expansion extend freedom and democracy to all people?
  • In what ways did Sweet Medicine's prophesy turn out to be true?
Part III (60-75 minutes)
6. Pose the following scenario to students: "Now that SpaceShipOne has made sub-orbital flights a reality and NASA is working toward a manned mission to Mars, do you think the United States should claim ownership of areas beyond Earth? Since we are headed for an age in which ordinary people may be able to travel and even live in other parts of the universe, shouldn't we stake out some territory?" Ask students who "owns" the territory beyond Earth and whether or not it is within our rights to claim some of it. Ask them how they would answer these questions if they were to learn that "intelligent life" existed on other planets.
7. Most students will likely conclude that it is absurd to claim ownership of far-away places, especially if other living beings already occupy them. Comment that the period of western expansion in U.S. history was not altogether different than this far-fetched scenario. Point out that a combination of racism, capitalism, and hunger for land led white settlers and the U.S. government to claim ownership of lands already occupied by Native Americans, and to forcibly remove and murder millions of people in the name of property.
8. Ask students to define "property" and to discuss how they think Native American notions of property may have differed from the ideas most white people held in the decades following Lewis and Clark. Post or distribute Native American Quotes About Land Ownership and choose a few to read together in order to demonstrate Native American perspectives on property. Direct students to choose one quote from the list and to do some free writing in response (a poem, personal reflection, brief essay, short story, etc.) If time allows, have a few volunteers share their writing and receive feedback from their peers.
9. Post or distribute Land Transfers from Native Americans to Whites: 1775-1894 and tell students that since 1778, over 2.2 billion acres of tribal lands have been surrendered to the U.S. government. Remind students of the song discussed earlier, "This Land is Your Land." Ask them if they can see the irony in the title. Point out that although Guthrie was not commenting specifically on Native Americans, he was troubled by a system of land and property ownership that takes from some and gives to others.
10. Ask students how they think a people holds on to its sense of pride and identity through tremendous loss, such as the loss of land and lives experienced by Native Americans. Post or read aloud the following statement:

"The Chinook…will remain Chinook…as long as they remember their history, their lands, and culture. They will remain Chinook despite the loss of their material history, as long as they are makers and continue creation. They will exist with or without Lewis and Clark. It is our way, to share, and to keep ourselves together by celebrations. We will only vanish through the lack of attention and devotion to our traditions and generations." -- Elizabeth Woody (Wasco/Navajo)
Tell students that this quote is from an artist who participated in an exhibit at the Maryhill Museum in Washington entitled, Reflecting on Lewis and Clark: Contemporary American Indian Viewpoints. Ask students what they think it means to be a "maker" and to "continue creation." Project or display the three slides donated by the museum to this curriculum project and allow students to view the art and read the artists' statements. Allow students to share traditions or aspects of their culture that help them to maintain a sense of identity. Ask them to consider the extent to which material goods and consumption form an important part of their lives, and what they can do to strike a balance between "consuming" and "creating." If there is an opportunity to extend this unit, work with students to develop personal goals and a plan for being a "maker." This may take the form of participation in arts (dance, music, visual art, crafts), learning how to build or fix something, improving their natural environment, participating in school or community service, or a myriad of other pursuits that emphasize productive rather than consumptive activity.

  • In This Issue
  • Terminology
  • Quick Facts
Lesson Plans
  • Elementary Level Unit
Middle Level Unit
  • Secondary Level Unit
Additional Resources
  • Bibliography and Resources
(PDF: 67K)
  • Art from Reflecting on Lewis and Clark: Contemporary American Indian Viewpoints
  • Selected paintings and text from This Land is My Land by George Littlechild
  • Maps: Native America, U.S. Expansion, and Indian Removal
Listen to "Whats it Gonna Take" by Rap artist, Litefoot
(MP3: 4,094K)

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(Secondary Level)
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A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute Recommended Multicultural and Anti-Bias Books for Children
A CLASSROOM OF DIFFERENCE™ Programs and Resources
The Miller Early Childhood Initiative of A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute
Braun Holocaust Institute
Confronting Anti-Semitism
ADL Online Catalog: Resources for Classroom and Community

 Lewis and Clark: The Unheard Voices ©2005 Anti-Defamation League