Lesson 6: Native Americans in the West


  • Make overhead transparencies of the following images (Resources 6-1 through 6-5): 

    -- Native Californian

    -- Map: Buffalo Herds in the West 

    -- Map: Native American Areas in the West 

    -- Indian Village, Minneapolis

    -- California Indian Camp

  • Overhead projector, pencils, crayons, colored pens, notepaper 

  • Student copies of the song "The Rainbow Cradle" (Resource 2-1) 
  • Goal:

    Students will recall their knowledge of Native American people who lived in the West and reflect on how their perspectives differed from pioneers and argonauts of the 19th century. 

    Historical Background:

    It is important to remember that tribes of the West were not united; they acted as separate nations and formed agreements with other tribes and with the American government independently of each other. At midcentury, northern Plains tribes, at war among themselves, treated with American government agents to let pioneers pass through their lands. Thus, in spite of overblown fears of "savage" Indians, relatively few serious situations arose along the Overland (Oregon-California) Trail in the early years following the Gold Rush of 1849. In fact, many pioneers found Plains Indians helpful with sustenance, river crossings and knowledge of the area. 

    This was not the case along the Southern Route (Gila River). Nomadic tribes of this area had a long history of mutual depredation with the Spanish settlements and with farming tribes. Overland travelers found it necessary to travel in large groups and maintain strict watch over their encampments and livestock. 

    Meanwhile, tribes of the Great Basin and northern California area were considered by pioneers and argonauts to be less than human. The lifestyle of small scattered migratory tribelets, well adapted to the arid climate and limited resources of the region, was neither understood nor respected by pioneers and settlers, and violence by travelers toward them occurred in 1846. Thereafter, their initial supportive response to pioneers understandably became one of wariness and distrust. 

    Whole-Group Study:

    1. Discuss with students what people who lived in the West were not in the paintings of Hock Farm and Mountain Jack and a Wandering Miner (Resources 4-1 and 4-2). Show a transparency of Native Californian (Resource 6-1). Study this picture with the whole class, using selected questions from the Generic Game cards. 

    2. Show students the transparencies of the maps Native American Areas in the West (Resource 6-3) and Buffalo Herds in the West (Resource 6-2). Ask students to predict what problems will arise as people move into the West to farm or mine. Chart their thinking. 

    3. Use the overhead projector at the map center to overlay the transparencies of the maps (Native American Areas and Buffalo Herds) so they align on one of the student maps. Discuss with students what they know from previous learning about the relationships of Native Americans to the resources of the land. Help them predict what kinds of problems arose as pioneers and argonauts migrated to the region. 

    Lesson 6
    Page 50