US – Indian Encounter, Colonization, and Devastation

Lesson Plans – Elementary School

1 | The Tribal Perspective: Encounter, Colonization, and Devastation

Tribal Homelands

US History Curriculum
OSPI Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum for the Social Studies

Historical Era

Time Immemorial – 1770 |1770 – 1780 | 1780 – Present

Social Studies GLEs:

Grade 3: 2.2.1, 4.2.2

Grade 4: 2.2.1, 2.2.2, 2.4.1, 3.2.3, 4.1.2, 4.3.1

Grade 5: 2.2.2, 3.2.3, 4.1.2, 4.2.2, 4.3.1

Grade 6: 2.2.1, 2.2.2, 2.4.1, 3.2.3, 4.1.2, 4.2.2, 4.3.1

Corresponding CBA:

Causes of Conflict

Essential Questions:


Common Core State Standards

Grade 5_US_Encounter Colonization and Devastation Unit_CCSS

Asset List



Video Content

Corresponding Chapters from the Regional Learning Project’s Required Curriculum Materials:

Ch. 1 and 6

DVD: Native Homelands Along The Lewis and Clark Trail

Study Guide

DVD Chapter List

The DVD (35 minutes) is divided into nine chapters that range from 2 to 8 minutes each, as follows:

Chapter 1: Introduction (2:00 minutes)

• Chapter 2: Homelands of the Mandan-Hidatsa (4:10 min)

• Chapter 3: Homeland of the Blackfeet (3:05 min)

• Chapter 4: Homeland of the Shoshone (3:05 min)

• Chapter 5: Homeland of the Salish (3:10 min)

Chapter 6: Homelands of the Sahaptin-speaking Tribes of the Columbia River (8:10 min)

• Chapter 7: Homelands of the Upper Chinookan Tribes (3:30 min)

• Chapter 8: Homelands of the Lower Chinookan Tribes (5:00 min)

• Chapter 9: Close (0:45 min)

Corresponding Chapters from the Regional Learning Project’s Required Curriculum Materials:

Ch. 1 – 3

DVD: Tribal Perspectives of American History in the Northwest

Study Guide

DVD Chapter List

The DVD (75 minutes total running time) is divided into nine chapters that range from 3 to 27 minutes in length, listed here with time codes for each:

Chapter 1: Introduction (4:15 minutes)

Chapter 2: History Through Oral Tradition (7:20 min)

Chapter 3: Before Contact (6:55 min)

Chapter 4: First Contact (10:00 min)

Chapter 5: Advent of the Fur Trade and its Consequences (7:20 min)

Chapter 6: Missionaries and Early Settlers (6:50 min)

Chapter 7: The Treaties (27:00 min)

Chapter 8: Treaty Aftermath – Nez Perce Story (5:30 min)

Chapter 9: Reflections (3:55 min)

Student Examples/projects
Lesson Overview

Early European explorers found tribal people fascinating, because they were different. But, because these tribal people did not live, look, or act like they did, most explorers before and during the Colonial period thought of tribal people as savages who lived like animals instead of humans. 1Although the tribal people looked human in form, to early Europeans, they were barely human in their customs. One word often used to describe them was ‘beasts.’ The Virginia Charter of 1606 was a way to bring God to the savages since going the ‘Christian’ way was considered civilized. In the charter, King James the First declared British colonization from present day Canada to South Carolina. The charter had only one purpose: to Christianize tribal people:

“in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government…”

As settlers purchased land from the tribes, they thought they could live in harmony with the tribal people as soon as they were ‘Christianized.’ Later, the Catholic and Anglican churches sent missionaries to the colonies to convert the tribal children to Christianity, because they thought it would be easier to teach the youngsters than the adults. Colonists at first thought they were successful, since no tribal people complained. Tribal people remained silent, even while colonists verbally abused and insulted them. One chief, Powhatan, hoped the colonists and churches would fail, but the English kept going forward with their ‘civilizing’ tactics. Then in 1622, it became clear to nearly every tribal leader that the colonists would demand more land from them, demand them to convert to Christianity, and demand that they give up their tribal lifeways. Opechancanough—leader of the Powhatan Nation—waged an attack against Jamestown. Over 300 colonists died. During the next 50 years, tribal nations and colonies alike waged war against each other. Colonists felt justified in destroying these ‘savages’ and did not try to understand the tribal people. Tribal people were angered by how the colonists treated them.

Each colony was different because of the settlers’ various backgrounds, goals, and interactions with tribal people. The Anglicans and Catholics, for example, protected smaller tribal nations against the more powerful tribes living nearby. Land was always purchased and the tribal people were treated well. Just the same, they tried to ‘Christianize’ them without much success. Even the nonviolent Quakers of Pennsylvania could not convince tribes to convert to Christianity. But conversion and war were just two of the ways the colonists—and later the United States—used to solve what they would call “The Indian Problem.”
Because of a lack of immunity to European diseases, entire tribes were wiped out by ‘wonderful plagues,’ such as smallpox, measles, mumps, and typhus. Before contact with European explorers and colonists, it is estimated that more than 90 billion indigenous people called North and South America home. Sadly, 95% of them succumbed to disease before mass colonization of the Americas even began. In fact, when colonists arrived at areas already cleared for farming, they mistakenly interpreted this as proof that God had prepared this land for their use, and their use alone. When in reality, tribal people had been farming the land for thousands and thousands of years—only to be wiped out by disease just before the colonists’ arrival. Truth is, Europeans tried a number of ways to clear the continent of tribal people: war, disease, enslavement, and conversion. All of them worked to some degree, but none as successful as the spread of European diseases. Later, the newly formed United States would continue the colonial policy of war and Indian removal as solutions to the “Indian Problem.” And what exactly was the problem? That Indians existed at all.

Level 1

Level 1: Sacred Space & Colonies Map

Level 1:
1. Photocopy a classroom set of “The Sacred Space Activity” 2. Photocopy a classroom set of “Encounter, Colonization, and Devastation” Article and Questions 3. Load and prepare to project the PowerPoint or QuickTime Movie of “US Colonies/Tribal Homelands” presentation
Create your own “Sacred Space Map.”

Step 1.     Introduce your Colonization Unit as you typically would.  Explain to your students, however, that in order to understand all the causes and consequences of the colonization of the Americas, they must also consider the perspectives of the tribes who live in the land that was colonized.  Tell them you intend to include the tribal perspective as you teach them about the founding of our country.

Step 2.     For tribal nations, their sovereignty means much, much more than the ability to govern themselves and where they live.  Tribal Sovereignty revolves around lifeways, traditions, religion, and living with nature, rather than dominating it. (See Willard Bill’s The Breaking of the Sacred Circle and/or review the Native Homelands Unit if necessary.)  Tribal homelands continue to be sacred, and to care for and preserve those homelands is the primary purpose of tribal governments today.

Step 3.     Announce that students will create their own Sacred Space to try to understand the impact colonization had on tribal people.

Step 4.     Ask students to think of a place that is very, very important to them, typically a bedroom, but could also be a favorite, private place they go to play or think.  It might be countries where they are from, places they have visited, camped in, or other places.  Encourage them to think about why it is important to them.  This is their sacred space.

Step 5.     Students will complete the “Sacred Space Activity” worksheet.

Step 6.     Students will create a map of their sacred space. Encourage students to be as careful and detailed as possible. This might be an opportunity to introduce or reinforce map skills, requiring a legend, borders, labels, title, direction, and scale.  It is a good idea to limit the size to 8 ½ x 11 inches.  Distribute any materials students will need for this assignment.  Important: After you have given the assignment, identify one or more students who will be willing to help you “trick” the class.  They will allow you to rip apart their maps, or, if they find it is too important for them to allow you to destroy it, ask them to create a “dummy” map for you to tear.

Step 7.     Have students share their maps and why they are special.  They can read what they wrote on the back of their maps to explain why these places are special. Be sure to praise students on their work.

Step 8.     Circulate throughout the room as you praise and select your pre-arranged student’s map as one you especially like.  Hold it up to show the class.  Show a particular part of the map (though it doesn’t matter which part) that you especially like, and you’d like to add it to your map.  Say something like, “Oh, I really love this part, don’t you?  In fact, I would really like to have it.  Can I?” The student should look surprised and say, “No.” You should persist, “Oh, come one.  I just want this part.” Tear that portion of the map.  The student should look shocked and hurt.  The observing students will certainly be shocked, and will look immediately to that student.  And you should respond by saying something like, “What? What’s the big deal? I only took part of it!  I really wanted it!”  Allow your students to respond.

Step 9.     Let your class in on the trick, and connect their reactions to how tribes must have felt when non-tribal people began settling on their land and claiming it as theirs!

Step 10. Project the US Colonies/Tribal Territories QuickTime or PowerPoint Show.

Step 11. Show the first slide only (13 Colonies and empty space to the west of their borders)

Step 12. Students should turn and talk to partners about what they see.

Step 13. Ask students to estimate the number of countries represented on the map.

Step 14. As you click to the next slide that overlays traditional tribal territories over the 13 colonies political map, say that there were more like 35 governments already in existence BEFORE non-Indian settlement.

Step 15. Announce that your study of the American struggle for freedom also includes the struggle for American Indian freedom during the same time.  The 13 Colonies were within the territories of over 35 other countries.

Step 16. Announce that before anyone else step foot on this continent, there were more than 500 independent nations residing in what we call North America—since time immemorial, the beginning of time.  Point out that most civilizations rely on the religious belief that their god not only created the land on which they live, but also created them and placed them on the land and created the land for their use.  Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and other faiths of major cultures believe the same way.  Indian nations are no different in their beliefs.  The struggle for religious expression and freedom is not a new one.

Step 17. Read the article aloud and stop where needed.  Connect to classroom texts about colonization and the Jamestown stories in student texts presented in class, focusing on similarities.

  1. Religious freedom
  2. European disease
  3. Divine right

Step 18. Have students complete the accompanying study questions in pairs or as homework.

Step 19. Discuss responses.

Step 20. Wrap-Up:  Ask, “Why do you think their stories have been excluded from the story of America?  Suggest that it might not be a very pleasant story to tell.  Compare to how individuals often try to downplay their wrongdoings when having to retell or take responsibilities for actions.

Level 2

Level 2

Photocopy classroom sets of:

  1. “The Friend of the Indians” poem
  2. “Encounter, Colonization, and Devastation” Comparison Graphic
  3. Current US tribal reservations outline map

Step 1.     “Friend of the Indians” Activity. Line up five chairs or a bench in the front of the room.  Ask a volunteer to help you.  Have the volunteer sit in the second chair.  This student will act as “The Friend.”

Step 2.     Project the “A Friend of the Indians” poem.

Step 3.     Depending on your preferences, have students do a choral read, ask volunteers to act as Red Jacket, the Friend, and the narrator.

Step 4.     You could also divide students into trios and have each trio do steps 8 and 9 below.

Step 5.     You will be Red Jacket.  As the students read the poem aloud, you will direct your student volunteer move over as directed in the poem.  In the last stanza, the student will have nowhere else to go, except off the chairs onto the floor.

Step 6.     Connect this activity with the sacred space activity and article…

  1. Taking things/spaces that are important to others is hurtful
  2. There is a question of fairness and justification for taking things important to others.

Step 7.     Introduce your classroom text’s chapter, unit, or section on American colonization and teach as you typically would, and include questions such as “Whose perspective seems to be missing?”

Step 8.     OPTIONAL: Read “The True Story

Step 9.     Complete the Level 2 Encounter, Colonization, and Devastation Comparison graphic as you continue your study of this unit.

Step 10. Conclude with showing a present day map of American Indian reservations in the United States today.

Step 11. Ask, “Where did they all go?” Connect to colonization and introduce “justification.”  Ask if there are any unfair actions that are “justified?”

Step 12. Note: The following activities can be completed by using a computer lab instead of photocopies of the maps.  Have students load the Colonial and Northeastern tribal territories and reservations maps onto their desktops.  Either insert the images onto a Word Document or other drawing program (like Adobe Illustrator).  Proceed with the activities according to the functions of the drawing program.

Step 13. Distribute the following maps to either individual students or groups from Day 1

  1. US Colonies Map
  2. US NE Tribal Territory Map

Step 14. Have students study the tribal regions maps.  Note: These regions are approximate.  If you ask different tribes, they often will have different ideas about where boundaries lie.  Remember: there were no political boundaries, only naturally occurring boundaries.

Step 15. Ask, “Why are the tribal boundaries most likely divided like they are?”  Answers will focus on the naturally occurring boundaries in the region: rivers, mountains, bluffs, etc.

Step 16. Project the topographical map of the US as an aid.

Step 17. Then ask, “Where are the Northeastern tribes now?”

Step 18. Distribute copies of the tribal reservations outline map.

Step 19. Project the traditional tribal homelands map.

Step 20. Have students compare the size and location of current state and federal reservations to the traditional tribal homelands.

Step 21. Ask, “Why do you think this happened?  Where did they all go?” Answers might range from illness, wars, or students might know that Indian tribes relinquished much of their land to non-Indian settlement.  State that many tribes either had to combine with others, move altogether, and give up much of their tribal land so that Indians and non-Indians could live beside each other in peace.  These formal agreements are called treaties.  Treaties affected tribes’ abilities to make their own rules and live how they wanted.  This ability is tribal sovereignty.

Step 22. Ask, “How did this loss affect their ability to govern themselves?  Their tribal sovereignty?

Step 23. Note:  Because of tribes’ political history with the US Government, some tribes have lost their territories altogether. This would be a time to encourage your students to investigate what happened to the tribe(s). See this National Congress of American Indians web directory:

Step 24. Local Connection: Spend a day researching the original tribal territories by visiting websites of the tribes in your area (see the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs

Step 25. Wrap-Up:  Point out what students tend to do when they feel they have been treated unfairly. Have students predict what happened next between tribal nations and the colonies.

Level 3

Describes the background of the conflict including all of the following:

• who was involved in the conflict,

• what the conflict was,

• when the conflict took place, and

• where the conflict took place

Demonstrates an understanding of the causes of the conflict by explaining relevant ideas from each of the four social studies perspectives:

• history,

• geography,

• civics, and

• economics

Identifies on a timeline of events related to the causes of the conflict using ideas from each of the four social studies perspectives:

• history,

• geography,

• civics, and

• economics

Lists three sources including the title, author, type of source, and date of each source.