WA – Exploring Washington State Prior to Statehood

Lesson Plans – Elementary School

1 | Exploring Washington State Prior to Statehood

Tribal Homelands

Washington State History Curriculum
OSPI Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum for the Social Studies

Historical Era

Time Immemorial to Treaties | 1856 – 20th Century  | 21st Century

Social Studies GLEs:

Grade 3: 3.1.1, 3.2.1, 4.2.2

Grade 4: 2.2.1, 3.1.1

Grade 5: 3.1.1 4.2.2 4.3.2

Grade 6: 1.2.3, 1.3.1, 2.2.1, 3.1.1, 3.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.3.2

Corresponding CBA:

Humans and the Environment

Essential Questions:


Common Core State Standards

Grade 5_WA_Exploring Washington Prior to Statehood_CCSS

Asset List



Video Content

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

Ch. 1  – 7

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)

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

Ch. 1 & Ch. 6 – 8

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)

Student Examples/projects
Lesson Overview

LESSONS/UNIT OVERVIEW: These lessons introduce students to the Northwestern tribal homelands that predate non-Indian settlement. Students will identify or explore local tribes by comparing/contrasting tribal lifeways of particular tribes as well as contacting local tribes for involvement, not just information.  These lessons introduce to students the belief, like most societies, that they have been placed here by their Creator and have inhabited this land since the beginning of time, or as tribal people say, since time immemorial.  Once students see how many and to what extent independent nations existed before non-Indian settlement, the concept of tribal sovereignty—also introduced in this unit—will be easier to grasp.

Accordingly, students will be introduced to the promises tribes have made to the Creator to care for the land, its resources, and all the living creatures who share the land with them.  This is known by many tribes in the region as the Covenant with the CreatorFor the purpose of consistent language in this unit of study, we will refer to this sacred trust as the Covenant with the Creator.  To be more accurate, however, we strongly urge that you use the terms appropriate for the tribes in your area.

Whatever your local tribe calls this responsibility or promise, it permeates tribal lifeways and still determines today how tribes choose to govern themselves.  So, for tribal governments and communities, there is no separation of church and state.

Paramount to Northwest tribal lifeways is the salmon.  Not only is he a vital sustainer of life, the salmon ties together religion, tradition, and tribal economies.  Moreover, the salmon serves as a barometer for the overall health of the entire ecosystem. Through these lessons, teachers can choose to visit local tribal hatcheries or wildlife programs to learn more about how their local tribes continue to keep their Covenant with the Creator.

Things to Consider for Getting Tribal Involvement and Support

The best way to ensure successful implementation of your curriculum is to build a long-term relationship between your school and local tribes.  Be patient with yourself, your school, district, and local tribes.  This is a lengthy, gradual, and complex endeavor and cannot happen overnight.  We realize that while you are ready to embark on including tribal perspectives into your social studies program, you may not be quite ready to take on the lead in building a school-tribal partnership.  This is okay; we have faith that it will happen in time. If all you can do right now is use bits and pieces of our curriculum throughout the year, that is okay, too.  But with a little lead time, the ways that local tribes can support you are varied and exciting.  Tribal partners can…

  1. Assist in planning your lessons and/or units
  2. Help adapt your lessons to reflect local tribal history, traditions, and perspectives.
  3. Arrange for guest speakers to come into your classroom
  4. Arrange for tribal presentations to your department, grade level, or staff
  5. Arrange for classroom visits to your local tribe’s fishery, cultural center, museum, or other appropriate destination
  6. Invite your class to tribal cultural events
  7. Act as a sounding board for your ideas or questions

When you decide to initiate your involvement in building a school-tribe partnership, there are some things to consider.  Historically, tribes have an inherent distrust of non-tribal educational institutions.  They have experienced time and time again most of the following:

  • Tribal children forced to attend government or religious boarding schools designed to eradicate tribal culture and tradition altogether (cultural genocide);
  • An assumption that non-tribal education is superior to tribal educational objectives, methods, and initiatives;
  • Inaccurate histories written about tribes and tribal people by those who have neither consulted nor visited the tribes;
  • Tribal people often being viewed as relics or spectacles;
  • An assumption that tribes have nothing of value to offer non-Indian communities;
  • Ulterior motives or hidden agendas; and
  • A lack of long-term commitment to partnering with local tribes in the educational success of their children

As excited as you are to enlist tribal assistance, your inquiries initially might be greeted with enthusiasm, incredulity, encouragement, dismissal, or any combination of the above.  This is why we recommend enlisting assistance in developing this relationship.  Ideally, your building or district designee will take the lead in making initial inquiries and arranging meetings.  Your aim is to regularly communicate and work with your tribal partners.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The most efficient or consistent way to successfully build this relationship is to have at least two contact people from the tribe that you regularly interact and communicate with.  Tribal leadership changes, and with new heads of tribal governments, you may find that the commitment to the process changes as well.  When you have a few people familiar with you and the earnestness of your goals, these people can act as your liaisons to arrange for other tribal members to contribute to your teaching as well, and you don’t have to start over if you sole contact is unavailable.

To get the ball rolling, here is what we suggest:

  1. Identify the local tribe(s) in your area (see online OSPI map and public district list)
  2. Identify and contact your district’s Title I or VII Indian Education director or liaison.  This person will assist in making contact with your local tribe(s).  While the success of this approach varies from tribe to tribe and district to district, it has been our experience that when a school district official makes contact, the tribes better understand that there is “buy-in” at the district level.
  3. If your district does not have a person to assist you in obtaining a connection with your local tribe(s), identify the local tribe(s) education department, director, or liaison through the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs Tribal Directory: http://www.goia.wa.gov.
  4. Make an initial phone call.  Emails will not be as effective.
  5. Consider offering to visit and meet at the tribe’s offices.
  6. Be flexible about timing meetings and communication with your local tribe(s).
  7. Be persistent.

Level 1


Level 1


While studying Eastern Woodland tribes, it is important for each student to know

  • that tribal nations within Washington state, as well as in the northeastern part of North America, were—and in many cases continue to be—individual sovereign nations;
  • the names and locations of their own local, neighboring tribes; and

the Covenant that defines tribes and how they govern themselves.


1-2 Hours

LEVEL 1 LESSON: Students read an article that introduces them to basic tribal sovereignty concepts, On Sovereignty: Tribal Homelands, Vol.1, Issue 1

 Assessment:  Students answer corresponding questions to the article



  • (Optional) Find images that reflect the backgrounds of your classroom population (images of children from their home countries, maps and images from your own community)
  • Read the corresponding issue of On Sovereignty
  • Explore The University of Montana’s Regional Learning Project’s TrailTribes website to learn more about tribal homelands and their significance to tribal people.
  • Meet with your tribal liaison to adjust the lesson for the tribe(s) in your area as needed.  Look for ways to invite tribal people into the classroom as well as use some of their printed materials, if applicable.


  • knowledge of European settlement of North America
  • Helpful, but not essential:  The European ethnic groups living in the 13 US Colonies



Total time:  Approx 45 minutes – 1 hour

  1. (Optional)
    1. Ask students to think about what homeland might mean.  How is homeland different from home and how is homeland different from land?
    2. Show images you have gathered to help guide their emerging definition of homeland.
    3. Display the class’s definition of homeland.
  2. Recall how European colonists left their homelands for The New World.
  3. Recall that Europeans discovered that their ‘New World’ was actually quite an old one, inhabited by millions of people for at least 12,000 years.
  4. Announce that today you will be exploring a different definition of homeland.  Most students’ families’ homelands (countries of origin) have a definite historical beginning or founding. The homelands you will be discussing today are ones whose inhabitants believe have been here since the beginning of time.
  5. Read in round-robin style the accompanying On Sovereignty article.  Stop periodically for clarification.
  6. Stop when names of tribal homelands and Washington towns and cities are mentioned in the article.  Use the corresponding Washington tribal and political maps.
  7. Stop to identify your city or town on the maps whenever appropriate.  It helps to involve and engage your students personally in the discussion when they see their physical place in the lesson.
  8. In pairs, ask students to answer the corresponding questions.  Correct them in class and encourage further discussion.
  9. Homework or Extra Credit: Have students visit the website(s) of the tribe(s) in your area and write down the email address, telephone number, and address of at least one local tribe.


“And so how did [event] affect the tribes in that region?”

“What role(s) did tribal nation(s) play in this event?”

“Who might the tribes have sided with during this event?  Why?”

Encourage students to find the answers and share with the class.


Level 2


Level 2


In addition to the goals of Level 1, it is important that each student

  • understands the responsibility that local tribes have with the earth and the Creator; and
  • understands that Northwest tribes view the salmon as sacred and paramount to cultural survival


3-4 Hours

LEVEL 2 LESSON: Students understand basic tribal sovereignty vocabulary through a teacher-led classroom discussion. Students then identify and trace and color a map of local tribal nations.

Assessment:  Students will accurately identify local tribal nations prior to Westward Expansion.



  • Read the corresponding issue of On Sovereignty
  • Pre-arrange students in pairs or groups of three.
  • Access to GOIA website:  http://www.goia.wa.gov Locate the tribe(s) in your geographic area.  Use the tribal directory to find out the geographic size of the reservation (if applicable) and the population of the tribe(s).  The tribal directory provides you with most tribes’ websites to obtain this information, as well as a brief history of the tribe.  You might reproduce this information in a handout for your students or as a poster in your classroom. 
  • Photocopy for each student or student group:
    • Vocabulary activity sheet
    • Washington state outline map with political boundaries
    • Washington state outline grid map without political boundaries


  • knowledge of the establishment of 13 Colonies in North America
  • understanding that the U.S. Constitution is the document that provides the structure for our government.
  • Helpful, but not essential:  The European ethnic groups living in the 13 US Colonies



Day 1 (about 30 minutes):

  1. After students have become familiar with the political boundaries of the 13 US Colonies, project either the QuickTime movie of the 13 US Colonies or the transparencies of the maps you have created.
  2. Ask students:  “How many nations are on the Northeastern coast of North America?”
  3. After students have guessed, answer: “59.” (13 US Colonies plus the 37 Indian nations that pre-date non-Indian colonization.)
  4. Advance the QuickTime movie to superimpose the map of tribal regions in the Northeast.
  5. Say: “Before anyone else step foot on this continent, there were more than 500 independent nations residing in what we call North America.  In the Northeast alone, there were more than 37 nations who had occupied those lands since the beginning of time, according to tribal belief.  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.  Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and other faiths of major cultures believe the same way.  Indian nations are no different in their beliefs
  6. Explain that students are going to learn about the Indian nations that were established long before the British formed the US Colonies.  It also makes sense, then, that they learn about the Indian nations within their own communities who, like the tribes of the Northeast, have been here since the beginning of time.
  7. Distribute the vocabulary sheets and explain that in order to study these nations they will need to know a few terms.
  8. Divide students into pairs or groups of three.
  9. Provide time for them to discuss their own definitions of the vocabulary terms.

10. As a class, share various definitions, then reveal the definition provided in the vocabulary key.  Have students write them down.

11. Time remaining can be spent on the bonus activity (drawing a picture representing one of the terms and writing one or two sentences describing how it represents the term).

Day 2 (about 45 minutes):

  1. Recall the definitions learned and the map activities of the previous lesson.
  2. Announce that you will talk about tribal sovereignty and identify independent, sovereign Indian nations in both the Northeast and in Washington State.
  3. Review the QuickTime movies of tribal homelands if needed.  Remind students to view each of the tribal regions as independent countries, just like France, Spain, or England.
  4. Note:  The following activities can be completed by using a computer lab instead of photocopies of the maps.  Have students load Washington tribal territories, Northeastern tribal territories 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.
  5. Dividing into groups:  If you are short on time, divide your class in half; one half studies Washington tribal territories, the other studies Northeastern tribal territories.
  6. Distribute the following maps to either individual students or groups from Day 1.
    1. Northwest Tribal Regions before 1855
    2. Outline maps of Washington State (with labels, locations, and boundaries)
  7. Have students study the tribal regions maps.  Note: Theses maps are of language groups, and are also representative of the tribal groups in the region.
  8. Ask them, “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.
  9. Have students locate their city or town on the Washington map.

10. Have them approximate and plot this location on the tribal regions map.

11. Note:  It is important to have them copy their city’s/ies’ locations onto the tribal region map.  This way, students can see plainly which groups were first to live in the given area(s).

12. Ask students to share which tribe(s) are closest to their area(s).

13. Then ask, “Where are they now?”

14. Project the tribal reservations map from the QuickTime movie.  Have students locate the tribe(s) and in the tribal regions map or the Washington State map, copy the approximate size and location of the current reservation(s).

15. 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 had to combine with others, move altogether, or 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.

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

17. Note:  Some tribal areas might have disappeared altogether.  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 “for further study” below for resources.

18. You can either read the information you gathered from GOIA and/or the local tribe’s websites or provide for each group a handout to read aloud.  Note:  With the exception of the Marietta Band of Nooksack Tribe (Bellingham, WA) and the Snoqualmoo Tribe (Coupville, WA) information is available online (even Wikipedia provides accurate information).  You will, however, find contact information for the Snoqualmoo and Marietta Band of Nooksack in the state’s tribal directory.

19. Review: have students say the tribe(s) near them.

20. Homework or Extra Credit: Visit a local tribal hatchery: Washington State Tribal Directory


“And so how did [event] affect the tribes in that region?”

“What role(s) did tribal nation(s) play in this event?”

“Who might the tribes have sided with during this event?  Why?”

Encourage students to find the answers and share with the class.


Level 3


Level 3


In addition to the goals of Levels 1 and 2, it is important that each student compares the basic economic systems of Northwest and Eastern Woodlands tribes.

  • explains how laws, values, and customs influence each society’s economic system.


12-15 Hours

LEVEL 3 UNIT: Students focus on how the salmon and his health are central to the tribal of Northwest tribes. Through storytelling students learn about environmental health, how it affects the salmon, and tribes’ role in promoting overall environmental health to sustain the salmon and all people for generations to come.  Students will complete a variety of activities, ranging from “Salmon Bingo,” to observing nature in and around their communities, to re-telling stories or teachings of Northwest Indian people.


Assessment:  Students analyze and evaluate knowledge gained in Levels 1 and 2 by synthesizing the information into a Content-Based Assessment:  Meeting Needs and Wants or Humans and the Environment


  • Read the corresponding issue of On Sovereignty
  • Read the summaries of each of the curricula provided and choose which lessons you will pursue with your students.



  • One with the Watershed: A Salmon Homecoming Story-based Curriculum For Primary Environmental Education.  Estimated class time:  10 – 12 hours—note this material is valuable and is not online yet.  Contact the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for a copy.  This curriculum corresponds with the streaming video:  Through Salmon Eyes, a short video that illustrates the story of Salmon Woman
  • (provided) Columbia River Salmon Stories
  • (provided) Salmon Homecoming: An Activity Book for Kids.  Estimated Time:  5 hours
  • (provided) Indian Reading Curriculum Series and lessons.  Estimated time:  10 – 15 hours
    • Free CD-ROM requested via Indian Education, OSPI (Goal to link directly to documents)


Culminating Event:  In an expository essay or presentation, you will:

1. Analyze how the environment influences the development of a culture including lifestyles, traditions, and beliefs.

2. Analyze the ways people affect their environment as they meet their needs.

3. Refer to different maps and use them to analyze the interaction between people and their environment.

Possible essential questions that satisfy this CBA:

  • How does the environment affect the distribution, culture, and economic life of a tribe in your area?
  • How does the environment influence the development of a tribe’s lifestyle, traditions, and beliefs?
  • How has a particular tribe adapted to their environment in order to meet their needs?
  • What have tribes done to meet the challenges of reservation life? What have these tribes, as sovereign nations, done to meet the economic and cultural needs of their tribal communities?



In an essay or presentation, you will:

  1. explain the ways two societies meet their needs and wants (their economic systems),
  2. explain how laws, values, and customs may influence each society’s economic system,
  3. compare and contrast the economic systems of two societies, explaining similarities and differences, and
  4. present a position or thesis on how societies meet their needs and wants that is:


•well-supported, and

•responsive to an essential question about how people meet their needs and wants.


Primary Sources: TBD

Trail Tribes website from the University of Montana Regional Learning Project.  This extensive and rare site provides QuickTime videos and transcripts of interviews of tribal members of the Northwest, gaining their perspectives on history, Lewis and Clark, tribal sovereignty, homelands, and traditions.  http://www.trailtribes.org.