US – Reform, Prosperity, and the Great Depression

Lesson Plans – High School

3 | Reform, Prosperity, and the Great Depression

Indian Reorganization Act

United States History Curriculum
OSPI Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum for the Social Studies

Historical Era

1776 – 1791 Conflict and Alliance | 1890 – 1918 Assimilation | 1918 – 1939 Reorganization | 1939 – 1991 Termination to Self-Determination | 1945 – 1991 Termination to Self-Determination | 1991–Present Nation-Building

Social Studies GLEs:

Grade 9: 1.3.1, 2.1.1, 2.3.1, 4.2.3, 4.3.2, 4.4.1

Grade 10: 1.3.1, 2.1.1, 2.3.1, 4.1.2, 4.2.3, 4.3.2, 4.4.1

Grade 11: 1.2.2, 1.3.1, 2.1.1, 2.3.1, 3.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.3.2, 4.4.1

Grade 12: 1.2.2, 1.3.1, 2.1.1,, 4.2.3, 4.3.2, 4.4.1

Corresponding CBA:

U.S. Foreign Policy

Essential Questions:


Common Core State Standards

CCSS Grade HS 11 US Reform Prosperity Indian Reorganization Act

Asset List



Video Content

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

Ch. 4

DVD: Contemporary Voices Along the Lewis and Clark Trail

Study Guide

DVD Chapter List

The DVD (28 minutes running time) is divided into five chapters that range from 3 to 10

minutes each, as follows:

Chapter 1: Introduction (9:10 minutes)

Chapter 2: Early Contact and its Consequences (3:00 min)

Chapter 3: Language (3:45 min)

Chapter 4: Respect (7:00 min)

Chapter 5: Continuity (5:00 min)

Student Examples/projects
Lesson Overview

By the end of instruction, students will:

  • Recognizes landmark legislation that affected and continues to affect tribal sovereignty and explain the governmental structure of at least one local tribe (tribal sovereignty objectives 1 & 4)
  • Evaluate how Indian and non-Indian interaction with the environment has affected economic growth and sustainability (GLE 3.2.1, grade 12)
Level 1

US History Reform, Prosperity, and the Great Depression        

Indian Reorganization Act:  Diagramming Sovereignty

Level 1:           Sovereignty differs between our nation, states, and tribes.  Students will recall the complexity of sovereignty and recognize tribal governments’ status with federal and state governments.

Day 1

1)      Motivate the lesson by calling for student volunteers to spell the word “Sovereignty” on the board.  Repeat with different student volunteers until the class agrees that the correct spelling of sovereignty is on the board.  Use a dictionary to confirm the correct spelling and to define the word.  Tell the students that sovereignty is not only a difficult word to spell, but it is also a difficult concept to understand.

2)      Ask students to do a one minute quick write listing all the sovereign nations in the world they can think of.

3)      Call on individual students to tell you one nation each, compiling the list on the board or overhead, deleting duplicates.

4)      Look over the list as a class. In small groups, students will discuss what makes those countries sovereign nations.  One student will be chosen in each group to record their discussion. Give them several minutes to discuss the issue. If help is necessary, their lists might include: national boundaries, a political structure or government, ability to make and enforce laws, a common language, and identity as a people or nation.)

5)      Ask groups to report in on their discussion. What defining elements of a nation’s sovereignty did they agree on?

6)      Then discuss with students whether they feel that the sovereignty of Indian Nations is the same or different from other nations in the world.

7)      After some discussion to get ideas generated, students will write on their own how they think Indian nations are the same and/or different from other nations in terms of sovereignty.

8)      Sovereignty differs between the Nation, states and tribes. Students will read the article titled “Sovereignty” (Appendix 1.A) by Robert J. Lyttle (Cheyenne/Arapaho), Attorney, from Norman, Oklahoma, 1999.

9)      Outline the article on the board or overhead. Students will copy the outline onto their own paper, or ask students to summarize the article on their own. (Appendix 1.B)

10)  Provide students with a large sheet of paper and ask them to create a diagram of national, state and tribal sovereignty. A Venn diagram or web diagram would work well for this activity.(Appendix 1.C)

 Looking Ahead to Level Two Curriculum:

If time allows, have students brainstorm what tribal governments may have been like in the years before contact and colonization.

Level 2

US History Reform, Prosperity, and the Great Depression        

Indian Reorganization Act:  From the Meriam Report to IRA

Level 2:           Students will understand how the Meriam Report documented the dismal state of Indian Country and ultimately led to the Indian Reorganization Act.  They will understand the goals of the Indian Reorganization Act and how it restricted at least one local tribal government.  Students will create a graphic organizer to summarize the recommendations of the Meriam Report and purpose of the Indian Reorganization Act.

Day 1

  • Students view powerpoint “Meriam Report and IRA” and read the article “John Collier and New Respect for Indian Culture” (Appendix 2.A)
  • Students create graphic organizer. (Appendix 2.B)
Level 3

US History Reform, Prosperity, and the Great Depression        

Indian Reorganization Act:  Diagramming Sovereignty

Level 3:           Student will analyze and evaluate the success of the Indian Reorganization Act or other federal Indian policy on a local tribe.

Day 1

1)      Explain the idea of dual citizenship and that Indian people who are enrolled members of a tribe are dual citizens of the tribal government as well as the United States government, just as other people may be dual citizens of two other nations. Have students read “Indians as Citizens” (Appendix 3.A) for further clarification.

2)      Together read the Preamble to the United States Constitution, found at:

Discuss the definition of a “preamble” = A preface, an introduction or explanation of what is to follow.

3)      Discuss words contained in the preamble that students do not know, or that they feel other classmates may not know. Include those words on a classroom wall thesaurus.

4)      Students will group themselves according to interest and will research and look at samples of tribal constitutions to compare and contrast to the United States Constitution.

Tribal Constitutions for 7 Washington tribes can be found at:

Tribal Court Clearinghouse:

NARF National Indian Law Library:

5)      Students will list at least 10 similarities and 10 differences that they observe between the two documents in the preamble sections.

Day 2

1)      The IRA of 1934 represented a shift in federal policy away from forced acculturation and assimilation, but tribal people had different opinions about the effects of the IRA on their tribes.

  1. Listen to Ramon Roubideaux (Brule Sioux) as he criticized the IRA in “It set Aside the Indian as a Problem.”  Text and audio can be found at:

History Matters:

  1. Listen to Amos Owen (Mdewakanton Sioux) as he gives a mixed review of the IRA in “It Didn’t Pan Out as We Thought It Was Going to.”  Text and audio can be found at:

History Matters:

  1. Listen to Alfred DuBray (Sioux) as he praises the IRA in “It Had a Lot of Advantages.”  Text and audio can be found at:

History Matters:

2)      Have students research the economic, social, political, health, and educational effects of the Indian Reorganization Act.


·         “We Took Away Their Best Lands, Broke Treaties”: John Collier Promises to Reform Indian Policy

3)      Have students research the evolution of US Immigration Policy especially focusing on immigration during the New Deal.

“Immigration Policy in the US”

4)      Have students research the economic, social, political, health, and educational effects of US Immigration Policy.

Immigration Policy Center:

5)      Students will fill in a Graphic Organizer to compare the Indian Reorganization Act with Immigration policy.

Extension Activity:

Environment, crime rate, demographics may be compared for students who like to research and be challenged.