US – Slavery, Expansion and Removal

Lesson Plans – Middle School

2 | US – Slavery, Expansion and Removal

Jackson, Marshal, and Indian Removal

US History Curriculum
OSPI Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum for the Social Studies

Historical Era

1776 – 1815 Conflict and Alliance | 1801 – 1850 Indian Removal | 1850 – 1877 Treaty Era | 1870 – 1900 Assimilation | 1900 – Present Termination to Self-Determination


Social Studies GLEs:

Grade 6: 1.3.1,,,

Grade 7: 1.3.1,,,

Grade 8: 1.2.2,1.3.1,2.2.2,3.2.2,3.2.3,4.1.2, 4.3.2

Corresponding CBA: Checks and Balances

Essential Questions:

3, 4

Asset List



Video Content

Corresponding Chapters from the Regional Learning Project:

Ch. 5, 6

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

Lesson 1 Overview

Approximate teaching time: 45 Minutes. This is a newsletter about the the decisions made by John Marshall and the Supreme Court regarding the United States’ effort to remove the Cherokee and other tribes from their lands. There are student comprehension questions following the newsletter.

Lesson 2 Overview

Approximate teaching time: Four to Five 45 minute class periods.  Level Two asks students to use primary sources to research how Cherokee removal was debated and discussed by the US Legislature, Cherokee Tribe, and other citizens.  A webquest is also provided, allowing students to engage in similar activities online.

Lesson 3 Overview

Approximate teaching time: Ten 45 minute class periods. The level three activity builds on the level two activity. Students are asked to use the Checks and Balances CBA to evaluate whether the removal of Cherokees from their land was an unconstitutional use of power by any branch of the US government.

Level 1

US Slavery Expansion, Removal and Reform – A Tribal Perspective: 


In this unit students will examine the conflict between the upholding of Tribal Sovereignty by the Marshall Trilogy and the determination by President Jackson to remove the Cherokee from their homeland and move them West. Teachers are encouraged during this lesson to invite local tribal members to their classroom to discuss challenges their tribe has faced in dealing with tribal sovereignty.

In United States history, the mid-nineteenth century proved a challenging and tragic time for Native people. With the United States seeking to expand west, our government saw many tribes as barriers to progress. The sovereign status of tribes in the United States was continually challenged as states and the federal government sought to remove Indians from their ancestral homes.

In 1828 Andrew Jackson was elected president of the United States. Jackson had promised US citizens that his would be an administration supporting “Manifest Destiny,“ the idea that it was the will of God that United State’s citizens expand their nation West. However, during Jackson’s presidency Chief Justice John Marshall and the Supreme Court handed down three landmark decisions, known as the Marshall Trilogy, upholding the Cherokee and all Indian tribes as sovereign nations.

The first of these decisions was Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823). In Johnson v. M’Intosh two men argued over property previously occupied by Piankeshaw Indians. Johnson had purchased the land from the tribe; however, the US Government later sold the same property to M’Intosh. The Supreme Court based their decision on the “Discovery Doctrine” stipulating that all lands discovered by European nations were their property. Because Indian tribes could not own the land, they were not in a position to sell it. The Supreme Court ruled that tribes could only sell their lands to the US government; therefore, M’Intosh had proper title to the land.

The second decision of the Marshall Trilogy was Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831). Here, the state of Georgia sought to remove the Cherokee from their ancestral homes within Georgia. The United States Congress had recently passed the Indian Removal act, giving President Jackson authority to exchange Indian lands in the East for land west of the Mississippi. The leader of the Cherokee, John Ross, sought help to preserve the sovereign rights of the Cherokee to remain on their land. Ross claimed that because the Cherokee were a sovereign nation, their rights as an independent nation superseded the laws of the state of Georgia. The case was brought before the Supreme Court, which upheld the right of Georgia to remove the Cherokee from their lands. The court found that the Cherokee were a domestic dependent nation, over which the courts had no original jurisdiction, meaning they did not have the power to make a ruling in the case. However, the Court did leave open the possibility that it could find in favor of the Cherokee if there was an appeal from a lower court.

The final case in the Marshall Trilogy was Worcester v. Georgia (1832). Here, Marshall and the Supreme Court held that the Cherokee had a right to expect the US government’s protection when faced with actions by states which interfered with the Cherokee’s sovereign rights. The court determined that the Cherokee were a “distinct community” and that Georgia could not impose their laws on the Cherokee. This was a major shift from the courts decisions in both Johnson v. M’Intosh and Cherokee Nation v. Georgia.

Because the Supreme Court did not immediately order the US Government to send federal marshals to immediately enforce the court’s decision, the state of Georgia ignored the decision and proceeded to remove the Cherokee. Jackson, who supported Georgia in its removal of the Cherokee, did not intervene. The United States government’s tacit refusal to recognize Indian sovereignty led in 1838 to the Trail of Tears – a march from ancestral homelands toward the West. This death march resulted in the deaths of approximately 4000 Cherokee, primarily the elderly and children.

Reflection questions:

Once students have read the Marshall Trilogy newsletter, please use the following questions to help you check for student understanding. Due to the complicated nature of the Marshall Trilogy, teacher led discussion is encouraged.

1) According to the newsletter, why was the mid-nineteenth century so difficult for Indian people?

2) How did the United States view Indian tribes?

3) In your own words, define “Manifest Destiny”:

4) What is the “Discovery Doctrine?” How was it used by the courts in Johnson v. M’Intosh?

5) Look up and write down the definitions of the following words as they apply to Indian tribes:

a) Sovereign:

b) Supersede:

Now that you know the meaning of those words, what do you think it meant when Cherokee Chief John Ross claimed that because the Cherokee were a sovereign nation, their rights as an independent nation superseded the laws of the State of Georgia?

6) In Worcester v. Georgia, what did the court say the Cherokee should expect from the US government when faced with states trying to take their land and resources?

7) What was the result of the US government, specifically President Jackson, refusing to enforce the law protecting the Cherokee?

8) Do you believe the Cherokee were treated fairly?

9) Why might it be important for the president to follow the law?

Level 2

US Slavery Expansion, Removal and Reform – A Tribal Perspective:

Level Two: In level two, students will build on their knowledge of Indian Removal and the Marshall Trilogy to formulate debate regarding Indian Removal from Georgia.

By the end of instruction for level two curriculum, students will:

Understand the effect of the Marshall trilogy on tribal sovereignty.

Understand how President Jackson reacted to the Marshall Trilogy

Understand how the Doctrine of Discovery affected tribal sovereignty

In level two instruction, students will read primary source materials exploring the Trail of Tears from legal, moral, and historical perspectives.

Day 1:

Part One: Overview

Review the lesson from Level One concerning Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinions on Tribal Sovereignty.

Hand out Show students the video clip “Tribal Nations: The Story of Tribal Indian Law” focusing on Indian removal in the Jacksonian Era. Questions are provided that you may either use as discussion questions at the end of the video or have students answer as they watch for discussion afterwards.

Day 2 and 3:

Part Two: Information Gathering Through Primary and Secondary Sources

Students will be divided into four groups.

Group #1: President Jackson and his staff – arguing for the removal of the Cherokee from their ancestral lands in Georgia

Group #2: Congressional delegates – apposed to Cherokee removal.

Group #3: Congressional delegates – in favor of Cherokee removal.

Group #4: Representatives of the Cherokee nation – seeking to remain on tribal lands.

Students groups should be equal. Each group will be asked to research historical documents supporting their group’s perspective and to make educated arguments based on the historical record. Some of the reading material is complicated and some instruction on reading primary sources for content knowledge may be necessary.

Part Three:

Once each group has read the provided primary sources, they should complete the corresponding guiding questions in preparation for their debate. Questions should be answered completely and with participation from each member of the group.

GROUP _______

Group Member Names:

The year is 1830. You are part of a delegation that will be attending a Congressional hearing to determined whether the United States government will remove the Cherokee from their homeland to lands West of the Mississippi river. You have read the primary and secondary sources provided to you about your groups support or opposition of Cherokee removal from their homelands. It is now your groups job to defend that position at the hearing- whether you agree with it or not. You will be assessed on your groups ability to successfully argue for your side and defend your position to those who disagree with you..

What position(s) does your group take on the removal of the Cherokee? Who else supports your position?  What groups oppose, or disagree, with your position? 
What reasons do you have for your position (list as many as you can): 











What reasons do you think those that disagree with you will give 











Level 3

US Slavery Expansion, Removal and Reform – A Tribal Perspective:

Level Three: In level three, students will use their learning from levels one and two to complete the Classroom Based Assessment “Checks and Balances.”

Note: The successful completion of the “Checks and Balances” CBA for level three requires the completion of levels one and two. In addition the Extension Activities and Local Tribal Connections activities will provide valuable resources for completion of the CBA. Be sure to check the OSPI website for resources to assist with CBA completion. 

In order to successfully complete the Classroom Based Assessment, using Indian removal as the focus, students will:

State a position that evaluates whether the system of checks and balances worked during the Indian removal by evaluating whether it prevented one the Executive branch from exercising too much power.

Provide background on Indian removal by describing the event.

Provide background for the position by explaining how branches of government exercised constitutional powers during this event with two or more examples.

Provide reasons for their position that include:

An explanation of how one branch checked or could have checked another with two or more examples to support the position.

Make explicit references within the paper or presentation to three or more credible sources that provide relevant information AND cite sources within the paper, presentation, or bibliography.