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8th - 11th
1585 - Present
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Academic Standards (1)

CCSS English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.11-12.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

NCSS C3 Framework

  • D2.Civ.5.9-12. Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.
  • D4.6.9-12. Use disciplinary and interdisciplinary lenses to understand the characteristics and causes of local, regional, and global problems; instances of such problems in multiple contexts; and challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address these problems over time and place.
Buildings with mountains in the background
Taos Pueblo, by John K. Hillers, 1880
Courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), 016096

Key Terms and Concepts

  • reservation
  • indigenous
  • treaty
  • removal
  • missionary
  • American Indian Movement

Essential Questions

What beliefs and ideas inspire people to wage resistance?
What methods and strategies are used in resistance efforts and movements?
How are patterns of immigration and migration associated with resistance?


Native Resistance Then and Now

Students will conduct online research to gather and synthesize information using multiple kinds of informational texts to create a product that demonstrates understanding of Native American activism over time.


Warm Up (1)

  • Begin the lesson by having students respond to the prompt, “What are three words or phrases that come to mind when you think about Native American history and culture?”
  • Have students share and then combine their responses in a list on the board. Discuss any patterns, repeated words, or stereotypes that may come up. Circle any words that relate to resistance, conflict, or fighting. Do students think of Native Americans as being warriors? Violent? Peaceful?

Discussion (1)

  • Introduce students to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story.” In her talk, the Nigerian novelist discusses the importance of personal narrative but warns that when all we know is a narrow story about another culture, authentic understanding eludes us and stereotypes take root.
  • Facilitate a brief discussion connecting the TED talk to the warm up. Are there “single stories” about Native Americans? What are they? Where do they come from? Are these single stories reflected in our list?
  • Explain that the problem of the single story is one of most common misconceptions about Native American culture—there are over 500 recognized tribes in the United States. Though united by their indigenous heritage and shared trauma of European encounters, there is also great diversity among tribes in terms of language, spirituality, political institutions, and local customs. In this lesson students will examine multiple narratives about how Native American groups and individuals have resisted injustice throughout history.

Research (1)

The next portion of the lesson is organized into three flexible parts. Determine how you will conduct the lesson based on your learning goals, class size, time, and resources. You may devote one day to each part, choose to do only one or two parts, or divide the class into thirds with each group completing a different task and reporting back to the whole class.

  • Activity One—Armed Resistance: Students learn about battles fought by Native Americans to protect their lands and their people from threat of outside invasion and European settlement.
    • Organize students into “home groups” of three.
    • In their home group, each student is assigned to one of the “expert groups”—A) Pueblo Revolt, B) Nez Perce War, and C) Apache Wars.
    • Instruct students to leave their home group and join their expert group.
    • Have students work in their expert groups, using selected texts provided and the Researching Resistance Worksheet to identify key characteristics of their topic (A-C).
    • Once back with their home groups, students teach what they learned in their expert group to the other two members.
  • Activity Two—Nonviolent Resistance: Students learn about Native Americans who fought for their rights nonviolently.
    • As a class, read from the Seattle Times book review of This Indian Country: “While warriors such as Tecumseh, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, and Chief Joseph were getting headlines, other Native Americans were quietly using words to resist white conquest.”
    • Set the stage for this task by explaining, “Your class is preparing for an international conference. The topic of the conference is Resistance, and you are in charge of convening a panel discussion on nonviolence and Native American resistance.” Provide students with a list of Native American nonviolent resisters. You can add names to the list or have students expand the list by doing their own research.
    • The discussion should include at least five panelists (from the list) and a moderator. In addition to these roles, you will need audience members to pose questions, a reporter to cover the conference for the local newspaper, and someone to write and distribute panelist biographies for the conference.
    • Allow students time in and out of class (if necessary) to prepare for the conference and their role.
    • During the mock panel discussion, the moderator should use the lesson’s essential questions to guide discussion, and the panelists and audience members should be prepared with questions and answers that reflect factual knowledge of the life and accomplishments of each nonviolent resister on the panel.
    • Conclude this activity with students selecting one person they learned about and completing the Researching Resistance Worksheet about that individual’s accomplishments.
  • Activity Three—Political Activism: Students learn about contemporary Native American resistance and political activism.
    • Familiarize yourself with the Zinn Education Project’s webpage on Native American Activism: 1960s to Present.
    • Explain that, in addition to the danger of a single story (step 3), there is also the “past tense” problem—most of what students learn about Native Americans in school took place before 1900. The majority of Americans have little knowledge about contemporary Native life and culture.
    • Assign pairs of students to research an event from the Zinn Education chronological overview (there are fourteen). Then, have students work with their partner to design a poster summarizing what they learned about Native American political activism. In addition to information about the who, what, where, and when of their assigned event, posters should address the essential questions: What beliefs and ideas inspire people to wage resistance? What methods and strategies are used in resistance efforts and movements?
    • Assemble student posters chronologically onto a timeline in the classroom or a hallway.
    • Conclude the activity with students reading each other’s work by doing a “gallery walk” of the full timeline and completing a Researching Resistance Worksheet for one of the events (not their own).

Debrief (1)

This time will vary depending on how the activities are used. This should be a time for students to share what they learned with one another.

Exit Ticket (1)

Return to the list generated from the warm up (words or phrases associated with Native American history and culture). Tell students to list three different words or phrases that come to mind now, after what they’ve learned in this lesson. Discuss how their associations have changed and what that means in light of the “danger of a single story.”