Indigenous Peoples: Then and Now

Students learn about Indigenous peoples and their history, including investigating Indigenous nations and Ingidenous heroes, and build an understanding that Indigenous people are an important part of our country. 

Unit Summary

There are currently three million Indigenous people, from more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations, living in the United States. Since 1492 and the arrival of the first European explorers, Indigenous people's land has been violently seized, leading to a devastating decline in population and the striping away of key aspects of Indigenous culture. It is impossible to synthesize the diverse history and culture of Indigenous people into one unit, but it is important for students to understand that Indigenous people have been, and still are, an important part of our country's history and future. Therefore, this unit has a few focuses. The first focus is on providing students with an overarching understanding of Indigenous people and their history, using the book The People Shall Continue as a guide. After reading the text, students will participate in a guided research project to learn more about an Indigenous nation near where they live. The second part of the unit focuses on different Indigenous people who have worked hard and overcome hardships to create equal opportunities and experiences for Indigenous people today. After reading a few biographies as a class, students will research additional Indigenous heroes to learn more about their achievements, sacrifices, and passions. The goal of the second part of the unit is to shine a light on key Indigenous figures and emphasize the idea that Indigenous people have been and always will be an important part of our country. 

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Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit with videos and short readings that cover:

  • Key standards
  • Essential questions
  • Text complexity
  • Monitoring student progress
 

Texts and Materials

Core Materials

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • In what ways are Indigenous cultures in the United States similar and different? 
  • How did the arrival of European explorers and settlers impact Indigenous societies? How is this impact still seen today? 
  • Who are some Indigenous heroes, and how have they changed the world? 

Vocabulary

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Below are all of the unit vocabulary words. Prior to teaching the unit, we recommend teachers decide which words to prioritize. We also recommend that teachers decide which affixes to prioritize. See our teacher tool Prepping Unit Vocabulary (below) for more guidance on which words to pick as priority words.

Text-based

activist aim captive classified colonial destruction decipher decode decrypt dreadful elder endured encode encrypt famine fertile forceful generation granted hardship heedless heritage honorably humanity integrity merge minority nation occupation poverty reservation restore resettlement revitalize relocation sacred scarce sovereignty treaty transmit vital

Root/Affix

-able -ful -ist -ity -less -ly -ship -tion de- en- re-

Notes for Teachers

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Teaching with a critical lens requires respectful consideration of the political and historical implications of language when centering the experiences of various groups. The terms Indigenous, American Indian or Native American are all correct, depending on whom you ask. In fact, the terms are used interchangeably by the federal, state, and tribal governments. 

For the purposes of teaching, when learning about a specific tribe or nation, the specific name of the nation will be used. This unit uses the terms Indigenous, Native peoples, and Native Americans when referring to the collective group of those groups who originally inhabited and cared for the land which we now call the Americas.  

This unit focuses on the experiences of Indigenous and Native peoples of the United States in the past and present. After first being introduced by Christopher Columbus, the term ‘Indians’ was commonly used to refer to the Native peoples of the Americas and remained in use well into the 1970s. For that reason, it appears in many texts in this unit. Due to this connection,  the word Indian by itself is sometimes regarded as offensive and we encourage you to discuss the history with students when it comes up in texts while providing alternatives terms and the reason why we use those alternatives. 

While some people have reclaimed “Indian” and identify themselves as such, for our purposes we will refer to specific tribes or nations (i.e. Blackfoot, Cherokee, Haudenosaunee, etc.) whenever possible.  Native people often have individual preferences on terms, therefore, the best way to determine which terms a group or person prefers is to ask them. This will be especially important when researching different Native groups.

Other terms that students may see are Inuit, Yup’ik, and Aleut Peoples who live in the Arctic and see themselves as culturally different than Native people from the United States. In Canada, the terms First Nations, First Peoples, or Aboriginal are also used. 

Through this we are engaging in the necessary practice of bringing about not just social or educational justice, but language justice for those who have historically been oppressed by our mislabeling and misidentification. 

For additional information about the use of words and terminology, read: 

Assessment

These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills. Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit.

Lesson Map

1

  • The People... pp. 1 – 6

    RI.3.3

    RI.3.7

Explain two to three things the author wants the reader to know and understand about the People. 

2

  • The People... pp. 7 – 14

    RI.3.3

    RI.3.7

Explain how the arrival of European explorers and settlers impacted Indigenous people. 

3

  • The People... pp. 15 – 20

    RI.3.3

    RI.3.7

Explain how the settlers impacted Indigenous people, culture, and society. 

4Essential Task

  • The People... pp. 21 – 28

    RI.3.3

    RI.3.7

Explain what the People realized at the end of the story and what they told others. 

5

Writing

    W.3.2.c

    L.3.1.i

Elaborate by adding important details to prove a point.

6

Discussion & Writing

  • The People... — entire text

    RI.3.3

    RI.3.6

    SL.3.1

    SL.3.1.c

    SL.3.1.d

    L.3.6

Analyze and explain the author’s purpose for writing The People Shall Continue

7

2 days

Writing

    RI.3.3

    W.3.2

    W.3.2.a

    W.3.2.b

    W.3.2.c

    W.3.2.d

    W.3.7

    W.3.8

Research an Indigenous nation or tribe in your area. Create a report that shows how the Indigenous population has changed over time.

8

  • Native Words, Native Warriors — Intro and Native Languages

    RI.3.2

Explain what information the author wants readers to understand about Indigenous language and why it is important.

9

  • Chester Nez... pp. 1 – 11 — Stop at "June 1952: Month of Big Planting"

    RI.3.3

    RI.3.7

Explain what messages Chester received about speaking Navajo and why the messages changed.

10

  • Chester Nez... p. 12 — end

    RI.3.3

    RI.3.7

Explain why the Navajo Code Talkers were vital to the war. 

11

  • Native Words, Native Warriors — Code Talking

    RI.3.2

    RI.3.3

    RI.3.7

Explain why being a Code Talker required both intelligence and bravery. 

12

  • Native Words, Native Warriors

  • “2013 Honors”

  • “National Navajo...”

  • “Navajo Code...”

    RI.3.2

Explain why it is important to honor and remember the Navajo Code Talkers.

13Essential Task

  • Native Women of Courage pp. 35 – 39 — Stop at "Wilma had two daughters"

    RI.3.3

Explain the challenges Wilma and her family faced and what Wilma learned from the challenges. 

14

  • Native Women of Courage pp. 39 – 42 — "Wilma Mankiller"

    RI.3.3

Explain why Wilma was motivated to make her community a better place.

15

  • “Mankiller”

    RI.3.2

Describe why Wilma Mankiller was a hero.

16

Discussion & Writing

    RI.3.2

    W.3.2

    SL.3.1

    SL.3.1.c

    SL.3.1.d

Discuss why Wilma Mankiller is considered an Indigenous hero and how she has changed the world.

17

6 days

Writing

    RI.3.3

    W.3.2

    W.3.2.a

    W.3.2.b

    W.3.2.c

    W.3.2.d

    W.3.7

    W.3.8

    SL.3.1

Create a presentation about a recent Indigenous hero.

18

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.3.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.3.1.i — Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences.

  • L.3.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.3.6 — Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships (e.g., After dinner that night we went looking for them).

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.3.2 — Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

  • RI.3.3 — Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

  • RI.3.6 — Distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text.

  • RI.3.7 — Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).

  • RI.3.9 — Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.3.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.3.1.c — Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.

  • SL.3.1.d — Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.

Writing Standards
  • W.3.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

  • W.3.2.a — Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.

  • W.3.2.b — Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.

  • W.3.2.c — Use linking words and phrases (e.g., also, another, and, more, but) to connect ideas within categories of information.

  • W.3.2.d — Provide a concluding statement or section.

  • W.3.7 — Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

  • W.3.8 — Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.

Sprial Standards

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L.3.1

L.3.2

L.3.4

L.3.4.b

RF.3.3

RF.3.4

RI.3.1

RI.3.10

RI.3.4

RI.3.6

SL.3.1

SL.3.1.a

SL.3.1.b

SL.3.2

SL.3.3

SL.3.4

SL.3.5

SL.3.6

W.3.10

W.3.4

W.3.5

W.3.6