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Relevant Standards

Lesson Plans

I. Ancestral Lands

  1. Debating for Land
    Overview: In this lesson students will learn about the varying attitudes and definitions of land ownership held by Native and European Americans by studying a variety of primary documents from the nineteenth century. They will learn about how various treaties—the Homestead Act and the Dawes Act—affected both Native and European Americans. Students will discuss these issues in the form of a debate, and will also write journal entries.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Language Arts, Social Studies

  2. Making Treaties and Weaving Wampum: Communication Across Cultures
    Overview: In this lesson students will be exposed to the cultural and artistic importance of wampum belts to the Native American tribes that George Catlin encountered on his travels, and the importance of the belts in American history as markers of relations between tribes and the U.S. Government between 1776 and 1878. Students will gain insight into the differing ways in which these cultures expressed ideas, values, and policy through objects, written documents, and oral traditions.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: History/Social Studies, U.S. Government, Visual Arts/Art History

  3. Pipestone Quarry and Westward Expansion: Whose Rock is this Anyway?
    Overview: This lesson is designed to emphasize how individuals' worldviews affect their method of expressing themselves and of telling stories. People describing the same thing will convey very different things depending on their worldviews (composed of their personal philosophy, religion, and even their job or discipline). Students will compare primary documents and analyze the motives of the speaker, and the author's intended audience. They will respond to these comparisons in writing and then by creating a representation of what they studied for a timeline.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: History, Geography, Sociology, English (Language Arts)


II. Catlin's Quest

  1. Inside Catlin's Head
    Overview: In this lesson, students will be asked to examine Catlin's life and to determine how various decisions he made affected its outcome. Students will be asked to interpret, elaborate on, and reenact events occurring in Catlin's lifetime by writing, drawing, and role-playing.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Social Studies, Language Arts, Theatre, Art

  2. Letters from the Frontier: Reading and Writing Primary Documents
    Overview: By immersing themselves in primary sources (George Catlin's letters), students will learn the difference between objective and subjective writing styles. They will draw facts out of the letters to create newspaper articles in Activity 1, and write their own letters as if they were members of the Catlin family in Activity 2. These activities are designed to enliven historical figures, to connect the "current events" of the past with the current events of the present, and to help students read and interpret historical documents.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: History/Social Science, English/Language Arts, and Psychology

  3. Creating the Past: Understanding Artifacts
    Overview: After studying the historic events of Catlin's life, this project allows students to imagine the material culture of the time. They will become archaeologists and anthropologists, looking back on previous cultures for clues as to the motives and inspirations for the choices that shaped their lives. Each student will bring in a fabricated artifact from Catlin's life, resulting in a museum exhibit in the class.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Anthropology, Archaeology, Language Arts, History, Visual Art

  4. Connecting to the Past: Making a Memory Box
    Overview: Artists across cultures and throughout time have sought to incorporate the multifaceted connections between past and present in their artworks. In many ways, Catlin's lifelong quest and the eventual creation of his "Indian Gallery" can be seen as an attempt to connect what he felt to be the "past" of American Indian society to the "present" of nineteenth-century westward expansion by European Americans. As is evident today, Native American culture is very much alive and present in the fabric of America. Catlin, however, made it clear that he viewed his subjects as a "vanishing race" and sought to preserve their images for future generations. In this activity, students will create their own memory box, linking the past and the present, and in so doing examine Catlin's ideas and motives.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Anthropology, Archaeology, Language Arts, History, Visual Art



III. Chiefs and Leaders

  1. Leadership – Past and Present
    Overview: Studying leadership qualities is highly important for students of all ages so that they can identify and develop their own. In this lesson, students will be introduced to several Native American leaders, both past and present, and will be asked to examine their different styles of leadership.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Social Studies

  2. Symbols of Power in Clothing Worn by the Plains Indians
    Overview: Power shirts, often made of tanned animal hides and adorned with objects such as fur, beads, and locks of hair, were highly important in the culture of many Native Americans. These shirts, which were associated very closely with the identity of their wearer, contained various symbols representing success in war, spirituality, special abilities, and outstanding achievements. After studying these shirts, learning to understand their significance to Native Americans, and discussing the symbols they contain; students will identify achievements in their own lives that reflect leadership and power. They will document these achievements in symbolic form on shirts that they create.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Language Arts, Art, Social Studies

  3. Cracking Catlin's Code
    Overview: This is a creative approach to teaching basic skills involved in the formal visual analysis of works of art. Students will learn how to interpret artworks in cultural and historical contexts by becoming "art detectives." Students will analyze Catlin's formal compositions to learn about the Native American leaders he painted. They will examine visual clues and write a final "case summary" in which they "crack Catlin's code."
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Visual Art/Art History, Social Science/History

  4. QUIZ SHOW! What were you thinking? What did you say?
    Overview: Native Americans responded to U.S. expansion policy in different ways. By incorporating Internet resources and working in groups, students will participate in a game show to share the information they have uncovered in a fast-paced, competitive environment. At the end of the game, the winning team receives a prize.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: History/World Cultures, Social Studies, Performance Art


IV. Western Landscape

  1. Native American Folklore
    Overview: In this lesson students will familiarize themselves with the Western landscape through both Native American folklore and George Catlin's paintings of the prairie. After reading several Native American legends, students will compose and illustrate their own legend.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Language Arts, Geology, Theatre, Visual Arts

  2. The Mandan Buffalo Dance
    Overview: The Mandan and the Sioux depended so heavily on certain animals that they would starve without them. In the Southwest, the Hopi and Zuni depended as heavily on annual rainfall for their survival. In each of these cases, the tribes created interpretive dances to encourage the arrival of something that was so important to their survival that they would die without it. In this exercise, we will learn about how several Native American tribes construct their dances and dedications. We will also look at how people have used dance, poetry, music, art, or other expressions to make a dedication to a physical or conceptual thing. Finally, we will each make our own dedication to a theme of our choosing, and perform or display them to each other.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Art, Music, English, History/World Cultures, Drama

  3. At Home on the Prairie
    Overview: The Western landscape which George Catlin encountered on his travels was dominated by the great expanse of the tall and short grass prairies. Home to countless species of plant and animal life, the great prairies once spanned millions of acres across North America. Today less than ten percent of the complex ecosystem remains, largely under the protection of parks and nature preserves. In this lesson students will gain an understanding of the interdependence of living organisms on the prairie and the fragility of their existence by investigating life on the prairie and relating their findings to their own experience.
    Cross-Curricular Connections: Life Sciences, Geography, Art

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