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The fate of the Arapaho Indians was, unfortunately, not an isolated one in US history. Many native tribes were displaced, by force or treachery, from their original lands as the settlers slowly moved west across the Great Plains and over the Rocky Mountains.
Starting from a focus on local history (in this case, the settlement and growth of Denver), this lesson provides a launching point for discussion of the plight of the Native American tribes, starting with the Arapaho.
Associated Subjects: History, Social Studies, Multicultural Studies, Philosophy
Grade Levels: 5-8
Time Required: three class periods
Skills Used: abstract and critical thinking; debating; essay writing; historical comprehension; making inferences and drawing conclusions; research skills; working collaboratively
CO Curriculum Standards Addressed: History 1, 2, 3, 5, 6; Reading & Writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
This lesson explores the ways in which people communicated without telephones, the limitations of these methods, and thus the reasons for the invention of the telephone.
- What would it have been like to be one of the Arapaho Indians affected by the movements of the settlers coming to Denver?
- What would it have been like from the settlers’ point of view?
This lesson could begin with reading and discussing the “Arapaho and Prairie Schooners” article in the exhibit. Have students discuss the situation both from the viewpoint of the Arapaho and from the viewpoint of the settlers. Utilize any other historical texts about the situation (see Resources, above).
The students can then research (on their own or in groups) other situations during that phase of US history in which native tribes were removed from their own lands. Were treaties involved? Fights? Was there ever a situation in which both sides were happy with the outcome? Discuss the students’ research in class, and always try to discuss it from both the Native American and settlers’ points of view, particularly given the time period. How might the settlers have justified what they were doing? Did they think of the natives as “savages”?
Finally, have a class debate regarding the rights and wrongs of the settlers’ actions. Is it morally right to take control of another’s land just because you have overwhelming strength (does “might make right”)? What if the weaker group just doesn’t want to share resources both groups could use? (This can remain as concrete or become as philosophical as you believe your class can handle.)
Assessment will occur as the lesson goes along, and will include:
- Presentations on native tribes and their relations with the United States.
- Debates (and possibly students’ written impressions of the debates) on the rights and wrongs of the settlers’ actions.
Are there other situations in which a powerful group has used its power to get its way? Is it ever “good” to use one’s power in this way; i.e., does "might" ever "make right"?
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