Civic Literacy Curriculum
This curriculum guide is intended to cover question 117.
Q117: Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.
A. The Cherokee
B. The Navajo
C. The (Cheyenne River) Sioux
D. All of the above
As with other historic nations in the world, different Native American peoples spoke a variety of languages and organized their societies differently than the United States and each other. Some tribes practiced pastoral agriculture; others were more itinerant hunters. Some organized themselves in smaller communities; others formed larger confederations, together making war and peace with Europeans and one another. Some even wrote constitutions organizing their societies.
White settlers seeking land pushed the federal government into pressuring, often times with military force, many of these tribes to leave their traditional lands for reservations farther West. In the 19th century, these lands were called “Indian Territory.” Today, we know that land as the State of Oklahoma. For example, in 19th century Georgia, white settlers were jealous of the Cherokee, who communally enjoyed land rich with natural resources. Even though Cherokees had adopted not only Christianity but also modern agricultural practices and a constitutional government, adjacent whites felt threatened by Cherokee successes. Threatened, and eager to acquire the gold and other resources in Cherokee territory, white Georgians agitated to have their government relocate the Cherokee to “Indian Territory,” where the descendants of most Cherokees remain today.
Although most Native Americans were initially denied federal citizenship, as of 1924, all Native Americans are full citizens of the United States. Many serve and have served in the armed forces of the United States—perhaps most famously the Navajo Code Talkers, whose work in World War II gave the Marines communications that the Japanese were unable to decipher.
Several indigenous Americans have served and continue to serve in the United States Congress. Arguably the most significant Native American in the American government was Charles Curtis, who was Vice President from 1929-1933. Curtis was of Kaw (or Kansa), Osage, and Pottawomie descent; English was his third language. He spent much of his youth raised on the Kaw reservation, where he once had to ride to Topeka to ask for help from marauding Cheyenne. After training as a lawyer, he entered state government and then became a Representative and Senator from Kansas. He was generally regarded as very conservative (but like many westerners, was a strong advocate for women’s suffrage); he was also considered a skilled dealmaker, which led his Republican colleagues in the Senate to make him majority leader where he worked closely with Calvin Coolidge. The more progressive Herbert Hoover defeated him for the 1928 presidential nomination but made Curtis his vice president, where he served for one term.
Many Native tribes retain land, reservations or otherwise, over which they are sovereign, guaranteed to them by treaties. There are nearly 600 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States.
Among the larger tribes today are the Cherokee and Choctaw in the South, the (Cheyenne River) Sioux and Chippewa in the Midwest, the Iroquois in the northeast, the Blackfeet in the Rocky Mountain states, and the Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo in the Southwest.
These readings will give students indigenous perspectives on several important issues: the American Revolution, constitution-making, and Indian removal. They will see the differences, and commonalities, between these views and the students’ pre-existing understanding of American history and politics.
- Provide each student with a copy of the following documents
- An indigenous view of the American Revolution, Buckongahelas (Delaware, 1781)
- An indigenous Constitution (Cherokee Constitution, 1827)
- An indigenous view of Indian Removal: Letters from Chief John Ross (Cherokee, 1836)
- Indigenous Readings Guides
- Print a copy of the discussion questions for yourself.
- Divide the class into groups of 3-4 based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group who have mastered the material and are prepared to extend their knowledge. Each group should have at least one student from Group A, one from Group B, and one from Group C.
- If students are in pairs rather than groups, divide them based on ability as well, pairing those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C).
- This works equally well as an individual activity for older students.
- Provide the students with the three readings and guides.
- Explain that they are to read the essay and complete the guided reading worksheet.
- Encourage the students to annotate their copies as well. They should make note of anything that stands out, such as a particularly wise statement or unfair decision.
- Emphasize that there is no “wrong” question or observation, and encourage them to write down anything that comes to mind. These notes, as well as the worksheet, will be used during the class discussion.
- Depending on the class, you may opt to forgo the worksheet and simply hold a class discussion using their annotations and the provided questions.
- Provide the groups/pairs with the necessary time to complete the work, 25-30 minutes depending on the class and the amount of content to annotate.
- Circulate and talk briefly with each group to check for understanding.
- At the end of the activity, facilitate a class discussion, allowing the students to lead.
- Use the provided discussion questions as needed.
- Use the provided discussion questions as needed.
When European explorers landed in the Americas, they encountered indigenous tribes rich in culture stretching back thousands of years. Many colonists thought the indigenous peoples they encountered were inferior, due to differences in lifestyle, culture, and religion and began to demand that indigenous peoples conform to European ways of living, ways of thinking, and forms of government. Many indigenous peoples adopted these views and practices, but have still faced isolation and pressure. This tension between indigenous and colonizing peoples remains today, especially in the aftermath of assimilation, removal, and termination policies.
When explorers came over to the “New World,” they discovered a very “Old World,” consisting of native civilizations, some thousands of years old. Who were these tribes? Name one Native American tribe in the United States. How many others can you name? What do you already know about Native American history?
The relationship between settlers and indigenous peoples has long been tense. There were times when portions of these groups would work together—and times when they would go to war. Why do you think this was? Why do you think there is a tension between indigenous and colonizing peoples? Use current and past events to explain your answer.