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Darren A. Herrold, NEH Summer Scholar 2015

United States History

Lesson Plan by Darren A. Herrold

Grades 9-12

Lesson Length:  Two 50-minute periods

 

Rationale:  The integration of Native American literature, or pieces of Native American past, is integral for a United States History class.  The ideas presented below are merely a template to help you design/improve a lesson on the Battle of Little Big Horn.  Many books discuss only the “massacre of Custer and his men” at the battle.  Little is presented from the Native American point of view.  This lesson will enable your students to explore both the Native American and the United States Army views of the historic battle that was debated well over a century.

Resources:  I suggest you read or research the following materials in preparation for this lesson:

The Vanishing Race:  The Last Great Indian Council (Dr. Joseph K. Dixon)

First People’s:  A Documentary History of Native North Americans (Colin G. Calloway)

Custer’s Fall:  The Native American Side of the Story (David Humphreys)

Bloodshed at Little Big Horn (Tim Lehman)

Our Heart’s Fell to the Ground:  Plains Indian Views of How the West was Lost (Edited by Colin G. Calloway)

The Custer Reader (Edited by Paul Andrew Hutton)

Killing Custer:  The Battle of the Little Big Horn and the Fate of the Plains Indians (James Welch)

We are Still Here:  American Indians Since 1890 (Peter Iverson and Wade Davies)

The Earth Shall Weep:  A History of Native America (James Wilson)

One Vast Winter Count:  The Native American West before Lewis and Clark (Colin G. Calloway)

Indians in American History (Edited by Frederick E. Hoxie)

American Military History (Textbook offered free online by the United States Military Academy at West Point.)

Students should have a basic background of this information because Native American issues most likely would have been brought up in your class throughout the academic year.  The following questions should be posed to the students on the first day of the lesson. 

1.  What is the United States policy towards Native Americans?

2.  Locate on a map where the Battle of the Little Big Horn occurred.  Have the students name the present-day state, and identify plains tribes in the region.

3.  Who were the Native American tribes that were within the immediate area of the Little Big Horn?

4.  Was the United States Native American policy any different towards the plains tribes?  Be sure to explain why or why not.

5.  What was the attitude of both Native Americans and “White” Americans towards Indian policy post-Civil War?

Have a class discussion about the student answers and add to their input as needed.

If you have the numbers, you may want to divide your class into four groups.  I would suggest dividing your class into 4 groups.  Have each of the four groups research/read about one of the areas the following information.  :

1.  The United States Army and their tactics, motivations, and movements at the Little Big Horn.  The best resource for this research would be the American Military History textbook from West Point.  Ask students to focus on pages 339-345.  This group needs to present to the other three groups their findings.

2.  The role of the Native American Scouts in the US Military and at Little Big Horn.  Best resource for this research would be The Vanishing Race book.  Students should focus on pages 129-150.  Ask students to present their research to the other 3 groups.

3.  The Native American account of the Battle at Little Big Horn.  Best resource for this research would be The Vanishing Race.  Students in this group need to focus on pages 150-188.  Ask students to present their research to the other three groups.

4.  How do books, writings, and other materials present the Battle of Little Big Horn?  Have students analyze propaganda techniques, wordings, and how the material is presented.  Have them look for bias towards ANY point of view.  Ask students to present their research to the other three groups.

I believe the readings and research of the four areas above will take at least 1.5 days.  This includes the presentation by each group and subsequent discussions.

Assessment ideas

Every teacher, school, and district has different methods of assessment and grading practices.  I would suggest evaluating students based on three basic criteria:

1)  The five background questions;

2)  Assess students on their participation in the four research groups and how the material is presented. 

3)  Assess their answer to the following questions:

A.  Was the Battle at Little Big Horn inevitable?  Be sure to explain why or why not.

B.  Imagine that you are a Native American at the Little Big Horn moments before the battle.  Write a one-half page diary of what is going through your mind.

C.  Imagine that you are a member of the United States Military moments before the battle.  Write a one-half page diary of what is going through your mind.

An alternative assessment would be to have students artistically show the battle, the landscape, or someone that was at the battle.  (In the past, my artistic students have drawn a battle, drawn portraits, or sculpted the battle area with clay or other art materials.)