Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Primary source based lesson on Montana's landless Indians

It's been seven years in the making, but good things are worth the wait. I'm pleased to announce that  "Montana's Landless Indians and the Assimilation Era of Federal Indian Policy: A Case of Contradiction" is now ready for classroom use. This  week-long primary-source based unit designed introduces students to the history of the landless Métis, Cree, and Chippewa Indians in Montana between 1889 and 1916, while giving them an opportunity to do their own guided analysis of historical and primary source materials.

The curriculum asks students to wrestle with issues of perspective, power, ideology, and prejudice and to closely examine the role of Montana newspapers played in shaping public opinion toward the tribes’ attempts to maintain economic independence and gain a land base and political recognition.

Intrigued? Here's some other notes on this curriculum:

  1. It is primary-source rich. The unit includes over fifty photographs, newspaper articles, oral history excerpts, and letters. Even if you don't have time to teach the entire unit (and you may not, see point 6), I'd encourage you to download it to look through the primary sources to see if you can integrate just a piece or two into your curriculum. 
  2. It is aligned to the ELA Common Core and Essential Understandings. Worksheets demand students read closely, interpret words and phrases and especially tone, assess point of view, integrate content presented in diverse formats, delineate and evaluate claims, and compare how different texts address the same topic.
  3. It deals with difficult subject matter. Many of the primary sources are shockingly, eye-openingly racist; even as reading them can be uncomfortable, studying these unvarnished accounts can give students a deeper understanding about our shared past. 
  4. We say the unit is appropriate for grades 7-12 but because of the difficulty of the subject matter, the quantity of material, and the complexity of some of the texts, it might be more appropriately used in high school and college classes than in middle school. (I'd love to check this perception--so if you teach this--at any grade level--let me know how it goes.)
  5. It tells a story most of us don't know. This is worth reading, whether you teach it or not, to gain new knowledge of an under-told history. 
  6. It is long--141 pages long. The unit is designed to "jigsaw"--so different groups of students are responsible for mastering and presenting different aspects of the lesson. Nevertheless, it will take six days (or possibly a week with homework) to complete the unit. 
I'm very excited about this unit--and very curious about how it plays in the classroom. Whether you teach the unit as it is designed, just copy a few of the primary sources to teach, or just read it for background, I'd LOVE to hear from you. Email me your thoughts at mkohl@mt.gov.

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