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Native American Cultures Across the U.S.

Sioux Indian woman in ceremonial dress, 1925

Sioux Indian woman in ceremonial dress, 1925.

Wikimedia Commons

"The term 'Native American' includes over 500 different groups and reflects great diversity of geographic location, language, socioeconomic conditions, school experience, and retention of traditional spiritual and cultural practices." —Debbie Reese, Teaching Young Children About Native Americans

Children's literature, movies, and other media often perpetuate generalized stereotypes, whether positive or negative, in their representations of Native American peoples. Teaching children about the First Americans in an accurate historical context while emphasizing their continuing presence and influence within the United States is important for developing a national and individual respect for the diverse American Indian peoples, and is necessary to understanding the history of this country.

Guiding Questions

How are American Indians represented in today's society?

What objects and practices do we associate with Indian culture?

What are some actual customs and traditions of specific Native American groups?

What are some cultural traditions and customs that have changed over the centuries?

Which ones have continued into the present?

Learning Objectives

Analyze the relationship between geography, time, and Native American culture and history.

Examine multiple sources and perspectives to understand diversity within and across Native Americans. 

Compare how American Indians are represented in today's society with their actual customs, traditions, and way of life.

Lesson Plan Details

By the time children in the U.S. begin school, most have heard and developed impressions of "Indians" from books, movies, or in the context of the Thanksgiving holiday. This lesson helps dispel prevailing stereotypes and generalizing cultural representations of American Indians by providing culturally-specific information about the contemporary as well as historical cultures of distinct tribes and communities within the United States. Teachers can divide the class into groups that each study a tribe from a different region, or the class can select one region to study, such as the geographical region in which the school is located. Please note that this lesson plan alternates among the three terms, "Native American," "American Indian," and "Indian people" so as not to privilege one designation over the others. In her essay, " Teaching Young Children about Native Americans ," Debbie Reese explains that she uses the term "Native American," but also "recognizes and respects the common use of the term 'American Indian' to describe the indigenous people of North America. While it is most accurate to use the tribal name when speaking of a specific tribe, there is no definitive preference for the use of 'Native American' or 'American Indian' among tribes or in the general literature."

NCSS.D2.His.1.6-8. Analyze connections among events and developments in broader historical contexts.

NCSS.D2.His.2.6-8. Classify series of historical events and developments as examples of change and/or continuity.

NCSS.D2.His.3.6-8. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to analyze why they, and the developments they shaped, are seen as historically significant.

NCSS.D2.His.4.6-8. Analyze multiple factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.

NCSS.D2.His.5.6-8. Explain how and why perspectives of people have changed over time.

NCSS.D2.His.14.6-8. Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.

NCSS.D2.His.15.6-8. Evaluate the relative influence of various causes of events and developments in the past. 

NCSS.D2.His.16.6-8. Organize applicable evidence into a coherent argument about the past.

This lesson requires you to access web pages through EDSITEment-reviewed websites. You may share these pages with your students at individual computer stations, assign small groups to share several computers, display computer-projected images to the whole class, or print out the pages and distribute copies to the students.

You may want to review some of the following background literature on teaching about American Indians, as well as the lists of recommended fiction and non-fiction books for young children:

  • The ERIC Digest volume, "Countering Prejudice against American Indians and Alaska Natives through Antibias Curriculum and Instruction," written by Deirdre A. Almeida and available online through a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Native Web , contains information on teaching about Native Americans in non-generalizing and non-stereotyping ways.
  • Debbie Reese's online article, "Teaching Young Children About Native Americans," discusses the prevalence of stereotypes and classroom strategies for teaching about cultural diversity among Native Americans.
  • The Oyate Web site , a Native organization that evaluates books by and about Indian people.

The following vocabulary appears in this lesson; you may want to go over these words with the students as part of the introduction or as they come up in the lesson. If possible, obtain and provide pictures of the items, or ideally, bring in examples of the actual items to display and allow students to handle them in class.

  • Nation, tribe
  • Coast, woodlands, plains
  • North, South, East, West
  • Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest
  • Reservation
  • Ceremony, tradition
  • Commemorate, ancestor
  • Canoe, totem pole, hogan, tipi
  • Harvest, lye, sofkey
  • Breechcloth, moccasin
  • Cradleboard

Activity 1. Representing Native Americans Today

Before offering information about Native American Nations and cultural groups, introduce the terms "Indian," "Native American," and "American Indian," and ask students what they know about these terms and about the people they represent. Create two columns on the board or a piece of paper, and write down student responses in the first column. This first column shows students' preconceptions about Indian peoples; the second column will reflect information students receive through the lesson.

After students have offered their first impressions about Native Americans, explain to the class that the words "Indian" and "Native American" refer to a diverse set of Native American tribes or nations who lived for centuries across the lands that Europeans claimed later to have "discovered," which are now called the Americas -- the Caribbean islands, Canada, the United States, Mexico, the countries of Central and South America.

Read one or more of the books from the following list of Fiction Books about Contemporary Native American People, recommended by Debbie Reese. American Indian's in Children's Literature is Reese's website that provides lists of the best in children's literature about American Indians.

  • Children of LaLoche & Friends. (1990). Byron through the Seasons . Fifth House Ltd. (Grades: K-1).
  • Harjo, Joy. (2000). The Good Luck Cat. Harcourt Brace (Grades: P-3).
  • Hunter, Sara Hoagland. (1996). The Unbreakable Code . Northland (Grades: 2-3).
  • Keeshig-Tobias, Lenore. (1991). Bird Talk . Sister Vision (Grades: P-K).
  • Sanderson, Esther. (1990). Two Pairs of Shoes . Pemmican Publications (Grades: P-K).
  • Smith, Cynthia. (2000). Jingle Dancer . Morrow Junior (Grades: P-3).
  • Tapahonso, Luci. (1999). Songs of Shiprock Fair . Kiva (Grades: P-3).
  • Waboose, Jan Bourdeau. (1998). Morning on the Lake . Kids Can Press (Grades P-3).
  • Waboose, Jan Bourdeau. (2000). Skysisters . Kids Can Press (Grades P-3).
  • Wheeler, Bernelda. (1995). Where Did You Get Your Moccasins? Peguis Publications (Grades: P-K).

Each of these books portrays Native American characters in a contemporary context in ways that challenge common stereotyping representations. After reading one or more stories, ask students to describe the characters they have heard about. Write their responses in the second column of the board or paper. Ask the class to compare their original ideas about American Indians with the portrayals offered in the book(s). Do the stories and the people represented alter their views about Indian peoples? You might point out to your students that, through much of the 20th century, Indian peoples came under intense social and economic pressure to assimilate into mainstream American society, and as such had to make difficult choices between identifying with their native communities and finding a livelihood in the larger society. Today, by contrast, increasing numbers of Native Americans are able to participate more fully in traditional community activities, which in many locations are thriving, while at the same time attending college and obtaining jobs in non-traditional settings.

Activity 2. First Nation Tribes Across the U.S.

To introduce the five cultural bands of American Indian tribes and the general regions of the United States in which they live, display or print out and distribute to students copies of the History page of the First Americans website, available through the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Native Web . This page contains a map of the United States divided into five Native American cultural bands, including Plains, Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, and Northeast. The text explains that areas in which people share similar environments and customs due to their proximity to one another are called cultural bands. Print out and distribute to students copies of a map of the United States, available from  National Geographic Education. From the Atlas page, select North America, then United States of America, and you can choose whether or not to have state borders displayed. As students acquire information about the regions of the U.S., Native American tribe names, and cultural aspects and traditions of their assigned tribe, they can fill in the information on the map by writing words and/or drawing pictures. Depending on the reading and writing level of your class, you may choose to have students fill in the blanks on a chart or answer questions and write a paragraph describing one tribe. This activity can be done by the entire class for one tribe, or by small groups each for one of the five tribes. The Tribes page of the First Americans website displays images of clothing, housing, and food items from the five cultural groups of Native Americans. When you place the cursor over an image, the word describing the image appears, and the object's corresponding Native American cultural band is highlighted on a small map of the U.S. From the Five Tribes page, you can click on the name of a tribe to get information about the land, clothes, housing, and other cultural aspects of the following five tribes: Tlingit, Dinè, Lakota, Muscogee, and Iroquois. When you click on an image, it takes you to a page with information about one tribe from the indicated region. Using the information provided through each of these tribes' pages, have your students identify the traditional customs of one tribe. On their maps, students can shade in the area of the U.S. in which their tribe lives and can write the words or draw a picture describing the clothing, house, and food of their tribe. They can then complete the following written exercise:

For Kindergartners, have students fill in the blanks on the following chart available in pdf format . Students can then draw a picture to illustrate the chart information for one tribe.

Information on the Native American Tribe__________

For the following sentences, fill in the blanks:

  • This tribe is called __________.
  • We live in the __________ region of the United States.
  • We wear __________.
  • We eat __________.
  • The type of house we live in is called a __________. It is made of __________.  

For first and second graders, ask students to read the descriptions of the land, food, housing, and other social and cultural aspects listed for their geographical region. Students can use the information to answer the following questions and write the facts on note cards. They can use the information they record to write a paragraph about their group and draw a picture to illustrate their paragraph.

Questions about the Native American Tribe__________  

  • What does the name of the tribe mean?
  •   What is another name for this tribe?
  • Where did the tribe originally live?Where do members of this tribe live today?
  • What did this group traditionally eat? What do they eat today?
  • What are other cultural traditions that this tribe followed?
  • What are some ways in which the tribe has changed its customs? Are there customs it has kept over time? Which ones?

Background Information About Native American Tribes from the Five Cultural Bands of the United States

(Note: Information is taken from the First Americans website, unless otherwise noted.)

Tlingit Information — Tlingit live in the American Northwest Coast that is now part of Alaska.

  • Food is provided by both land and sea.
  • Originally traded and did business with Europeans and other Native American tribes.
  • Ceremonial dress includes carved masks, weapons and "Chilikat" robes
  • Chilikat robes may be fringed, fur-trimmed, and multicolored. The designs on clothing depict animals significant to the family and town.
  • The Tinglit used to wear hats made of roots. Men and women wore ear and nose rings. Some had tattoos and disks pierced through their lower lip.
  • Tlingit are master fishermen.
  • They eat fish; most important is salmon.
  • In the summer they eat wild berries.
  • Tlingit traditionally hunted and trapped animals such as goats and deer, and used canoes to hunt seals, sea lions, and otters.
  • Tlingit live in towns with wood buildings that are sometimes decoratively painted.
  • Long ago families lived together.
  • The houses had no windows but had a hole in the roof to let smoke out.
  • Houses had no rooms but had partitioned sleeping and storage areas.
  • Fishing gear, canoe paddles, and other large objects were stored in the rafters.
  • The Tlingit made totem poles to tell a family story or legend, honor the dead, commemorate a birth, or make fun of someone.
  • Totem poles are carved from cedar trees, painted and placed near the house or in the forest.

Dinè (Navajo) Information  

  • Dinè means "Children of God."
  • "Navajo" comes from a Spanish word meaning "stealer."
  • Their ancestral home is the desert of the American southwest.
  • Dinè is the largest Indian Nation.
  • Today, most Dinè live on the "big rez" which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.
  • The Dinè are known for creating beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry and wool rugs.
  • Rugs are made on a loom.
  • The Dinè originally farmed beans, squash, and corn and hunted deer, prairie dogs, and other animals.
  • Corn was the most important food. Indian corn comes in many colors and could be eaten fresh or dried and ground.
  • Today, many Dinè raise sheep for meat and wool.
  • They eat mutton and fry bread.
  • The traditional house is called a hogan.
  • Hogans have six or eight sides and are made of logs, brush, and mud.
  • The door of the hogan faces east towards the rising sun.
  • Today, many Dinè live in modern houses, while some still live in hogans in order to live together rather than separately.
  • Hogans are still used for family ceremonies.
  • Some Dinè believe that illness comes from harmful forces and have medicine men get rid of the harm by performing ceremonies that include singing and sacred objects.
  • Sometimes the medicine men make sand paintings as a way to get rid of the harm.
  • Dinè now have access to doctors; however, some continue to use medicine men because Western doctors are just now learning the importance of curing the spirit.

Information from Photographs of the Dinè (Navajo) by Ilka Hartmann, available through the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Native Web :

  • The Dinè, Dineh, or Navajo Nation is the largest Native nation in the United States, both in territory and population.
  • Navajo Reservations are in Arizona and New Mexico and are held in trust by the United States Government.
  • The population is approximately 165,000.
  • Approximately twenty percent of the Dinè live off the reservation, many in urban areas.
  • The name Dinè means "The People."
  • Dinè women own sheep herds and produce very beautiful Navajo rugs.
  • Dinè men create beautiful works of art in turquoise and silver.

Muscogee (Creek) Information

  • The Europeans called the Muscogee people "Creeks" because they built their villages near creeks.
  • The people call themselves "Muscogee."
  • Their ancestral home is the American southeast, in what is now Georgia.
  • Because white settlers made them leave their original home, most Muscogee people now live in Oklahoma.
  • Women traditionally wore skirts, and men wore deerskin breechcloths.
  • In the 1700s, European traders introduced wool and cotton clothes made in England.
  • The Muscogee adapted the European clothing and traded deer pelts for it.
  • Today, Muscogee wear American clothing.
  • Corn was an important food, which women ground into meal and boiled with lye to make "sofkey."
  • For food, women gathered nuts, wild onions, and berries, and men hunted deer.
  • Muscogee had gardens full of corn, beans, and squash.
  • They shared the food among the group.
  • Today, Muscogees mostly eat American foods.
  • The Muscogee originally lived in houses with thatched roofs.
  • A typical village was built around the council house and a large field used for sports.
  • After the Muscogees were forced to move west, their towns and homes looked different.
  • In the West, most of the houses were made of logs.
  • Traditional Muscogee ceremonies take place at the stomp ground.
  • An important celebration is the Green Corn Festival, when people give thanks for the harvest.
  • During the Green Corn ceremony, women dancers wear turtle shells or cans on their ankles to make music while they dance.

Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Information

  • The word Iroquois means "rattlesnakes."
  • The Iroquois call themselves Haudenosaunee, which means "people building a long house."
  • Iroquois live in what is now the state of New York and parts of Canada.
  • The Iroquois Confederacy originally included five nations and was a democracy.
  • The five nations include: Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Mohawk, and Oneida.
  • The pine tree symbol in the middle of the flag represents a White Pine because this tree's needles are clustered in groups of five.
  • Onondaga - Keepers of the Fire, Capital of the Confederacy (currently they live near Syracuse, New York). Seneca - Keepers of the Western Door (currently they live in New York and Canada). Cayuga - Younger Brothers of the Seneca (currently they live near Buffalo, New York). Mohawk - Keepers of the Eastern Door (currently they live in New York and Canada). Oneida - Younger Brothers of the Mohawk (currently they live in Wisconsin and Canada).
  • The U.S. government was modeled on the Iroquois nations.
  • The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) used European cloth and adapted it to their own style.
  • Some men wore feathers in their hair, rings in their nose, and other jewelry.
  • Men also wore capes, sashes around their waist, breechcloths, leggings, and moccasins.
  • Today, the Iroquois wear modern clothes.
  • Before the Europeans came, the Iroquois were farmers and hunters.
  • The main crops were corn, beans, and squash, and these were known as the "sustainers of life" and were called the "Three Sisters."
  • These three crops were considered special gifts from the Creator, and each was believed to be protected by one of the Three Sister Spirits.
  • Legends were woven around the Three Sisters who would never be apart from one another, just as corn, beans, and squash were planted together, eaten together, and celebrated together.
  • The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people lived in villages and farmed.
  • Iroquois houses were called longhouses because they were longer than they were wide.
  • The houses were made from elm bark.
  • Longhouses had door openings at both ends and no doors or windows.
  • During the winter, the doors were covered with skins.
  • The Haudenosaunee Flag represents the original five nations that were united in peace by the Peacemaker.

Lakota (Sioux) Information

  • Sioux means "Lesser Snake" in Chippawa.
  • The people call themselves Lakota, which means "friend."
  • The Lakota lived on the plains with many other tribes, such as the Cheyenne and Oto.
  • Traditionally, the Lakota hunted buffalo and followed the herds from place to place.
  • Today, the Lakota have reservations in North and South Dakota and Montana.
  • The Lakota decorate their clothing with bead work and designs to honor the spirit world.
  • Traditionally, clothing was made of buckskin and elk skins.
  • Women traditionally wore dresses and leggings, and men wore shirts and breechcloths.
  • In cold weather, Lakota wore buffalo robes. Infants were placed in cradleboards for protection.
  • The Lakota people used buffalo to provide everything they needed to survive.
  • The buffalo was considered a Spirit Being by the Lakota.
  • Buffalo meat provided food, the pelt, clothing, and the bones, tools.
  • The buffalo is central to the traditional religion of the Lakota and of neighboring tribes.
  • The Lakota called their houses "tipis" which means "the place where a person lives."
  • Because they roamed the plains following the buffalo herds, Lakota needed housing that was lightweight and could be taken apart quickly.
  • Tipis were made from buffalo hides. They were warm in the winter and cool in the summer and large enough for the entire family.

Selected EDSITEment Websites

  • Oyate Website
  • Have students create a book about their own families and cultural traditions and customs, including their lodging, clothing, food, and other aspects of everyday life, and relate their family activities and traditions to similar Native American customs. Students will see the continuity over time and the influence of the First Americans on contemporary life in the U.S. through food items such as corn and squash, and through activities such as fishing and canoeing.
  • Using the profiles on the People section of the EDSITEment-reviewed resource New Perspectives on the West , have the class create biographies of the following nineteenth-century Lakota leaders: Red Cloud ; Sitting Bull ; Crazy Horse ; and Big Foot .
  • Students can learn more about the culture of Alaska's indigenous people in " Alaska Sojourn ," a Humanities magazine feature that covers 4,000 miles of the 49th U.S. state.

Materials & Media

Native american cultures across the u.s.: worksheet 1, related on edsitement, american indian history and heritage, not “indians,” many tribes: native american diversity, native americans and the american revolution: choosing sides, language of place: hopi place names, poetry, traditional dance and song.

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Celebrate Native American Heritage in Your Classroom

To help you bring the rich ancestry, culture, and traditions of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians into your classroom for Native American Heritage month, we’ve put together a collection of 18 brand new assignments for grades 3-12. This collection includes information, argument, and narrative writing prompts about or inspired by Native American people, places, and cultures. Each assignment provides a link to educational resources or suggests sources for students to use. Students can practice expanding their cultural knowledge and learning from credible sources as they write.


In this collection you’ll find assignments that help students research Native American inventions, write poetry inspired by Joy Harjo (U.S. poet laureate and Muscogee Nation member), compose arguments about the importance of honoring Indigenous names for landmarks, and learn about historical figures like Sacajawea, Sitting Bull, Maria Tallchief, Crazy Horse, and more.

native american tribes assignment

Assignments for Elementary School Students

  • Opinion Letter: Autumn Peltier
  • Poem: Joy Harjo
  • Report: Native American Inventions
  • Report: Native American Tribes Today
  • Biography: Sacajawea
  • Biography: Sitting Bull

Assignments for Middle School Students

  • Argument: Native American Names for Landmarks
  • Essay: Chief Tecumseh & Patrick Henry
  • Biography: Maria Tallchief
  • Biography: Quanah Parker

Assignments for High School Students

  • Newspaper Article: Native Americans & The U.S. Government
  • Paragraph: Native American Heritage
  • Biography: Crazy Horse
  • Biography: Navajo Code Talkers

Additional Social Studies Assignments

If you’re looking for additional social studies material, you’ll find many more assignments in our social studies collection that focus on culture, history, and civics, with an emphasis on highlighting diverse historical figures, and important events, beliefs, and practices. Many assignments include readings or videos from trusted media sources, and focus on both historical and current events.


Are you new to Writable or curious to learn more? Create a free teacher account , check out our pricing , schedule a personalized demo , or Join the Writable Educators Facebook Community

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Native American History

Native American History introduces students to major historical figures and influential events in the history of the American Indian peoples. Students will learn about many different tribes, including the Sioux, the Shoshone, the Apache, and the Shawnee tribes. Throughout the lesson, they will discover many cool facts and some very sad ones surrounding American Indian history.

There are several suggestions listed in the “Options for Lesson” section that you can use as alternatives or additions to your lesson. For example, you can assign students a famous Native American or event to further research and later present to the class. You can also invite a Native American or expert in that culture to speak with your students. It may also be a great opportunity to study words and place names that have Native American roots, such as many of the state names.


Additional information, what our native american history lesson plan includes.

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Native American History discusses some key figures and important events related to the indigenous people who used to, and still do, live in what is now the United States. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to recap these events and figures and explain their influence on America. This lesson is for students in the 5th grade and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, the only supplies you will need are the content pages and handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. For this lesson, some of these options include letting students work alone or in the groups for the acrostic poem activity, having students do their own research on a famous Native American or event that they then present to the class, or having students create a timeline that includes pictures or illustrations related to the events included on the timeline. You can also plan a Native American Day, where you bring in traditional Native American foods. A Native American person or historian can also be invited to speak to your class. Additional options for this lesson can be found on the Classroom Procedure page.

Teacher Notes

The Teacher Notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. It notes that while many students are likely familiar with Native Americans, they likely do not know many specific people or important events. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


Native americans.

This lesson includes four content pages. The first page of the lesson provides an overview of the Native American people, who are the indigenous people of the land now known as the United States. Students will learn that there used to be hundreds of tribes living here, most of whom lived in peace with one another. Native American history goes back at least 14,000 years but everything changed when Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean in 1492, setting off a long chain of events and the displacement of these people from their land. Students will learn about the timeline of European settlers coming to the Americas and what impact that had on the indigenous populations.

Native American People and Events

This section of the lesson contains a list of famous and significant Native American people and a timeline of important event in the history of the Native Americans. Some of the famous Native Americans that this lesson describes are Pocahontas, Squanto, Sacajawea, and Sitting Bull. Students will learn that the story they likely know about Pocahontas is actually part myth! Pocahontas helped the English colonists settle and eventually married an English tobacco planter named John Rolfe, with whom she had one child.

Students will also learn that Squanto was key in establishing a treaty between the local Native Americans and the Pilgrims. He had learned English as a teenager, traveled to England with the settlers, and was later sold as a slave. He was instrumental in helping the English survive in America, teaching them how to catch fish, grow crops, and survive the winter. Other important figures who are mentioned in this section are Geronimo, Crazy Horse, and Jim Thorpe.

The next part of this lesson contains a timeline of events. Some of the events on this timeline include 1513, when Juan Ponce de Leon originally explored what is now Florida and made contact with the Native Americans there; 1754, when the French & Indian War began; 1824, when the United Stated established the Office of Indian Affairs; 1838, when the Trail of Tears happened and more than 4,000 Cherokee people died while being forced to march from North Carolina to Oklahoma; and 1969, when all Native Americans were declared citizens of the United States. Students will learn a lot about the history of the Native American people as a whole during this section.


The Native American History lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


For the activity, students will work with a partner to complete the worksheet. They will create an acrostic using the letters in “Native Americans.” They will write a total of 15 facts about the American Indians or their history. Each fact must start with the proper letter. Students are encouraged to be creative and use what they learned from the lesson to complete this activity. You can also have students work alone or in groups for this activity.


The practice worksheet lists 20 facts and a word bank containing the names of people, significant events, and more. Some of these terms included “Battle of Little Bighorn” and “Ponce de Leon”. Students will match the terms in the word bank to the correct statement.


The homework worksheet lists a total of 16 statements and questions. Students must answer each question to complete the assignment. This homework assignment will test their knowledge of the lesson material.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. No answer key is provided for the activity worksheet because each pair of students’ acrostic poem will be different depending on the words that they chose. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

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Really great lesson plan. Used for my 4th graders and it was great!

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native american tribes assignment

Beginning Research Projects: Native Americans Poster Project

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Let’s talk about research projects for younger students. Guiding students through the research process can be stressful, but with lots of guidance, practice, and some gumption, it can be a fun learning experience that builds a life-long skill! So, today, I’m sharing a great beginning research project that can be done with students in 2nd and 3rd grade. This research project focuses on gaining a better understanding of Native American tribes while building those ever-important research skills! I love doing this research project in the month of November to celebrate Native American Heritage Month, but it really can work at any time.

native american tribes assignment

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Start with a Native American Book

For me, any great lesson starts with a book! A research project can start that same way, too! A book helps to fuel interest, or build background information.

Here are a few books that you could use to start a discussion on Native Americans. The suggestions here are a mix of fiction and nonfictional books. Just remember that the book serves as a way to begin the thought process and should be used as an introduction. Click the links below to check them out!

native american tribes assignment

One of my favorite indigenous authors is Joseph Bruchac . He’s a Native American author who works to share his people’s stories, ideas, and legends with us! Honestly, you can’t go wrong with pulling one of his books as a place to start the discussion.

Introducing Native American Tribe Research Project

After sharing a book with your class, discuss Native Americans with your students. Ask them what they already know about Native Americans. Then, work to discuss the fact that Native Americans are not just one group of people, but are actually many different groups of people who lived in groups called tribes. Each tribe had its own culture, beliefs, and way of life, based on the resources available to them.

Discuss how some tribes are still around today, like the Navajo Nation, but others are significantly smaller or no longer with us due to changes brought on by European settlers. Then, show students a map with some of the Native American tribes located throughout the United States.

native american tribes assignment

I like using this map (You can grab it here !)

Use the map/assignment sheet as a launching point for the Native American research project. Explain to students that you will choose a tribe, and then do some research to learn how that tribe used natural resources to live. Then, they’ll get to share their research with their classmates by displaying what they’ve learned on the poster.

From there, have students choose a tribe they would like to study. It can be one from the map or one from another resource (like the books suggested above).

Teacher Tip- Make a note of the tribes students choose to research. I also suggest allowing 2-4 students to research a tribe. Limiting the available spots allows for more exposure to different tribes, but also keeps the focus on learning more about the First Americans and less on what their friends are doing.

Research Note Taking for Beginners

One of the trickiest parts of conducting research in a younger classroom is the ability for students to zero in on important information. I love using a scaffolded research sheet to help guide younger researchers in finding the facts that need to be included in a project.

To keep the project younger student-friendly, this research project includes a scaffolded note-taking sheet that guides students through the different information they are looking for about their tribe.

native american tribes assignment

This one is part of this unit here on TpT.

Before allowing students to use the internet, I review internet safety rules. We also talk about “valid sites.” This one is tricky for younger students to grasp, but I always like to review how we know if a website is good or not. I also provide a list of approved websites to use to find information.

Teacher Tip- Use Kiddle.com as your search engine! It’s a kid-friendly search engine powered by Google!

Native American Tribe Research Poster

Once students have gathered information on their tribe, it’s time to start working on displaying that information. Make sure you have a sample made (or borrow one). It’s much easier for students to complete a task when they know what it should look like at the end.

Before students begin creating their posters, pass out the rubric. Read the different poster requirements, and discuss how that might look on their posters. This rubric is the exact one used to grade the assignment, so you can use it as a guide when creating the poster.

native american tribes assignment

Discuss how the information should be presented neatly so that everyone can read and learn more about the tribe. I also suggest students add illustrations to their posters to add visual interest.

Research Poster Presentation

At the end of the week, have individual or groups of students present their posters to the class. Have students share the important details they learned about their tribe. At the end of the presentation, allow classmates to ask questions about the tribe. Any unknown answers can always be researched later!

native american tribes assignment

Implementing the Native American Tribe Research Poster Project

Want to easily implement this project in your 2nd or 3rd-grade classroom? Be sure to check out this research project in my TpT store. It includes everything you need to complete this project with your students, including information cards on 12 different Native American tribes; three from each US region.

native american tribes assignment

More Resources and Ideas

Need more ideas? Check out these related posts and resources.

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Rate the lesson plan, lesson plan, the forgotten warriors of  the civil war.

Fort Scott National Historic Site , Fort Smith National Historic Site

The Forgotten Warriors of  the Civil War  is the story of the tragic effect that the American Civil War had upon the tribes of the Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma).  More than any other particular group in the United States at the time, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole (the Five Civilized Tribes) were divided between loyalty to the Union and the secessionist Southern states.  This lesson will teach students about why this “civil war within a civil war” occurred.

When the Civil War began in April of 1861, the federal forces were withdrawn from the Indian Territory. Seeing an opportunity to gain control of territory and establish military alliances, the Confederate government sent emissaries to sign treaties with the Five Civilized Tribes as well as other fragmentary people groups in the territory. Absent a federal presence, many tribes did so. However, the signing of those treaties led Amerindians who were still loyal to the Union to seek protection from the federal government. Pro-secessionist Native Americans promptly began driving the pro-Northern groups out of the territory and into Kansas, creating a refugee crisis for officials in the newly-created state. As Southern officers began organizing the Indians still in the territory for action in the war, Kansas officials and Union officers began to advocate for the organization of Native forces as well, principally from the refugees of the Indian Territory. Even though both sides attempted to use their Native troops in Missouri and Arkansas, the main goal was to use those troops to secure control of the Indian Territory. What resulted the Native Americans on both sides fighting against their brethren on the other side, many times in brutal fashion.  

The Indian Territory became a wasteland from the wanton destruction with the result that starvation was rampant, home and farms were destroyed, and few Indians remained on their own soil. All of this was happening against a backdrop of betrayal by the government officials on both sides. More tragedy awaited the Amerindians who fought on both sides when the war ended.


Reading through the web page on this topic and viewing the video presentation posted at the bottom of this page would be good preparation for this lesson.


lesson plan in one succint document

Download Complete Lesson Plan

Lesson Hook/Preview

There's no place like home! To American Indians suffering in barren refugee camps in eastern Kansas during the Civil War, thoughts like this must have gone through their minds as they longed for the warmth and security of home in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). There were those that could remember when home was elsewhere, but after more than two decades, they had come to regard Indian Territory as home.

Driven to Kansas in 1861 by Confederate forces, the refugees drew attention from government agencies in Kansas and the Union Army. Seeking to strengthen their position in Kansas and badly needing manpower, the commanders of the Union Army made the decision to recruit and train Indian soldiers from the ranks of these displaced tribes. Ultimately, the army created three regiments of Native Americans known as the Indian Home Guards. Indians welcomed the opportunity to become soldiers as a means to return to and defend their homes, but challenges faced them every step of the way.

Step 1: Divide the class into two groups (this can be done by student initiative, teacher assignment, or by drawing names out of a hat). One group of students will be approaching the assignment from the aspect of the Union viewpoint while the other group will take the Confederate viewpoint. Both sides will be respon-sible for researching the following associated with the Five Civilized Tribes and the Civil War:

Who was behind the idea of using Native American troops?

How did each side convince the Amerindians to participate in the war?

What kind of material support did each government give to their Indian troops?

What was the name of the major units created for Native American troops, who was in each unit, and who

    commanded each unit?

What major problems were encountered in trying to organize the Amerindians in a military fashion?

Step 1a: For the group that will be researching the Union perspective, they should specifically research these items:

Why did many Native Americans in the Indian Territory support the Union?

The Indian refugee problem during the Civil War.

Why was there opposition to the use of Native American troops.

Successes of the Indian Home Guard Regiments.

People: James Lane, James G. Blunt, Opothleyoholo, Robert Furnas, John Ritchie, William A. Phillips

Step 1b: For the group that will be researching the Confederate perspective, they should specifically research these items:

What led members of the Five Civilized Tribes to support the Confederacy?

Successes of the pro-Confederate Amerindians.

People: Albert Pike, John Ross,  Stand Watie, Chilly McIntosh, Daniel McIntosh, John Drew, John Jumper

Step 2: The time determinate for this step is up to each individual teacher. Knowing that this topic would be covered under the umbrella of the entire Civil War in a normal classroom, the amount of in-class research would probably be limited. A suggestion would be to make it a long-range project with most of the research and finished product being done outside of the classroom. Putting a groups’ final project together might necessitate the use of a class period. 

Step 3: Each group would be required to put together three different visuals. The first visual would be group-dependent: the North would need to prepare a visual of Kansas showing the location of the various refugee groups from the Indian Territory, Fort Scott, where any confrontations between the two sides occurred, and major geographical markings. The South would have to prepare a visual of the Indian Territory. Fort (Gibson) Blunt, where any major confrontations between where the two sides occurred, and major geographical markings. The second visual would contain the names of the Native American military units for their perspective and Amerindians associated with that unit. The third visual would contain the other major non-military figures associated with the North and South who played a role in the Five Civilized Tribes and the Civil War. These visuals can take the form of posters, PowerPoints, or student-produced films. They must be visible to anyone viewing the students presentation.

Step 4: Each student would be required to submit a bibliography containing at least three sources which could include books, magazine articles, newspaper articles, diaries, etc.  Visuals should have a citation as to their source.

Step 5: Each side will present an in-class presentation lasting no less than 10 minutes nor more than 15 minutes. Each student in the group will be expected to share in the presentation in a near-equal proportion of the time used. The presentation must answer all questions listed above and identify those people listed above. The presentation must also use each of the three visuals in a coherent fashion. Each group must turn in a script to the teacher prior to the presentation.

refugee-one who has been driven from their home due to war, violence or natural disaster and seeks shelter and necessisities for survival elsewhere.

secessionist- a person who favors formal withdrawal from membership of a federation or body, especially a political state.

loyalist- a person who remains loyal to the established ruler or government, especially in the face of a revolt.

Assessment Materials

This text suggests a means of assessment for the program.

Students will be assessed in the following categories:

Research – student-submitted materials reflect depth of research in creating their presentation. (10 points)

Script – the group’s script shows a coherent and cohesive tying together of the required elements; all elements are addressed. (10 points)

Oral presentation – the oral presentation of the material covers all bullet points above, incorporates the visuals, and involves all members of the group in near-equal fashion. (40 points)

Visual presentation – all three visuals are present and show the information required; PowerPoints and movies are coherent and engaging. (30 points – 10 for each element)

Bibliography – bibliographies contain at least three credible sources, there is at least one primary and one secondary source, and are constructed in an acceptable format. (5 points)

Accuracy – students should make sure their information is correct by using primary sources wherever possible; bias should be pared out of the project. (5 points)

Excellent (92-100)

Research: (see above)

Script: submitted prior to presentation; well written in an easily understood and interesting fashion.

Oral presentation: (see above)

Visual presentation: (see above)

Bibliography: lists at least three sources; one primary source; one secondary source; acceptable format

Accuracy: there are no mistakes present (does not refer to a flawless oral presentation, only materials)

Above Average (84-91)

Research:  There is some depth of research but does not quite cover all the aspects of the assignment.

Script: submitted prior to presentation; could have better writing but is understandable and somewhat interesting

Oral presentation: a bullet point may be missing, may be unbalanced towards one or more students; or ignores some of the visuals

Visual presentation: does not fully cover the requested information; PowerPoints or movie are not fully cohesive or show a lack of understanding.

Bibliography: lacks a source or there is a formatting mistake

Accuracy: there are minor errors present (does not refer to a flawless oral presentation, only materials)

Average (75-83)

Research: There is some depth of research but does not quite cover all the aspects of the assignment; a major question is left unanswered.

Script: submitted prior to presentation; could have better writing but has some minor clarity problems; somewhat interesting

Oral presentation: two bullet points may be missing, may be unbalanced towards one or more students; or ignores some of the visuals

Bibliography: lacks a source or there are more than one formatting mistakes.

Accuracy: there is a major error present (does not refer to a flawless oral presentation, only materials)

Below Average (65-74)

Research: Research does not cover all the aspects of the assignment; two major questions are left unanswered.

Script: submitted prior to presentation; writing has some major clarity problems; doubtful it caught the interest of other students.

Oral presentation: three bullet points may be missing, showed domination by one students; ignores major arts of the visuals

Visual presentation: visuals show a lack of effort or rushed construction; does not fully cover the requested information; PowerPoints or movie are not fully cohesive or show a lack of understanding.

Bibliography: lacks a source; there are more than one formatting mistakes; or there is one major formatting mistake.

Accuracy: there are two major errors present (does not refer to a flawless oral presentation, only materials)

Unacceptable (64 or below)

Research: Research does not cover all the aspects of the assignment; three or more major questions are left unanswered.

Script: was not submitted prior to presentation; major clarity problems; doubtful it caught the interest of other students; has grammatical and spelling errors present.

Oral presentation: three bullet points may be missing, some students in the group did not participate in the presentation; ignores the visuals.

Visual presentation: poorly constructed (messy, vague labels, etc.); does not fully cover the requested information; PowerPoints or movie are not fully cohesive or show a lack of understanding.

Bibliography: lacks two sources; there are multiple major formatting mistakes.

Accuracy: there are multiple (three or more) major errors present (does not refer to a flawless oral presentation, only materials)

Enrichment Activities

One extension activity would be having the students research and wear tribal dress when they are giving their presentation.

Another would be to create a full-sized replicas of guidons, flags, etc,. that were used by the Native American units.

Students on each side of the issue could create a fourth visual listing the Native American tribes outside of the Five Civilized Tribes would supported the Union and Confederacy.

Additional Resources

Abel, Annie Heloise; The American Indian in the Civil War ; ©1992 by the University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Britton, Wiley (Author Civil War on the Border , 2 Volumes); “Some Reminiscences of the Cherokee People Returning to Their Homes the Exiles of a Nation;” Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 6 No 2, June, 1928.

Britton, Wiley; The Union Indian Brigade in the Civil War ; ©1922 by the Kansas Heritage Press, Ottawa, Kansas.

Cottrell, Steve; Civil War in the Indian Territory ; ©1995 by Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, Louisiana.

Cozzens, Peter; “Hindman’s Grand Illusion;” Civil War Times Illustrated , October, 2000; Vol. 30, No. 4.

Edwards, Whit; The Prairie Was On Fire ;

Gaines, W. Craig; “The Great Wagon Train Raid;” Wild West , December, 1991.

Hatch, Thom; The Blue, The Grey, and the Red

Hauptman, Laurence M.; Between Two Fires : Indians In The Civil War ; © 1995, The Free Press, a division of Simon&Schuster, New York.

Marzuki, Marci (writer); Bernie Dudek, Geoffrey Madeja, and Marci Marzuki (producers) Indian Warriors, The Untold History of the Civil War , ©2006 A & E Television Networks.

Nichols, David A. Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics ; © 2012, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St., Paul, Minnesota.

Rampp, Lary C. and Donald L. Rampp; The Civil War in the Indian Territory ; © 1975, Presidential Press, Austin.

Shoemaker, Arthur; “Hard Rope’s Civil War;” Civil War Times Illustrated ; September/October, 1990; Vol. 29, No. 4.

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Last updated: January 26, 2017

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Native American & Indigenous Studies

  • Developing a Research Question

Understanding Your Assignment

Selecting and narrowing a topic, exercises for generating topics, constructing your research question.

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Before you select a topic or develop a research question, it is important to understand your assignment. Understanding your assignment from the outset will help you craft a re search question that you can adequately answer in the space and time allotted to you. In this section, we will look at some questions to ask when first decoding a prompt:  

  • What is the purpose of the assignment? Think about the goal of your assignment: Are you trying to persuade a reader? Explain an idea? Apply theories to a text? Tell a story? The purpose of your assignment will guide your research and writing.
  • What kind of writing am I doing? Look for words in the assignment that tell you about the type of writing you are being asked to produce. For example, there is a difference between being asked to summarize and being asked to analyze. Other verbs to look out for include, discuss, define, explain, evaluate, etc.
  • Who is my audience?  How will this affect the tone and content of my paper? What are the conventions of the discipline within which I am working?
  • What is the scope of the assignment? Determine what the purpose of the paper will be and how much ground you will need to cover. How many topics will you be looking at? How long should the paper be?
  • What is the topic of the assignment? Has the professor given you a specific topic? Will you need to find your own?
  • What are the requirements of the assignment? Familiarize yourself with the criteria of the prompt. It is easy to forget about details like number/types of sources, word counts, and formatting guidelines. Look at these early on so that you can better plan for the content and scope of your project.
  • Ask for clarification. Reach out to your professor, other instructors,  Writing Tutorial Services (WTS) , or the Learning Commons Research Desk , for assistance with understanding and getting started on an assignment.

Video: Understanding Assignments . UNC Writing Center (2018)

Adapted from: Swarthmore Writing Associates Program,  Understanding Your Assignment  (2023); Grinnell College,  Choosing A Research Topic ; The University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center,  Understanding Your Assignment .

In some cases, an instructor may assign you a topic or a list of topics. In other cases, you might be asked to generate a topic on your own. An assignment may also fall somewhere between these two cases, asking you to pick a narrower topic from a broader one. In this section we will talk about strategies for selecting a topic that both interests you and helps you develop a research question. 

  • Think about the scope and content requirements of your assignment.
  • Consider topics or units which have come up in class.
  • Was there a reading you really enjoyed? A lecture that stuck with you? If you’re excited about your topic, others will be too! Plus, your research will be much more fun. 
  • Do you feel a personal or academic connection to any specific topic?
  • Generate a list of subtopics that relate to the broader topic.
  • Look at your class notes and syllabus for themes.
  • Find an interesting text on IUCAT , Indiana University's Library Catalog.
  • Scroll down on the catalog page to find the subject headings for this text, which may contain more specific topics of interest to you. Below is an example of subject headings for  Shadowlines: Women and Borders in Contemporary Asia :

Subject Headings: Women-Asian-Social Conditions-21st century; Women-Political activity-Asia; Sex role and globalization-Asia; Postcolonialism.

Video:   Picking a Topic is Research . University of Houston Libraries (2020).

Adapted from: Purdue Online Writing Lab, Choosing a Topic .

In this section we will discuss some exercises designed to help you generate topics for your paper:

  • Brainstorm with classmates, friends, and professors. This can help you develop ideas and explore topics you might not have considered on your own. 
  • Explore non-peer reviewed sources such as newspapers , blogs, and magazines. Looking at current events can help you identify topics that interest you and explore subtopics within those areas.
  • Free-write about the broader topic: Set a time limit and write about your topic. Even if you feel as though you have nothing else to say, keep writing! When you’re done, read over the text and look for patterns in your thoughts, ideas that stick out, and anything of interest that you want to explore some more.
  • Concept map : A concept map is a visual way to organize your thoughts and make connections between ideas. They can take the form of charts, graphic organizers, tables, flowcharts, Venn Diagrams, timelines, or T-charts. Concept mapping is similar to visual mapping, visual webbing, and mind mapping. You can draw a concept map on a piece of paper, reserve a space at the library to use a whiteboard, or use these websites to create concepts maps online: Miro , TheBrain , Lucidchart , Coggle . Below are concept maps for "Concept Mapping" and a "Personal Philosophy of Online Learning":

Chart :  Concept Mapping Concept Map . Teton Science Schools (TSS). This concept map depicts ideas related to the concept mapping technique.

Concept map of a personal philosophy for online learning.

Chart:  Personal philosophy concept map and rationale . Myles’ Blog (2016).

In the video below, English Literature PhD student Lucy Hargrave explains how graduate students in the humanities can use concept maps to help them organize their thoughts and notes:

Video:  How I Use MindMaps as a PhD Student: Organising my Research Notes . Lucy Hargrave (2021).

Now that you have narrowed down your topic, let's turn that topic into a research question. In this section we will talk about how to develop a question that sets you up for success. Keep in mind that your question may change as you gather more information and start writing—this is okay! Having a sense of your direction from the outset can help you evaluate sources and identify relevant information during the research process.

Explore your topic

  • Return to some of the articles/sources that you discussed in class or that you found when researching your topic—what questions do these sources raise? What are other researchers in this area writing about?
  • Ask open-ended “how” and “why” questions about your topic.
  • Consider the “so what?” of your topic. Why does this topic matter to you? Why should it matter to others?
  • What would you like to know more about? What do you think your audience would like to learn about?
  • Think about the value of focusing on a specific period of time, geographic location, organization, or group of people. Narrowing the scope of your paper can make it easier to find sources and develop a strong, concise argument.
  • What do you want to say in your assignment? What are the key points and arguments that you want to get across? Which subtopic, timeframe, or other limitation would allow you to make these points in the most effective way?
  • Try filling out a worksheet  to organize your thoughts.

Pick One Research Question

Evaluate the questions you’ve asked and pick one that speaks to you. If there are a few questions that interest you, focus and tailor their components into a singular research question which you can address in the space and time allotted for your paper. Consider the wording of the question and the scope of the assignment. A good research question is clear, focused, and has an appropriate level of complexity. Developing a strong question is a process, so you will likely refine your question as you continue to research and to develop your ideas. Use the following guidelines to evaluate whether or your question will be appropriate for your assignment:

Clarity. Is your question clear? Do you have a specific aspect of your general topic that you are going to explore further? 

Unclear: Why are social networking sites harmful sometimes? Clear: How are online users experiencing privacy issues on the social networking sites Facebook and TikTok?

Focus. Is your question focused? Will you be able to cover the topic adequately in the space available? 

Unfocused: How are Asian Americans represented in the media? Focused: How do television advertisements in the United States perpetuate the model minority stereotype?

Complexity. Is your question sufficiently complex? Can your question be answered with a simple yes/no response or does it requires research and analysis?

Too simple: Did COVID-19 affect parents? Appropriately Complex: How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact the mental health and work-life balance of teleworking parents with young children?

Video:   Developing a Research Question . Laurier Library (2017).

Adapted from: George Mason University Writing Center,  How to Write a Research Question  (2008); Monash University Library,  Developing research questions .

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Indigenous Tribes of Indiana

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From the moment European settlers arrived in what would become the United States, the cultural impact would be felt by indigenous tribes throughout America--including the Midwest--long before actual contact was made.

The period before the first European contact with the indigenous tribes that were living in Indiana is sometimes referred to as protohistory. The protohistory is important to take into account when looking at the tribes in Indiana because their culture was already affected by European diseases brought to America and the push westward of Eastern tribes, as more Europeans settled in the new colonies.

Very early in its history, Indiana would act as the crossroads for the nation before it even had the nickname, as tribes traveled to and through the Indiana territory. Over the years, Indiana was considered home to several different indigenous tribes, like the Miami, Wea, Piankashaw, Shawnee, Eel River, Delaware and Potowatomi. There were many other indigenous tribes that also had a scattered presence in Indiana at various points in history, like the Kickapoo, Odawa, Chippewa, Wyandot, Kaskaskia, Mahican, Nanticoke, Huron, Mohegan, and many others.

The earliest accounts of the Great Lakes nations came in the early 1600s by French Jesuit missionaries. Indiana’s indigenous tribes would be heavily influenced by these early French encounters. The French and Midwest tribes maintained a thriving fur trade in the Great Lakes area. Intermarriage was common among the trade groups and a practice that strengthened the trade relationships. Little changed in these practices under the initial shift to British rule for the Indiana indigenous tribes. However, following the Treaty of Paris in 1783 between the British and the United States, the British ceded all British territories east of the Mississippi to the United States government. This put any matters concerning the indigenous tribes under the control of the newly created United States federal government.

The War of 1812

 The 1795 Treaty of Greenville gave a substantial amount of land in Ohio and part of the eastern border of Indiana to the United States and in 1816 the territory became Indiana and joined the union.

Notably, Tecumseh of the Shawnee nation was not among the tribal leaders who signed the Treaty of Greenville and the several treaties for Indiana lands that followed. Tecumseh believed that the land could not belong to any one entity. This frustration and resentment as more settlers moved into the territory would be a driving force for Tecumseh and his followers to side with the British in the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 was between the United States and Great Britain. Both sides gathered allies among the indigenous tribes in the area. Although for the two nations the war seemed to have ended in a stalemate, the effect the war would have on Great Lakes tribes would be felt for years to come. As historian Donald Hickey said “The big losers in the war were the Indians...The crushing defeats at the Thames and Horseshoe Bend left them at the mercy of the Americans, hastening their confinement to reservations and the decline of their traditional way of life.” (2013) The United States would now use British allegiances as cause for further land cessations.

Trail of Death

Following the War of 1812, many tribes now faced more pressure and sometimes the forced cessation of lands they once called home. The treaties of 1838 and 1840 for lands south of the Wabash river would essentially mark the last cessation of indigenous lands to the United States in the state of Indiana.

At this same time, President Andrew Jackson had been passing the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Although treaty negotiations had been going on with various tribes throughout the nation, President Jackson’s Indian Removal Act would accelerate the treaty processes by allowing the president to extinguish "as he may judge necessary" title to any lands occupied by the Indians in exchange for lands to the west.

At this point in time, the Wea and Shawnee had already left westward. This left the Potowatomi and Miami as the last tribes with significant representation in Indiana. In 1838, the Potawatomi Indians, who lived in Northern Indiana, were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands by order of the United States government.

859 Potawatomi were led by militia across Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri until they finally reached the government’s destination for their tribe in Kansas. In his book, True Indian Stories , historian Jacob Piatt Dunn is credited with naming this journey ‘The Trail of Death’ because 41 people would die during this forced removal.

Through the cessation of land and the forced removal of tribes from Indiana, the indigenous population was drastically depleted starting in the nineteenth century and never quite recovered.

Today, one can find instances of historical societies working to educate the public about the history of Indiana. In northern Indiana, a living history festival was started in 1976 called The Trail of Courage . Each year at the Trail of Courage, a different Potawatomi family is honored, that had ancestors who had walked on the Trail of Death or signed treaties in Indiana.

Every five years since 1988, the Potawatomi Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan travels the 660-mile trip from Indiana to Kansas. The markers along the trail are reminders to everyone of the once-thriving people who had been forced from Indiana on a journey that would cost both lives and the loss of their ancestral homes.

Further Information

  • Delaware Nation [Southern Plains]
  • Delaware Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
  • Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware
  • Kansas Kickapoo Tribe
  • Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Miami Nation of Indians of the State of Indiana
  • The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
  • Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Lac Courte Oreilles band
  • Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
  • St. Croix Chippewa
  • Citizen Potawatomi Nation

To explore topics both present-day and historical of the Indigenous people of Indiana, please visit the following centers or check out the following websites:

  • The American Indian Center of Indiana
  • Connor Prairie
  • Eiteljorg Museum
  • Fulton County Historical Society: Trail of Courage
  • Mississinewa 1812
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • DNR: Native Americans in Indiana
  • Series Erosion of the Middle Ground: Native Peoples of the Great Lakes Region after 1815
  • Tribal Nations Map: Our Own Names, Our own Locations

References :

  • Edmunds, R. D. (2008). Enduring nations : Native Americans in the Midwest. University of Illinois Press. ISBN: 9780252033308.
  • Hickey, Donald R., ed. (2013). The War of 1812: Writings from America's Second War of Independence. Library of America. New York: Literary Classics of the United States. ISBN 9781598531954.
  • Kellar, J. H. (1973). An introduction to the prehistory of Indiana. Indiana Historical Society. OCLC : 74156938
  • Rafert, S. (1996). The Miami Indians of Indiana : a persistent people, 1654-1994. Indiana Historical Society. ISBN: 0871951118
  • Wheeler-Voegelin, E., Blasingham, Emily J., & Libby, Dorothy R. (1974). An anthropological report on the Miami, Wea, and Eel-River Indians. Garland Pub. Inc. ISBN: 0824008065.

About the author

Tara Kenjockety


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