THE BUFFALO WAR: A Clash of Cultures
Grade Level: 8-12
Subjects: Civics, American History (see modifications below), Government, Environmental Studies
"A people without history is like the wind on the buffalo grass."
- Sioux saying
Correlation to National Standards
Using the documentary "Buffalo War," students will discover how cultures living together often come into conflict because they may place different values and meaning on items they share such as nature and resources. The students will further explore ways in which conflict may be reduced by identifying the difference and similarities and seeking a way to build on the latter.
Estimated Time: In addition to watching "Buffalo War," the lesson and its activities will take 90 minutes, making it appropriate for a block schedule.
For American History teachers: You can stop the lesson short of the conflict resolution portion-step 5-for a complete lesson.
I. Distribute homemade buffalo nickels (made by photocopying the image). Ask the students to share what they might know about the coin (Have you ever seen one before?) In discussion with the students lead them to note how the designer of the coin choose to connect the image of an Indian with the buffalo recognizing the importance of the animal to Native American culture.
Information: The buffalo nickel, also known as the Indian head nickel, was minted in the United States between 1913 and 1938. James Earle Fraser (see the F near the date) designed the coin. He made his drawing of an Indian from a composite of three chiefs who posed for him. The bison he drew lived in the New York City Zoo.II. Assign students to observe of the following five groups while watching THE BUFFALO WAR:
III. Following the viewing, distribute the buffalo silhouettes. Instruct the students to fill them with several illustrations or symbols that depict their assigned viewpoint. On the back of the drawings they will write an explanation for why they chose the particular illustration or symbols, citing the portion of the film that lead them to make each choice. (Let the students use a visual dictionary for examples of drawings and symbols they may want to copy.)
IV. Place the students in groups of five, with each student representing a differing viewpoint. The students will then share their illustrated buffalo silhouettes and explain their choices of illustrations and symbols.
V. Next ask the students to identify common elements. (You might tell them, for instance, that for both the activists and the Lakota keeping the buffalo alive is paramount. Or, to give another example, you might show the students that the ranchers and the state and federal governments share a desire to keep the agricultural economy sound but differ on how to achieve that goal.)
VI. Then ask the students to craft a solution (public policy) that would draw on each of these common elements to solve the problem depicted in the documentary. The students should report their findings as either:
The following web sites may be of use to a teacher preparing a lesson on this topic:
http://species.fws.gov/bio_buff.htmlCorrelation to National Standards:
(This lesson addresses the following national content standards found at http://www.mcrel.org:)
Lesson Plan Author
James McGrath Morris is a member of the social studies department of West Springfield High School. He joined Fairfax County Public Schools in 1996 after a career in journalism and publishing. During his first year of teaching Morris was nominated for the Sallie Mae First Class Teacher Award. His work in American history has been published in Civilization, Journal of Policy History, Journal of Historical Studies, Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, New Mexico Historical Review, and Missouri Life, among other places. As an author or editor, Morris has published four books. He is currently at work on a biography of a turn-of-the-century New York journalist to be published by Fordham University Press.