Assimilation Lesson Plan


  1. A Seat at the Drum: Choose one or more segments to watch from A Seat at the Drum. Below are questions and ideas that students should watch for when they view the program or view the video segments on this web site. Students will need to take notes.


What to watch for:

On the A Seat at the Drum DVD

On this web site

Background for Teachers:  Sherman Indian School is struggling to be a college prep high school for Native Americans, in part to prepare students to function in the mainstream culture while honoring their own. Sherman was part of the Indian Boarding School system where the motto was "kill the Indian, save the man."
Questions for Students: Do you think Indian Schools are beneficial to urban Native youth?

Chapter One
"Living in LA"

Indian Boarding Schools

Background for Teachers:  In the 1950s Relocation Program sequence, Paula Starr says Indians came to the city for jobs in the urban areas. In the process, they were supposed to assimilate or be absorbed by the mainstream culture. Some adapted to the urban environment; some didn't.
Questions for Students: Have urban Indians lost their identity if they do not know their language or traditions?

Chapter Two

1950s Relocation Program

Background for Teachers:  Prompt students to watch for how pow wows got started in LA. Also watch for how, at today's Orange County Pow Wow, Mark Anthony Rolo runs into a fellow Ojibwe doing silver work rather than his tribe's traditional quill work. Tribes that never had pow wows are adopting traditions from plains tribes. Watch for Paula Starr's assessment of that.
Questions for Students: How do you answer narrator Mark Anthony Rolo's question, "Have we traded the depth and uniqueness of tribal identity for a pan-Indian stereotype?"

Chapter Three
"Pow Wow Culture"

Pow Wow Culture

Background for Teachers:  Mark says, "Christianity has been a very effective tool of assimilation in the cities." The pastor at the Indian Revival Center says, "I love Indians. I like to be around Indians. I just don't like some of the cultural things that attend that."
Questions for Students: Do you think Christianity has been "a tool for assimilation?" What do you think about the clash between Christianity and traditional Indian spirituality?

Chapter Four


Background for Teachers:  Using a formula to figure out how much "Indian blood" someone has is a confusing system for deciding who belongs in a tribe. Mark says, "[Blood quantum] is a trap created by a century of policy designed to wipe out the tribes."
Questions for Students: Should blood be used or another system of identity?

Chapter Five
"Politics of Identity"

Identity and Assimilation


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