Assimilation Lesson Plan


  1. After students have finished viewing these segments and examining their notes, brainstorm all that students know about assimilation and display those ideas on a board.
    1. What is assimilation?
    2. What exactly encompasses Native assimilation according to the Native people in Indian Country Diaries?
    3. Why does assimilation take place among Native people?
    4. How has the government encouraged assimilation?
    5. What do students think the government had in mind when it encouraged Natives to relocate to larger cities? 
    6. Why can assimilation be bad for Native people?
    7. How can assimilation be good for Native people?
  1. Individual work:  Have students cut "items" from magazines — words, ideas, pictures, symbols of values, religions, etc.—that reflect what is very important to each student's identity. Ask each student to make a collage complete with explanations on the back of the collage that clarify why those pictures, words, ideas, values, religions, etc. are important to them. Have a few students share their collages with the class.
  1. Next, physically walk around the room and take the students' collages from them. Tell them that this is no longer who they are. Make sure that students know that they can no longer keep what they value with them. For instance, many students will more than likely say that their cell phones are very important to them. For the purposes of the lesson, tell the students that they can no longer talk on their cell phones. Meanwhile, take the "items" that you have cut from magazines earlier and hand them to the students. Tell the students that a new government has come to the United States and that they are forced to have to convert their lifestyles to the "items" that you have handed them. This new government will arrest and detain anyone who does not cooperate with the new culture. (Obviously, this is a mock scenario of what happened to Native people when white people came to this continent. Do not discuss how students are feeling at this point. Just explain what they will need to do next.) 
  1. Break students into small groups. The purpose of the small group exercise is to have students discuss what is happening to them. Designate a secretary for each group to record how they are feeling, if they are planning resistance, or are they willing to adjust to their new culture. Each group should discuss their situation for about five to 10 minutes. Have the groups report to the class what their feelings are at this point. Be sure to discuss how this specific assimilation is tied to the Indian Country Diaries.
  1. Invite students to imagine each is a new refugee from another country coming into the United States. Students will be asked to write a letter to the editor of a local or national newspaper of their choice that will describe their assimilation into the new culture. Students should include how they are feeling and explain themselves by using concrete examples from the mock assimilation lesson and from the Indian Country Diaries series to support their positions.  

Assessment Recommendations

Students will be assessed on the following:

  1. The final newspaper editorial to a newspaper.  This will be assessed using the Six Traits Writing Rubric. Information about the rubric can be found at
  2. Class participation and appropriate behavior towards other cultures.

Extensions/Adaptation Ideas

Not all urban Indians have had bad experiences with assimilation or acculturation. This is evident in A Seat at the Drum when Judy Two Two explains how her family came to LA. Judy has loved living in LA and seems to be happy where she is. It should be discussed in classroom conversations that modern Native people living in urban areas don't have to be "invisible." There is a thriving Native culture in urban environments and many Native people are proud to live in urban places. See the Recommended Resources section for some positive reading on the urban experience for Native people.

Recommended Resources

  • The Indian Country Diaries DVD chapters and web pages listed above.
  • Lobo, Susan and Peters, Kurt. American Indians and the Urban Experience Altimira Press, 2001.
  • Lobo, Susan. Urban Voices: The Bay Area American Indian Community University of Arizona Press, 2002.
  • Oyate is a source for Native American education and culture resources at

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