Tribal Sovereignty Lesson Plan
  1. Spiral of Fire: Choose one or more segments to watch from Spiral of Fire. 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 DVD

On this web site

Background for Teachers: In Spiral of Fire, former Principal Chief Joyce Duggan is frustrated with the limitations of sovereignty. "We're not sovereign in this nation. If we were sovereign in this nation we would not have to depend on federal government dollars. We would not have to go to the state for gaming approvals. We would be able to live independently in our own nation, which is what we were doing in 1838 at the time of the removal."
Questions for Students: What are the limitations on sovereignty? Are tribes really separate nations? What powers do they have?

Chapter Five
"Casinos & Sovereignty"


Background for Teachers: In order to build their new school, the Cherokee had to go before Congress. Corey Blankenship was a high school student testifying for the tribe.
Questions for Students: Why did the tribe have to do that? The tribe's casino was paying for much of the school; why did they still have to go to Congress? Do you think you could testify before Congress?

Chapter Four


Background for Teachers: Casino profits have swelled the tribal budget, and now there are more people wanting to join.
Questions for Students: What were the issues that the Cherokee were facing in the program? How would you decide who should be an enrolled tribal member or who should be thrown out? Bo Taylor, from the Cherokee Museum, says, "The minute you say that you're Cherokee, I'm going to expect something out of you." What is it he expects?

Chapter Six
"Politics of Identity"

Identity & Assimilation


  1. After students have finished viewing the segment(s) and/or the web pages, and have examined their notes, have them brainstorm what they NOW know about sovereignty. Display those ideas on a board.
    1. What is sovereignty?
    2. What exactly encompasses tribal sovereignty according to the Native people in Indian Country Diaries?
    3. Are Indian tribes sovereign nations? Why or why not?
    4. What role does the federal government take in relation to tribal sovereignty?
    5. What role do states take in relation to tribal sovereignty?
    6. Why is blood quantum important to tribal sovereignty?
    7. How are casinos related to sovereignty?

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