Tribal Sovereignty Lesson Plan
  1. Students will need access to computers, the Internet and library resources. It would be great if they actually interviewed a member of a federally recognized tribe or someone who sits on a tribal council, but it is understandable that access to those individuals is limited in some areas of the country. Students will research a tribe's sovereignty that is located within the borders of the student's specific state or a tribe mentioned in Indian Country Diaries. The purpose of this exercise is to show that all tribes have different forms of government. Also, some tribes have casinos; others do not. It is important to explore why tribes have chosen their forms of government. Students will compile their research into a presentation to share with the class.
  1. Next, based on their research and their views of Indian Country Diaries, students will divide into groups of four to five students. Each group will declare themselves to be a sovereign nation. Students will need to discuss what form of government their sovereign nation might choose. Students can discuss their research and their notes on the film as to why they believe their choice of a government is ideal. Some choices of government might be:
    • A representative democracy model with three branches.
    • A direct consensus model of democracy where the participants debate issues until they reach a consensus.
    • An authoritarian system where they select one or more leaders to make all the decisions.
  2. Students should also declare what rights and responsibilities their sovereign nation should have and what symbols they might adopt. Some examples might be:  flags, logos, basic needs such as food, health care, education, laws, how those laws will be enforced and a constitution. Students will also need to show how their sovereign nation will be supported financially.
  1. Students will create a poster board showing exactly how their form of government will look and operate. All groups will present to the class, making sure that they discuss their research on other tribes and Indian Country Diaries.

Assessment Recommendations

Students will be assessed on the following:

  • The final document on tribal sovereignty that they individually research. This will be assessed using the Six Traits Writing Rubric. Information about the rubric can be found at this external link.
  • Their group presentation to the class. See sample grading rubric (pdf) .
  • Class participation and appropriate behavior towards other cultures.

Recommended Resources

  • The Indian Country Diaries DVD chapters and web pages listed above.
  • Canby, Jr., William C. American Indian Law Third Edition West Group, St. Paul, Minn., 1998.
  • Getches, David H., Wilkinson, Charles F., Williams, Jr., Robert A. Cases and Materials on Federal Indian Law West Group, St. Paul, Minn., 1998
  • Oyate is a source for Native American education and culture resources at

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