Instructions for Team 4: Representatives of Tribes of American Indians Living on the Great Plains
(The West, Lesson 1, Activity 4)

You are members of a variety of American Indian tribes inhabiting land through which the Iron Road cuts its swath. It is not hard to see that the railway will end your current way of life for a variety of reasons. It will transport many new settlers who will want increasing amounts of land on the Great Plains. It may bring miners who will find gold or silver on land that is currently yours under various treaties with the U.S. government. In addition, the coming of the railway threatens the existence of the great buffalo herds on which your way of life depends. You will do three pieces of writing: a chant (or poem of lament), a speech to your fellow tribesmen which expresses in different terms the sorrow and anger you feel as you see the Iron Road destroying your way of life, and a letter to Washington, D.C. asking for specific remedies.

Tasks to complete before you start writing:

  1. View two clips of Episode 5. The first starts at approximately 45 minutes into the film and ends with the title "Good Company" at approximately 50 minutes in. The second begins with the title, "A Wound in the Heart" at approximately 112 minutes and runs for approximately 10 minutes until the end of the film. Both sequences are about what the buffalo meant to the Plains Indians. Pay careful attention to the use of language in these episodes. How is metaphor used? What poetic images are used to convey meaning?

    For more information see Episode Five, "Good Company," and "A Wound in the Heart."

  2. Research how the Plains Indians hunted the buffalo and then made use of each and every part of the animal.

  3. Be able to explain why the entire lifestyle of the Plains Indian tribes was dependent on the buffalo.

  4. Find out about how various Indian tribes reacted to the invasion of the railroad through their heartlands. Some good sources include:

  5. Each member of the group should write his or her chant from one of the following points of view:
    • As a warrior from a specific tribe.
    • As a mother.
    • As a child.
    • As a buffalo.
    • As the spirit of an ancestor.

    For your letters and speeches, consider the audience you are addressing. Try to include matters which pertain to the particular tribe you are representing.