These activities are designed to help students understand issues related to WE SHALL REMAIN episode 5, "Wounded Knee."

Active Resistance and One Person's Impact

Students will understand the causes of American Indian activism in the 1960s and 1970s in America and realize that choices made by individuals can change the course of history.

"The irresistible is often only that which is not resisted."
-- Justice Louis Brandeis
  1. Divide the class into four groups. Each group will choose two Native American leaders from this list or elsewhere and research primary source material that demonstrates the stand that they took to defend their people and culture. If primary sources are unavailable, use secondary sources.
    • Massasoit
    • King Philip
    • The Prophet
    • John Ross
    • John Ridge
    • Cochise
    • Geronimo
    • Russell Means
    • Dennis Banks
    • Sitting Bull
    • Crazy Horse
  2. Each group will choose two students to role-play their two leaders' messages in front of the class. What were the messages? Discuss the actions that ensued, and how they changed the course of history.
  3. As a class, make a chart of similarities and differences between these leaders. Pay close attention to the methods they used to take their stands. For instance, accommodation, diplomacy, violence, spirituality, legal means, or the arts.
  4. As a class, discuss the significance of the events on Pine Ridge. Were its leaders patriots? Was violence necessary? Does the class agree or disagree with this statement: "Without centuries of active resistance, Native American people and their culture would be extinct."
Present-Day Issues

Students will understand some of the complex self-determination and sovereignty issues Native peoples face in the 21st century.

  1. Each student should choose one of the topics below and prepare a three to five minute in-class presentation that presents differing points of view on the issue.
    1. Native American gaming
      Are casinos good or bad for Native people?
      Related video: ReelNative: Rebecca Perry Levy (Eastern Woodland Peqot), "Casino Indian"
    2. Treaty rights: off-reservation hunting and fishing
      Should state laws apply to Native people who hunt or fish off-reservation?
    3. Treaty rights: religious freedom
      Should tribal customs outweigh federal laws that protect endangered wildlife, like the Bald Eagle?
    4. Land and water rights
      If water is polluted on a reservation from mining and logging leases, who is responsible for clean-up?
    5. Artifacts and burial remains
      Is it acceptable or unacceptable to build a highway on sacred lands, or build a building or a dam over burial remains?
    6. Reservation mismanagement
      Should the government pay back oil, timber, grazing, mineral and other royalties to Native peoples accumulating since the land trust was imposed in 1887?
  2. What environmental issues affect Native lands in your state? Each student will research a Native American environmental activist (for example, Winona LaDuke, Terry Tempest Williams, John Trudell and others) and write a one page essay on the issues that he/she is fighting for.
  3. Choose an area of the world where technology and progress threaten indigenous peoples (some examples include hydroelectric power in Canada; Malaysian deforestation; oil exploration in the Amazon Basin and the Arctic; mining in Brazil and Bolivia). Research and write about the forces that threaten those indigenous communities' way of life. Who are their activists? How is their struggle similar to that of Native Americans? Present your findings to the class.

Discuss as a class: Native American debates over the control and care of land and natural resources are inextricably tied to issues of self-determination and sovereignty that are rooted in traditional culture, spirituality, language and history.

The Pros and Cons of Assimilation

Students will understand the effects of assimilation and civilization on Native cultures.

  1. As a class, review film chapter 6, Day 6, featuring Dennis Banks, AIM leader, on Indian boarding schools. Ask students if they know anyone who attended these schools.

    As a class, reflect on and discuss other U.S. government strategies that disrupted tribal unity and enforced “civilization.” For example, the use of scouts by the government in the 19th century, land allotments, boarding schools, federal policies of negotiating with selected factions of tribes, and the appointments made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the administration of reservation policy that resulted in corruption.

  2. View some of the ReelNative videos as a class:
    1. Linda Hogan (Chickasaw), “A Feel for the Land”
    2. Michael Little (Navajo), "Hill High Low"
    3. Rebecca Nelson (Salt River Pima-Maricopa Community), "A Freeway Christmas"
    4. Troy Phillips (Nipmuc), "These Walls Are My Reservation"
    5. Ryan Singer (Diné), "Art from a Can"
    6. Nancy Gail Tsoodle (Kiowah/Cherokee), “Boarding School Love”

    Talk about other American subcultures that have had to grapple with issues of assimilation (Chinese immigrants in California, Hmong in the Midwest, etc.). How are the experiences of these groups similar to or different from Native Americans?

  3. Divide the class in two for a debate. One side will speak in favor of assimilation and the other will oppose it. Students must use historical examples to back up their cases. Then take a class vote. On balance, which side won the debate?

Assimilation has occurred all over the world for thousands of years, as large numbers of people migrate to new areas. Discuss: What does a nation gain and lose through processes of cultural assimilation?

Enterprise in Indian Country

Students will explore and understand economic progress in Native communities today.

Although Indians living on reservations continue to have the highest poverty rate of any ethnic group in the United States, there has been much progress in economic development in Indian Country over the last 20 years.

  1. Watch Native Now: "Enterprise in Indian Country"
  2. Research and make a list of the economic activities of Indian communities near your school. Have new economic ventures been launched in the past two decades?

As a class, discuss economic development in Native American communities. How do these efforts benefit Native peoples and the community at large?

Language and Cultural Revival

Students will understand the importance of the revitalization of Indian languages and culture.

Following the advice of the Indian Peace Commission of 1868, the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs embarked on a conscious attempt to destroy Native languages and culture. Over the years, many Commissioners of Indian Affairs spoke explicitly about the need to "blot out barbarous dialects" and substitute English in their place to "civilize the Native peoples.”

Ask students if they, their parents or grandparents speak a language other than English. Discuss why language is so important to cultural retention. What does language tell us about cultural values?

Divide the class into several groups to accomplish these tasks:

  1. Research your state to see what Native tribes and languages exist there. Make a poster listing the tribes and extant Native languages. Why do you think the loss of Native American languages is accelerating?
  2. Examine the Native American Languages Acts of 1990 and 1992. Write a summary of the main points of this legislation.
  3. Learn about Ishi, the last speaker of Yana, whose tribe was hunted down and killed by California settlers in the late 19th century. Create a chart listing what is known about the Yana language and how information about it was preserved.
  4. Research how indigenous institutions, organizations, and activists are preserving languages today.

Have the groups present their findings to the class as a whole. Then discuss: What picture emerges of language loss or persistence? How do we know about tribes that did not have a written language? What causes language death? Discuss the impact of language loss on culture. Why should or shouldn't we save languages?

Related video: Native Now: Language segments, including "Language Overview," "Cherokee: Teaching Children", "Shawnee: A Matter of Funding", and "Teaching Nipmuc"

Lastly, have each student pick an area of the world where a language is on the brink of extinction, and put together a status report on that language. Then pick an area of the world where revitalization of a language has been successful, and again summarize the status. Compare the two and present findings to the class and discuss.

Do you agree or disagree with these statements? When the connection to language is severed, cultural values are lost. This inability to communicate cultural values can cause family problems, community problems, and even national problems.

Useful Websites:

Native American Languages Act of 1992

Native Languages of the Americas

Cultural Survival

Indigenous Language Institute

Midwest SOARRING (Save Our Ancestors Remains & Resources Indigenous Network Group) Foundation

National Alliance to Save Native Languages

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Funding Provided by:
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Major Funding by:
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Additional Funding
Provided by:
American Experience