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Classroom Activities

THE LAND: Cultures Collide

Bear Butte has long had religious significance for Native Americans who traveled over the plains. According to the Cheyenne, Noavosse (The Good Mountain) was where the Cheyenne prophet, Sweet Medicine received four sacred arrows, four commandments, and a moral code. Here, the Sioux pay tribute to and communicate with their spiritual leader, Wankan Tanka. Today, there are special pathways and ceremonial areas at the Bear Butte State Park that are reserved for those who seek spiritual enlightenment.

Bear Butte became a state park in 1961, but the use of this sacred site is still a point of contention. Native American and White cultures have collided many times in this region of the country on issues related to land ownership and spiritual differences. For example, in 1983, Native American religious leaders sued over improvements to Bear Butte State Park.

Objective: As a result of this activity, students will be able to describe the nature of interactions between different cultural groups with differing beliefs about the use and value of the land.


View the standards correlated with these activities.


Graphic representation (Human Interaction Outline) and report exploring the nature of human interaction in this specific conflict or any other similar conflict.



Videotape of "A Falconer's Memoir" to view prior to beginning activity; information about this specific legal issue; resource information describing cultural conflicts/interactions similar to the one mentioned above; graphic representation tool.

The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory provides graphic organizers.



  • Students will view "A Falconer's Memoir" for background information into the region of Bear Butte and the conflicts between cultures that have gone on there for generations.

Although the video does not provide direct explanations of the spiritual importance of Bear Butte, O’Brien suggests the spiritual implications and his own spiritual relationship to the land. In the opening segment of the program, before the title, O’Brien says everyone has a sacred place – a place where we know we’re home. In the first five minutes of the program he goes one to talk about the relationship between the place, the Indians and the falcons. "I’m not the only one to feel the power of this sacred place (Bear Butte)…I imagine a nest of falcons sitting on their rocky perches watching the tribes assemble."

  • Using this as an example of human interactions, the teacher should bring in examples of other such conflicts from history or current events.

Some examples include:

  1. Kenya's Indigenous Honey Hunters Lose Their Forest Home
  2. Jaffna: Key to the North (history of cultural conflict in Sri Lanka)
  3. In Iran, the Rivers of Reform Run Deep
  4. Conflicts between people who want English to be the official language in the United States and people who think such actions are discriminatory against international populations living in the US.
  5. The Elian Gonzalez issue. (Topic for discussion: How is this issue an example of cultural conflict?)
  6. "The Hmong people, with a total population of about 5 million, have a long history of statelessness and migration. During the last century, groups of Hmong moved from southern China into Indochina and, as war refugees, about 90,000 have come to America in the last thirteen years. The education process for these children in the US communities to which they move is an example of cultural conflict and adjustment patterns which may be found in many other populations in the world.
  • Teachers may wish to use the following web sites for background information on conflict resolution, Native American traditions, Native American spirituality, and Indian-White conflicts:

The Conflict Resolution Process
From "The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution" by Dudley Weeks, PhD, Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. 1992.

American Indian Culture Research Center, Blue Cloud Abbey, Marvin SD
Provides a variety of information on the culture of the American Indian, especially Lakota tribes.

Comprehensive Native American Site Listing As the name implies, this is  a vast resource of other Native American sites.

Native Americans – Internet Resources Part of the Internet School Library Media Center Native American page. Includes bibliographies, directories to pages of individual tribes, history and historical documents, periodicals and general links.

  • After discussion of these events and the underlying factors causing such conflicts, students will individually or in pairs prepare a graphic representation of the Bear Butte conflict or another similar conflict/interaction.
  • The graphic organizer (Human Interaction Outline or similar graphic representation tool) will ask students to frame key questions related to human interaction: Who are the persons or groups? What are their goals? Did these goals conflict or cooperate? What was the outcome for each person or group?
  • After students have completed their graphic organizers, they will take turns presenting their findings to the class, with a short description of the events of the conflict.

United States History Standard 31:

Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States.


Level II (5-6):

Understands influences on religion in contemporary society.

Understands aspects of contemporary American culture.

Understands contemporary issues concerning gender and ethnicity.

Level III (7-8):

Understands various influences on American culture.

Understands how different groups attempted to achieve their goals.

Level IV (9-12):

Understands major contemporary social issues and the groups involved.

Behavioral Studies Standard 4

Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions.


Level III (6-8):

Understands that being a member of a group can increase an individual's social power

and also can increase hostile actions toward or from other groups or individuals.

Level IV (9-12):

Understands that conflict between people or groups may arise from competition over ideas, resources, power, and/or status.

Understands that conflicts are especially difficult to resolve in situations in which there are few choices and little room for compromise.


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