American Indians of the West

Object Type: Video Clip
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American Indians of the West

First contact with American Indians out West came on many fronts. The Spanish encountered the Chumash on the California coast. Centuries later French fur traders met the Nez Perce on the Northwestern plateaus. In this video, students will uncover the mysteries of the Makah whalers in an archeological dig. They will be introduced to the unique way of life of the Miwok tribe and discover the impact of the Gold Rush of 1849 on them and all the Native Peoples of California. The concept of tribal self-government in today's American Indian nations is also included.

Enjoy this brief introduction to Native Americans in the West through folk tales, where they lived, how they lived with each other and how they live today.

  1. Students will gain a greater understanding of the contributions of different groups of American Indians from the West.
  2. Students will realize the importance of culture, storytelling, arts, and the respect for nature in different American Indian groups.
  3. Students will understand how the cultures of those groups of people impacted their ability to thrive during the times of European settlement.
  4. Students will understand the nature of the historical conflicts between European heritage settlers and the Native Americans of the West.

  1. Make a Totem Pole. Ask students to think of a message, a story, or a lesson that they would like to relate to others. Have students create a totem pole using the medium of their choice (carve soap, paint on paper, etc – ask students to be creative). Ask each student to write down what each part of their totem pole symbolizes and explain it to the class or in a small group.
  2. Cause and Effect. In this video, the effects of different groups of settlers were discussed. Ask students to compare the treatment of the different American Indian groups by both the Spanish settlers and European Americans coming from within the United States. Students can work individually or in small groups to make a chart showing the effect of each group of settlers on American Indians. Which groups fared better? What were the intentions of the settlers? Did the intentions of the settlers have a different effect on each tribe they encountered?