Problems in the Southwest

The Southwest Region

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The Southwest Region

Starting with nomadic Native Americans, discover the diverse history of the Southwest. Learn about the Spanish explorers and the southwest as a part of both Spain and Mexico. Witness the events of the Alamo and the victory of Texas independence. Watch the events unfold, bringing this region into the United States and see how it has grown and how the people in this area have retained so much of the culture of years past.

Discover the history of the land and of the people who settled the Southwest Region of the United States.

  1. Students will learn about the Native Americans who inhabited the region. The first tribes to inhabit the region were nomadic. They lived in the vast southwestern desert, and when their food and water ran out, they moved to other places. About 2000 years ago, The Hohokam Tribe settled in the Sonoran Desert. They constructed canals that moved water from its source to their farms and villages. These canals allowed the Hohokam to grow crops of beans, corn, cotton, and squash, and enabled them stay in one place. About 1000 years ago the Anasazi Tribe built cities in the Southwest. They built homes on mesas, canyon floors, and in canyon walls. These homes looked like apartment buildings, with rooms stacked on top of each other. Like the Anasazi before them, the Pueblo Indian built towns. Their homes were constructed of adobe. The Navajo traveled to the southwest from Northern Canada nearly 1000 years ago. When they reached the Southwest, the Navajo changed from hunters to farmers. The Navajo constructed their homes, called logans, by stacking logs on top of each other.
  2. Students will understand the Spanish exploration and settlement of the Southwest. In the 1500's Spanish explorers conquered most of South and Central America and Mexico. Then the Spanish moved north and conquered the areas that are now the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. This area was called "New Mexico."
  3. Students will understand the impact the Conquistadors had on the lives of Native Americans. As the Spanish people colonized the Southwest, they brought sheep, horses, and cattle to the area. By the 1700's Spanish colonists were raising thousands of cattle on large farms called "ranchos." Many native Americans worked on the ranchos as vaqueros. The Spanish people also brought Christianity to the Southwest. Settlements called missions, where priests taught Native Americans about the Christian faith, sprang up in many parts of New Mexico. The natives were also taught the Spanish language and Spanish customs. However, they were forced to work long hours and were exposed to deadly diseases.
  4. Students will learn how the United Sates acquired Texas and the rest of the Southwest. In 1821 Spanish colonists in Mexico won their freedom from Spain. All of the Spanish land in North America became part of Mexico, including the Southwest. However, many American settlers were living in the Southwest, especially in Texas. In order to discourage Americans from moving to Texas, Mexico raised taxes and forced Americans to follow Mexican laws. These actions angered many Texans, so they decided to break away from Mexico and form their own country. This lead to many battles, including the battle at the Alamo. In 1836 Texas defeated the Mexican army and gained independence. Ten years later, Texas became the 28th state in the United States. In 1848 the United States and Mexico were at war. The United States won the war and gained control of the land stretching from Texas to the Pacific Ocean.
  5. Students will understand the effect United States expansionism had on the Native Americans. In 1855 the United States decided to remove the Navajo from the Southwest and force them to live on a small area of land, called a reservation. The Navajo and U.S. fought over land until 1863, when Kit Carson led an army through the Navajo land. The soldiers captured many Navajo people and destroyed their homes and their herds of cattle and sheep. Years later, the United States government sent the Navajo to Dinetah, a 26,000 square mile reservation that covered parts of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
  6. Students will know the various forms of industry that lead to growth in the Southwest Region.
    1. Cattle: In the 1860's the Texas cattle industry boomed. Ranches began selling cattle to the populous Northeast. With the advent of railroads, transporting cattle became easier. Long cattle drives ended, more cattle were shipped to the Northeast, and the industry flourished.
    2. Oil: The Southwest is rich with oil resources, and many oil refineries are located in the region. Crude oil obtained from wells is refined and used as fuel for ships, trains, and automobiles. Oil is also used in the production of many goods, including plastics.
    3. Shipping: In 1914 a waterway was dredged to make the Houston ship canal. It was used to transport goods, including oil products, to the Gulf of Mexico and on to the Northeast.
    4. Technology: In 1945 factories in the Southwest began producing computers and computer chips. Scientists in Los Alamos, New Mexico study nuclear energy. In Houston people study air and space travel at the Johnson Space Center.
  7. Students will understand that industries in the Southwest are responsible for its large population. Four of the country's largest cities are in the Southwest: Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Phoenix. Since these cities are centers for industry, people move to them to obtain jobs.
  8. Students will realize that the large population of the Southwest creates some problems.
    1. Pollution: With a lot of cars on the road, their exhaust causes air pollution
    2. Diminished Resources: Electricity and water are in short supply. In fact, many homes in the southwest do not have lawns because it requires too much water to maintain them.

  1. Ask students to choose one person or group of people in the history of the Southwestern Region that he/she believes made a significant impact on the region. Encourage students to use the video, textbook, and library resources to support their argument. Have each person present his or her argument to the class. If students have opposing views, encourage them to support their views, debate style.
  2. Have students pick one period in the history of the Southwest. Ask them to prepare a journal of the day-to-day activities of someone their age during that period. Include information about school, chores, food, clothing, etc.