Native Peoples


  • The Pilgrims: Alliance with Massasoit’s People and the First Thanksgiving

    Discover what led Massasoit, the leader of one Wampanoag village, to form an alliance with the Plymouth colony and learn about the harvest feast now called the "First Thanksgiving," in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Pilgrims. In March 1621, a Native man named Samoset entered Plymouth and greeted the Pilgrims in English. Six days later, he returned to Plymouth with Massasoit and 60 armed men. Massasoit and Governor John Carver concluded an alliance of mutual defense. During the late summer or early fall, 52 colonists and some 90 Wampanoags celebrated Plymouth’s first successful harvest. 

    Click on the links below to download a customizable student handout, video transcript, and links to related content.

    Student HandoutTranscript | Related Links

    See Support Materials for Teaching Tips. This resource is part of the American Experience: The Pilgrims collection.

    Grades: 2-5
  • The Pilgrims: European Plague in Native New England, 1616-1619

    Hear from Native historians about epidemics that devastated the Northeast coast before the Mayflower arrived, in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Pilgrims. In 1616, devastating diseases carried by European fishermen and traders swept down the Maine coast into Massachusetts. In some affected Native communities, between 50 and 90 percent of the population died. Tisquantum, a Wampanoag man kidnapped from the village of Patuxet in 1614, returned five years later to find it empty. The few survivors lived in other communities. When the Pilgrims arrived, they judged Patuxet’s desolation to be “God’s providence” and settled there.

    Click on the links below to download a customizable student handout and a video transcript.

    Student Handout | Transcript

    See Support Materials for Teaching Tips and links to related materials. This resource is part of the American Experience: The Pilgrims collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Trail of Tears

    In this video segment adapted from American Experience: "We Shall Remain," reenactments help tell the story of how the Cherokee people were forced from their lands in the southeast. The U.S. government initially promised the Cherokee and other Native American tribes that if they could assimilate into European Americans lifestyles, they would be considered equals. But a new movement in the late 1820s, supported by President Andrew Jackson, promoted removal of Native Americans from the eastern U.S. The Indian Removal Act, passed in 1830, called for the tribes to leave peacefully. Feeling that removal from their own lands was not an option, the vast majority of people stayed. When the deadline to leave passed, federal troops and state militia forcefully assembled the Cherokee people, letting them take nothing but the clothes on their backs, and made them march an 850-mile trek to new lands. Many died on this march, known as the Trail of Tears, which lasted through one of the hardest winters the region had ever experienced.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Bayonet Constitution

    In this video from American Experience, witness the events of 1887 that limited the power of Hawaiian King David Kalakaua. By then, most of the wealth of Hawai‘i was in the hands of the owners of sugar plantations, descendants of American missionaries who had come to the islands earlier in the century. A secret league of landowners, joined by an armed militia, forced the king to sign what he called "The Bayonet Constitution," making him a puppet ruler and giving them a greater say in the government. Soon afterward, Kalakaua had to sign a reciprocity agreement with the U.S. government, allowing the U.S. to establish a permanent naval base at Pearl Harbor.

    Grades: 8-12
  • The Overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani

    Learn about the causes and the aftermath of the coup d'état of January 1893 that overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy, in this video from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Hawaii's Last Queen. Find out how the "Committee of Safety," a secret group organized by white sugar plantation owners, businessmen, and descendants of missionaries, set up a provisional government to replace the Hawaiian monarchy. Defying U.S. President Grover Cleveland, their ultimate goal was to overthrow Queen Lili‘uokalani and seek annexation of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States.

    Grades: 8-12
  • The Cherokee Alphabet

    Learn about the story of Sequoyah, a Cherokee man who developed an alphabet for the Cherokee language in 1821, in this video segment adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: “We Shall Remain.” Like most Native American groups at the time, the Cherokees did not have a written language. Sequoyah’s alphabet helped preserve the Cherokee language and Cherokee culture, especially after the Cherokees were forced to leave their native land by the 1830 Indian Removal Act.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Sitting Bull and the Lakotas' Last Stand

    In this video adapted from American Experience, learn about Sitting Bull, the charismatic leader of the Lakota Sioux Nation. Sitting Bull had already been acknowledged for his bravery and spirituality for over a decade when he led his forces to victory in the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand. The victory was short-lived, however, as U.S. forces quickly decimated the Indians and Sitting Bull was forced to retreat to Canada. This resource is part of the American Experience collection.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • General Custer and the Washita

    This video adapted from American Experience documents the early career of General George Custer. While he was a poor student at West Point, Custer's desire to make a name for himself made him one of the Union's most celebrated generals in the Civil War. His postwar exploits in the Kansas Territory, where he led the Washita massacre, also earned him renown as an "Indian fighter." This resource is part of the American Experience collection.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Grand Coulee Dam - Photo Gallery: The Colville Indians

    Since 1872, when it was created, the Colville Indian Reservation struggled to maintain itself and resist the destructive impact of the American government on their land. View this gallery from American Experience: "Grand Coulee Dam."

    Grades: 9-12
  • Transcontinental Railroad - Interview: Native Americans

    Learn how the historian, Donald Fixico talks about early Native American society, the impact of white settlement, the near-extinction of the American buffalo, and more in this interview from American Experience: "Transcontinental Railroad."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Iron Road - Teacher's Guide

    Follow the construction of the transcontinental railroad and explore its impact on Native Americans and more with this teacher's guide from American Experience: "The Iron Road."

    Grades: 9-12
  • U.S. Grant: Warrior - Biography: Winfield Scott

    Examine General Winfield Scott's role in the Mexican American War and the displacement of Native Americans, with this biography from American Experience: "U.S. Grant - Warrior."

    Grades: 9-12
  • Transcontinental Railroad - Teacher's Resources: Teacher's Guide

    Travel the route between Iowa and California, explore the consequences of manifest destiny, and investigate conflicts between Native Americans and white settlers -- all in this teacher's guide from American Experience: "Transcontinental Railroad."

    Grades: 9-12
  • Transcontinental Railroad - Photo Gallery: Building the Transcontinental Railroad

    View settlers, Native Americans, Mormons, and workers who contributed to and were affected by the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Learn more with this gallery from American Experience: "Transcontinental Railroad."

    Grades: 9-12
  • Custer's Last Stand - Photo Gallery: Lt. Col. George Custer

    Learn about the aggressive policies of the government and army of the U.S. towards the Native Americans of the American West with this gallery of General George Custer's life and times, from American Experience: "Custer's Last Stand."

    Grades: 9-12
  • Transcontinental Railroad - Primary Resources: Reports From the End of the Track

    Learn about the progress of the transcontinental railroad throughout its construction, from American Experience: "Transcontinental Railroad."

    Grades: 9-12
  • Transcontinental Railroad - Timeline

    Explore a timeline about the development of the American railroad, from American Experience: "Transcontinental Railroad."

    Grades: 9-12
  • New York: The Center of the World - Primary Resources: Skyscrapers and Oysters

    Learn about oystering and Native American skyscraper builders, from American Experience: "New York: The Center of the World."

    Grades: 9-12
  • U.S. Grant: Warrior - Biography: Red Cloud

    A political leader and a fierce warrior, Red Cloud, chief of the Oglala Sioux, fought unsuccessfully to save his people and their land from being seized by whites. Born in 1822 in what was then Nebraska Territory, Red Cloud was named Mahpiua-Luta at birth. He became a chief after showing leadership and bravery in battles against the Oglala's traditional enemies, the Pawnees, Crows, Utes, and Shoshones. He also divided the Oglala by killing the rival of his uncle, another tribal leader. Learn more with this biography from American Experience: "U.S. Grant - Warrior."

    Grades: 9-12
  • What Was the Occupation of Wounded Knee?

    On February 27, 1973, 200 Native Americans, mainly members of the militant American Indian Movement, occupied Wounded Knee, South Dakota, site of the last Indian Wars massacre. Video from American Experience: “We Shall Remain: Wounded Knee.”

    Grades: 6-13+

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