Students watch a short video about the Sioux Indians in which they are described as “the freest people the world has ever known.” They then consider different definitions of the word “liberty” by analyzing founding documents of both the United States and the state of Idaho.
Standard: 4.1: Build an understanding of the foundational principles of the American political system, understand that all people in the United States have rights and assume responsibilities, and the evolution of democracy.
- A projector
- Teacher Resource: The Different Meaning of Liberty projections
- Video: Living with the Land
- A smart board, projector, or other type of screen to show videos to class
- Define the term nomad (a member of a people having no permanent home, and who travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for their livestock).Tell students they will be watching a two-minute video about the Sioux Indians.
Play the video, Living with the Land [2:10].
- The historian Steven Ambrose describes the Sioux Indians living in the land we now think of as the Western United States as “the freest people the world has every known.” What did Ambrose meant by this statement?
- Indicate that liberty is a concept similar to freedom. The following are two definitions of liberty that should be projected or written on a board:
- the state of being free from unfair rules and restrictions imposed by government or other authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.
- the power or scope to act as one pleases.
- Ask students to explain which definition is more fitting to describe the life of the Sioux prior to European settlement. (The first definition is more apt, as the Indians lived within the bounds of tribal norms and expectations.) Then, ask for examples of where they’ve heard the word “liberty” used in American symbols or documents. (Possible answers include the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, the word “LIBERTY” on the face of the quarter, in the Declaration of Independence, and in the US Constitution.)
- Next, show or project the following phrase from the Declaration of Independence and from the Preamble to the United States Constitution:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
- Again, ask which of the two given definitions of “liberty” are implied in these documents (Clearly the first definition). Next, project this passage from Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution of the State of Idaho. Download projections.
All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety.
- Ask students to speculate why the Idaho Constitution, written in 1889, uses the words “defending,” “protecting,” and “securing.” Why might the writers of this document have thought that “inalienable rights” were in need of defense, protection, and securing? (Answers will vary. Idaho had experienced a great deal of conflict by this point; the United States had fought the Civil War; the right to bear arms is written into the Idaho Constitution perhaps indicating a deeply held sense of threat.)
- To conclude the lesson, have students reflect on their own liberty. What freedoms and limitations do they experience in school? What about at home?