Students learn how the Buffalo Soldiers saved Avery, Idaho from destruction by fire and how their accomplishments positively affected relationships with the townspeople.
This lesson is part of Great States: Idaho | Unit 10: Famous People of Idaho which reflects the rich and diverse history of the state. This culminating unit will enable students to understand how all people, including notable figures, are influenced by the environment in which they live and work.
4.SS.5.1.1: Analyze the roles and relationships of diverse groups of people from various parts of the world who have contributed to Idaho’s cultural heritage and impacted the state’s history.
4.SS.5.1.2: Discuss the challenges experienced by people from various cultural, racial, and religious groups that settled in Idaho from various parts of the world.
- Video: Buffalo Soldiers Fight Fire and Stereotypes
- Map: The Great 1910 Fire
- A smart board, projector, or other type of screen to show videos to class
- Class set of Buffalo Soldiers and the Great 1910 Fire handout
Before class, review the video “Buffalo Soldiers Fight Fires and Stereotypes” and the teaching tips included on the page. Consider incorporating these tips into the lesson below.
Explain they will be watching a short video about a 1910 fire in the Northern Rockies and the soldiers who helped extinguish it. First explain that the word stereotype is a mental picture of attributes held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Tell students that they will learn more about stereotypes in the video.
Show the students the map that will emphasize the enormity of the 1910 fire. Explain that the red areas show where the fire took place.
Provide the handout to the students and ask them to write down as many answers as they can while watching the video.
Play the video, Buffalo Soldiers Fight Fire and Stereotypes [4:26].
Return to the map to show how the town of Avery was right in the middle of a large active area of the fire and how all of the towns affected, like Wallace, could not be saved.
Expand the lesson (30 minutes):
Have students write a newspaper article that describes the fire and includes a description of the Buffalo Soldiers and how they handled the fire.
The drought made the area “tinder dry.” An electrical storm started the fire.
Soldiers from the 25th Infantry; the first African-American men to serve in the peacetime army. It was the first time they fought a fire.
People believed unflattering stereotypes and scoffed at them. Some thought black men couldn’t know about fighting fires.
First the people were evacuated. Then the Buffalo Soldiers saved the town from fire.
They lit a backfire, which stopped the main fire from reaching Avery.
People were grateful. One person said their whole attitude about black people had changed.