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        Idaho | Activity 3.3: American Indians and Homesteaders

        Unit 3: American Indians

        In this Unit, students will learn about the indigenous peoples who inhabited what became the state of Idaho long before the arrival of other groups. Although the arrival of white explorers came relatively late, their impact was profound and continues to reverberate in the lives of tribal people today.


        Lesson Summary

        Students watch a video and study a primary source poster about the relationship between Homesteaders and American Indians. Students learn of the impact of land treaties in the 1800s. Students then write an editorial from the perspective of either a homesteader or American Indian of the time.

        Standards: 4.SS.2.3.2 Discuss the impact of settlement in Idaho on American Indian tribal lands, such as aboriginal and/or ceded territories, and the Treaties of 1855 and 1863. 4.SS.3.1.5 Explain the concept of public and private property in the development of Idaho.

        Time Allotment

        45 minutes



        1. Tell students they will be watching a short video about the relationship between homesteaders and American Indians. Explain that it quotes a primary source that uses a racial slur. The term “redskins” is no longer acceptable to use.

        1. Play the video, Homesteading Displaced Native Americans [1:50].

        1. Project or hand out to students the following US government poster from 1911.


        1. Explain to students that the Treaties of 1855 and 1863 ceded land from the American Indians to the US government. The Treaty of 1855 established a 7.5 million acre reservation for the Nez Perce. But gold was discovered in their land, and prospectors wanted access to it. The Treaty of 1863 reduced the Nez Perce reservation size by 90%.


        Explain to your class that an editorial differs from an article in a newspaper. An article is based on facts, interviews, and other verifiable material. An editorial is an opinion piece on a topical issue. It is subjective and not solely based on facts.

        Divide the class in half. Have every student write a brief newspaper editorial about American Indian lands for sale to homesteaders or settlers in a year of your choosing between 1864 and 1915. One half of the class should write from the perspective of a person of European descent writing the editorial for a city newspaper, such as in Boise, Idaho Falls, Coeur d’Alene, or Lewiston. The other half of the class should write from the perspective of an American Indians writing about their land being taken away and sold.

        Discussion Questions:

        1. How did the Treaties of 1855 and 1863 affect American Indian populations in Idaho?

        2. How did the treaties affect settlers?

        3. Do you think the Nez Perce and other American Indians were treated fairly? Why or why not?

        Answer Key

        1. Reduced their land, drove them from their homes, and the discovery of gold led to 1863’s treaty limiting their land further.

        2. Expanded land for Homesteaders, allowed more areas to prospect for gold.

        3. Answers will vary


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