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        Idaho | Activity 6.2: Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Speaks for the Indians

        Students review and answer questions about a Nez Perce chief’s various speeches he gave in the mid 1800s in order to gain insight into how the United States government and white settlers were affecting American Indian lives. 

        Lesson Summary

        Students review and answer questions about a Nez Perce chief’s various speeches he gave in the mid 1800s in order to gain insight about how the US government and white settlers were affecting American Indian lives. 

        This lesson is part Great States: Idaho | Unit 6: Settling Idaho which examines the resources, opportunities and freedoms that lured different groups to Idaho. Emphasis will be placed on how the arrival of newcomers presented challenges to those already settled in territory.

        Time Allotment

        15 minutes

        Learning Objectives


        4.SS.1.2.4: Analyze and describe the effects of westward expansion and subsequent federal policies on Idaho's American Indian tribes.

        4.SS.2.3.2: Discuss the impact of colonization on American Indian tribal lands in Idaho, such as aboriginal and/or ceded territories, and the Treaties of 1855 and 1863.

        Supplemental Standards:

        Boise District 413.19: Analyze and describe how the westward expansion impacted the American Indians in Idaho.


        • Class set of Chief Joseph’s Speeches I, II, III, IV
        • A projector


        1. Choose one or more of the excerpts from speeches made by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce as he attempts to explain to the white people and the government of the United States and how he feels about how the Nez Perce have been mistreated. Presenting a combination of the speeches helps to give a well-rounded snapshot of the effects the US government and settlers had on American Indians. Either project the PDFs or print them and distribute as a handout to the class. ( IIIIIIIV  [PDF] )

          (PBS: The West: Chief Joseph's speeches)

          If you want to discuss:

          1. The original peaceful relationship between the tribe and white explorers, the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, choose Speech I.

          2. The negative relationship that came about between incoming white settlers and the Nez Perce, choose Speech II.

          3. The unfortunate and disturbing aftermath of the wars between American Indians and white settlers, choose Speech III, part of Chief Joseph’s surrender at the Battle of Bear Paw.

          4. The attitude the Nez Perce held towards the US government, choose Speech IV.

        2. Depending on which passage(s) you choose, have your students answer the appropriate questions from among the following listed below. If distributed as a hand out, or even projected to the class, encourage students to underline words or phrases to help them find the answer:

          1. Explain the relationship between the Nez Perce and the Corps of Discovery.
          2. What is Chief Joseph’s impression of the white settlers that came to Idaho?
          3. What were the American Indians fighting for? How must they have felt in the aftermath of these battles?
          4. What is Chief Joseph’s attitude about the US government?

        Answer Key

        1. Peaceful; trusting of each other; shared food and exchanged gifts; made and kept promises to each other

        2. Lawless; thieves; untrustworthy; insensitive to the value of the land

        3. Respect and land. American Indians felt terrible; they had lost almost everything.

        4. They make promises but take no action to help as promised; they do not treat the American Indians as they treat other men

        Expand the lesson (15 minutes):

        Have your students design a project that they would carry out to assist the American Indians in Idaho. The goal is to improve relationships between American Indians and settlers by building trust through word and deed.



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