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        Montana | Activity 3.3: Tribal Government

        Students watch a video about tribal government, including the branches of government and the positions and responsibilities of tribal representatives. They then create a diagram of a tribal government.

        Lesson Summary

        Students watch a video about tribal government. They learn about the branches of government and the positions and responsibilities of tribal representatives. Students diagram a tribal government.

        This lesson is part of "Great States: Montana | Unit 3: American Indians" where students will investigate how American Indians were able to thrive before the arrival of Europeans and learn about their current concerns.

        Time Allotment

        20 minutes

        Learning Objectives


        2.1: Explain the purpose and various levels of government.

        2.2: Recognize local, state, tribal and federal governments and identify representative leaders at these levels (e.g., mayor, governor, chairperson, president).

        2.3: Identify the major responsibilities of local, state, tribal, and federal government.



        1. Tell students they will be watching a video about how tribal government is both similar to, and different from, the US government. There is not one set structure that all tribal governments follow, but there are patterns. Tribal governments have a long history and reflect many traditions. The video will highlight these patterns and traditions.

        1. Distribute the Tribal Government handout to students. Instruct students to take notes on the structure of tribal government on the back of their handout. Explain to students that at one point in the video, the structure of one woman’s tribal government is described. The purpose of their handout is for them to diagram the structure she describes. (The key part of the video that explains this structure is from [3:18–4:18].)

        1. Play the video: Indian Pride, Government Structure, Part 1. [5:42]

          Give students time to complete the diagram of the three branches of tribal government on the handout. It might be necessary to replay the key section of the video [3:18–4:18] in order for students to capture all of the information.

        1. Reconvene and go over the structure. Be sure to note once again that while this is a common approach in tribal governments, not all tribal governments are set up this way or follow the same pattern. One example of a difference in tribal governments mentioned in the video is that some nations elect officials while other nations appoint their officials. Make sure to restate the idea of “sovereignty” and the fact that tribal governments do not fall under the US government. They are separate governmental entities; sovereignty gives American Indian nations the right to govern themselves.

        Answer Key

        See Tribal Government Answer Key for Graphic Organizer answers.


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