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        North Dakota | Activity 3.3: American Indian Land - Then and Now

        Students identify and label contemporary American Indian Reservations on the map. In addition, they label the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) and Lake Sakakawea.

        Lesson Summary

        Students identify and label contemporary American Indian Reservations on the map. In addition, they label the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) and Lake Sakakawea.

        This lesson is part of "Great States | North Dakota Unit 3: American Indians", where students will determine how American Indians were able to thrive before the arrival of Europeans in North Dakota.


        Time Allotment

        15 minutes

        Learning Objectives


        4.4.3: Identify the characteristics of a sovereign nation in terms of tribal government in North Dakota

        4.1.1: Interpret and compare maps (e.g., political, physical, thematic) of North Dakota 



        1. Project the North Dakota Tribal Lands image to students. Explain that before European and American settlers arrived to the area, these were the rough boundaries of where various American Indian tribes lived. American Indians did not believe in “owning land” in the modern definition; they lived where resources made it habitable, sometimes traveling to other areas based on seasons and weather patterns. So when European settlers discovered the area and began claiming the land as their own, American Indians felt pressure to solidify their right to occupy land or face the consequences of removal or relocation. Eventually, American Indians agreed to terms on treaties, which designated land for tribal nations and established sovereignty for its people.

        2. Distribute the American Indian Reservations of North Dakota handout to students and project the North Dakota American Indian Reservations image. Explain to students that the colored areas are the lands that American Indians now inhabit. Ask students to label the names of the reservations on their worksheet after studying the projected image.

        3. Project the two images, North Dakota Tribal Lands (then) and North Dakota American Indian Reservations (now) next to one another. If this is not possible, print the two out (in color) in order to compare side by side. Ask students to explain the differences they see between then and now. [American Indians once occupied the entire state, using the land as needed. Now, they are limited to negotiated reservation lands.]

        4. Explain that the tribal nations of North Dakota have government systems in place to protect its people and represent the American Indians’ needs. There are similarities between tribal government and state government. Tell students they will be watching a video about North Dakota’s government and ask them to pay attention to the relationship between tribal and state governments. They can make notes on the back of their handouts.

        1. Play the video, Great States | North Dakota Government [3:52].

        1. Discuss with students what they learned about state and tribal governments. Ask students to recall the similarities and differences mentioned in the video, and provide additional information comparing the two:

          1. They both have branches of government with divided responsibilities. The state government is modeled on the Federal government. For both state and federal, the US constitution calls for three branches of government: the executive, legislative, and judicial.

          2. Legislators in tribal nations are elected by tribal council, not in general elections like the state holds.

          3. The tribal governments have sovereignty, which is a nation or state’s ability to rule itself without outside interference. The United States is also a sovereign nation, but states are not. States have government systems, but ultimately have to follow federal laws as well.

          4. Tribal departments work to meet the needs of the community and to protect and conserve the natural resources of the land.


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