Students watch videos about the Lewis and Clark expedition, and learn the importance of salmon and other environmental connections for the Native Peoples. They then answer questions related to the interaction of Europeans and Native Peoples.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Unit 4: Early Explorers & Fur Trade." In this unit, students will explore how exploration and the fur trade impacted the Native Peoples and set the region on a path toward statehood.
4.9: Explain the influence of Oregon and the Northwest’s physical systems on humans, including Native Americans.
4.1: Identify and describe historic Native American Indian groups that lived in Oregon prior to contact with Europeans and at the time of early European exploration, including ways these groups adapted to and interacted with the physical environment.
- Video: Moments in Time: Down the Columbia
- Video: Moments in Time: Arrival of the Salmon
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
Tell students they will be watching two videos about Lewis and Clark’s encounters with salmon in Oregon. The life cycle of salmon begins with hatching in the fresh waters of Oregon’s many rivers. Some species swim directly down the river and out to sea, while others spend a year or two more in fresh water. Eventually, all the species head to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, where they spend one- to seven years. When it is time to spawn, the salmon swim back upriver, almost always to the very streams where they were born. Here, in winter, they spawn, then die. The migration from the ocean up the rivers is called the “salmon run.” Most species of salmon in Oregon migrate over the course of around one month in the fall, but a few types of salmon begin their migration in spring, spending nearly eight months swimming up the river to their spawning grounds. Thus, salmon runs can be observed in both spring and fall, as was the case for Lewis and Clark. The first video dramatizes William Clark’s journal entries from October 17, 1805. The second dramatizes journal entries by Meriwether Lewis from April 19 and April 22, 1806, and April 29, 1806, by William Clark. In both accounts, they witnessed salmon returning to spawn in the Columbia River.
Play the video, Moments in Time: Down the Columbia. [1:07]
Play the video, Moments in Time: Arrival of the Salmon. [1:07]
Have students answer the following questions as a class discussion:
The second video says that the first caught salmon was “a harbinger of good news” for the Native Peoples. What did Meriwether Lewis mean by this statement?
Why were all the dead salmon on the riverbanks shown in the first video a good thing?
What did Lewis and Clark learn about how the Native Peoples venerated (respected) their elders?
It meant that the first salmon was a signal that they could expect the arrival of great quantities of salmon about five days later. [Arrival 0:22]
It meant that the men didn’t have to fish. The Native Peoples only had to pick them up to split them up and dry. [Columbia 0:23]
The elders were revered for their long life, wisdom, and status in the tribe. Other members paid attention to the elders, who were offered the best positions in the lodge. [Columbia 0:44]