Teach PA History
Explore PA History
Today We Encountered the White Man
Equipment & Supplies
  • Overhead projector Access to computer resources and the internet

Day One

For pre-class preparation, go to Discovering Lewis and Clark: A Jefferson Peace Medal and The Lewis and Clark Journey of Discovery: Peace Medals to learn about the Jefferson Peace Medal. Then begin class by showing as an overhead Image 1: Jefferson Peace Medal. Pass out Worksheet 1: Analyzing an Artifact and have students take 15 minutes to analyze the peace medal and answer the questions. When completed, go over the answers, particularly those discussing the uses and context of the artifact. Explain that these silver medals were minted during the Jefferson administration and were similar in concept to the less popular previously-minted Washington Season medals and those of other countries. The Jefferson medals, however, incorporated symbols of peace (the peace pipe or calumet over the tomahawk), friendship (handshake), and goodwill from the United States government (Jefferson's likeness). They were given to Indian tribal leaders according to their perceived rank–the more important the person's position in the tribe, the larger the medal that was given. During the Lewis and Clark Expedition at least eighty-nine of these medals (in various sizes) were carried with the party, and all but one was handed out. The medals were sometimes received with the peaceful intent they were given, but not always. Sometimes they were misused. Sometimes they were misunderstood. Explain to the students that they will be researching several tribes the Lewis and Clark Corps encountered during expedition. Have them note if any member or members of the tribe they study received a peace medal.

Have students work in groups of five. Give each group one of the following tribes: (There are more tribes listed than will be covered by a 30-student class. Choose among these tribes.)

  • Blackfoot

  • Chinooks

  • Hidatsas

  • Mandans

  • Missouri

  • Nez Perces

  • Oto

  • Shoshones

  • Walla Walla

  • Yankton Sioux

After students have their selected tribe, explain that each group member will be responsible for researching and writing one page on one of the following ethnographic characteristics of their tribe:

  • food and clothing

  • housing and geography/landscape

  • medicine and spiritual life

  • relationship to other tribes/contact with Europeans

  • recreational activities and family structure

They may begin research in class and complete the assignment for homework due the following day. For suggested weblinks for their assignment, students can visit the student resource section of this lesson plan.

Day Two

Each group will now have a five-page paper on their tribe as their own resource. Pass out Handout 1: Timeline of the Lewis and Clark Journey (adapted from PBS online). This timeline was created to highlight some of the encounters the Corps had with different tribes. Have each group read the timeline to glean approximate dates of the Corps" encounter with the tribe they have researched.

After students have an idea of these dates, direct them to The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Have your students then discover and read the entries in which the Corps interacts with their groups. (Note: If computers are unavailable for student use, you can skip the student exploration of journal entries, and simply provide the specific entry you would like each group to use. Prepare the entries after class the first day.) Have each group choose one entry they feel reveals the most about their tribe and their interaction with the explorers. Confirm that they have chosen an appropriate entry.

Point out that the journal entries represent Lewis" or Clark's perspective of these encounters. Since many of the Indian tribes did not have written languages, we are less fortunate in retaining their perspective of the events which occurred. However, using the material they have researched about their tribe, direct the students to rewrite the journal entry they have chosen from the perspective of an individual of the tribe. In the journal entry, they should incorporate at least one piece of information about each of the ethnographic categories they had researched on the tribe: food and clothing, housing and geography/landscape, medicine and spiritual life, relationship to other tribes/contact with Europeans, and recreational activities and family structure. If necessary, students may use writers" liberties to incorporate this information when it is not explicitly mentioned in their chosen journal entry.

At the end of class, collect both the 5-page research paper and the new journal entry for assessment. (If extra time is needed, the journal entry may be completed for homework.)

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