How to Teach the History of Native American Assimilation

Assimilation of Native Americans Stations Activity

Did you know that a recent report found that 87% of state history standards make no mention of Native American history after 1900? This is a problem. Native American history is American history. I've found that some textbooks will simply have one sidebar with a quick gloss over of the assimilation of Native Americans, yet there is so much to this history that we can't overlook. A few years ago, I set out to create a resource to use with my students, and I want to share that with you.

Use Primary Sources

Through these primary source analysis stations, my students gained an understanding of the assimilation of Native Americans in the United States following the Civil War, due to the use of Indian boarding schools.

Through readings, photographs, and interviews, I had my students analyze primary sources to learn the laws and history surrounding the schools in the United States, as well understand the negative impact these government instituted school experiences had on Native American children and their families.

Building Background Information

I needed to build some background knowledge, because simply reading a textbook sidebar is not enough. So before sending my students out to the stations, we went through an introductory reading passage together. You could assign this as nightly reading, but it was helpful to begin with this passage and have a chance to discuss and allow students to ask questions. The reality is that the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978, but most boarding schools didn't close until the 1980's and early 1990's.