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History 1: The student examines and understands major ideas, eras, themes, developments, turning points, chronology, and cause and effect relationships in US, world and Washington State History.
History 2: The student applies the methods of social science investigation to investigate, compare and contrast interpretations of historical events.
History 3: The student understands the origin and impact of ideas and technological developments on history and social change.

GRADE LEVEL: Secondary

BASIC CONCEPTS: American society/culture and the role of stereotypes and bias.

ORGANIZING GENERALIZATION: The question to be examined is; how do we know what we know? From textbooks, family, friends, or media? Just where do our opinions come from? Stereotypes about American Indian people and cultures have been so deeply ingrained in our learning for so long that we often cannot separate the real from the unreal. They are not only degrading and humiliating but add fuel to the fire of racism and prejudice. Our society can no long afford to carry on attitudes and ideas that are not based in fact. We must use the classroom to replace age-old attitudes and show students a clearer, less biased image of American Indian people and their cultures.

CULTURE AREA: Relative to all areas of the US, world and Washington State.

TIME PERIOD: Contemporary

BACKGROUND: This lesson should begin the unit on American Indians and is meant to be a means for all students to become consciously aware of the preconceived ideas/bias/prejudice that we all have. The concept is for us to become aware of the role that textbooks, family viewpoints, and the media have on the general public.


Knowledge Students will: (History 1.3) examine the influence of culture on US, world, and Washington State history, (History 2.2) analyze historical information, and (History 3.2) analyze how historical conditions shape ideas and how ideas change over time.

Skills Students will: learn to recognize bias and stereotypes in textbooks, media representations, and ill-informed representations.

Values Students will: examine and discuss historical contributions to US society of various individuals and groups from different cultural, racial, and linguistic backgrounds; separate fact from conjecture; discern bias; separate relevant from irrelevant information in persuasive materials; distinguish verifiable information; and compare the meaning of ideas in different places and cultures.

ACTIVITIES: (Pre-Assessment) Ask the following questions of the class;

  • What do you know about American Indians?
  • Where did you get your information/opinion from?
  • What information did you get from school (textbooks)? What type of
  • lessons/activities did you have?
  • What did you learn about Columbus, Thanksgiving, Custer?
  • Whose viewpoint was most represented?
  • How do movies, books and newspapers represent American Indian people?

(Stereotypes) Read the page included in this lesson, Stereotypes and Realities, aloud to the class. Discuss and analyze each of the statements and compare what the students opinions are in relation to each of the statements.

EXTENSIONS: Research the change in the portrayal of American Indians in movies by watching old "cowboy/John Wayne" movies, the movie "Little Big Man", and the movies" Smoke Signals" or "Pow-Wow Highway". Papers can be focused on any stereotypical portrayal of minorities, and can be used in compare and contrast, expository writing, analytical writing, etc.

EVALUATION: By discussing the influence that school lessons, opinions of friends and family, and the portrayals in the media have on us all, we may come to better understand why we believe the way that we do. Even if the students only seem to "get" a few of the concepts a bit clearer and less biased, then it has been successful.


included in this lesson packet- Stereotypes and Realities -adapted from American Indians: Stereotypes And Realities by Devon Mihesuah, 1996, Clarity Press: Atlanta, Georgia -also use Appendix A - Do's and Don'ts for Teachers and Parents, p. 119

Available from OSPI- Department of Indian Education -American Indian Stereotypes . . .the Truth Behind the Hype -Esther Stutzman

Shadows of the Indian: Stereotypes in American culture -Raymond William Stedman, 1982, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Ok.

Language of Oppression -Haig A. Bosmajian ,1983, University Press of American, Inc., Lanham, MD. -Chapter 4 - The Language of Indian Derision

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