Many people have had to overcome obstacles in order to take advantage of the opportunities in America. For years, immigrants, Chicanos, African Americans, Native Americans (Indians) and other minorities have experienced discrimination in schooling and in the kinds of jobs open to them. “Black Power,” “Power to the People,” “Women’s Lib,” “Generation Gap,” are slogans used to reflect the strength and unity of certain groups seeking equality and justice in the American society. Therefore, to hear “Red Power” is inevitable in describing the movement for change of Native Americans.
For almost five hundred years, Native Americans have been struggling for their land, their means of livelihood, their organizations, their beliefs, their way of life, their personal security, their freedom, their right to exist. Those who are here today after generations have been oppressed are seeking ways to reform the American society.
Americans have become more aware of the status and needs of all minorities due in part to the struggle of African Americans. Native Americans for the most part do not like to be associated with the Civil Rights Movement, but are using the language and methods promoted by African Americans to gain equality and justice. This has resulted in a new interest in Native Americans.
Native Americans are learning how to communicate with non-Indians so that they will listen and understand. Native American organizations are becoming stronger and more practiced in the use of media. With the help of individual tribes and their leaders, they are pushing forth their goals of change. They are demanding and receiving the attention of non-Indians.
In 1964, some patronizing whites took a group of Native Americans to New York. The purpose was for the Native Americans to tell the press of the problems on the reservations. The Native Americans were young and college educated. Also, they were tired of the treatment they were receiving. They were part of a new organization, the National Indian Youth Council. They criticized their elders and those who patronized them. They demanded that Native Americans should have power over all of their affairs.
Clyde Warrior, a Ponca; Melvin Thom, a Navada Paiute; Herbert Blatchford, a Navajo; Bruce Wilkie, a Makah from Washington State; and others started a revolution. They threw away dependence on their conquerors and oppressors who gave them citizenship to their own land in 1924. They were loud and articulate in asking all Native Americans to look inward at the values and strengths of their own people on their own terms.
Red Power symbolizes the determination and the patriotic struggle for freedom from injustice and oppression. Its numbers are increasing. Its goals are much the same as decades before, except it now demands. It insists on the right of Native Americans to set up programs and policies for themselves, to govern themselves and to control their land and resources.
At a time when activists were demanding massive reforms in American society, Native Americans turned more to militant action. They organized demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, fish-ins and confrontations with government officials to meet their demands.
In November of 1969, Native Americans of many tribes took over the abandoned government prison on the island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. They declared themselves as political “exiles” and demanded the establishment of an educational and cultural center that would serve as a focal point for all Native Americans. Despite two winters, Alcatraz was occupied. The federal government negotiated with the Native Americans and charged them with illegal action; the government made no attempt to meet their demands. In 1971, federal agents evicted the demonstrators from Alcatraz. “War of Attrition” ended.
There were other battlegrounds. In Washington, an organization led by Hank Adams, known as Survival of Americans Indians, invited a fish-in. The group was protesting the State of Washington’s restriction of the right of Native Americans to fish with nets on non-reservation land.
The Washington State fish-ins reached a climax when Hank Adams was severely wounded from behind by a White man during a demonstration in 1970. Demonstrators brought the Native American demands to the attention of the public, but did not bring about huge changes that leaders thought were desperately needed.
In February of 1973, Native American activists took control of the historic village on the Pine Ridge Reservation—Wounded Knee, South Dakota. They proclaimed their secession of the village from the United States. Reactions to the occupation were mixed. Some called the militants a “bunch of renegades” and “headline-hunters.” Some complained that the occupation resulted in destruction of property, loss of income and work-stoppage on federally funded home construction. Many supported the militants and traveled from all parts of the United States to help voice the need for change.
The siege of Wounded Knee continued throughout the spring of 1973. Hundreds of federal law enforcement officers were sent into the area. An FBI agent was wounded and two Native Americans were killed during gunfire. The government prevented food and medicine from reaching the occupants. Finally, on May 8, 1973, the militants agreed to a settlement.
Even though indicted for their part in the occupation of Wounded Knee, Russel Means and Dennis Banks continued to fight for the recognition of Native American treaty rights and the reorganization of tribal governments. In September of 1974, all federal charges were dropped against Means and Banks. The Justice Department was accused of concealing evidence, mishandling witnesses and illegal use of military force to end the 1973 occupation. This was regarded as a victory for the Native Americans.
No single person or organization speaks for Native Americans. A number of Native American organizations have wide support. Among them are the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Youth Council, the National Tribal Chairman’s Association, and Americans for Indian Opportunity, to name a few. All of these are working to strengthen tribal governments and to win legal reform, education and financial support needed to rebuild Native American communities. Their goals are much the same; their methods of achieving those goals differ.
Today, almost 500 years since the White man enslaved the natives of the New World, Native American resistance is a force. In the words of Vine Deloria (author “Custer Died for Your Sins, An Indian Manifesto”), “Night is giving way to day . . . We will survive because we are a people unified by our humanity.”
Lesson one is an introduction to the three main cultures that help to make up the population of the United States. Emphasis will be placed on how the United States became a diverse population.
The lesson opens with a discussion of what is a citizen and who are the citizens of the United States.
I. Ask students to brainstorm and list words and or phrases associated with citizen. List these on chalkboard.
II. Divide class into groups with five or more members. Instruct students to use words and/or phrases to write a definition of citizen. Definitions should be written on newsprint with magic marker provided by teacher. Each group is to choose a person to orally read group’s definition.
III. Allow class to select the best definition. Teacher reads dictionary definition, textbook definition and encyclopedia definition of citizen.
IV. Almanacs are distributed to class, teacher demonstrates how to use reference book. Students are given task of locating population distribution of the United States and record data.
V. Using fictitious numbers, teacher demonstrates how to use a graph (vertical bar) to show data. Students are individually asked to construct a graph showing the population distribution of the United States.
VI. Using pull down world map, teacher lectures on how/from where the people of the United States originated. Students take notes.
VII. Closing Activities . . .
A. Students give teacher population distributions graphs. As teacher examines graphs, students individually write a response to following—
Three things I learned today . . .
B. Distribute excerpt from “Freedom is the Right to Choose” by Archibald MacLeish. Teacher reads it orally—dismisses class with instructions to reread and prepare to discuss meaning tomorrow.
Because our forefathers were able to conceive a freeman’s government, they were able to create it. Because those who lived before us in this nation were able to imagine a new thing, a thing unheard of in the world before, they erected on this continent the first free nation—the first society in which mankind was to be free at last.
What are we trying to become, to bring about? What is our dream of ourselves as a great people? What would we be if we could: what would our lives be? And how will we use this skill, this wealth, this power to create those lives?
What is demanded of us in this time of change, what our whole history and our present need demand of us, is that we find the answers to these questions—that we consider what we wish this new America to be. For what we wish to be we can become.
And if we cannot wish—we shall become that also.
From FREEDOM IS THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE, by Archibald MacLeish
Lesson two is a continuation of lesson one.
I. Class begins with an inquiry of excerpt from “Freedom is the Right to Choose.”
Teacher defines irony and asks students to identify the irony in the excerpt. Using input from students, teacher ties in the irony.
II. Teacher introduces Civil Rights Movement using background information (Part I). Students take notes.
III. Teacher distributes book list taken from Student Bibliography. Books related to African Americans are identified. Students are told to choose one and acquire from school library or public library before “reading day” (each week, thirty minutes is set aside for quiet reading).
IV. Using chalkboard, teacher demonstrates how to construct a time line. Students are asked to complete individual time lines of important events of their life getting input from parents for homework.
V. Closing Activities . . .
A. Students, with teacher, read Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.
B. In Cooperative Groups, students are to discuss the ideals of freedom and equality proclaimed in both. These are to be recorded in “Group Portfolio.”
C. Population Distribution Graphs are returned with written comments. Students are to review and, as a group, discuss how to construct a “Group Portfolio” Population Distribution Graph. (Students are to put individual graphs in individual portfolios.)
D. Students respond individually in Blue Books to question . . .
“How did African Americans become part of the American population?” Teacher collects individual time lines.
*Note: Each time students write in Blue Books, teacher reads and makes comments using grading scale that class helped to create.
Lesson three concludes examining Part I of background information.
I. Teacher concludes giving lecture on the African Americans’ role in the Civil Rights Movement.
II. Students are given teacher-made handout—Facts About the Civil Rights Movement. Students complete handout by creatively constructing a time line.
III. Class is divided into Cooperative Groups and asked to read “I See the Promised Land” by Martin Luther King, Jr. from “Tapestry” on pages 226-230.
After reading, groups are to divide into expert teams (previously assigned). Each team is assigned one of Critical Thinking (page 231) questions or one of Author’s Craft (page 231).
IV. Teacher monitors expert teams, making sure they have correct responses. Expert teams break up and return to Cooperative Groups and teach to group members the responses. This is in preparation for individual test (Multiple Choice Test using Critical Thinking and Author’s Craft questions).
V. Students individually take test. Tests are graded using inquiry and explanations as to which is best answer for each item. Individual scores are recorded and group average computed.
VI. Closing Activities . . .
A. Groups orally debrief how peer teaching was positive or negative.
B. Homework assignment—Students are to write an idea, image or issue in King’s speech that is especially meaningful to them. Why is it memorable? How does it relate to an experience in your life or to the life of someone you know?
Lesson four places emphasis on the Chicanos and their struggle for equality and justice in the United States.
I. Teacher introduces Part II of background information. Students take notes.
II. Students divide into Cooperative Groups. Within each group, students read each others response to “I See the Promised Land,” writing a positive and a negative statement about each.
III. Teacher reviews requirements for short essay writing. Students take responses home and revise for homework.
IV. Closing Activities . . .
A. Write a definition of discrimination in Blue Book.
B. Remind students to bring “reading day” book to class tomorrow.
Lesson five is a continuation of lesson four.
I. Teacher distributes copies of “Chicanos Struggle for Justice” divided into five parts. Each person is responsible for reading and summarizing information for Cooperative Group.
II. Class goes to computer lab to use Compton’s writing program to make final copy of response to “I See the Promised Land.”
III. Class returns from computer lab giving copy of response to teacher. As teacher begins reading responses, students read from selected book off of list. Cooperative Group recorder gives lists of selected books and name of student choosing book to teacher.
IV. Closing Activities . . .
A. Cooperative Groups discuss how they can demonstrate discrimination in a skit.
B. Read from selected book; on notebook paper identify title, author, publisher, copyright date and main character or characters.