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Settlers vs. Native Americans

This land is your land…or is it my land? Now that your students have had units on both Native Americans and Utah pioneers and have grown some-what attached to these groups, what happens when there’s a conflict between them? Your students might have quite an opinion regarding this issue! This activity is a written correspondence between Native Americans and early Utah settlers which examines different points of view over the land-ownership conflict.

The activity is pretty simple. Using prior knowledge, students are to write a letter from a Native American’s point of view, to a Utah settler. They are to express their concerns about how their land is being taken over, and resources depleted, and share some ideas of how this conflict can be resolved. The length and content of the letter are your choice. Students sign the letter with an Indian name and state which tribe they are from.

After the letters are written, collect them and redistribute them at random until every student has someone else’s letter. They are to read the letter, and then turn it over and write a response as the settler. Write why you’ve come to Utah (Deseret), and why you need the land. Also include your own recommendations to solve this problem.

Let students return these letters to their original owner and allow them to read the responses. Students can share letters out-loud or with a partner. I like to ask for volunteers to read their letters so it can easily transition to a class discussion. Ask follow up questions, “What would you have done if you were the Native America/settler?” “Was this problem ever solved? If so, how? If not, why not?”

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