Native American Resistance

Title:  Native American Resistance

Author:  Mike Mestelle

Overview / Description:

The freedom to resist authority and government in the United States has been a very important right throughout our history.  Resistance of the government of Great Britain is what founded our country with the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the winning of the Revolutionary War.  Native American people have resisted the U.S. government’s attempts to assimilate them into mainstream culture, the termination of reservations, and to exterminate them as a race of people.  That isn’t a process that is confined only to history, it still occurs in many instances in today’s world. This lesson is meant to teach students several historical examples of Native American Resistance and then to investigate recent examples on their own through research and presentation.

Subject(s): Native American History, American Indian Movement

Grade Level(s): 9th grade - 12th grade

Learning goals/objectives:

After completing this activity, students should be able to:  

  • Understand the events surrounding the creation of the American Indian Movement in the 1960’s.

  • Understand the occupation of the Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Harbor

  • Appreciate the influence that the occupation had in igniting Native American pride and many other protests that occurred around the U.S.

  • Develop research and presentation skills as students research additional acts of resistance in modern day United States.

Type of Activity:

    X Individual

  • Small Group

    X Whole Class

Teaching Strategies:

   X Discussion

  • Partner work

X Use of Technology

  • Role Playing

    X Video

Content Standards:

Length of Time:

2 class periods to view and discuss the documentary, 3 class periods to research and prepare questions for class discussion, several class periods to present their results and answer the discussion questions.


  • Video documentary Alcatraz Is Not An Island


Directions (Step-by-Step):

  1. View the documentary Alcatraz Is Not An Island and discuss the student responses and feelings from the movie.  (Here is a link to a sample of the documentary from Youtube:

  2. The documentary is available for purchase at this website address:

  1. Learn about the American Indian Movement and its influence on events during the 1960’s and 1970’s where Native American people fought for equality and better treatment in the United States.  (Examples include the Trail of Broken Treaties, the takeover at Wounded Knee in 1973, and the National Day of Mourning protest at Plymouth Rock, MA in 1975.)

  2. View the website which includes numerous examples of resistance in the United States from the 1970’s to the present time.

  3. Students choose 1 of the examples of resistance, do research about that event in order to understand the main events and ideas that occurred, find a video clip that relates to that event to use during their presentation, and write 3 discussion questions for the class to discuss about that event of resistance.


  • The students present their presentations in a format that they are comfortable with, such as Powerpoint, Google Slides, or Prezi.  The presentation gives the students experience in being the teacher of the class and leading the discussion of the resistance event that they have selected.  The class must participate by answering the discussion questions that are asked by the presenter. I keep a record of student responses and the audience receives a participation grade for answering questions or making comments.

  • This lesson helps students understand the process of democracy and the importance of the freedoms that Americans have in our country under the first amendment.  It also helps them to see that protest isn’t only something that happened in the past, but it is still important to us today. It also helps them make sense of the news that they see everyday in our country.

Lakeland Union High School Media Productions

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