Teaching Students About the Indian Reorganization Act

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act or the Indian New Deal, was a significant piece of legislation that aimed to improve the lives of Native Americans living on reservations. For K-12 teachers looking to incorporate this vital topic into their lesson plans, here is an engaging and informative approach to teaching students about the Indian Reorganization Act.

Section 1: Historical Context

Begin by providing a brief overview of the historical context leading up to the Indian Reorganization Act. Discuss the allotment policy from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which aimed to break up tribal lands and assimilate Native Americans into mainstream American society. This period saw a significant decline in Native American populations, economic prosperity, and cultural identity.

Section 2: Key Provisions

Next, guide your students through an exploration of the act’s key provisions. Focus on how it aimed to reverse some of the negative effects of previous policies through measures such as ending land allotment, restoring unallocated lands to tribes, allowing tribes to establish self-governments, providing funds for economic development and education, and encouraging Native American arts and crafts.

Section 3: Impact and Legacy

After discussing key provisions, dive into analyzing the impact and legacy of the Indian Reorganization Act. While it was not perfect and some tribes opposed it due to concerns over federal control, it was a crucial turning point in U.S. Indian policy. Emphasize that despite its shortcomings, this legislation laid the foundation for future reforms in tribal self-government and sovereignty.

Section 4: Classroom Activities

Engage your students with exciting activities that will enliven their understanding of this complex topic:

1. Have students research local tribal groups in your area to uncover how they were affected by federal policies before and after the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act. This exercise can help foster empathy and understanding of Native American experiences.

2. Encourage collaborative group work by assigning roles to students (e.g., a Native American leader, a U.S. politician, a journalist) and asking them to debate the act’s significance through their characters’ perspectives. This roleplay activity helps students critically analyze diverse viewpoints.

3. Reinforce the importance of cultural preservation by incorporating elements of Native American art or storytelling into a creative project.

By taking an interactive and empathetic approach, you’ll make the Indian Reorganization Act both accessible and significant for your young students, fostering a deeper understanding of this essential piece of history.

Choose your Reaction!