When Worlds Collide

Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman
Editor: Stephanie Nardei


A minimum of 8 classes
This lesson can be expanded to 10 –15 classes


Access to the library and computer lab
PDF of picture

PDF of the “Psychology of Place”

Students will read a literary description and a scientific explanation of the connection between Native People and their significant “places.”   The class will generate ideas about the overarching implications of being taken away from one’s place in the world and the problems caused from a move.  The class will be divided into small groups that will research different tribes that were put on a forced migration or traditionally nomadic tribes that were stranded on a reservation, cutoff from their way of life and means of substance.  The lesson will conclude with class presentations on the research.

Purpose - This is the Apply lesson.  Students will research the Native American tribe forced to migrate to new lands or a nomadic tribe forced to settle in one finite and restricted area.

Students will be able to:
1.  Research on a focused topic and gather information from a range of sources and orally cite it in a presentation.

2. Connect information learned in previous lessons with research on the assigned topic

National Language Arts Education Standards
Standard #1
           Students read a wide range of print and non-print text to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world, to acquire new information, to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace, and for personal fulfillment.  Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

Standard #5
           Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Standard #7 
          Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems.  They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

Arizona State Standards:

Strand 1: Concept 6: Comprehension Strategies
            PO 4.  Connect information and events in text to experience and to related text and
            PO 5.  Apply knowledge of organizational structures (e.g., classification schemes, logical
 order) of text to aid comprehension.


Concept 1: Ideas and Content
            PO 1.  Maintain a clear, narrow focus to support the topic.
            PO 2.  Write with an identifiable purpose and for a specific audience.
            PO 3.  Provide sufficient, relevant, and carefully selected details for support.
            PO 5.  Include ideas an details that show original perspectives and insights.

Concept 4: Word Choice
            PO 1.  Use accurate, specific, powerful words and phrases that effectively convey the
 intended message.
            PO 2. Use vocabulary that is original, varied, and natural.
            PO 3. Use words that evoke clear images.

Teacher Background
This lesson deals with historical and modern relocation programs of Native American tribes from their ancestral homelands.  While the tragic consequences of The Trail of Tears of the Cherokee Nation or The Long Walk of the Navajo Nation are evident, the less dramatic tragedies of other relocation programs of Native American tribes require a careful examination of the material. If you search for Native American relocation programs on the web, you will find a number of sources. 

One scholarly paper that aims to show both sides of the situation is {Click Here}. There are critics and proponents of the relocation programs, but it is illuminating to see most critics are those who have been victims of these well-intentioned projects in current times.

Resource Websites
http://www.nwrel.org/nwedu/09-03/element.php Northwest Education Magazine Spring 2004, Volume 9, Number 3.  This issue has numerous articles on Native American students/young people living in urban areas and the present state of relocation programs seen in the light of being progressive.

http://www.mla.org/ The Modern Language Association website with citation information



1 - 2 Days

  1. Begin the lesson by looking at the picture of ___________________________________.  Ask the students to write down their thoughts on this picture.  What do they think this is a picture of?  Using their insights from the previous three lessons, when do they think this picture was taken, where, and what is happening in the picture?
  1. After about five minutes have the students share their impressions of the picture.  Many may have guessed that it was taken at a meeting in which the Native American man in the picture who is a representative of his tribe must witness the loss of his tribe’s land.
  1. How can we make a connection to our own lives and contemporary times?  Ask students what “eminent domain” means?  There are battles, legal and civil, across the United States in increasing numbers because people who have lived for years on a piece of land are forced to sell it to the local government who determine what is fair market value and pay only that.  Sometimes properties are confiscated for public works projects such as highways or parks, or  because a developer can put in some type of housing or a business center that will generate more income for the city than single family homes.  Imagine what it feels like to have one’s entire community forcibly relocated.  That is this lesson’s focus of this lesson. 
  1. In the past Native American tribes have been separated from their homelands in a variety of ways.  Nomadic tribes who flourished by migrating with the seasons were forced to become sedentary farmers.  Some tribes were relocated to another part of the country where they knew nothing about the land, the animals’ habits or the native plant species.  Ask students why both of these relocation policies are disastrous.
  1. Read with your students the two paragraphs entitled “The Psychology of Place.”  It is from Native Science a book with readings from earlier lessons.  After reading the selection, brainstorm with the class the disasters of moving a Native American tribe.  Make sure the students see not just negative physical and mental consequences, but also the terrible spiritual displacement.
  1. Here are some ways relocation adversely affected a Native American tribe.  Your class may have more examples.
    • The climate was different
    • The medicinal plants people used to cure illness did not grow in the new place
    • There might be dangerous animals (species of snakes, insects, etc) that people don’t know about
    • The animals that people relied on for food don’t live there
    • The plants that people are accustomed to growing for food don’t do well in the new climate
    • New types of housing need to be built


    • People feel homesick for the landmarks and countryside they grew up in
    • Depression over having no control over one’s life
    • Stress incurred from having to learn a whole new way of life
    • Important spiritual places have been desecrated or even destroyed
    • Some tribes looked at the West as the place of death and that is the direction in which they were often sent
    • People have been separated from important mystical places that ground them and support them spiritually
  1. In the 20th century the relocation programs took on the aura of modernization.  The government justified moving Native People to urban centers so to get them into areas of greater economic opportunities and children were taken from their families and communities providing them with “a good education” in the 1800’s and 1900’s.
  1. Explain to the class they will be spending the next three days (or more if you want) doing research and preparing an oral presentation about the Native American community that was forcibly moved from their ancestral homelands, or forced to adopt a sedentary lifestyle when they were a nomadic people, during historical times or the more contemporary experiences with modern programs of relocation.

3 days

  1. The next few days will be spent in the library working in small groups of three or four.  They will use the MLA (Modern Language Association) format.  Students will do an oral presentation, but you may also have them hand in a written report.
  1. The oral presentation and library work will be assessed on the following:
    • All group members observed doing work/research in the library
    • All group members stayed on task
    • All group members actively participated in the class presentation
    • All group members contributed to the creation of audio/visual materials to support the oral presentation
  1. The class presentation contains the following:
    • Tribal background information
    • Specifics on relocation experience
    • Areas which the relocation changed/affected the lives of the tribal people:
      • Physical challenges
      • Psychological challenges
      • Spiritual challenges
    • Invalid assumptions made by European based culture about moving/changing locations for this Native American tribe (and perhaps disastrous effects)
  1. Caution the students to not present on mainly informational background about their chosen Native American tribe.  The emphasis needs to be on the relocation process and the effects of this policy on the tribal people.

2 – 3 days

  1. Based on the size of your class you will need to allocate a sufficient number of days for presentations.  They should be evaluated on preparation, content, and delivery.  Part of the preparation portion is:
  • how much each student participated in the topic’s research,
  • how well he or she worked with the other group members,
  • how on task he or she stayed, and
  • if each student contributed equally to the creation of the class presentation.

Last Day

Reserve time at the presentations’ end for a discussion on what was similar in each Native American community’s displacement experience.  Remind students of the original questions:

  • Why the place matters to who Native Americans are?

  • What can we as a larger community learn from their perspective on place?
  • How can we understand our relationship with the place in which we are living using the Native American model?
There are some much bigger questions here that your students can answer by tying together what they have learned in their science and social studies classes to what they have discovered in this language arts learning cycle.  How does investing one’s self in one’s environment change the way one treats the natural environment?  If you see yourself as living in an area for generations you treat your home with more care and seek to understand it better.  What environmental health issues arise by not knowing what is going on in our community?

None assigned .

Embedded Assessment
Student learning for this lesson can be assessed by the following:

  • how actively each student participated in the lesson’s opening activities and contributed to class discussion,
  • how well they worked with their partners in doing library research and
  • how much they participated in the presentation of the group’s findings. 

You may base the majority of their grade on the quality of the oral presentation to the class and a cited works list or you may ask for a write up of the presentation.



PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: March 7, 2007
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