Lesson Plan: The Legacy of the Battle of Little Bighorn

Events Leading to the Battle of Little Bighorn

Cecile Ganteaume, curator at the National Museum of the American Indian “Americans” exhibit, describe the events preceding the Battle of Little Bighorn. She also discussed Lakota concepts of leadership.

Description

This lesson provides an overview of the events surrounding the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn and how it was interpreted afterwards through newspapers and Wild West shows. Students will also look at myths and misconceptions surrounding the battle and its influence on western expansion. With this information, students will discuss the significance of the Battle of Little Bighorn on the lives of Native Americans, westward expansion and American culture.

Procedures

  • WARM-UP:

    Before beginning class, have the students respond to the following task as a warm-up exercise:

    • Make a list of facts, words and ideas that you think relate to the Battle of Little Bighorn.
  • INTRODUCTION:

    Review the students' responses and briefly address any major misconceptions.

    As a class or individually, have the students watch the following video clip and answer the questions. Teachers can use the guiding questions handout to help students view all video clips in this lesson.

    Handout: Battle of Little Bighorn Questions (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip 1: Events Leading to the Battle of Little Bighorn (3:15)

    • Describe the three factors that Ms. Ganteaume says contributed to the Battle of Little Bighorn.

    • What was the purpose of the 1876 military expedition into the Black Hills?

    • What were the issues that the Lakota had with the 1876 military expedition into the Black Hills?
  • EXPLORATION:

    Based on the ability and needs of the class, use the questions for each video or the note-taking chart on the handout linked below to have the students explore the events and perspectives surrounding the Battle of Little Bighorn. Students should be able to explain the following topics.

    • Significant events surrounding the Battle of Little Bighorn

    • How the American public viewed the events surrounding the Battle of Little Bighorn

    • How Native Americans viewed the events surrounding the Battle of Little Bighorn

    • Myths and misconceptions

    • The impact on westward expansion
  • Video Clip 2: Overview of the Battle of Little Bighorn (5:32)

    • What does Mr. Lehman describe as the causes of the Battle of Little Bighorn?
    • Describe the events and results of the battle.

    • What happened to the Lakota after the victory at Little Bighorn?

    • Why does Mr. Lehman call the name "Custer's Last Stand" a major misconception?

    • What misconceptions surround the events during the Battle of Little Bighorn?
  • Video Clip 3: Press Coverage of the Battle of Little Bighorn (3:11)

    • Why did the news of the Battle of Little Bighorn spread so rapidly?

    • Why was the U.S. Army defeat at Little Bighorn so significant to the American public?

    • How was the Battle of Bighorn covered by the press?

    • How did the press coverage of the Battle of Little Bighorn reflect American attitudes of Native Americans at the time?
  • Video Clip 4: The Great Sioux War and the Events Following the Battle of Little Bighorn (3:27)

    • What were the results of the Great Sioux War?

    • Describe the life of Native Americans on the reservations after the Great Sioux War. How did this differ from their previous life on the plains?

    • What does Mr. Woody mean by "Two great nations met on a barren plain. One lost the battle, the other lost everything."

    • How does the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument represent multiple perspectives of this battle?
  • Video Clip 5: Wild West Shows and American Expansionism (4:03)

    • What were the Wild West shows? What factors contributed to their popularity in the 1880s?

    • How did Wild West shows portray the Plains Indians and the Battle of Little Bighorn?

    • According to Ms. Gaunteaume, how did these shows shape Americans' sense of history?

    • How did portrayals like in the Wild West shows promote westward expansionism?
  • Video Clip 6: The Legacy of the Battle of Little Bighorn (3:36)

    • According to Ms. Ganteaume, how are Native Americans portrayed as "frozen in time?" How is the portrayal of Native Americans after the Battle of Little Bighorn still reflected in American culture?

    • Why is this section of the exhibit named "Who really won the Battle of Little Bighorn? It's complicated"?

    • Describe the recent events relating to the Lakota and the Black Hills.
  • APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION:

    After reviewing the students' answers and addressing any misconceptions, have the students brainstorm ways that the Battle of Little Bighorn impacted the following: the lives of Native Americans, westward expansion and American culture. This activity can be differentiated to have students brainstorm in pairs or as a class.

    As a summative assessment, have the students provide a written response to the following question:

    • What was the impact of the Battle of Little Bighorn on the lives of Native Americans, westward expansion and American culture?
  • EXTENSION/ALTERNATIVE ACTIVITIES:

    Native American Representations in American Culture- View the video clip on the the use of American Indian imagery in American culture. Based on the examples from the videos, identify an example in your own life of American Indian imagery. Evaluate if this example is an appropriate use of this image.

    American Indian Sports Names and Mascots - View the video clip about American Indian sports names and mascots. Based on what Mr. Chaat Smith discusses, choose a sports mascot that uses Native American imagery. Should this team change their mascot, logo and/or name?

  • ADDITIONAL PROMPTS:

    • How do the Lakota and American perspectives of the Battle of Little Bighorn differ?

    • Based on the information from the museum exhibit, how would you answer the question: "Who really won the Battle of Little Bighorn?" Explain your answer.

    • Why is the Battle of Little Bighorn a significant historical event? Explain your answer.

Additional Resources

Vocabulary

  • Black Hills
  • Buffalo Bill
  • Cheyenne
  • Commercialization
  • Crazy Horse
  • Custers Last Stand
  • Fort Laramie Treaty
  • General Custer
  • Lakota
  • Manifest Destiny
  • Plains Indians
  • Reservations
  • Sitting Bull
  • Westward Expansionism
  • Wild West Shows

Topics

U.S. History

Grades

Middle SchoolHigh School