Indian Policy: From Jamestown to Jackson / Synthesizing and organizing chronological data

Lesson Plan


Grade Level

Middle School

Author Info

Kimberly de Berzunza
Longfellow Spanish Immersion Magnet School
5055 July St
San Diego, CA 92110

Type of Lesson

Cooperative Learning


1-2 class periods

Interdisciplinary Connections

English Language Arts: Visual organization of text, comparison of primary and secondary sources on same topic



In this lesson students will organize a large number of events involving American Indians* over a period of 400 years into a timeline of presidencies and the colonial era.  The teacher has the option of making this a whole-class, small group, partner, or independent lesson.  

The purpose of this lesson is to see how American Indians were affected by Colonial and U.S. attitudes and policies over time, leading up to Indian Removal in the mid-nineteenth century.

*I usually use the terms "American Indians" or "Indians" instead of "Native Americans," because they are most recently the preferred terminology.  In fact, my Indian friends have told me that they prefer "Indian" unless you can name the tribe, in which case that is the best option. 

Prior Knowledge

This lesson is intended to follow a lesson more specifically on the Indian Removal Act and the "Trail of Tears." Students should already have some background on this policy and President Jackson, but beyond that, this lesson could stand alone or be a part of a larger unit or series of lessons on Indian policy.

State Standards

California Standards for History/Social Studies:

  • 8.4.1-Describe the country’s physical landscapes, political divisions, and territorial expan­sion during the terms of the first four presidents.
  • 8.5.1- Understand the political and economic causes and consequences of the War of 1812and know the major battles, leaders, and events that led to a final peace.
  • 8.5.2- Know the changing boundaries of the United States and describe the relationships thecountry had with its neighbors.
  • 8.5.3- Outline the major treaties with American Indian nations during the administrations ofthe first four presidents and the varying outcomes of those treaties.
  • 8.7.3- Examine the characteristics of white Southern society and how the physical environ­ment influenced events and conditions prior to the Civil War
  • 8.8.1- Discuss the election of Andrew Jackson as president in 1828, the importance of Jackso­nian democracy, and his actions as president (e.g., the spoils system, veto of the Na­tional Bank, policy of Indian removal, opposition to the Supreme Court).
  • 8.8.2- Describe the purpose, challenges, and economic incentives associated with westward expansion, including the concept of Manifest Destiny (e.g., the Lewis and Clark expedition, accounts of the removal of Indians, the Cherokees’ “Trail of Tears,” settlement.

(CA H/SS) Historical Thinking:

  1. Students explain the central issues and problems from the past, placing people and events in a matrix of time and place.
  2. Students understand and distinguish cause, effect, sequence, and correlation in historical events, including the long- and short-term causal relations.
  3. Students explain the sources of historical continuity and how the combination of ideas and events explains the emergence of new patterns.

Common Core Standards:

Objectives/Learning Outcomes

The purpose of this lesson is to help students see that Indian policy, especially that of Indian "Removal" or "Resettlement," did not start with Andrew Jackson, but rather began with the earliest colonists. It is also to help students visually and mentally review and synthesize a long timespan of facts relating to American Indians since the early Colonial period.

Technology Connections/outcomes

This lesson was more broadly a result of earlier lessons on Thomas Jefferson's attitudes and policies toward Indians, and how these affected later policies.

Additional Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be able to organize a specific, loosely-related body of facts into a meaningful chronology.
  2. Students will draw relevant conclusions based on the chronology of facts, once completed.
  3. Students will demonstrate, in discussion and/or writing, their understanding of the many events, philosophical trends, writings, policies, and legislation related to American Indians in the United States from the earliest Colonial Period until the mid-nineteenth century.
  4. Students will demonstrate, in discussion and/or in writing, how earlier Indian policy is likely to have affected Indians in the twentieth century and today.


  1. 5-7 minutes

    Review/Quick-write or Pair-share:

    Give students 5 minutes to write about the following prompt. (Alternative: have students discuss with a partner.)

    Write everything you know about how Andrew Jackson felt about and treated the Indians (Native Americans.)

    After students have written/discussed, invite a few to share out their thinking. Be sure to ask them to provide rationale for their thoughts, but don't spend too much time on this step today. The purpose is just to review and get students ready for this day's work.

  2. 5-7 minutes

    Introduction/Instructions: Ask students, Do you think Andrew Jackson was the one to create the Indian Removal Act? What it his original idea? Elicit student responses. Responses may be varied, depending on students' background, but leave it open at this time. After a few students have responded, continue:

    Today you/we will look at a variety of events, writings, and policies involving the Indians during our history. You will organize these events into a timeline I will give you organized by presidencies. At the end of this work we will discuss as a class what it all means.

    The teacher has several options as to how to proceed in Step 3.

  3. 30-60 minutes
    Varied options below:
    1. You may wish to print out the timeline of events and cut it into strips. You could hand out 2-3 at random to students and have them come to the front of the class to place them on a large, whole-class timeline at the front of the room. Please note:This option takes some additional time- copying and cutting the strips and mixing them up, and also creating a large timeline for the whole class to use.
    2. Option 2 would be to have students work in pairs, groups, or independently to paste information into correct category. For this option, you would still need to cut the strips and have them ready in envelopes, and you would need more sets, enough for each group or partner set, and also a hard (paper) copy of the organizer with the Presidents' portraits.
    3. Option 3 is to do the assignment electronically, and this could be individually, in partners, groups, or whole class on an interactive board. However,in this last case you will need to reformat the timeline information in a way that it could be pulled into the graphic organizer.
    4. Option 4 is a hybrid of paper and digital. You may wish to print the timeline, cut up the strips, and put them into envelopes as in Option 2, making as many sets as you need for individual students, partners, or groups. Students could then open the organizer document (with the presidents' portraits) and type the information into the boxes. One advantage to this option is the ability to re-use the paper strips with other classes, thus saving time, copies, and paper.

    However you decide to physically organize this activity for your class, students will be sorting events into the graphic organizer of the presidencies (with the Presidents' portraits on it.) If you choose for them to do this independently, they may have to complete it for homework, as there are so many events. It is probably preferable to group students into groups of 4.

  4. 10-30 minutes

    Whole class discussion/synthesis:

    Once all events have been sorted, hold an open-ended discussion with the class. You might ask questions like:

    What do you notice?

    Why do you think it looks this way?

    What does this tell you about the different presidencies and Indian policy over time?

    Was the Indian Removal Act President Jackson's idea? Students should be able to provide clear evidence for their answers, especially for this last question. After discussion, you may want to make this last question an essay topic.

Related Assets

Handouts and Downloads


Materials Needed

You will need to make copies of the handouts listed above. How many you need depends on how you decide to have students work on this lesson (See Procedures.)

Assuming you make copies of the timeline (6+ pages), you will also need to cut each strip and place each complete set into envelopes. It is important to do this step, because initially it is already in order, and part of the thinking work is in the sorting. Another option would be to sort it electronically yourself (create yourself a new document) so events are OUT of order. Either way, this will take you some time.

If you choose the whole-class option, you will only need one set of the long timeline, but you will need to create a large version of the presidential graphic organizer for use in the front of the class (on butcher paper or a white board).

You will need glue sticks for most options.

You may need scissors, if you opt to have the students do the cutting.

See bibliography/links in worksheets for more informational resources.

Technology Needs

Teacher computer



Possibly: Student computers



If you choose to have each student complete this assignment independently, it will probably need to be completed as homework.

Otherwise, homework could be a short essay on the question:Was the Indian Removal Act Jackson's Idea?Students would be expected to include evidence from the work done in class for their opinion in this writing.


A proficientresponse will show that:

  1. Attitudes and policies toward Indians were mostly negative since early Colonial times, but,
  2. There were numerous contradictions to this, including attempts at education and expressions of the "noble savage" concept (does not necessarily need to be called this),
  3. Many policies were designed to move Indians away from, and open land for, white settlers,
  4. Andrew Jackson did fight the Indians with a vengeance and advocated for their removal; however, he was not the first to come up with this idea.

An advancedresponse will include 1-4, plus a clear and compelling connection to the twentieth century and today. How have earlier Indian policies and attitudes of the United States and Colonial American governments affected Indians even today?


Accommodations – Students with Special Needs

This lesson is designed with a variety of options for the teacher to best match the needs and abilities of the class and the materials available. It is already designed as a cooperative learning experience, which should help all learners access the curriculum and participate relatively equally.

If the majority of the class struggles with reading, English language, or task completion, then this is a lesson that should be completed as a whole class (Option 1). The teacher can type the responses on a screen, or students can drag information to the right boxes if the whiteboard is interactive, or they can walk to the front and paste the strip of paper in the right space. The important part of this lesson is organizing the data and using this process to understand a bigger picture: that Indian policies started with the first colonists.

Accommodations – Advanced Learners

If you have a few very advanced learners, or a whole class-full, then they should probably do this lesson independently. In that case, I recommend copying and modifying the timeline so the information will be out of order, and giving it to students in whole pages or digitally. It will save time in the long-run and be less frustrating.

These are the students who should be able to write the essay for homework at the Advanced level.