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Core Theme – Ancestral Lands

Catlin presented one of the last looks at American Indians living in a place under their control–before European American views about private land ownership affected Indians in the West. He described lifestyles based on the communal use of lands, undivided and without boundaries, settlement, or cultivation. While he expressed hope that the government would not be a party to taking their lands from them, Catlin realized that westward migration of Euro-Americans was inevitable.

Native Americans were bought out, coerced, and otherwise encouraged to leave ancestral lands and relocate to reservations. In 1830, at the urging of Andrew Jackson, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act leading to forced removal of Native Americans living east of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory.

This theme explores varying attitudes and definitions of land ownership held by Native and European Americans and how various treaties–the Homestead Act and the Dawes Act–affected both Native and European Americans. Lesson plans on this website correlate with national curriculum standards for U.S. History, English Language Arts, and Visual Arts.

Classroom Activities – Lesson Plans

  1. Debating for Land
  2. Making Treaties and Weaving Wampum: Communication across Cultures
  3. Pipestone Quarry and Westward Expansion: Whose Rock is This Anyway?

If you need assistance in implementing these activities, please consult our museum's education staff. They can help adapt or expand the existing lessons to meet your circumstances and curricular goals. Please contact us at AmericanArtEducation[at]

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