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American Indian Removal: Does It Make Sense?

If you were told that you had to leave your home and go live somewhere far away, how would you react? Thousands of American Indians who originally lived east of the Mississippi River faced this reality in the nineteenth century as land-hungry Americans saw economic opportunity in American Indian lands. This animated video captures the responses of middle school students who learned about the history of American Indian removal. Use the video for class discussions or lesson introduction.

Resource Information

grades   7 8 9 10 11 12
Cherokee, Kickapoo, Muscogee (Creek), Potawatomi, Seminole, Shawnee
Geography, Government & Civics, History, Social Studies
Eastern Woodlands, North America, Southeast
American Indian Removal, westward expansion, treaties
Essential Understandings

1: American Indian Culture
Interactions with Europeans and Americans brought accelerated and often devastating changes to American Indian cultures.

6: Power, Authority, and Governance
A variety of political, economic, legal, military, and social policies were used by Europeans and Americans to remove and relocate American Indians and to destroy their cultures. U.S. policies regarding American Indians were the result of major national debate. Many of these policies had a devastating effect on established American Indian governing principles and systems. Other policies sought to strengthen and restore tribal self-government. A variety of historical policy periods have had a major impact on American Indian peoples' abilities to self-govern.


Academic Standards

College, Career, & Civic Life–C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards

Explain how a question represents key ideas in the field.

Common Core State Standards

Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

National Geography Standards

Geography Standard 6
How culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions.
1. People's different perceptions of places and regions are influenced by their life experiences.
2. Perceptions of places and regions change by incorporating multiple direct and indirect experiences.

Geography Standard 9
The characteristics, distribution, and migration pattern of human populations on Earth's surface.
3. Migration: There are multiple causes and effects of migration.

  • Identify and describe examples of involuntary versus voluntary migrations.
  • Identify and explain the role of push factors as reasons for migration.

Geography Standard 13
How the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of the Earth's surface.
2. Cooperation: Countries and organizations cooperate through treaties, laws, and agreements to manage resources, maintain the environment, and mediate disputes.
3. There are multiple sources of conflict resulting from the Earth's surface.

  • Conflicting territorial claims can erupt over resources, land use, and ethnic and national identities.

Geography Standard 17
How to apply geography to interpret the past.
1. Using Geography to Interpret the Past: A historical event is influenced by the geographic context (human and physical characteristics of places and environments) in which it occurred.
3. Perceptions of Geographic Contexts: Historical events were influenced by people's percpetions of places, regions, and environments.

  • Explain how geographic perceptions impacted decisions of and actions by an individual, group or nation (e.g.: the perception of land uses and its values leading to the creation and later dissolution of the Indian Territory in the United States)