How is History Recorded? The Lewis and Clark Journals and Lakota Winter Counts
In this activity, students read two primary documents from the early 1800s: a journal entry from the Lewis and Clark expedition and a Lakota Indian "winter count" calendar. Using an analysis worksheet, students identify key ideas and details from the documents, while also examining the craft and structure of each document. They draw upon both the content and form of the documents to make inferences about the respective cultures of Euro-Americans and Native Americans in the early 1800s.
Students will understand that both the United States and Teton Sioux were powerful nations in the early 1800s.
Students will understand that trade encounters, with both Euro-Americans and other Indian tribes, were an important aspect of Plains Indian society.
This activity aligns to Common Core Literacy Standards in History/Social Studies:
RH.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary text.
RH.6-8.5. Determine how a text presents information.
Step 1. Hand out the John Ordway Describes Meeting the Teton Sioux document and the Analysis Worksheet. Ask students to read the document and complete the Ordway columns of Part I and II of the worksheet. (You could analyze this document as a whole class, or ask students to work in pairs or individually.)
Step 2. Hand out American Horse's Winter Count. Ask students to read the document on their own.
Check for understanding by discussing:
what were Lakota winter counts?
what was their connection to oral history?
who provided the descriptions of the images used in the winter count?
Step 3. Ask students, in pairs or individually, to complete the American Horse column of Part I and II of the worksheet.
Step 4. Complete Part III of the worksheet, either as a whole class or in small groups of 4 (if students were working in pairs, have two pairs do this part together).
If possible, use a smartboard or other presentation tool to project the worksheet and have students share their responses.
Review key content points:
- the United States and Teton Sioux were both powerful nations at this time
trade was a regular part of life (and the main form of interaction between Euro-Americans and Plains Indians)
Review key structure points
oral history was the primary way that the Lakota recorded and remembered their past
Euro-Americans relied more on comprehensive and highly detailed written reporting
Step 5. Deepen the discussion by posing any of the following questions:
Why does it matter how history is recorded? What difference does it make for us today? (eg. the volume of written documents from Euro-Americans compared to the oral history and winter count traditions of Plains Indians means that we hear much more from one side than the other, and we don't have a great understanding of the American Indian perspective)
Which source is more accurate? More biased? (eg. this is an open ended question since the Lewis and Clark document is more detailed, but one-sided with some biased language).
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media & Learning
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media & Learning, “How is History Recorded? The Lewis and Clark Journals and Lakota Winter Counts,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 3, 2022, https://shec.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/2056.