Teaching Conflicting Opinions

No group in the United States has been in conflict with European ideas of government longer than Native People. Many of these ideas reflect differing and competing world-views. This is a common problem facing all people at all times – including students in the classroom.

With this in mind, we’ve developed a few lessons to help students understand the necessary steps for understanding and dealing with conflicting opinions.

The Honoring Tribal Legacies Curriculum

Honoring Tribal LegaciesOne of these resources, written as part of our contribution to the Honoring Tribal Legacies curriculum, is an exercise that might be handy to have ready for your classroom.

The lesson “Dealing with Conflicting Ideas first compares two differing accounts of the only violent event that happened during the Lewis and Clark expedition:

After comparing these, students read, debate, and decide upon an open-ended fictional story such as the one below. Students could also be encouraged to write their own stories with undecided and potentially conflicting endings to debate in class, involving whatever subject they’re currently studying.

Peace or Diamonds?

Plant People – A beautiful jar containing a special plant is owned by a group of people who have had it for hundreds of years. When the plant was originally planted in the jar, (which had a bulbous bottom and a narrow top) diamonds were thrown in the bottom of the pot, then dirt, then a seed was planted. It was placed in a special room in the town and carefully cared for. The plant took a very, very long time to grow, but after about a hundred years it was discovered that just sitting in the same room with it made people who were sick become well again. People who were arguing came into the room and could quickly figure out solutions to their problems. Occasionally water dripped from the leaves, which when looked into could help them see the future.

Travelers – A long time later, a group having about five times as many people as the Plant People came to that place. They were very poor. They had no homeland because there had been a great war and their side had lost. They had eaten all the food they had brought with them and they were extremely hungry. Their clothes were ragged and they were very cold.

The Plant People were kind and fed them dinner, but didn’t have enough food to feed them all winter. In order to be kind, the Plant People took one of the Travelers into the room with the plant to help them figure out what to do about their situation. None of the Travelers had ever seen any plant like that before, but they thought it was silly and superstitious to rely on a plant to heal them or help them make a decision. Later, one of the Plant People told one of the Travelers about the diamonds in the bottom of the pot and how it was believed the diamonds were part of the magic.

The leader thought about how many people he could feed with the diamonds and how shoes he could buy. His people were cold and the children were hungry. They had no money to buy the plant, but they offered to buy it anyway. They were told it couldn’t be bought or sold. It had always been there and that was where it needed to stay. 

What happened next?

You can find “Dealing with Conflicting Ideas in the Honoring Tribal Legacies curriculum.

For more information about the Honoring Tribal Legacies handbook and curriculum and how they can be adapted to your classroom, attend our free webinar on Monday, June 5th at either 7 p.m. Eastern or 7 p.m. Pacific. Email us to register.

DocsTeach Bring History to Life National ArchivesDocsTeach Activities

Other examples of classroom approaches to issues of conflicting opinions can be found in DocsTeach ready-made activities. One example that further illustrates the differences between Native and non-Native culture and expectations is: Indian Nations vs. Settlers on the American Frontier: 1786–1788.

Of course, cultural differences are not the only divisions between groups of people. An example that illustrates class difference is Titanic Survivors: One Ship, Two Different Worlds.

For more information about creating your own DocsTeach activities to help students understand the nature of conflict, watch our distance learning page for upcoming professional development opportunities.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Conflicting Opinions

  1. Hi there! As the mother of a high school student, I totally agree when you pointed out that the mistreatments against Native Americans should be highlighted to the younger generations. My son feels like he should learn more about their history and struggle. I think he should consult some professionals about this matter so everything will be clearer later.

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