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Standing Bear’s Trial, Native American Ledger Art, and Modern Expression


Social Studies  


10, 11, 12  

Standing Bear

Standing Bear

The purpose of this lesson is twofold: To introduce students Standing Bear and his role in an important historical moment but also show them an expressive means of early 20th Century Midwestern Native American tribes and allow them to see this means of storytelling through a modern representation: graphic novel frames.

Preparation:  Students will be divided into three groups for homework assignments. Groups should read their assigned homework and be prepared to discuss content, form, and source issues that may arise.

Group One: Background on Standing Bear

Group Two: The Arrest of Standing Bear

Group Three: Standing Bear’s Courtroom Speech

Note: Group Three has a significantly shorter reading assignment – though they would do well to pay careful attention to point of view and word choice, as it will be an issue when they return to the larger class discussion.  While their reading is shorter, what they know – and what they do not know – will be an important point as they discuss the source material.

 Anticipatory Set:

When students arrive, have a five-minute writing assignment:  What did you learn about Standing Bear?  What do you think were the most important points of the Standing Bear story? What did you think of your source material?

Assign students to new groups that represent the variety of readings – ask them to compare their readings: the important points, source material and potential matters of bias, and reasons that the materials may have presented different information. Open the discussion to the class to share these ideas and discussions.

Introduce students to the idea of Native American Ledger Art using this web source.  Read the history of ledger art  while paging through actual ledger art so that students have a visual representation of your explanation.  Have students reconvene in their groups to draw several pages of ledger art representing the most important scenes from the Standing Bear story. Allow students the use of any materials (paper, colored pencils or pens, highlighters, etc.) they have with them – but do not provide them artistic tools. One important point of ledger art is that artists used what was available in order to draw/tell their stories.  In the last few minutes of class, have groups share their art. Discuss, as a class, the potential for modern representation of history through similar artistic endeavors, e.g. graphic novels or more modern mixed material art. 

Potential homework assignment:  Have students draw a four panel graphic novel representation of the Standing Bear story that reflects their specific learning. If students are anxious about drawing a graphic novel, they can create modern ledger art using mixed materials to convey their understanding of the Standing Bear story. 

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