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6th Grade Social Studies GANAG Lesson Plan

Dakota War of 1862

Lesson Duration: 55 Min

Materials Needed: 
District Technology (iPads, Chromebooks, Computer Lab)
Paper (Loose leaf or in Social Studies notebooks)

Lesson Description:
This lesson fits into 6th grade’s unit on the civil war though focuses on the conflict of Native Dakota people of Minnesota and the white settlers. The lesson will focus on the causes and the differing perspectives of the Dakota and the settlers regarding the conflict.

MN 2011 Social Studies Standard/Benchmark: Explain reasons for the United States-Dakota War of 1862; compare and contrast the perspectives of settlers and Dakota people before, during and after the war. (Civil War and Reconstruction: 1850-1877)

Goal: Learning targets/objectives/”I can” statements:

  • I can identify the reasons for the Dakota War of 1862.
  • I can compare and contrast the perspective of settlers and Dakota people regarding the conflict.
  • I can create a diagram illustrating those conflicting perspectives.
  • I can use alternative media as resources.

Access Prior knowledge: 10 minutes.
Begin the lesson by writing the words, “Native Minnesotans” on the white board. Ask students at their tables or divided small groups to write down five statements in reaction to those words. Tell them these statements can be facts they know, stories they have heard, or information that they have learned from other classes. Give them five minutes to do this. Then ask them to share out while you write those ideas on the board. Make sure to highlight and lead students to the following words:  war, treaties, reservations, Dakota Nation, land ownership, and white settlers. These ideas will help you connect and lead students to the new information you are teaching today about the Dakota War of 1862. Because this is taught during the Civil War unit, you can also connect to what they are learning about the civil war and one of the reasons for the civil war: expansion. Though the conflict is not between the white settlers, the same sentiments of land expansion caused conflict and war with the Dakota people of Minnesota.

New Information: 20 minutes.
Start by playing “The Dakota War of 1862: The War Begins” over the speakers in the room. Ask students what they heard while listening about how the war began. Ask students why Dakota people, with the skills to get nourishment from the land, would be stealing food from settler’s farms in the first place. Ask students if they can remember what a treaty was especially in the context of First Nations people in expansion era America. Explain that treaties, or agreements, were made with the U.S. government and the Dakota people of what is now Minnesota. Tell students they will have an opportunity later to discover the exact treaties and how they were broken by the U.S. Ask students if broken promises made by the U.S. government is reason enough to start a war? Then briefly explain that the war lasted six weeks between the Dakota led by Little Crow and the U.S. All of which ended with the largest mass execution in the United States history of 38 Dakota people.

Then introduce what students will be doing to discover more about the details of the Dakota War of 1862. Project the Ampers website so students can see what resource they will be using to learn more. If your district provides technology like iPads or Chromebooks, have students log on to the website, http://ampers.org/teacher-resources/, to follow along with you. Book your computer lab for this lesson if your district does not provide technology to your classroom. Show them how to get to the segments on the Dakota War. Explain that they will be using these short segments to gain more knowledge on what happened during the war and the different perspectives of the Dakota and the settlers. They will be given 25 minutes to listen to as many segments as they can. Point out the section The Dakota War of 1862: The Treaties on page two as a good place to start.

Apply: 15 minutes.
Explain that while they are listening to the segments, keep track of the differing perspectives on a t-chart. Before letting them loose to listen, model how to make a t-chart on a piece of paper you will provide or in their Social Studies notebook. Have them title the chart, “Perspectives of the Dakota War of 1862”. Have them label one side of the chart “Dakota” and the other “settlers”. Ask students if we could start by putting anything on the chart based on what we discussed earlier about the reasons why the Dakota people would be stealing from a farmer. Add broken treaties to the Dakota side of the t-chart. Tell them they should add more of exactly what promises and agreements were broken when they listen to the first segment on treaties. Once students start listening to the segments on their own, they will fill in the chart as they come across new information and perspectives.

Generalize (closure): 10 minutes
Once time is up, have students reconvene with you.  Project a map of Minnesota in relation to the Dakota War of 1862 as a visual reference to show where these events took place.

Have a blank t-chart labeled like theirs and ask students to help fill in the chart on the board. Students should also fill in the chart with information another student might have found that they didn’t. Clear up any questions or misunderstandings during the discussion and also fill in any pertinent information that the students may have missed.

While students are working, check in with each student to make sure that they understand your expectations.  Look at what students are writing to make sure they are getting the information they need. If you see a student is struggling, help them to pick segments to listen to, wait until they have listened to it, and have them repeat to you what they heard.  Then ask them to fill in the chart.
Exit Ticket idea:  As students are leaving class have them write in their Social Studies notebooks or on a piece of scrap paper a cause for the Dakota War of 1862.

The completed chart describing the perspectives of the Dakota and the settlers during the Dakota War of 1862.

Extended lesson summative assessment idea:
If you can give this subject more time in your unit, you can make the t-chart a part of a larger project.  You can have students create a timeline of important events of the war, create profiles of the important people involved in the conflict (Little Crow, President Lincoln, etc.), and an “after” section that describes the results of the war including what the present Dakota reservation looks like.


Ampers website: Dakota War of 1862
Ampers website: Dakota War of 1862: The Treaties
Minnesota 1862 Map

Supported by...

McKnight FoundationPohlad family foundationThe Minneapolis FoundationSaint Paul & Minnesota Foundation