History of the American West 1830-1930
Welcome to a fascinating course on cowboys and Conestogas, migration and miners, expansion and ethnicity. This course will teach students how to critically analyze and evaluate competing perspectives on western American history, with an emphasis on the century spanning from 1830, at the time of the Indian Removal Act, to 1930 and the beginnings of the Great Depression. Students will use primary sources, class readings, discussions, and assignments to explore the cultural and historical underpinnings of the American West. The final project for this course will be a research project where they will showcase their ability to analyze and prioritize information and reflect on a historical event. The course is aligned with the state of Utah's Core Standards for Social Studies, U.S. 1 Strand 6: Expansion Standards 6.1 and 6.2
Welcome to a fascinating lesson on cowboys and Conestogas, migration and miners, expansion, and ethnicity. This lesson will teach students how to critically analyze and evaluate competing perspectives on western American history, with an emphasis on the century spanning from 1830, at the time of the Indian Removal Act, to 1930 and the beginnings of the Great Depression. Students will use primary sources, class readings, discussions, and assignments to explore the cultural and historical underpinnings of the American West. The final project for this course will be a research project where they will showcase their ability to analyze and prioritize information and reflect on a historical event. The course is aligned with the state of Utah's Core Standards for Social Studies, U.S. 1 Strand 6: Expansion Standards 6.1 and 6.2
- Time frame: this course will require 1-2 hours of seat time.
- Format: this course can be adapted for use in either an asynchronous online, synchronous online, or face-to-face learning environment.
Background for Teachers
To teach this lesson, you will need an understanding of westward US expansion, including knowledge about motives for expansion such as gold and other mining opportunities, cattle industry, homesteading, and transportation changes.
he following resources can provide important contextual details that may help you teach this topic:
Step 1 - Goals and Outcomes
- Students will be able to understand the forces that contributed to westward migration in the latter half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
- Students will define manifest destiny and name 3 factors that contributed to westward migration.
- Students will complete a 5 paragraph reflective creative writing assignment to demonstrate their ability to analyze and prioritize information and reflect on a historical event.
Step 2 - Planning Instruction
Student Background Knowledge
Prior to this lesson, students will need to have an understanding of basic United States geography, particularly the western half of the continent.
Strategies for Diverse Learners
Teachers can adjust the lesson to meet the needs of diverse learners by providing alternate supplemental materials that are not video based, or by adding reinforcement activities for learners who don't have a basic knowledge of US geography.
Step 3 - Instruction
Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny
Westward expansion has always been key to the story of our United States, beginning first along the East Coast and moving relentlessly westward until it reached the Pacific. Even before the American colonies won their independence from Britain in the Revolutionary War, settlers were migrating westward into what are now the states of Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as parts of the Ohio Valley and the Deep South.
Westward expansion took a huge leap forward in the early 19th century with the Louisiana Purchase (1803), which was followed by the Corps of Discovery Expedition - known more commonly as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Other key events which spurred the western movement were:
the War of 1812, which secured existing U.S. boundaries and defeated native tribes of the Old Northwest the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forcibly moved virtually all Indians from the Southeast to the present states of Arkansas and Oklahoma, a journey known as the Trail of Tears.
As settlers streamed westward, they were motivated by jobs, land, hope, the gold rush, adventure, and a new beginning. Their trek was made possible, in part, by the transcontinental railroad.
The term "Manifest Destiny" was first coined in 1845, although not by the president, statesmen, or even explorers. A journalist named John O'Sullivan popularized the term when he was writing about the Mexican War and American expansion into the Oregon territory.
The term itself was controversial, even during the nineteenth century. Watch this short video clip to learn why:
The major principles of manifest destiny are outlined in the following video:
Learning about Conflict in the American West
As the Transcontinental railroads to the West made their connection at Promontory Point, vast areas of the West were opened to settlement and development. White settlers flooded the West to farm, ranch, and mine. African American settlers also came West following the Civil War, seeking their own prosperity. In addition, diverse ethnic groups - like Chinese railroad workers and miners - remained in the West.
All of this settlement transformed the Great Plains. The huge herds of American bison that once covered the plains in black hordes were practically wiped out, and farmers plowed the natural grasses to plant wheat and other crops.
Nativism, or the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants, was nonexistent. Even the government-established office to manage the Native Americans, The Bureau of Indian Affairs, enacted controversial policies, including a decision to educate native children in boarding schools meant to enforce assimilation - forcing the minority group or culture to conform to the majority group - by prohibiting them from using their native language, customs, or dress.
These changes drastically affected the lives of Native Americans. Many conflicts followed. Although American Indians scored some victories, they were overpowered by the larger population of settlers and the superior military capability of the U.S. Government. By the 1880s, most Native American tribes had been confined to reservations, which boundaries were often subject to change and were located in less desirable areas.
View the following video and read the article below:
- Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3knJOD3uNw&feature=emb_imp_woyt
- Link: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/17748/17748-h/17748-h.htm
Engagement Tip for Instructors - ask students to work cooperatively in groups of two or more to propose an alternate solution to the US Government approach to place Native Americans on reservations. Treat this as a think/pair/share activity.
Gold Discovery and Immigration in the American West
The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848 forever changed the course of history in western America by sparking an unprecedented westward migration.
Click on the following image to explore an infographic about this gold discovery and what resulted:
Later Westward Migration
Another event later in history sparked an additional westward migration. A severe drought in the Great Plains region impacted farmers who were unable to grow their usual crops of cotton or wheat. In addition, extreme wind-driven dust storms had arisen more than once in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas panhandle, picking up millions of tons of plowed topsoil and blackening the skies for thousands of miles.
In the 1930s, farmers from the Midwestern Dust Bowl states, especially Oklahoma and Arkansas, began to move to California. They came with great hope, like the westward-moving pioneers of old.
Engagement Tip for Instructors: Ask students if any member of their family has ever talked about the Dust Bowl. If students don't have any first-hand experience with the Dust Bowl, share photographs taken by a Dust Bowl photographer, such as Dorothea Lange.
Experience the Interactive Dust Bowl to see how decisions compounded to create peoples’ destiny. Click through to see what choices you would make and where that would take you:
Since games are a fun and effective method of review, engage students to play a game. This Jeopardy review game is versatile enough to be played singly, in an asynchronous learning environment, or as a group in a synchronous, real-time virtual environment, or in a face-to-face instructional environment as a large group. The purpose of the game is simply to incentivize review.
Step 4 - Assessments
The final assessment of student learning in this course is a research project where students will showcase their ability to analyze and prioritize information and reflect on a historical event.
Describe an experience, event, or moment in time that occurred in western American history.
Explain the meaning of that experience or what you learned in a minimum of five well-written paragraphs.
Assignment Reflective Writing Rubric:
|Five or more paragraphs||5 points|
|Demonstrates critical thinking||2 points|
|Historically accurate||1 point|
|One or fewer grammatical errors||1 point|
|Introductory statement, building to a logical conclusion||1 point|
|Total points possible||10 points|