Honoring Indigenous Peoples

Students learn about Indigenous peoples and their history, including investigating Indigenous Nations and Indigenous changemakers, and build an understanding that Indigenous peoples have always been and remain an important part of our country.



Unit 6

3rd Grade

Unit Summary

There are currently three million Indigenous people, from more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations, living in the United States. Since 1492 and the arrival of the first European explorers, Indigenous people's land has been violently seized, leading to a devastating decline in population and the stripping away of key aspects of Indigenous culture. It is impossible to synthesize the diverse history and culture of Indigenous people into one unit, but it is important for students to understand that Indigenous people have been, and still are, an important part of our country's history and future. Therefore, this unit has two focuses. 

The first focus is on providing students with an overarching understanding of Indigenous people and their history, using the book The People Shall Continue as a guide. After reading the text, students will participate in a guided research project to learn more about an Indigenous nation near where they live. The second part of the unit focuses on different Indigenous people who have worked hard and overcome hardships to create equal opportunities and experiences for Indigenous people today. After reading a few biographies as a class, students will research additional Indigenous heroes to learn more about their achievements, sacrifices, and passions. The goal of the second part of the unit is to shine a light on key Indigenous figures and emphasize the idea that Indigenous people have been, and always will be an important part of our country. 

Students review using chronology and cause and effect to explain the connection between historical events. When reading the different core texts, students learn how to analyze the relationship between the text and illustrations to help determine the full meaning of a text, noting places where readers learn additional information from the illustration or the text. When discussing the text, students continue to work on engaging with the thinking of others by building on, and paraphrasing ideas in order to understand, and questioning and clarifying. 

At this point in the sequence, students should be able to write fluently in response to the daily Target Tasks in order to show understanding of the text. Therefore, the writing focus of this unit is on researching and writing informational texts that introduce a topic, develop the topic, and provide text features and visual support in order to teach readers about different Indigenous nations and heroes. 

Please Note: In August 2023, we released updated enhanced lesson plans for this unit, which now include answers to key questions and related student supports. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Before you teach this unit, unpack the texts, themes, and core standards through our guided intellectual preparation process. Each Unit Launch includes a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning to ensure you're prepared to support every student.

Essential Questions

  • In what ways are Indigenous cultures in the United States similar and different? 
  • How did the arrival of European explorers and settlers impact Indigenous societies? How is this impact still seen today? 
  • Who are some Indigenous individuals who have had a significant impact on their communities and how have they helped to change the world around them?

Reading Focus Areas

  • Readers use chronology and cause and effect to explain the connection between historical events.

  • Analyzing the relationship between the text and illustrations helps a reader determine the full meaning of a text.

Writing Focus Areas

Informational Writing

  • Introduce a topic and group related information together.

  • Develop the topic with reasons, facts, and details.

  • Write a concluding sentence.

  • Include text features and visual support to aid comprehension.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Build on to partner's ideas. Seek to genuinely understand what peers are saying, and then build on.

  • Paraphrase to make meaning. Paraphrase what others are saying in order to keep track of key ideas in a discussion.

  • Question and clarify to build understanding. Seek to clarify a particular point a peer makes by asking follow-up questions.



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To see all the vocabulary for Unit 6, view our 3rd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Notes for Teachers

Teaching with a critical lens requires respectful consideration of the political and historical implications of language when centering the experiences of various groups. The terms Indigenous, American Indian or Native American are all correct, depending on whom you ask. In fact, the terms are used interchangeably by the federal, state, and tribal governments. 

For the purposes of teaching, when learning about a specific tribe or nation, the specific name of the nation will be used. This unit uses the terms Indigenous, Native peoples, and Native Americans when referring to the collective group of those groups who originally inhabited and cared for the land which we now call the Americas.  

This unit focuses on the experiences of Indigenous and Native peoples of the United States in the past and present. After first being introduced by Christopher Columbus, the term ‘Indians’ was commonly used to refer to the Native peoples of the Americas and remained in use well into the 1970s. For that reason, it appears in many texts in this unit. Due to this connection,  the word Indian by itself is sometimes regarded as offensive and we encourage you to discuss the history with students when it comes up in texts while providing alternatives terms and the reason why we use those alternatives. 

While some people have reclaimed “Indian” and identify themselves as such, for our purposes we will refer to specific tribes or nations (i.e. Blackfoot, Cherokee, Haudenosaunee, etc.) whenever possible.  Native people often have individual preferences on terms, therefore, the best way to determine which terms a group or person prefers is to ask them. This will be especially important when researching different Native groups.

Other terms that students may see are Inuit, Yup’ik, and Aleut Peoples who live in the Arctic and see themselves as culturally different than Native people from the United States. In Canada, the terms First Nations, First Peoples, or Aboriginal are also used. 

Through this we are engaging in the necessary practice of bringing about not just social or educational justice, but language justice for those who have historically been oppressed by our mislabeling and misidentification. 

For additional information about the use of words and terminology, read: 

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 5

Embracing Difference: The Hundred Dresses and Garvey's Choice

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