Honoring Indigenous Peoples

Students learn about Indigenous peoples and their history, including investigating Indigenous nations and Indigenous heroes, and build an understanding that Indigenous people are an important part of our country. 



Unit 4

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 striping 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 a few 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. 

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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.

Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit. Essential Tasks can be found in the following lessons:

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.

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 heroes, and how have they changed the world? 



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To see all the vocabulary for Unit 4, 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 3

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Unit 5

Exploring World Religions