Monday, June 2, 2008

Kit Carson Strikes Again!

When I picked up the books for this year's book discussion group, I knew I would love 2 immediately. Call it my macabre taste, but I knew that Fall River Outrage: Life, Murder, and Outrage in Early Industrial New England and Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West would be my favorites. While I am excited to apply the Fall River text to next year, I had a great opportunity to utilize the Blood and Thunder text this year.

Here's what I did, feel free to use all or part!

Divide the class into 3 groups- Dine, Mexican Americans, and the Federal Government.

Each group gets this background explanation:"This activity centers around a debate over the ancestral land of the Dine, or Navajo, in present day New Mexico. The area was gained by the United States after the Mexican American War, and currently is controlled by the Dine people. They are primarily sheep herders, the blankets they weave are prized possessions, often worth a lot of money. There are Mexican Americans who have lived on the borders of the Dine's territory who have been plagued by Dine attacks for decades, since the area was still a part of Mexico. The Dine attack the Mexican Americans to add to their own population by taking captives, or to replace sheep that have been taken or slaughtered by outsiders. There are also American citizens and new immigrants who wish to settle the area. Not only is the land beautiful, the Dine have amended and irrigated the soil for crops which make it ideal ranch/farm land. "

Have the Mexican American group write a petition to the Federal government that outlines their grievances and what they wish the government to do about it.

Have the Federal Government group write a treaty proposal to the Dine that outlines the grievances of their citizens.

Have the Dine group read the passage in Blood and Thunder that outlines the problems that the Dine have with signing treaties (they don't understand the authority of the Fed. government, they think that the white men might be witches, they don't understand the language, etc.)

Have the Dine respond to the other groups with this information in mind (they will come up with some interesting responses!)

I capped this off with a discussion, then had the students predict what the final outcome would be. Next, we watched Kit Carson, American Experience- a PBS documentary that overviews Carson's actions in the Canyon de Chelly and the 'Long Walk'. It is available at online at and the chapters that apply are 6 and 7.