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How did the United States government develop policies towards Indian nations during George Washington’s presidency?  How were Indian societies and cultures affected by U.S. policies?  This integrated lesson explores how the United States government, American citizens and Indian nations asserted rights to their lands during Washington’s presidency.  Students will study the changing landscape of our nation and who benefited from and was harmed by these changes.

Lesson Narrative (5Es)

This learning experience is inquiry-based and built on the 5E model. Students will be engaged by analyzing two different maps of the United States. They will then explore and explain the different ways that Indian peoples and United States citizens viewed their rights to the land. Students will also examine who benefited and who was harmed when the United States expanded.  Students will evaluate whether Washington lived up to this belief that Native American policy should be based on the “great principles of Justice and humanity.”  Finally, student learning can extend through a primary source activity.


  • Provide two maps of the North American Continent—one with European territories/regions and one with Native Tribes in 18th
  • Name the differences and similarities.
  • Looking at George Washington will help ensure Native Americans and their perspectives not left out of Founding Era.


  • Read the secondary source article and discuss the competing interest of the United States and Native American policy: land and cultural practices on that land.
  • Read the case study about the Creeks.


  • Assess Ready Comprehension with primary source question set (suggested for homework)
  • Go further with Discussion Questions (in class)


Teachers may choose to extend the lesson by working with students on the “Primary Source Analysis – Peace Medals Presented by George Washington.” 

  • Students will analyze the 1792 peace medal using the provided questions.
  • They will also analyze a portrait of Red Jacket (Sagoyewatha) to contemplate why he chose to wear the peace medal presented to him by President Washington in his portrait.

Language Usage

Many terms are used when referring to the indigenous peoples of North America.  The most accurate term that you can use is the specific name of the nation.  This lesson utilizes the names of individual nations and uses a broader term when referring to two or more nations.  These broader terms are Indians and Native Americans.  These terms are used interchangeably by federal, state and tribal governments.

Consideration also must be given to using the words tribe or nation.  In An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People (adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese), Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz argues that “The word nation is more accurate than the word tribe because it acknowledges that long before the United States existed, the many different Native peoples had governments and made agreements with each other, just as other nations have always done.  The U.S. government and tribal governments also use the terms tribe and nation interchangeably.”  This lesson uses both terms, tribe and nation.


Student Portal

Students can explore the timeline to learn more about George Washington and U.S. Native American policy

Explore the Timeline

Civic Connections: Our Changing Landscape.

This lesson focuses on the ideas of Our Changing Landscapes, which has a definition within the Educating for American Democracy Framework. Here are the specific civic components that connect to this lesson.

9-12 Key Concepts: Examine how borders change over time and the consequences of U.S. territorial expansion, analyze Indigenous understanding of land stewardship, economic activity, property, and prosperity, analyze the impact of people, policy, and cultural norms on landscape and climate.

Driving Questions:

History: HDQ1. How has the land we inhabit – from our local community to states and territories to the American republic – changed over time, and how have we shaped it?

Civics: CDQ1. What principles and values do Americans invoke in our debates about these issues?

Design Challenge 2: America's Plural Yet Shared Story

DC2.1: How can we integrate the perspectives of Americans from all different backgrounds when narrating a history of the U.S. and explicating the content of the philosophical foundations of American constitutional democracy?

Educating for American Democracy