From the Source to the Sea: The Nisqually River Watershed
by Patricia Pierce Erikson
This may be used as a Causes of Conflict Classroom-Based Assessment for high school students.
This cedar paddle handle bears the marks of the adze that was used to carve it. At the time of its donation, the donor reported that this paddle belonged to Nisqually Chief Leschi. Washington Historical Society Collections.
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The Lesson Plan
All other required materials can be downloaded from their respective links within the lesson plan.
We live in houses, drive cars, and depend upon technology. Despite this, our lives still depend upon the health of the natural environment - air, soil, and water. Businesses, politicians, and citizens around the world continually struggle with the question: how can we improve our standard of living and keep the environment healthy? Is it possible to do both? The debate over how we interact with our natural environment shapes our news every day. The struggle over natural resources - who owns them and how best to use them - has also shaped the history of our nation and our region.
In this lesson plan, students will have the opportunity to pretend that they have been hired to mediate a conflict over the Nisqually River watershed. They must research the conflicts over different uses of Nisqually River watershed resources in order to explain how historical and economic factors helped cause the conflict. As a mediator, they must write a report that persuasively offers a resolution to the conflict. This resolution must be based upon a discussion of one or more factors playing the biggest role in causing the conflict. To do this they must cite and interpret relevant artifacts and primary and secondary sources.
Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs):
This lesson plan satisfies the following EALRs: Hist 1.1.3b, 2.1.3; Econ 1.1a; Social Studies 3.1.4a. Click here to print out the material for your reference.
CBA Scoring Rubric and Notes:
The Office of State Public Instruction has created a scoring rubric for the Causes of Conflict Classroom-Based Assessment (CBA). Click here to download and print this rubric for your information.
Essential Questions for Students:
- Who are the Nisqually people and in what ways did they relate to natural resources of the Nisqually watershed?
- Who was Chief Leschi and how does his story relate to the Medicine Creek Treaty?
- What is a watershed and where is the Nisqually River watershed?
- What is the legacy of the different perspectives on and uses of this watershed by Nisqually people and non-Native settlers?
- Why is this history related to contemporary issues?
- Primary historical resources can enable students to interpret the past and make sense of the present.
- Contemporary political and environmental issues stem from historical interactions between humans and the environment.
- U.S.-Indian treaties are significant historical documents shaping our political and environmental landscape today
Primary Sources: A piece of evidence created during the time period under investigation by someone who participated in, witnessed, or commented upon the events that you are studying. It is the surviving record of past events such as photographs, diaries, or artifacts.
Secondary Sources: Books, articles, essays, and lectures created, often using primary sources, that describe and interpret a time period after events have taken place.
Primary Sources for Student Understanding (listed below) are available through Primary Source Web Gallery in the From the Source to
the Sea Webquest:
- Chief Leschi paddle
- Chief Leschi arrows
- net float
- photo of fish weir
- photo of canoe ferry
- James McCloud interview
- Billy Frank interview
- E.S. Curtis photo
Secondary Sources for Student Understanding (available here and in the From the Source to
the Sea Webquest):
- Nisqually Indian Tribe - About Us
- Before the White Men Came
- Relation to the Mountain
- What Is A Watershed?
- The Cattle Battle
- Tribal Homelands
- Indian Rights and Treaty Time at Nisqually
- Iron Chink
- Indian Country Today "Salmon Carcass Toss"
- Dictionaries or thesaurus
- Map of Washington state
- Computer lab access
Instructions for Teachers:
* Prepare yourself by reading all of the materials provided for you and your students.
* In order to be able to draw comparisons and call attention to situations close at hand, identify which tribal group lives nearest to you and familiarize yourself with some of the contemporary, resource-based conflicts that have made the news. You may wish to use this map of current reservations to begin locating tribal groups, and then search for recent news articles at Indianz.com or Indiancountrytoday.org.
Part II. What's Ahead?
Explain to your students the objectives of the assignment by stressing the following:
- You will be looking at at least two different groups of people who have been living in the Nisqually River Watershed since the 1800s - the Nisqually Indian Nation and either British fur traders or American settlers and their descendants.
- You will be gathering information about how these different groups perceived and used natural resources of the Nisqually River ecosystem.
- Once you have chosen the time period that you are going to research in more depth, you are going to pretend that you have been hired to arrive at a conflict as a mediator. The mediator's job is to help resolve one of the conflicts between these two groups. It will be your responsibility to understand the perspectives of those in the conflict, and submit a report to your employer that recommends a resolution to the problem. In order to make your opinion and report credible and persuasive, you must cite at least two primary sources when you represent the position of each group in the conflict.
They will have access to these objectives directly when they go to their From the Source to the Sea Webquest.
Part III. Review Setting of the Conflict: The Nisqually River Watershed
Break students up into pairs and hand out the Vocabulary Word Organizer. Ask them to fill out the first two blocks of the sheet. Make sure dictionaries are available.
Then hand out the What is a Watershed? reading. Ask them to fill out the remainder of the sheet after completing the reading. Come back together as a class and ask for a few pairs to volunteer the sentences they constructed.
Next, project the map of the Nisqually River watershed. Reinforce the concept that this a unified ecosystem that drains water from the source to the sea (in this case, Puget Sound). Any two drops of water that fall within the outline of this watershed, will flow towards the same outlet: the Nisqually Delta at Puget Sound.
Note: You may reinforce this concept by folding an 8 ½" X 11" paper in half and setting it up like a tent on a table. Dip your finger in a cup of water and let a drop fall on one side of the tent to simulate how a drop landing on one side of "the mountain" drains down one watershed. However, a drop of rain landing on the other side of the peak (of your fold) drains down a different watershed.
Pass out and assign as homework the readings Before the White Men Came and the Relation to the Mountain excerpt. Ask your students to underline the most important concepts illustrating the traditional Nisqually relationship with the land. Provide the Nisqually timeline organizer and ask them to note on it significant events. This may be an opportune time to review chronology as a concept. Encourage them to use the timeline as it will make their later research easier.
Review the Characters in the Conflict I: The Nisqually People
This session will reinforce connections between traditional lifeways and elements of the Nisqually ecosystem. It also provides pre-write activities to prepare them for their research and for outlining their research paper.
First, tell students that they are going to have some in-class time for an initial online exploration of the WashingtonHistoryOnline gallery of Nisqually artifacts. Send them to the primary source web gallery within the From the Source to the Sea webquest.
*This is an opportune time to remind students about the difference between primary documents and secondary documents. Stress that they are reviewing primary historical materials mainly from the Washington State Historical Society's collection. How are these artifacts and historic photos significant to understanding how Nisqually people related to the natural environment?
* To reinforce their reading on the Nisqually people, ask students to create a "word bank" with you on the board. What are the most important terms they remember from their reading? Ask students to volunteer these words for you to write on the board. Look for opportunities to underscore connections between the Nisqually people's lifeways and various parts of the ecosystem, for example, the grasslands, or the river, or the forest.
* After the discussion, allow them ten minutes to free write what they have learned about traditional Nisqually uses of the land and how this changed over time.
Review the Characters in the Conflict II: British fur traders and American settlers
Let students know that now they are going to complicate their understanding of how the Nisqually watershed was used by looking at its use by the British fur traders and American settlers. Project a picture of Fort Nisqually for the class. Ask them to note their observations about what they see? Which ecological zone might they be looking at here? How is it being used? How is this similar or different from uses they have learned about thus far?
Pass out the Causes of Conflict graphic organizer and have them read, in pairs, the following Tribal Homelands reading. Have them note some of the factors that led to conflict on their graphic organizer. Remind them to continue adding to their timeline organizer.
*Assign "Cattle Battle" as homework reading. Ask them to continue working with their timeline and graphic organizer. Remind them to continue asking themselves: what are the factors that led to conflict? What natural resources are a source of conflict?
From Iron Chinks to Carcass Toss: Eating and Restoring Salmon
Tell students that we are returning to the concept of watershed and
travelling forward in time to the early 20th century and to the present.
Project the map of dams on the Nisqually River. Ask students to share as
a class what they already know about the impact of dams upon the salmon
population. Help them understand why is there such interest in building
these dams (e.g., electrical power production, lake recreation)? What
are the environmental consequences (e.g., changes in river nutrient and
oxygen levels, drop in water flow, decline in salmon population)?
*Divide the class in half. Ask half of the class to read Iron Chink and
answer: what is an iron chink and how did it impact the salmon
population? Have the other half read the Carcass Toss and excerpt from Frank's Landing. If they have internet access in class or at home, have
all of them look at the web photogallery "What is a Salmon Carcass Toss?" What are tribal and non-tribal groups doing today to address the
impacts on the watershed?
Tell students that they are now ready to choose the topic of their paper
and begin more detailed research.
Final Research and Outline Paper
Turn your students' attention to their assignment sheet. Remind them that their assignment is to pick a time period and a conflict over the Nisqually River watershed resources. They are to imagine that they have been hired to enter the conflict as a mediator, that they must come to understand the different perspectives in the debate, and offer a suggested resolution to the conflict in a written report. Offer to them some possible ways to frame their paper.
Suggested paper topics for exploring causes of conflict:
- Medicine Creek Treaty
- The Puget Sound Indian War of 1855-56
- The Trials of Chief Leschi
- Forced relocation and founding of Fort Lewis
- Building Dams
- Fishing Wars of the 1960s
- Salmon restoration of the 1990s
WashingtonHistoryOnline offers a tremendous number of primary and secondary sources that could be used for this paper. Depending upon the amount of time you have, you could have your students devote only a few days to this assignment, or, alternatively, they could extend their research into many others sources and devote more time to the writing and presentation of their papers.
Hand out the Classroom-Based Assessment checklists and rubrics to assist them in meeting the learning outcomes. These checklists will assist students in planning and organizing their papers.
After students have drafted their persuasive papers, pair them up and have them switch papers. Ask them: Are you persuaded by your partner's recommendation? Why or why not? What evidence have they used?
Possible extension activities:
- Field trip to Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, Mt. Rainier, Alder Dam, or another significant feature on the Nisqually watershed.
- Field trip to Fort Nisqually or Fort Steilacoom.
- Participate in a carcass toss or other restoration project.