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Literature & History of American Protest: Home

Project for Primary Source

Film Guide--"Wounded Knee” from We Shall Remain

Film Guide for "Wounded Knee." The last of a five part series "We Shall Remain" from the show "American Experience" on PBS about the history of Native Americans from the 17th-20th centuries. Original air date: April 13, 2009.

Sarah Anderson, High School Librarian

Lexington Public Schools

August 13th, 2018

11-12 Grade

Final Project for "Literature & History of American Protest" course offered through Primary Source, July 2018.

The Librarian's Role:

As a librarian, my role is to support students and staff with projects, research, and possible course materials. For teachers specifically, I help find, assess, and organize information to augment what they have/need for lessons and project plans--find primary and secondary sources or direct them to places where they may find same. For the film guide, I find supporting documents for pre- and post-viewing, offer discussion points, activity ideas, while including some of the elements requested in the formal assignment guide. I am using the LibGuide (Library Guide) format as it is how I normally present the curated resources for teachers and students to help guide their work on a topic in one online location for easier access. (This has replaced the physical "PathFinder" we used to produce as handouts for projects.) 

Normally, I would work with and present all this information informally to the teacher before building this guide. We would then select the pertinent information and links the teacher would want to keep it focused and streamlined for her/his use. Since I do not have that option here, I am including many more and varying options in each section in lieu of a conversation. Hence, this LibGuide is busier than most.

I will provide you, the project reviewer, parenthetical tips in boxes to explain how to access some of the linked resources. Again, I would not do this in a traditional LibGuide as I would have had that conversation in person with the classroom teacher or have taught it to the class when presenting this site.


Essential Questions: Protest Movement Focus

(Far more essential questions than I would have for a class but these are some of the options a teacher may want for their class, depending on course focus)

What led up to the Wounded Knee Occupation in 1973?*

Why did AIM choose the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890?

What were the AIM goals for this protest?*

What were the goals of the tribal leaders?*

How did the government respond?*

Was violence or aggression necessary for this protest?

What role does protest play in a republic?

Does violence have a place in political protests or movements?

Do protest movements shape the culture or are they shaped by it?

Was this protest successful? If so, what did it change?*

What was the aftermath of this protest?

What are some similarities and differences between the Wounded Knee Occupation of 1973 and current social movements?

How does the concept of power and agency shape protest?

What does it mean to be a citizen in the United States of America today?

(*These questions were lifted or modified from questions listed from the Pomona College course website "'All Power to the People!': Social Movements for Justice.")

Essential Questions: Media Focus

What was the significance of the Wounded Knee Occupation in 1973?

What role did the media play in this occupation? Was it important to the protest? if so, how? if not, why not?

Who was the audience for this protest?

How did AIM use the media to increase publicity?

How did the media present the occupation, people involved, Government agencies?

How did the public respond to the events?

How did the media help or hurt the cause?

What other social movements were the media involved with during the late 1960s early 1970s?


Pre-Viewing Activity Ideas

Using Padlet, have students name all the Native American tribes they can think of--give them 2-3 minutes. When finished, first show them the tribes of Massachusetts and see how many they got. Then show them the map of all the Tribal Nations and their original locations. Point out how many different nations there are and read the map description to the class which appears in the lower left corner of the map. It starts with "This map represents the original pre-contact homelands of the hundreds of Tribal Nations..." Ask the students what they notice about this map. Did anything surprise them? Ask the students what they think of the naming conventions on the map? Are the naming conventions important?

And/or take the students to this interactive map "Invasion of America" which shows the loss of Native Tribal lands over time. There are may interactive elements including the ability to overlay a map of current reservations. What do the students notice? Perhaps grouped students can take a few minutes to explore the site. What do they notice? What does this information, in conjunction with the map of Nations, tell them?

Jigsaw 1. Have students form groups (in numbers matching the number of new vocabulary words you want them to know) before viewing this film. Pass out a vocabulary sheet with the words (with blank spaces to fill in the words' meanings). Assign each student in the group a different word. Each student has 5 or so minutes to research the meaning or group behind the vocabulary words. After time is finished, each student will report to the group what their vocabulary word means. Students can write the meanings into their individual worksheets.  

Jigsaw 2. Assign the readings linked to the vocabulary words to the students to peruse in groups. For example, Group 1 gets "AIM" Group 2 
"Wounded Knee Massacre" etc. The students have the block to go over the reading and decide which information is important to report back to the class the next day. Day 2. Students report their findings to the class. 

Post Viewing Activity Ideas

DBQ of the "Trail of Broken Treaties" preamble and list of 20 items as seen in this pamphlet provided by AIM. (3rd page of page down.)

Post-viewing questions?

Who are the Sioux/Oglala? What were they protesting? What do you think was the most successful part of the protest: getting attention? shock value of the protest? symbolism of the location? How did these work together?

How did the Oglala Sioux demonstrate power?

What was the purpose of this protest? What were they asking for?

Would you consider this protest violent? Does violence have a place in protest?

Are there other ways Oglala/Lakota leaders and AIM could have gotten the government's attention without occupying the town of Wounded Knee SD?

Was the Occupation of Wounded Knee protest successful?

What are civil rights? Are they meant for all people in this country? Those visiting this country? People seeking asylum and/or illegal immigrants?

Some Native American reservations exercise sovereign rule? If so, are they still entitled to the civil rights protections?

Post-viewing project ideas or discussion papers:

Compare the Occupation of Wounded Knee with one modern day civil rights protest. How are they similar? How are they different? Is there anything the modern movement can or should take as inspiration from the Occupation of Wounded Knee?

Review the following documents: 1. This article from The Atlantic, "Occupy Wounded Knee: A 71-Day Siege and a Forgotten Civil Rights Movement" published in 2012. 2. This article from the U.S. Marshals Service website, "History--Incident at Wounded Knee" publication date current. 3. The Indian Country Today website, "Native History: AIM Occupation of Wounded Knee Begins" published 2017.

All of these accounts are written well after the Occupation of Wounded Knee: How are they the same? How do they differ? What are the point of views of the authors? Are the authors' recounting of events accurate? Who are the articles' intended audiences? Why would different accounts of the same event vary in focus and emphasis different aspects of the Occupation?




In the wake of the political movements of the 1960s, the group American Indian Movement (AIM) formed to bring media attention to the plight of Native Americans in the US concerning education, housing, poverty, land rights, and broken treaties. In 1972 the Oglala/Lakota Sioux of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation fought to oust recently elected Chairman Dick Wilson, for fraud, corruption, threatening, coercion, and cronyism, creating a rift in the community. Failing to unseat him and frustrated with the US Government failure to fulfill most treaties with and protect Native Americans, 200 residents and members of AIM, who arrived " be where there is injustice and confront it," occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota (site of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890) demanding to reopen treaty negotiations with the US Government. This film follows the 71 days of the Occupation of Wounded Knee with media footage and present-day interviews with those involved on the Oglala/Lakota Sioux and Governrment sides. The film provides an historical context of events that lead up to the occupation and its effects thereafter. 

Vocabulary for Students: Background Reading for Teachers

(This Vocabulary list provides quick definitions necessary for the students to understand the film and it's context. However, this vocabulary list also has links to essential background readings for the classroom teacher. Vocabulary terms with "more.." after the definition, have URLs with related information.)


Tips for Teachers

Pitfalls to avoid/possible mis-understandigs. Some of the pitfalls are obvious. Don't make a student, or let the other students make the students who are/is Native American or of Native American ancestry the expert of voice of all Native peoples. Don't let discussions about reservations become "poverty tourism." Without proper lead-up to the film with assignments or discussion that bring context to the times and context to what happened afterwards, this film will be a blip on the student's radar in terms of significance in American History. In the current climate of "fake media," keep point-of-view and media reporting discussions reigned in. Also, students who are literal can get lost in a loop with the difference between violence and aggression. Maybe have those definitions posted somewhere?

Sensitive issues to anticipate--Native American Identity. Hostage situations. Feelings of guilt in non-students of color and white males. Children being taken from their homes. Identity change forced onto children. There are a few shots of dead bodies and a bloody floor. Coarse language. 

Excerpts from film/ Rich scenes for classroom use, teachable moments:  Ghost-Dance, The Pan-Indianism Movement, De-Indianization (Re-education and boarding schools), Social Movements of that time period.  Part of this film easily be used on their own for other courses or small segments of larger units. This page from Massachusetts PBS has excellent segments and clips from the film pulled out. 

If you wish to watch the whole film, viewing alone will take two days. Day one, end before @29:00 which starts with "19th Century American Expansion" and start with that on day two. If using one or two segments only, you will be able to watch one or both depending on the activities built around the viewing.

Primary Source Connections. Evaluating "literature" and protest in time periods requires understanding of views of the social system and its agitators of that time. Who is in control? Who has the power? What does the agitating group want? What aspect of power do they feel they are being denited or cut out of? What history even lead up to these perspectives. What does the literature mean and who is its audience? What that group? Why that form of protest? How will this help illustrate the point? Who is the agitating/outside group appealing to? 


Subjective Review

Subjective Review: Include a subjective paragraph at the end of your film guide that tells us your opinion of the film as a resource for your teaching and professional growth. Was this a useful film? Has it informed your thinking in new ways?

"Wounded Knee," episode 5 of the American Experience documentary "We Shall Remain" was well done. Not only did they dissect the Wounded Knee Occupation of 1973, they did an excellent job providing context and, in interviewing those representing the US Government and those from the AIM/leaders of the occupation, it provided and interesting balanced report of the event itself--a subject often shunted aside as important in the history of American but even as an important social and political protest. There are many ways this can be used in the classroom: who writes history? Who is the dominant and who are the subordinate groups at this time? How do those in power, suppress group identity? What does it mean to be a citizen of this republic? Is protest important in our society? Do protests actually garner results in the short or long term? Is the United States an imperialistic nation? This film made me think about the dearth of the subject of Native American history and culture in high school curriculum? Do we consider other aspects more important? Are we worried that the questions' answers about how those in power treat those who have little power are too complex? How can we view ourselves as a republic accurately if we don't look at and seek information from ALL we have influence for good or ill?


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Sarah Anderson
251 Waltham Street
Lexington, MA 02421
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Background Reading Available in the Library

Lexington High School Library Media Center