Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

The History of Allotment

The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887

Mariana DeLoera, Lindsey Link, Sherry Franklin | Published: October 25th, 2023 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. History
  • Duration More 1-2 days


In this lesson, students will explore the history of the loss of land for Native American tribes and how policies in place further contributed to the loss. Students explore the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887, the Curtis Act, and the Burke Act and their lasting impacts. To extend their learning, students examine primary source documents to help answer the essential question.

Essential Question(s)

How do laws have a lasting impact on individuals?



Students watch a video showing the land taken from Native Americans over time and complete a S-I-T reflection.


Students use the Painting a Picture strategy to make observations and inferences about images of different artifacts.


Students read an article using the Stop and Jot strategy, then proceed to jigsaw the article with their group.


Students analyze several primary source documents using the H.I.P.P strategy.


Students complete an Exit Ticket to reflect on their learning.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Surprising, Interesting, and Troubling Handout (attached, one per student)

  • Painting a Picture-Document Set (attached, class set)

  • Painting a Picture Chart (attached, one per student)

  • Article -The History of Allotment (attached, one per student)

  • H.I.P.P. Graphic Organizer (attached, one per student)

  • Device with internet Access

  • Allotment Documents (attached, optional)

  • Pen/Pencil


10 Minute(s)

Use attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Begin by displaying slide 2. Explain to students that they will be watching a brief video and analyzing an image, as they review the sources they should consider something surprising, interesting, and troubling.

Transition to slide 3 and play the video called “The Invasion of America” which shows the change in the amount of land Native American tribes owned over time. Next, have students analyze the image titled “Indian Land for Sale.” Have students take note of the location of the land, the amount of acres, and the pricing.

Now that students have viewed both pieces, move to slide 4 and review the S-I-T  strategy. Distribute the Surprising, Interesting, and Troubling Handout and have students write out their thoughts about both the video and image and identify the following: 

  • A surprising fact or idea

  • An interesting fact or idea

  • A troubling fact or idea

After students have taken time to write out their thoughts, invite them to share their responses with the whole class. Once students have shared their thoughts, transition to slide 5 with the lesson objectives and explain to students that they will be exploring federal policies that had an impact on tribal sovereignty and land ownership.


15 Minute(s)

Begin by passing out the Painting a Picture Chart to each student. Display slide 6 and introduce the Painting a Picture strategy. Explain to students that they will be going around the room examining the images displayed. As they reach each image, they should record their observations and inferences on the Painting a Picture Chart. Take a moment to distinguish the differences between observations and inferences with the class. Tell students that they will have about 15 minutes to make observations and inferences about the photos. A timer can be found on slide 7.

Once students have worked through all the images, invite a few to share their observations and inferences. As students share, add any other information you think is important to point out. Slides 8-11 are available to guide the conversation. Transition to slide 12 and display the essential question:

How do laws have a lasting impact on individuals?

Wrap up the conversation by explaining to students that today they will explore how all of these artifacts had a lasting impact on tribal sovereignty.


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 13 and introduce the Jigsaw strategy. Students move into groups of three. Distribute a copy of the attached Article-The History of Allotment to students. Explain to students that as a group they will be reading about the history of allotment policies and using the Stop and Jot strategy to summarize their takeaways. Instruct groups to read the introduction paragraph together. Once they’ve read the introduction, each group member will summarize one of the following Acts: 

  • The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887

  • The Curtis Act (1898)

  • The Burke Act (1906)

After they have had ample time to read and write out their thoughts for their assigned parts, ask them to share the information they have gathered with the other group members. Display slide 14 and explain that as group members take turns sharing, students should be filling out their summaries for the remaining Acts. 


15 Minute(s)

When students have read about the history of allotment, explain to them that they will analyze three primary source documents using the H.I.P.P. strategy. Display slide 15 with instructions on how to use the H.I.P.P. strategy and the shortened link for the primary source documents. 

Students will remain in their same groups and read through the set of documents. Once they have read the documents, they will add their notes in the H.I.P.P. Graphic Organizer as a group. Explain to students that they should review all of the documents first then answer the questions keeping all of the documents in mind. Once you have allowed time for students to complete the activity as a class, review each part of the H.I.P.P. Graphic Organizer as a class. During this time clarify any misconceptions students might have about the Allotment Documents they reviewed.


10 Minute(s)

Have students turn in the H.I.P.P. Graphic Organizer from the Extend section and any other desired handout. These can serve as assessments for this lesson. If time allows, assess their understanding further by displaying slide 16 and using the following prompt as an Exit Ticket:

How do laws have a lasting impact on individuals?

Have students reflect on how the lives of members of Tribes were affected through the policy of allotment and Laws that enforced this policy. Students can submit their responses on a classroom notebook or alternatively, on the back of one the existing handouts or having the discussion out loud as a class.


ArcGIS web application. (n.d.).

Dawes Act allotment documents by Art Department. Infogram. (n.d.). (2014, June 2). The invasion of America [Video]. YouTube.

Fisher, W. L., Valentine, R. G., United States Department Of The Interior, I. B. & Printed Ephemera Collection. (1911) Indian land for sale: get a home of your own, easy payments. Perfect title. Possession within thirty days. Fine lands in the West. [United States Publisher not identified] [Pdf] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

K20 Center. (n.d.). Bell Ringers and Exit Tickets. Strategies.

K20 Center. (n.d.). H.I.P.P.. Strategies.

K20 Center. (n.d). Jigsaw. Strategies.

K20 Center. (2021, May 6). Painting a picture. Strategies.

K20 Center. (2021, February 12). S-I-T (Surprising, interesting, troubling). Strategies. 

K20 Center. (2020, September 16). Stop and jot. Strategies.

K20 Center 15 minute timer. YouTube. (2021c, September 21).