First Nations Lesson Plan

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Individual identity is important. A nation's identity is just as, if not more, important. This lesson plan will guide your students through an understanding of the First Nations of North America through discussion, group activities and research.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • elaborate on the origin and definition of the term 'First Nation'
  • identify First Nation peoples from North America
  • demonstrate an understanding of First Nation peoples in North America


30 minutes - Instructions

15 minutes - Activity 1

20-30 minutes - Activity 2

60-90 minutes - Activity 3

Curriculum Standards


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Write and edit work so that it conforms to the guidelines in a style manual (e.g., MLA Handbook, Turabian's Manual for Writers) appropriate for the discipline and writing type.


Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.


  • Hard copies of the text lesson Who are the First Nations? - People & Tribes and the lesson quiz
  • Poster board
  • Art supplies
  • Access to research materials (specifically materials relevant to the First Nation peoples of the United States)
  • Specific information materials related to major Amerindian nations of the United States.


  • Begin with a discussion of identity:
    • How do you identify yourself?
    • Do you use your ancestry as part of your personal identification?
    • Who has family from another country?
    • Do you feel connected to the culture of that country because you have ancestors from there?
  • Move on to a discussion of the term 'native':
    • What does it mean to be native to an area?
    • Are you considered a native of an area because you were born there and lived there your whole life?
    • If yes, then what does it mean to be 'Native American'?
  • Tell students that they will be learning about the people who lived in different parts of North America before Europeans settled these areas.


  • Hand out the text lesson Who are the First Nations? - People & Tribes.
  • Ask a student to read the 'Introduction' and 'The First Nations People' sections of the text lesson. Discuss:
    • Was it logical for Columbus to call the people he met Indios?
    • Is it logical that we still refer to the ancestors of those people in the same way?
    • Why is the term Native American misleading? Do you agree?
    • What was controversial about the terms indigenous and aboriginal?
  • Ask another student to read the 'Who Is First Nation?' section of the text lesson. Ask:
    • What is the main issue in determining a single term to identify peoples who were living in North America prior to its colonization by Europeans?
    • What does 'pan-Indian' mean?
  • Select a volunteer to read the 'In the United States' section of the text lesson. Discuss:
    • Who makes the determination of a term to use when referencing ancestrally indigenous peoples in the United States?
    • Does this seem right to you? If not, who should?
    • Have you heard the term Amerindian before?
    • What do you think of it as a way to reference all ancestrally indigenous peoples of the U.S.?
  • Ask a student to read the 'In Mexico' section of the text lesson. Discuss:
    • What does pueblo indigenas mean?
    • How many ancestrally indigenous nations are in Mexico?
    • Why do you think Mexico embraces some but not all of its federally recognized nations?
  • Call on another volunteer to read the 'In Canada' section of the text lesson. Discuss:
    • How does Canada differ from the U.S. and Mexico in the way it relates to its First Nation people?
    • The lesson mentions First Nations governments; what does this imply about the position First Nations hold in Canada?
    • How many First Nations are recognized in Canada?
    • Why do you think the Metis and Inuits do not associate with the First Nations identity?
  • Read the 'Lesson Summary'. Allow students time to ask questions and review the lesson on their own before handing out the quiz.
  • Hand out the lesson quiz. Go over each question and answer with the class after they have finished it.

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