A Special Place (Salish Tribe)

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Subjects Image: 
Grades: K - 2nd Grade
Lesson: 1
Unit: 2: American Indian land tenure history
Subject: Geography
Additional Subject: Arts
Achievement Goal: Students gain an understanding of the geographical concept of place as the human and physical characteristics of a location.
Time: Two class periods
Lesson Resources:

Lesson Description:
States Image: 

Through a story about a fishing trip with an elder, students learn about a place name and its meaning in Salish aboriginal territory. Through discussions, drawing, and writing, students: identify ways that people develop a relationship with specific places; explore how relationships endure across geographic distance; explain why land outside a reservation is still important to a tribe; and identify a place that they have a special relationship with.

Teacher Background:

Many American Indian tribes and families maintain age-old relationships with places that have been ceded through treaties and that lie outside reservation boundaries. This lesson uses a story about a Salish place to guide students to learn why land outside a reservation may still be important to a tribe. The lesson also helps build empathy by encouraging students to identify places that hold special memories and relationships for them.


Montana Social Studies Content Standards 3 

Students apply geographic knowledge and skills (e.g., location, place, human/environment interactions, movement, and regions).

Essential Understandings Regarding Montana Indians 4 

Reservations are lands that have been reserved by the tribes for their own use through treaties and were not “given” to tribes. The principle that land should be acquired from Indian Nations only through their consent with treaties was based on three assumptions:

a. that both parties to treaties were sovereign powers;

b. that Indian tribes had some form of transferable title to the land; and

c. that acquisition of Indian lands was solely a government matter not to be left to individual colonists.

Teacher Preparation Resources:
  • Gather the materials listed in the Lesson Resources section.
  • Also gather drawing paper and colored pencils.
  • Read the story and Salish place name information.
  • Make copies of the coloring page for students.
Student Activity:


  1. Read the story “Fishing with Sile” to the class.
  2. Discuss what students thought about the story.


  1. Discuss the relationship that the Salish people had with Silver Bow Creek.
  2. Ask students if they think that some Salish people today might miss that place. How would they feel if they went to Silver Bow Creek today?
  3. Ask the class why the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes received money from the damage to Silver Bow Creek when it is not located on their reservation.
  4. Discuss the meaning of “reservation.”


  1. Share a personal favorite place with the class. Describe it and tell students what makes it special to you.
  2. Ask students to think of a place that might be special to them or to their family.
  3. Ask them to write down as many words as they can that describe it.
  4. Give students drawing paper and let them draw a picture of their special place.


After students finish their picture, have them use their descriptive words to write a Cinquain poem about their place:

  1. Line 1 is one word (the title).
  2. Line 2 is two words that describe the title.
  3. Line 3 is three words that tell the action.
  4. Line 4 is four words that express the feeling.
  5. Line 5 is one word that recalls the title.
  1. Use the drawing and poem to assess student understanding of the geographic concept of place: the human and physical characteristics of a location.
  2. Evaluate students based on the Montana Standards and Achievement Goal for this lesson.
Lesson Resources:

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