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Choices produces videos featuring top experts—professors, policymakers, journalists, activists, and artists—answering questions that complement the readings and lessons.

Supplemental Materials

Supplemental Materials include additional lessons, graphic organizers, a PowerPoint of all of the maps used in the readings and lessons, links to resources on other sites, and a list of recommended print resources.

Westward Expansion

Westward Expansion: A New History

First edition. July 2011.


At the dawn of the nineteenth century, North America was home to diverse Native American, European, and African groups. These groups and individuals experienced U.S. expansion in very different ways. Groups betrayed and fought each other, but they also worked to understand each other across a chasm of cultural difference. In later years, people in the United States would tell a story of westward expansion that left out the violence and racism, as well as the mutual adaptation, that accompanied this conquest. In many senses the very term "westward expansion" conveys an overly benign and incomplete sense of what actually transpired.

In recent years, scholars have worked to reexamine the history of the West by focusing on Native American groups. With limited sources, they have struggled to piece together histories that do not generalize the experiences of Native Americans, and that accurately portray the complicated interactions that occurred in the West.


Westward Expansion: A New History looks at this reexamined history through two lenses. First, students explore U.S. expansion from a broad perspective by considering the major events and policies that accompanied U.S. westward growth in the nineteenth century. In Part II, students explore this history on a local level using the groundbreaking research of Brown University Professor Karl Jacoby on the effects of U.S. expansion on groups in southern Arizona. This case study is not emblematic of the entire West; rather, it allows students to understand the complicated and violent ways in which U.S. expansion affected specific individuals and communities. Finally, students consider the ways in which we remember history, and efforts to re-envision the past.

The Choices Role Play

A central activity helps students consider the divergent views of groups in the region. By exploring the perspectives of Indian groups, Mexican Americans, U.S. settlers, and the federal government, students gain a deeper understanding of the conflicting values and assumptions of groups in the region.


Legend as an Historical Source
In this lesson students examine a Kiowa legend about smallpox and consider its value as an historical source.

The Status of Indians in the United States
After examining selections of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall's decision on the status of Indians in the United States, students analyze the role of the U.S. government in determining the status of Native American groups.

Maps from Four Perspectives
Students practice map-reading skills and connect geography to historical events. Students use maps to explore claims that different groups made on lands in southern Arizona.

Indian Records from Arizona
Students use O'odham calendar sticks as primary sources to consider the connection between local history and the wider history of North America.

Considering the Perspectives
Working cooperatively, students research and present multiple perspectives about issues at play in southern Arizona in 1871, and consider the ways U.S. westward expansion affected different groups there.

Rewriting History
In this activity, students analyze two accounts from 1871 of the attack at Camp Grant and consider the effects of missing voices in history.

Remembering Views of the Past
Working cooperatively, students design an exhibit for the Aravaipa Canyon Visitor's Center. Students reflect on the impact of U.S. westward expansion and the different ways that people think about this history.