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Indigenous Music from Wounded Knee to the Billboard Charts

Subject ArtsMusicSocial StudiesUS Government
Grade Level Grades 9-12
Standards Alignment
Common Core State Standards


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This lesson on Indigenous music explores the following question: "In what ways did the music of Native Americans mark them as outsiders from the developing narratives of 'American-ness' in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and how did the federal government attempt to use music as a tool to force assimilation?"

In this lesson, students are introduced first to Pat Vegas and Redbone by way of interviews and music from RUMBLE, a critically-acclaimed documentary starring "the Indians who rocked the world". They then look back to the late 19th century to consider the significance of Redbone’s success. Students will use clips from the film, as well as a set of seven source documents to assess the U.S. government’s attempt to control Native American populations by way of culture, particularly music. The documents, which include letters, acts of Congress, testimony, and newspaper articles, introduce students to legislation and the Federal Indian Boarding School system from the perspectives of both government agents and Native Americans.

Please see TeachRock's website for additional information and access to video content.…

Enjoy this Indigenous music resource?

Check out more free lesson plans and resources in Share My Lesson's Indigenous Peoples Collection or the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation partner page.



Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9–10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.


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