Manifest Destiny: War on the Plains

This lesson examines the Indian Wars of the late nineteenth century and the idea of Manifest Destiny through multiple visual, written, and oral history sources by Turner, Custer, Tecumseh, Crazy Horse, and more.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Describe the concept of Manifest Destiny and its impact on the developing character of the American nation, including the purpose, challenges and economic incentives for...
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific...
Analyze how an author's choices concerning the structure of specific parts of a text contribute to its overall structure, meaning, and aesthetic impact.
Analyze how point of view and/or author purpose requires distinguishing what is directly stated in texts and what is implied.
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw inferences; support an interpretation of a text by citing and synthesizing relevant textual evidence from...
Determine multiple themes or central ideas of a text or texts and analyze their development; provide a critical summary.
Write informative/explanatory texts to analyze, synthesize, and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the...
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Learning objectives: 

Students will critically examine images depicting the ideal and reality of Manifest Destiny. Through the analysis of diverse texts, students will compare, contrast, and evaluate the Federal and Native American positions.

Essential and guiding questions: 

What is Manifest Destiny? How was this doctrine used to justify war with Native Americans and their removal to reservations?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Divide students into two groups and allow them to prepare points for a debate on the topic of Native American removal to reservations. Conduct a debate. This can be as formal or informal as you like, and can conclude Day 2 or take up a third day.

Helpful Hints


  • PowerPoint
  • Discussion Questions Worksheet (p. 5 below)
  • Primary Source Analysis Tool (student worksheet)
  • Analyzing Photographs & Prints (Teacher’s Guide)