Myth of the Vanishing Race
In this lesson, students will analyze photographs and documents related to American Indian assimilation through education. By examining these primary sources, students will understand how assimilation through education contributed to the myth of the vanishing race, as well as the importance of incorporating multiple viewpoints into research. Then, students will examine the work of two photographers of American Indians, Edward Curtis and Adam Clark Vroman, to understand how photography contributed to the myth of the vanishing race.
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The learner will:
- Analyze primary sources to understand a specific viewpoint
- Construct a narrative based on primary sources
- Analyze photographs to understand intended purpose
What is the myth of the vanishing race and how was this myth perpetuated?
Print out a copy of the Cartoon Analysis Guide for each student to help them analyze political cartoons. Then, show the students the following cartoons:
- The Indian tepee. Then and now [c.1908, see right]
- Educating the Indians--a female pupil of the government school at Carlisle visits her home at Pine Ridge Agency 
How do the cartoons illustrate the myth of the vanishing race and the U.S. government’s policy of forced assimilation?
MATERIALS & RESOURCES:
- Lesson plan, pp. 1-5
- Background Information sheet on Adam Clark Vroman and Edward Curtis, p. 6
- Excerpts from “The Myth of the Vanishing Race,” by David R. M. Beck (full essay available here), pp. 7-8
- Primary Source Set 1 with accompanying worksheet, pp. 9-10
- Primary Source Set 2 with accompanying worksheet, pp. 11-12
Available by links:
- “The Myth of the Vanishing Race: Adam Clark Vroman, Edward Curtis & The American Indian” PowerPoint
- Primary Source Analysis Tool
- Teacher's Guide, Analyzing Photographs & Prints