Lesson One: Oscar Micheaux and Gertrude Simmons Bonnin

Focus Questions:

• What made it possible for Micheaux to homestead in South Dakota?

• Which of Micheaux’s films and novels told of his life here?

• What made Bonnin a good worker for American Indian rights?

• What did Bonnin do to help preserve American Indian culture?

Imbedded Information In The Student Lesson:

Gregory; Carlisle Indian School; Old Indian Legends


Get Acrobat

Notable South Dakotans Complete the Sentences

Classroom Activities:

     Both of the people discussed in this unit were writers. Micheaux wrote novels and movie scripts. Bonnin wrote essays and operettas. Have students produce a short play or screenplay. Begin by breaking the class into creative "teams," with team size depending on how many students you have; choose a South Dakota history event that your class has studied (examples include buffalo hunting, Lewis and Clark’s journey, homesteading, etc.). Have each team write a one- or two-page script about the event. Be sure to have them include dialogue between characters. Have each group cast the characters, choose costumes and props, and rehearse. Each team can then perform their play for the class and/or videotape the performances. Watch the plays or videos as a class and discuss. Was making the movie/play easier or harder than they expected? What made it hard? What made it interesting?

     Tell the students about one of your family traditions and ask them to share with the class some of their family traditions. Why are these traditions important? Do they plan to continue them once they are adults? Invite someone who continues American Indian, Norwegian, German, Irish, etc., customs into the classroom to demonstrate a craft, dance, costume, language, etc. As an alternative, have students put on a cultural fair where they display photographs, artifacts, and information on different cultures and traditions. Invite other classes to see the fair. The students can choose their own ethnic backgrounds to demonstrate, or they can explore others in this way.

     Together, Unit 5 and Unit 7 offer sixteen profiles of notable historical South Dakotans. Throughout the other student units, biographical sketches of other individuals such as Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Thomas Fawick, Joseph Parmley, etc., have been provided. These notable South Dakotans are but the tip of the iceberg, however. There are many more both living and dead that students could be urged to explore. A short list of historical figures might include Lucretia Marchbanks, John Waldron, and Korczak Ziolkowski, to name just a few. Then, too, there are numerous notable personalities still living: Bob Barker, Doris Leader Charge, Tom Brokaw, Mary Hart, Arthur Amiotte, etc. You might want to have students choose a notable South Dakotan, either living or dead, and do research in the library or on the Internet. For historical information, South Dakota History, the State Historical Society magazine, is a good source and can be found in most school libraries. The students can conclude the project by writing a one-page biography of their chosen individual. If they wrote biographies of their fellow students in Unit 5, they can now reuse those techniques to write about prominent individuals.