Chapter 23: Indian War Cry

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Clair Thomas, 3rd grade teacher, Sister Robert Joseph Bailey Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: After the prairie fire, the Ingalls family begins to notice more and more Indians in the creek bottom. Pa begins keeping the animals and children in earlier in the day because during the night the family can hear the Indian yells and during the day see the smoke from their fires. During the span of several nights, the family sit awake in the dark listening to frightening high-pitch war cries up and down the creek fearing what the Indians have in store for the family. After one particularly dreadful night, Pa finally learns the cause of all of the Indian's cries.

Chapter Themes: Prejudice, stereotypes, US and Indian wars

Chapter Activities
  • Language Arts
    • Indians vs. Settlers
      • Students will create a T-Chart and write how the settlers feel about the Indians in the story on one side, and how the Indians feel about the settlers on the other side. Then the children will describe in a literature response paragraph which side is just in their feelings and explain why.
      • Standards Addressed
        • LA(3)3.3 compare plots, settings, characters, and points-of-view in a variety of works by a variety of authors from different cultures and times
        • LA(3)5.5 write responses to literature, drawing upon experiences through the use of journals and learning logs

    • What would we do?
      • Mr. Edwards and Mr. Scott come with plans of a stockade, which Pa decides not to join in. Students will work in a small group to brainstorm what they would do as a new family that settled in a new land only to be frightened by Indian war plans. They will then work as a group to write a persuasive essay to share with the other “families” explaining what they are going to do and why.
      • Standards Addressed
        • LA(3)6.3 generate possible ideas for future writing through group activities such as brainstorming and discussions
        • LA(3)6.5 write simple compositions and persuasive essays which address a main idea with supporting details
  • Mathematics
    • We are hungry
      • Groups of 4-5 children will be given different scenarios regarding how much food is in the Ingalls’ house and how much each family eats per meal. The group will have to figure out how many days the family could eat before Pa would need to leave to find more food.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)A.5 apply multi-step, integrated, mathematical problem-solving strategies, persisting until a solution is found or until it is clear that no solution exists
        • (3)A.2 apply previous experience and knowledge to new problem solving
    • Long, Restless Nights
      • The children will track how many total nights the Ingalls family lie awake in fear of the Indian war cries by tracking the number of times a new day begins in the chapter using tallies. They will then transfer the number of days into hours and then minutes to see how long the family “lived in fear.”
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)3.14 recognize that there are 60 minutes in 1 hour
        • (3)5.3 draw conclusions from charts, tables, and graphs to solve problems
  • Social Studies
    • Settler and Indian Survival
      • The students will research how the Indians got food in the pre-settled west and how the settlers were able to survive. The children will research how some of the Indian tribes traveled to different places and explain the reasons that both the settlers and the Indians were constantly moving.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 2.0 Places and Regions — Students understand the physical and human features and cultural characteristics of places and use this information to define and study regions and their patterns of change.
        • 4.0 Human Systems — Students understand how economic, political, and cultural processes interact to shape patterns of human migration and settlement, influence and interdependence, and conflict and cooperation.
    • Life of an Indian/ Life of a Settler
      • The students will draw a number out of a hat. The odd numbers will become an Indian tribe and the even numbers become a wagon train moving to the west. Each group will have to decide what they will do for food in a chosen region in the expanding west, how they will deal with the other group when they meet, and then share their results in the form of either a play or a verbal presentation.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 6.0 1700 to 1865 — Students understand the people, events, ideas, and conflicts that led to the creation of new nations and distinctive cultures.
        • SS (3)3.31 compare different ways in which people modify the physical environment
  • Science
    • Personal Crops
      • The Ingalls family had to change their daily routine when the Indians were in the midst of their debates. Groups of 5-6 children will each have a different plant to observe, each having different environments and treatment from a control plant. Every few days the children will record the changes they see in each others plants. The difference in treatment will not be revealed until the end of the activity.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)4.6 investigate and describe how changes to an environment can be beneficial or harmful to plants and animals
        • (3)1.4 keep a record, in a science notebook, of observations and measurements taken over time (life cycle and classification)
    • Indian War cries or whispers
      • The Ingalls family is able to hear the Indian war cries in the night. The children are going to use different hard and soft materials to determine which makes sound waves travel farther.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)2.1 determine and explain that vibrations produce sound waves
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

US and Indian Wars
Though European settlers had little in common, once they realized there was a group of people they were all equally against, they were united in their opposition to the Native Americans. As time went on, the US government and the settlers that called themselves US citizens, were interested in expanding the country’s land. Unfortunately, the Native Americans were already living there and early colonists, as well as later settlers, sided with the US army to fight for land.

The acquisition of land from the Natives did not always lead to war. The Native Americans were also paid to give up land, though never nearly as much as payment to other countries claiming to own the land. Eventually, treaties were signed and laws created to give Native Americans their own special, sectioned off land to live in called reservations. The Indians that once lived and roamed the land freely were now confined to limited spaces.

Not all Indians were guilt free, however. There were those that fought in a savage, brutal way that had the settlers living in fear. There were prejudice, uncaring, hateful Indians that also would kill a settler for being from a different culture. There were Indians, like settlers,that would happily take out all people that were different because they felt threatened or that those people were less than themselves.

Generally, however, with the swarm of settlers moving west to better their lives, search for gold, and settle the frontier, the wars with the Indian tribes were caused by the resistance the tribes put up against reservations and forced movement.

Additional Resources

  • Silver, P. (2008). Our savage neighbors: How Indian war transformed early America. New York, NY: WW Norton & Company, Inc.
    • A great book for more information about Indian affects on America.
    • A chapter about the American military perspective on the Indian wars.
    • A website with in-depth information about Native American history


Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

I really like the idea of having students consider perspectives of the natives and the settlers. Too often, they only learn the "white" perspective.

Consider extending the "We Are Hungry" lesson to bring in the food pyramid in science. Were they eating a balanced diet? Were they receiving enough calories to subsist given the amount of physical labor in which they engaged?

When you have students do their skits as natives or settlers, it might be instructive to teach them about cultural differences. Would a native person understand a hand shake or curtsy? What might be good gifts to exchange to encourage friendship?

Consider having a representative from the Bureau of Indian Affairs come to your class to answer students' questions.

Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

I highly recommend you review the Little House on the Prairie entry on ( These chapters are written from the perspective of a young girl who was taught to be afraid of natives. Oyate does a nice job of separating fact from fiction. Thisis a good opportunity to teach about bias, perspective, and historical inquiry. Though this is an autobiography, it is from a very specific perspective.

Additional "Books to Avoid" that misrepresent Native American cultures are listed at and have detailed explanations of the reasons they are not recommended for use with children.