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The Ingenuity of Utah's Indian Leaders

Time Frame

2 class periods of 30 minutes each


Utah LessonPlans


The student will be able to identify some of Utah's American Indian leaders and explain their unique contributions to their tribes and the history of Utah.


Teacher Materials

Student Materials

Background for Teachers

Ingenuity, the quality of inborn genius, is invaluable for people who hold positions of leadership. The American Indian leaders of Utah--past and present--have been called upon to draw from their ingenuity to serve their people. In the past, leadership in many American Indian communities fell upon the shoulders of whoever was observed to have the skills most useful to the tribe in that time and place. A person with qualities like wisdom or foresight, or who had the abilities to communicate, negotiate, or problem-solve, would be chosen as a leader. This system has been referred to as "situational leadership."

Many contemporary tribal governments have leadership structures that tend to follow the spirit of this tradition within guidelines established by constitutions. There are also community leaders who may not hold an office but have earned the respect of others through acts of courage or service. In this lesson, students will learn about five people who represent tribal leadership--both past and present--in a variety of ways.

Instructional Procedures

Discuss with students the meaning of the words: "famous," "heroic," "respected," "perfect," "skilled," and "talented." Which qualities would they most like to have people associate with them? Which seem most important in our culture? Which do they most often associate with historical figures?

Based on your classroom discussion, have the students make a list of the qualities or personality traits they think are important for someone to have in order to be a good leader.

Using the information from At a Glance: Leadership among Utah's Indians, explain to students how Utah's Indian tribes and bands were structured politically and what leadership was like within those structures. Explain the difference between the popular perception of the unified Indian tribe, which is what they probably have seen in movies, and the reality of life in bands and extended family groups.

Pass out one "American Indian Leader" to each student. Have them look for the qualities they listed in their sample leader. Have each student create a trading card showing those qualities of their leader (this can be homework).

Put students together in groups to teach each other about the leadership qualities of their historical figure and how those qualities affected the history of their tribe.


  • Using the national We Shall Remain documentaries (available to Utah Educators in eMedia), have the students compare Utah Indians' methods and models of tribal leadership to those of other American Indians. Some possible clips to show include We Shall Remain: After the Mayflower (chapters 3 and 8); We Shall Remain: Tecumseh's Vision (chapters 5, 6, and 7); We Shall Remain: Trail of Tears (chapters 1, 2, 5, and 6); and We Shall Remain: Wounded Knee (chapter 1).
  • The students can find additional leaders on the internet and make more cards.
  • The students can find out about present-day tribal leaders and make cards of their qualities.
  • The class can have an election and vote for the greatest leader.

Assessment Plan

  • Discussion
  • Qualities list
  • Trading cards

End of Unit Assessment


Becker, Cynthia S., and P. David Smith. Chipeta Queen of the Utes: A Biography. Montrose, Colo.: Western Reflections, 2003.

Cuch, Forrest S., ed. A History of Utah's American Indians. Salt Lake City: Utah Division of Indian Affairs and the Utah Division of State History, 2000.

Deseret Morning News Editorial Staff. "Mae Parry was a Living Legend." Deseret Morning News. March 24, 2007.

Florez, John. "UTA shows little respect for Native Americans." Deseret Morning News. March 30, 2009.

Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada. Nuwuvi: A Southern Paiute History. Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1976.

Krudwig, Vickie Leigh. Searching for Chipeta. Golden, Colo.: Fulcrum, 2004.

Lyman, June, and Norma Denver. Ute People: An Historical Study. 3d ed. Ed. Floyd A. O'Neil and John Sylvester. Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1970. "Navajo Code Talker, United States Marine Corps: Samuel Tom Holiday."

"Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah: Tribal Government."

Reeve, W. Paul. Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes. Chicago and Urbana: University of Illinois, 2006.

"Samuel Tom Holiday, Navajo Code Talker."

Speckman, Stephen. "Groups Sue to Save Fish, Stop Water Grab along Utah-Nevada Border." Deseret News. October 1, 2008.


The University of Utah's American West Center (AWC) produced the curriculum materials in consultation with the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, Utah State Office of Education, KUED 7, and the Goshute, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone, Southern Paiute, and Ute nations.

Created: 01/16/2011
Updated: 02/04/2018