Skip Navigation

Living in Two Worlds? Being Indian in Utah

Time Frame

1 class periods of 90 minutes each


Utah LessonPlans


The student will be able to perceive the challenges of navigating multiple cultures faced by contemporary Indians.


Teacher Materials

Student Materials

Background for Teachers


Utah's tribal nations hold a sovereign status that is independent of the state of Utah. As a result, Utah's American Indians are citizens of their native nations, of the state of Utah, and of the United States. Affiliation with multiple political bodies has complicated political and cultural implications. In addition to membership in their tribes, Utah's Indians are both Utahns and Americans, but their relationship to the state and nation is marked by a legacy of maltreatment that began with white expansion into their tribes' sovereign territories. (For more on the history of settlement and its relationship to Indian sovereignty, see the "Rethinking Manifest Destiny" lesson plan and Appendix B (pdf).)

This lesson plan illuminates some of the challenges contemporary native people face in navigating their ties to sovereign Indian nations, the state, and the U.S., a situation often called "living in two worlds," although the reality for most is more complex than the bifurcation this term suggests.

Instructional Procedures

Allow the class to watch the clips that address the issues of "living in two worlds" in the Paiute, Ute, Northwestern Shoshone, Navajo and Goshute We Shall Remain films.

Discuss the clips to reinforce the human element of this political and cultural situation. How does navigating multiple cultures impact the individuals shown in the films?

Have students search the internet to find articles that suggest how Indians have grappled with "living in two worlds." Instruct them to pay close attention to the issues of Indian tribal sovereignty and selfgovernance and the way these issues relate to the political, cultural, social, and economic challenges that come with "living in two worlds." If possible, you should require a number of articles about a number of different tribes; samples from tribal newspapers or websites, such as and; and coverage that compares Utah-based issues to those in other western states or other regions, which can be found at websites like

Have students develop a product to report on their findings--this could be an essay, a PowerPoint presentation, a debate, a chart or bulletin board, or a zine. You may choose to have this product submitted as graded homework or presented in the following class (thereby extending the time requirement for this lesson); or, if the product is focused on Utah tribes, you may use it to frame subsequent classes on the sovereignty issues of the Goshutes, Paiutes, Northwestern Shoshones, Navajos, and Utes.


  • Split students into five groups and have each group read one of the supplied interview excerpts. Have them make an argument about what it means to "live in two worlds" based on that source.
  • Invite a guest speaker to address issues not covered by student research.
  • Have students use chosen products to teach this issue to a seventh grade class learning Utah history.

Assessment Plan

  • Article choice and number
  • Chosen product

End of Unit Assessment


McCool, Daniel, Susan M. Olson, and Jennifer L. Robinson. Native Vote: American Indians, the Voting Rights Act, and the Right to Vote. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Child, Brenda. Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900--1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

Cuch, Forrest S., ed. A History of Utah's American Indians. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2000.


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: 01/17/2011
Updated: 02/05/2018