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Rethinking Manifest Destiny: Westward Expansion...

Time Frame

1 class periods of 90 minutes each


Utah LessonPlans


The student will be able to weigh the events of history influenced by the assumption of manifest destiny by examining the underlying concepts and points of view involved.


Teacher Materials

Student Materials

Background for Teachers

While commenting on the annexation of Texas in 1845, Democratic journalist John L. O'Sullivan wrote that it was, "the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence." At that time, many Americans agreed with Sullivan, assuming that it was the divine right of those of European descent to settle America from sea to shining sea. As white Americans pushed westward throughout the nineteenth century, the rights of the American Indians were rarely considered. While the settlers who came to the Salt Lake Valley in the mid-nineteenth century migrated west for a variety of complicated reasons, the ideology of manifest destiny was evident in the history of white settlement in Utah and had devastating consequences for Utah's Indians.

Instructional Procedures

Give each student a sheet of blank copy paper to fold into four boxes. Have them write the word "destiny" across the top of the first box. Give them two minutes to brainstorm in that box on the meaning of the word destiny. (Depending upon time this may be a Think-Pair-Share.)

Have students title the next box "history." This box is for brainstorming on the question of "Does destiny play a role in the events of U.S. history?" (Think-Pair-Share)

The third box should be titled "manifest." Have a student look up this word in the dictionary and share the definition with the class to record in the box. (You may need to direct them to the definition that will be the most useful.)

The last box on the front side is for the definition of "manifest destiny" from the textbook glossary. On the backside of the page have the students find four references to manifest destiny in their textbooks. Each box can contain one reference page number, a short description, a notation as to whether the information available is fact or opinion, and the point of view offered on the event.

Each student now has a prewriting guide to write a five-paragraph document-based question evaluating the impact of manifest destiny on Indian cultures. Although most of the documents focus on Utah, instruct your students to keep the national context in mind.


  • Students can search to find documents to create their own DBQ on this theme.
  • Students can be split into groups representing differing historical points of view to debate the impact of manifest destiny.
  • Students can reflect on the religious themes that led to the conflict between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims as shown in We Shall Remain: After the Mayflower (chapters 7, 8, 9, available for Utah Educators in eMedia) and how they compare with the religious themes of manifest destiny. This could be a discussion or an essay.
  • Students can discuss how Andrew Jackson's actions, as shown in We Shall Remain: Trail of Tears (chapter 4, available for Utah Educators in eMedia), facilitated manifest destiny and the settlement of the American West.
  • The events of We Shall Remain: Geronimo (chapters 2, 7, available for Utah Educators in eMedia) are geographically relevant to manifest destiny in Utah. Have students compare the situations.
  • Have students debate whether the events of 1973, as shown in We Shall Remain: Wounded Knee (chapter 6, 7, available for Utah Educators in eMedia), can be considered the final acts of manifest destiny.

Assessment Plan

  • Pre-write page
  • Essay

End of Unit Assessment


Alley, John R., Jr. "Prelude to Dispossession: The Fur Trade's Significance for the Northern Utes and Southern Paiutes." Utah Historical Quarterly 50 (Spring 1982): 104--23.

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


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: 02/04/2018