4. Native American Olympians and Champions

(This is the Lesson Plan 4 for Shane Doyle’s curricular unit, Traditional Native Games Along the Lewis and Clark Trail.”)


Lesson Topic: Native American Olympians and Champions

Grade Band: Grades 9-12

Length of lesson: Two 50-minute periods


Big Ideas:

Native American communities along the Lewis and Clark Trail have been home to several world champions in many athletic competitions, including basketball, the pentathlon, decathlon, and 10,000-meter race.

Enduring Understandings:

Native American communities produce talented and high-achieving athletes.

Tribal athletes have had their greatest success in running-based sports like cross-country and basketball.

Essential Question(s):

How did the Native American world champions become so skilled and accomplished?

Place-based Considerations:

Champion Native American athletes from the Northern Plains excelled in sports that closely resembled the type of traditional games that tribal athletes played in their home communities.



Suggested Formative Assessment of Learning Outcomes:

Students complete a comprehension assessment form after reading articles about Olympic and Montana state champions.  Discussion groups are utilized to complete the comprehension assessments so that the work is group-focused.

Culminating Performance Assessment of Learning Outcomes:

Students have an informed discussion about Native American athletes and their successes in American history.



Entry Question(s):

Today and tomorrow we are going to read some articles about some championship-level Native American athletes and teams. What can we learn from their stories and how can we make meaning from their experiences?


  • Ft. Shaw Indian Girls World Champions of 1904


  • Jim Thorpe Olympic Decathlon and Pentathlon Gold Medalist


  • Billy Mills Olympic 10,000-meter Gold Medalist


  • Contemporary New York Times Article about Montana High School Reservation Champions


Learning Modalities:

Auditory, visual, kinesthetic, tactile.