Lesson Plans Based on Movies & Film!                                           

Terms of Use   



Beneficial Messages for all Students from a Rallying Cry for Native American Youth

Subjects:   U.S./1750 to Current & Native Americans; Health (Resilience); SEL: Surviving; Families in Crisis; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Responsibility, Caring.

Ages:        11+; Middle School and High School Levels

MPAA Rating: None

Length:      7 minutes for the short film; 30 - 45 minutes for discussion or writing.

Available free on the Internet. Click here.

Description of the Film: Starting with a child's bicycle accident and his sister's question about why their parents are not around to comfort her little brother, this inspirational 7-minute short movie quickly reviews many of the important events of the Native American experience. The second half of the film addresses Native American youth advocating for personal responsibility, perseverance, overcoming a legacy of oppression, and rising above the effects of dysfunctional families. While firmly rooted in the Native American experience, the beneficial lessons of We Shall Remain apply to all students.
Note to Teachers: Because this movie is directed at Native American youth, showing it to non-Native American students allows teachers to hold class discussion about the lessons of the film and to get students to write about those lessons, without being "preachy." For most classes, Discussion Question/Writing Prompt #1 will be sufficient to extract great value from the movie. The rest of the Lesson Plan is for teachers who have more class time and want to explore other issues raised by the film.
Rationale: We Shall Remain will be beneficial in just about any class, particularly ELA, U.S. History, World History, Civics, and Health. The film inspires all who see it and builds empathy for Native Americans. It will facilitate discussion and writing assignments about personal responsibility, overcoming adversity, and working through pain to self-realization. Students from any background, whether it be from difficult circumstances in a stressed community, a dysfunctional family, or more fortunate circumstances will benefit from watching this movie. Showing this movie can also be the occasion for discussion and writing assignments on the Native American experience.

The film can be used at any time in any class. For subjects studying the Native American experience, it can introduce or supplement the unit.

Learner Outcomes/Objectives Using this Learning Guide:     Students will gain perspective on the Native American experience and learn that no matter what their circumstances, who they become as a person depends on them: on their determination and their actions.



Description of the Snippet
Learner Outcomes/Objectives
Selections from the Script
Helpful Background
Using the Snippet in Class:
      Suggested Introduction
      Discussion Questions/Writing Prompts
      Additional Assignments
Accomplished Native Americans
      Shown in the Film

This Learning Guide is not intended for Native American students. First, the film is directed specifically at them. Second, we don't presume to suggest to Native Americans how to process the issues raised by the movie.


Selections from the Script:

The dialog of this movie is a rap poem. This selection occurs after the bicycle accident when Sister brings her little brother, still crying, to their uncle. Note that the visuals and music are such an important part of the film, that the bare words of the script do not adequately convey the power of the movie.
    Uncle, I'm so tired.

    Tired of wondering, "Why do [my parents] drink?

    Why do they do drugs? Why do they leave us?

    Sister, it's hard to explain.
    Uncle . . . try.
    Once this land was tepees as far as you could see.

    The water was clean, the land pristine. We were where we were meant to be.

    Then strangers came across the sea and brought with them their disease.

    Our people cried and prayed and sang, but it brought them to their knees.
    We will rise above the darkness. We will overcome the pain.

    Warrior spirits live within us. We shall remain.

    [The chorus repeats these lines several times through and between lines of the dialog.]
    Imagine that your family and most of all your tribe,

    what if most everyone you loved, suddenly got sick and died.

    And before you even had a chance to bury them and mourn,

    the strangers came and took away the land where you were born.

    And you wondered if your parents even cared as they stole you and your brother away.

    Or if they'd been so beaten down that they had nothin left to say.

    And then at school they cut your hair and beat you if you spoke the language the creator gave when earth awoke.

    Sister, I'm not trying to tell you that your mom and dad are OK or that they are not responsible for the choices that they've made.

    But you see this bloody wound on your little brother's arm?

    If we don't clean it, it won't heal and it'll do all kinds of harm.

    Those deep wounds of our ancestors still bleed in our hearts.

    And when you remember all they've done, that's where the healing starts.

    So, every morning when you wake, you pray this prayer out loud.

    "Creator help me live in a way that makes my ancestors proud."

    Don't you forget this, you can be anything you want to be.

    Just work hard. Never give up. Perseverance is the key.

    Strength, dignity, honor, that's all in your family tree.

    So, hold your head up high and know that.
    Creator help me live in a way that will make my ancestors proud. [repeated twice]

    Little brother, we will rise up from this darkness.

    Little brother, we will overcome the pain.

    Remember, warrior spirits live within us. We shall remain.

Helpful Background

The uncle's description of what happened to Native American people has support in the historical and archeological record.
    "Once this land was tepees as far as you could see."
    While the issue is still debated, many archeologists and anthropologists have come to believe that there were 90 to 112 million human inhabitants of North, South, and Central America before the hemispheric pandemics caused by European diseases. This is 10 to 20 times the earlier estimates. See 1491 by Charles C. Mann, The Atlantic Monthly, March 2002 Issue.
    "Then strangers came across the sea and brought with them their disease. Our people cried and prayed and sang, but it brought them to their knees. Imagine that your family and most of all your tribe what if most everyone you loved suddenly got sick and died."
    An early colonist Thomas Morton left this description of the mass die-off of Native Americans when the Europeans arrived in North America.

    Of a great mortality that happened amongst the Natives of New England, near about the time that the English came there to plant. . . . [T]he hand of God fell heavily upon them, with such a mortal stroke that they died on heaps as they lay in their houses; and the living, that were able to shift for themselves, would run away and let them die, and let their carcasses lie above the ground without burial. For in a place where many inhabited, there hath been but one left alive to tell what became of the rest; the living being (as it seems) not able to bury the dead, they were left for Crows, Kites and vermin to pray upon. And the bones and skulls upon the severall places of their habitations made such a spectacle after my coming into those parts, that, as I traveled in that Forrest near the Massachussets, it seemd to me a new found Golgatha.

    . . . [By] all likelihood the sickness that these Indians died of was the Plague, as by conference with them since my arrivall and habitation in those parts, I have learned. And by this means there is as yet but a small number of Salvages in New England, to that which hath been in former time, and the place is made so much the more fit for the English Nation to inhabit in, and erect in it Temples to the glory of God. Thomas Morton, Description of the Indians in New England (1637) from the website of Bruce Dorsey, History Department, Swarthmore College.
    "the strangers came and took away the land where you were born"
    All of North America was Indian land before the colonists arrived. Now, reservations take up only about 4% of the land mass of the U.S. (See Quora: What percent of US land is still owned by Native Americans? Answered by Rahul Shankar, citing U.S. government statistics.) This land is held in trust for the tribes by the federal government. The land was often land that European settlers thought was not good for farming.
    "And you wondered if your parents even cared as they stole you and your brother away or if they'd been so beaten down that they had nothin left to say. . . . And then at school they cut your hair and beat you if you spoke the language the creator gave when earth awoke."
    It was official U.S. government policy, until 1978 to force assimilation by taking Native American children from their parents and educating them in boarding schools. In those schools, hair was cut (particularly humiliating to Native Americans), the native languages were forbidden, and students who were caught speaking their mother-tongues were severely punished. See Boarding Schools article on the American Indian Relief Council web site.
Using the Movie in Class


TWM suggests that teachers introduce the movie with the following comments:
The film was created by a collective from the Coeur-d'alene tribe. Their audience is Native American young people.

You will understand the film better if you know a little about Tecumseh, an inspirational leader who united Native American tribes to resist the Westward expansion of the United States in the early 1800s. Tecumseh's warriors allied themselves with the British to fight the United States in the War of 1812. At a crucial battle, when the British prepared to retreat in the face of a superior American force, Tecumseh said that he and his warriors would stand and fight for their ancestral lands: "we wish to remain here, and fight our enemy." Tecumseh was killed in the battle that followed. Shortly afterwards the Native American confederation that Tecumseh had built fell apart. The phrase "we shall remain" is drawn from Tecumseh's speech and has a special meaning for Native Americans.
After the film has been shown, have a class discussion or give the class a writing assignment based on Discussion Question/Writing Prompt #1 below. Teachers who want to go more deeply into the subject can chose from the additional materials in this Lesson Plan.

Discussion Questions/Writing Prompts

1.   (a) What are some of the messages of this film? (b) Do any of them apply in your life?

Suggested Response:
    (a) The movie is very explicit, telling Native American young people right up front to work hard and persevere, not to take drugs, not to abuse alcohol, not to let the injuries that their people suffered in the past ruin their lives, to recognize the warrior within, and to act in a way that will make their ancestors proud.

    (b) A good discussion will include the following:

      What Applies: (1) Each person, no matter whether our circumstances are fortunate or unfortunate, must decide whether we are going to be weak and do little with our lives or whether we are going to recognize the warrior within and exert ourselves to live in a full and constructive manner. For those of us who must get beyond pain, who have been abused, come from dysfunctional families or from communities that are stressed, or who must fight to be free from drug or alcohol addiction, a life of self-realization is more difficult than for those of us blessed with more fortunate circumstances. However, all of us must decide what type of life we are going to live; are we going to remain on the battlefield of personal motivation and act like warriors or are we going to retreat and give up? (2) In the long run, after high school and as we live as adults, most people want to be proud of what we have accomplished in life: we want a clear conscience and to live a constructive life. Some of us will also focus on making our family proud, or perhaps gaining the admiration of a mother or father, sister or brother. Perhaps we will want to make our community proud.

      What Doesn't Apply: Native Americans, and people from some other cultures who have emigrated to the U.S., answer to an additional group. It is important to them to make their ancestors proud — a tradition that may not be common for many Americans.
1A.   [This is another way of asking question #1] What are the differences and the similarities between the challenges faced by the Native American children shown in this film and the challenges that you face. Suggested Response: The discussion should cover the issues described in the Suggested Response to question #1.

1B.   [This is another way of asking question #1] What about the messages of this short film are specific to Native Americans and what messages are universal and apply to all of us? Suggested Response: The discussion should cover the issues described in the Suggested Response to question #1.
2.   The European settlers and the U.S. Government committed genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Native Americans. What should the immigrants whose ancestors came to the U.S. voluntarily do about this crime? Giving the land back is not an option. Where would 300 million Americans go? Should there be reparations? Is allowing certain tribes to operate casinos and make money preying upon some American's addicted to gambling enough? Suggested Response: There is no one answer to this question. Certainly, the government should provide medical care and social services for the Native Americans. There should be generous scholarships for any Native American child who is poor and who can qualify for admission to college or to a trade school. Loans should be available for Native Americans starting a business. Firms with Native American owners can get preferences for government contracts, etc. Some of these programs are already in place.

3.   In this film what is the battle that Native American youth are being called to fight? Suggested Response: The battle is to overcome the effects of the destruction of much of their culture, first by the pandemics, then by the genocide and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the European settlers and the U.S. government, and now by modern life which has little place for Native American culture. This has led to high rates of dysfunctional families, drug and alcohol addiction, poor education, depression, and suicide among Native Americans. These are the things that the filmmakers are calling upon Native American youth to fight.

4.   The majority of Native Americans are integrated into U.S. society; only 22% live on the reservations. While, as a group, Native Americans have lower income, less education, and higher rates of drug addition and alcohol abuse than the general population, there is a substantial number of Native Americans, probably more than 50%, who are successfully assimilated. Question, what is the relationship between Native Americans and assimilation into modern American society? Compare this to assimilation of immigrants to the U.S. from other countries. Suggested Response: A good response will include the following. It is a basic tenet of American culture that immigrants will assimilate into U.S. culture after a generation or two, while at the same time, enriching U.S. culture with customs of their own country that are not antithetical to mainstream U.S. values. (For example, people from cultures which endorse the "honor" killing of women or do not accept religious tolerance or the separation of church and state, will be expected to abandon those beliefs when they come to the U.S.) Native Americans, on the other hand, did not come to the U.S. voluntarily; they were here when the Europeans arrived and modern society has been forced upon them. However, the technical advantages of modern culture, for example in medical care and in technological prowess, are too beneficial for Native Americans to ignore. Their communities will need doctors, engineers, welders, auto mechanics and other skilled persons. In order to get those skills Native Americans will have to adopt certain aspects of modern American culture while retaining something of the old culture. It is difficult to know which parts of one's ancestors' culture to keep and which to throw away. This difficulty may be one of the reasons for the high rates of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide among Native American people. The proper amount of assimilation is an individual decision that each person must make.

5.   How should individuals view their lives and the world in relation to past tragic events that happened decades ago? What does this film say about that? Suggested Response: The movie doesn't provide a complete answer. What the movie says is that even if past history is tragic, as were the pandemics, subsequent dispossession of their lands, and genocide suffered by the Native Americans, we cannot let past history trap us, we must move on and live our lives in peace to the fullest. (Compare the problems caused in the Middle East in which atrocities that occurred hundreds of years ago are remembered as fresh events that motivate Sunnis and Shias into rounds of violence, mutual retribution, and hatred.) For example, all people should remember the Holocaust, but no one (including Jewish people) should seek revenge against modern-day Germans as a result of that attempt at genocide.

6.   How should individual children deal with living in a dysfunctional family, like the family of the brother and sister in this film? Suggested Response: For a fulfilling life, the injured must try to get beyond the pain. Therapy would certainly help. Mentors, friends, and family who can be nurturing (like the uncle in this movie), can also help injured people work through their experiences. But still, the question is how will the individual act? The answer is not to let the past be a prison -- to get beyond the pain. As the film points out in the Native American context, no matter how much you or your community have been violated in the past - "You can be anything you want to be. Just work hard. Never give up. Perseverance is the key."

7.   What if "strength, dignity, honor" is not in your family tree? Suggested Response: There are three things to say about this. First, there is strength, dignity, and honor in every family tree. People who say that there isn't any in theirs just don't know the full story. Second, we are all related, and as we are human beings, there is strength, dignity, and honor aplenty among that larger family of human beings. Finally, it just doesn't matter what's in our family tree. As the uncle says, "you can be anything you want to be. Just work hard. Never give up. Perseverance is the key." Remember while there is good in every family tree, there are also examples of behavior that is not so good. It's up to the individual to choose which path to follow.

Additional Writing Assignments

1. Research one of the descriptions of what happened to Native American people provided by the uncle in the movie and evaluate the accuracy of the uncle's description. The descriptions include:
    "Once this land was tepees as far as you could see."

    "Then strangers came across the sea and brought with them their disease. Our people cried and prayed and sang, but it brought them to their knees. Imagine that your family and most of all your tribe what if most everyone you loved suddenly got sick and died."

    "And you wondered if your parents even cared as they stole you and your brother away or if they'd been so beaten down that they had nothin left to say. And then at school they cut your hair and beat you if you spoke the language the creator gave when earth awoke."
2. Create a rap poem telling some of the history of your ancestors.

Accomplished Native-Americans Shown in the Film



Links to the Internet/Bibliography


Possible Problems for this Snippet: None.

We Shall Remain won the 2014 American Indian Film Festival and the 2014 Red Nation Film Festival Best Music Video.

This short film was created by The Stylehorse Collective: LoVina Louie, Kimberly & Johnny Guerrero, and Randy RedRoad. The Vocalists are the Jefferson Sisters and CeCe Curtis-Cook.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: See Smoke Signals and Edge of America.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

This Snippet Lesson Plan written by James Frieden and Deborah Elliott and was published on October 5, 2016.

Spread the GOOD NEWS about...


  © TeachWithMovies.com, Inc. All rights reserved. Note that unless otherwise indicated any quotations attributed to a source, photographs, illustrations, maps, diagrams or paintings were copied from public domain sources or are included based upon the "fair use" doctrine. No claim to copyright is made as to those items. DVD or VHS covers are in the public domain. TeachWithMovies.org®, TeachWithMovies.com®, Talking and Playing with Movies™, and the pencil and filmstrip logo are trademarks of TeachWithMovies.com, Inc.

TWM grants free limited licenses to copy TWM curriculum materials only to educators in public or non-profit schools and to parents trying to help educate their children. See TWM's Terms of Use for a full description of the free licenses and limits on the rights of others to copy TWM.