The Original Laws: Restoring a Common Language

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Standards for this Guide

Read The Original Laws in the Magazine


Colonialism is a story still unfolding, shaping how every American lives today. Educators have a responsibility to engage students with the concept of colonialism as more than just a phenomenon confined to the pages of history textbooks. As professor Christie Toth notes,

Settler colonialism characteriz[es] settlement as a past event rather than a persistent structure . . . [that] ignor[es] or den[ies] continued Native presence, and obscur[es] the reality that both settlement and Indigenous resistance are ongoing. This means that failing to recognize the settler colonial situation—even in otherwise critical conversations about race, gender, sexuality, class, and other forms of structural oppression in the United States—is inadvertently participating in the very elisions, evasions, and selective remembering that perpetuate settler colonialism in the twenty-first century.

Teachers and students are called to “recognize the settler colonial situation” and bring this awareness into our understanding of current realities and consequences of the colonial story evolving around each of us and affecting each of us, including Indigenous land rights, resource management, and cultural empowerment.

In these lessons, students will read and study the essay “The Original Laws” and use it as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of environment, ethics, natural resources, culture, and values.


Standards met through this curriculum

Learning Outcomes/Essential Questions

Students will:

  1. Use textual evidence to compare and contrast cultural perspectives, identify cause and effect, and organize sequence of events.

  2. Explore issues of environment, ethics, natural resources, and culture, while demonstrating their ELA and history/social studies skills through reader response and/or discussion.


Essential Questions:

  1. How do we determine which traditional cultural values to honor and maintain within constantly changing societies?

  2. How can we synthesize and resolve conflicting ethics of different cultures to create a better future for all?

  3. Is it possible to return to “the old ways” of a culture that have been systematically suppressed and destroyed, and if so, how?

  4. What policies and practices should be implemented to preserve and manage species and natural systems in a way that meets “the needs of the many, not of the few”?

  5. Why is it important to know the history of where we live, including the history of indigenous peoples and species?  How does this history shape the ways we live in the present?

Depth of Knowledge (DOK)

Levels 1, 2, 3, 4

For more information on DOK, see DOK Slide Wheel


Computers/devices with which students may produce and publish their writing (optional)


Download All Files for this Guide (zip file)

Reading Scoring Guides

ODE Informational Text Reading Scoring Guide (English)

ODE Informational Text Reading Scoring Guide (Spanish)

ODE Informational Text Reading Scoring Guide in Student Language (English)

ODE Informational Text Reading Scoring Guide in Student Language (Spanish)

Writing Scoring Guides

SBAC Explanatory Writing Scoring Guide

ODE Informative/Explanatory Writing Scoring Guide (English)

ODE Informative/Explanatory Writing Scoring Guide (Spanish)

ODE Writing Scoring Guide in Student Language (English)

ODE Writing Scoring Guide in Student Language (Spanish)

Social Science Scoring Guides

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide (English)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide (Spanish)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide (Russian)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide in Student Language (English)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide in Student Language (Spanish)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide in Student Language (Russian)


  1. Review all resources and decide which components you will include and how many lessons to allot for this curriculum. (Note: Almost every component can be used as a stand-alone piece or combined with other components.)

  2. Read and take notes on the “The Original Laws” essay.

  3. Review and prepare your chosen handouts.

  4. Plan any necessary pre-teaching of terms and concepts such as “indigenous,” “colonial,” and “Manifest Destiny.”

  5. Preview and prepare the “Oregon Plateau Tribes and the Natural World” introduction mini-lecture and PowerPoint. Print out the notes for each slide and review them before lecturing. You may choose to include only some of the notes in your lecture.

  6. Preview and prepare optional extensions.

Reading Strategies

  1. Model and instruct students to use the AVID® Marking the Text strategy as they read the text.

    1. Before reading, number the paragraphs. (A paragraph begins at any break in the text, even if it is not indented.)

    2. While reading, circle key vocabulary, dates, names, places, events, and important numbers/statistics.

    3. After reading, go back and re-read sections, underlining strong images, descriptions, dialogue, and author’s claims.

  2. While reading, pause at various places and model the think-aloud strategy to demonstrate comprehension/summarization of the text.

  3. Model and instruct students to use the Learn-Read-Discuss strategy.

    1. Present brief lecture and PowerPoint on Oregon Plateau tribes while students take Cornell or other structured notes.

    2. Students read essay (using teacher’s designated strategies).

    3. Students engage in small- or large-group discussion, synthesizing information from the lecture and essay.

  4. TAG Option: You may choose to give advanced readers the SOAPS Text Analysis handout for tracking the author’s argument and purpose during their reading. Students’ observations using this strategy can be incorporated into later lesson steps, such as discussion and writing responses.

Instructional Plan


Tell students that you will be presenting some background information to help them better understand the essay they will read (Listen-Read-Discuss strategy). Ask them to prepare materials to take notes in whatever style you choose (Cornell, outlining, charting, etc.).    

Pre-teach any note-taking strategies as necessary.

Pause and give students time to answer the warm-up question at the beginning of the presentation. You may choose to have them conduct a think-pair-share before moving into the lecture.

Present the brief lecture and PowerPoint on Oregon Plateau tribes and the natural world to pre-teach some key concepts. Tell students that text on the slides has been deliberately kept to a minimum to encourage them to employ their best listening skills. Guide them to write down the key headings on each slide and listen for supporting details for each heading during the lecture. (Of course, if students need more linguistic scaffolding and support, you may choose to add extra text from the lecture notes to the slides and/or only lecture on a few details for each heading.)

Pause and give students time to answer the post-lecture questions. You may choose to have them conduct a think-pair-share or closing discussion before moving on to further lesson steps.


Vocabulary (optional differentiation):

  1. Frontload vocabulary and concepts from the essay prior to reading. Provide definitions or ask students to look up and record definitions. As an alternative, delay adding definitions until after reading, and ask students to use context to determine preliminary definitions as they read.

  2. Ask students to identify and circle vocabulary words in the essay as they read.

  3. After reading, review and clarify vocabulary words and ask students to write down the sentence from the essay that uses each word.

During Reading

Reader response: Present the reader response handout and model how students should take notes as they read. After introducing the reading strategies you will use, read the essay with students or ask them to read silently. If reading aloud, pause to review, synthesize information, and model note-taking at various points during the reading process. After reading, give students time to review the text and add to their responses. Conduct an informal assessment of comprehension by reviewing students’ notes in a think-pair-share or mini-discussion format.

After Reading

Spoken or written post-assessment: Share with students whether you will use a spoken or written format for this assessment. Review the instructions on the discussion/writing assignment handout, and give students time to review and prepare further notes on the essay and any additional texts you might assign or ask them to research. Guide students in using their reader response handouts as a starting place for discussion and/or writing.

For a written response, share what scoring guide you will use and give students additional instructions on response length and format. Set up instructional time to include each step of the writing process, including publishing and sharing if you choose, and any additional scaffolds and writing strategies.

For discussion/Socratic Seminar, share the discussion rubric and give students additional instructions on discussion expectations and format. Set up instructional time to include discussion preparation, the discussion itself, and de-briefing after the discussion. You may want to have students turn in their notes for a writing portion of the overall discussion grade.


ELL and SPED Supports: Scaffolded assignment options, vocabulary, reading strategies

TAG Extensions: Leadership opportunities during discussion and/or Socratic Seminar, SOAPS Text Analysis handout to use during and after reading, additional resources/related reading, optional extensions

Assessment/Student Performance Tasks

  1. Reader response and discussion (Formative)
  2. Post-discussion and/or writing assessment (Can be used as formative or summative)

Additional Resources/Related Reading

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation: History

Tamástslikt Cultural Institute Teacher’s Guide

Oregon is Indian Country: Student Magazine

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Stand with Standing Rock: News

Optional Extensions

A City’s Lifeblood

S’so’s Tamales

Between Ribbon and Root

Belonging and Connection

The River Fix