The Treaty Trail: Isaac Stevens' Treaty Councils 1854-1856
A Treaty Trail Lesson Plan

Point of View: Students Study Historical Perspectives

by Meredith Essex

This may be used as a Causes of Conflict Classroom-Based Assessment.


The top picture is of Chief Lawyer, as portrayed by artist Gustav Sohon. Courtesy Washington State Historical Society.

Students will learn about Washington Territory Governor Isaac Stevens' historic 1855 campaign to draft treaty agreements with Washington Territory Indians. Portrait images, mostly by 19th century artist and interpreter Gustav Sohon, and corresponding biographies with quotations will become a lens for them to understand that multiple points of view affect the course of history.

These students will form groups to research and present the point of view of key figures present at the May 1855 Walla Walla Treaty council and other important events of the period. Students will also have the opportunity to question the concept of historical inevitability and the ideals of a democratic society as evidenced in the treaty making process.

Essential Questions for Students:

  • By analyzing historical maps and other materials available to you, what have you learned about the causes of conflict over U.S.-Indian treaties in the Northwest?
  • Looking at the scenes and people depicted by artist Gustav Sohon, what do you think he was trying to depict about the events of which he was a part?
  • What do you think an artist from another culture might have shown?
  • How do written accounts correspond with this artwork? Do you think that these accounts reflect the same point of view as the art?

Essential Understandings:

  1. Students will learn that history is experienced by diverse people expressing many points of view and that sources must be examined closely and compared to discover different ways of experiencing the same event.
  2. Students will learn to examine maps and other historic materials as evidence of the past.
  3. Students will also find out through group collaboration that offering different perspectives can enrich a project and provide a wider understanding of the subject studied through teamwork.

Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs):

This lesson plan satisfies the following EALRs: History WA1.1.3b, Arts 2.3, Arts 4.4 and the following Social Studies Skills: 2.1.3b, 3.1.4a and 3.1.4b. Print out the full EALRs for your reference.

CBA Scoring Rubric and Notes:

The Office of State Public Instruction has created a scoring rubric for the Causes of Conflict Classroom-Based Assessment. Click here to download and print this rubric for your information.
Primary Sources: A piece of evidence created during the time period under investigation by someone who participated in, witnessed, or commented upon the events that you are studying. It is the surviving record of past events such as photographs, diaries, or artifacts.
Secondary Sources: Books, articles, essays, and lectures created, often using primary sources, that describe and interpret a time period after events have taken place.

Primary Sources for Student Examination
(nos. 1-3 provided in pdf format):

  1. Portrait drawings of Native American leaders and Bill Craig by Gustav Sohon.
  2. Portraits of Isaac Stevens and Joel Palmer.
  3. Excerpt from Chief Joseph's Own Story.
  4. Treaty with the Walla Walla, Cayuse and Umatilla.

Secondary Sources for Student Examination (provided in pdf format):

Download the free Celartem DjVu viewer. This technology allows the viewer to zoom in dramatically on map details.

  1. Map of Washington Territory Indian Nations & Tribes (adapted from 1854 Lambert Census Map)
  2. Map of Reservations in 1890 (adapted from US Census Office Map, 1890)
  3. Map of Washington Territory
  4. Map of the Treaty Trail
  5. The Walla Walla Treaty Council, 1855 context
  6. Treaty Trail biographies (as assigned by instructor)
  7. Cause and Effect reading


Step I:
Prepare yourself by studying the following sources about the Treaty Trail:

Step II:
Begin your class by projecting the map provided of Washington that indicates modern reservations. Ask students to locate themselves on that map. What is the nearest reservation? Then, project or juxtapose the modern reservations with the original territory.

Current Reservations Map
Containing a Detail of
Western Washington Reservations  (download PDF of detail)
Lambert Indian Nations and Tribes Map
 (download PDF)
Adapted from 1854 Lambert Census Map

Ask students to spend 3 minutes writing about how they think Native Americans ended up living on reservations. This is low stakes-writing, spelling and grammar don't count. These papers are not to be graded but used as an exploration of student thought. After students have finished writing, pair them up and ask them to share what they have written with one another.

Assess the first target by asking each student for an oral response. Ask students to look at the two maps and consider:
  • How do they think the lives of Native people changed between these two time periods?

Step III:
Project digital images of or show a transparency of a portrait or two while explaining that students will have the opportunity to explore different points of view on how and why lands in Washington Territory shifted from Native American to U.S. government control. Reveal that at the end of this lesson, they will be writing a persuasive paper that explains how historical and economic factors helped cause conflict.

Ask students to think of an argument or disagreement in which they have been involved. Were there different explanations for what happened? After listening to their examples, suggest that they must analyze and cite primary, historical sources in order to interpret what happened.

Step IV:
Suggest that by eavesdropping on one treaty, they can get a sense for what happened at U.S.-Indian treaties and why they are important today.

Introduce the Walla Walla Treaty Council.

Project a digital image of or show transparency of the map of the Treaty Trail and locate Walla Walla Treaty Council on map.

Step V:
Distribute copies of the reading "Walla Walla Treaty Council 1855" for students to read in class. Ask them to begin using their Causes of Conflict Graphic Organizer as they read this and the following readings.

Causes of Conflict
Graphic Organizer

Inform Students that:
  • These readings help establish a context for study. We are going to look closely at some of the key people present at the 1855 Walla Walla Treaty Council. We are also looking for historical and economic factors that helped cause the conflict.

Step VI:
Assign as homework for the next section Chief Joseph's Story and the biography of Gustav Sohon. Ask students to highlight or underline key concepts or events in these readings. Remind them to use their Graphic Organizer.


Step I:
Facilitate a discussion about what students have read so far.

Points for Discussion:
  • What were the primary objectives of Isaac Stevens as an agent of the United States government?
  • What were the objectives of the Native American leaders involved?
  • Why was Gustav Sohon chosen to accompany Stevens during his journey? What skills did he have that made him particularly useful?
  • Think about the impact of the Treaty agreements on the Indians of the region.

Step II:
Provide students with a copy of the Causes of Conflict Student Checklist. Help them locate where they are in the process and what remains.

Causes of Conflict
Student Checklist

Divide students into pairs or groups of three, then assign each group a key historic figure and distribute a portrait photocopy of that person to each group. To see a clearer image and enlarge details, suggest that students visit the Washington State History Museum collections online.

Explain that:
  • Most of these portraits were created by Gustav Sohon. They are visual documentation (in some cases, the only in existence) of many of the important people engaged in the meeting and negotiation process at the 1855 Walla Walla Treaty Council.
  • The portraits of the Native American leaders and Bill Craig were sketched with pencil during the course of the meetings. The original images themselves were smaller than a standard piece of paper, measuring only 9" x 7.125". While the sources for the Joel Palmer portrait are unknown, it can be inferred that the illustrations may have been painted from a sitting. The picture of Isaac Stevens was painted from an original photograph of him.

Art Vocabulary:

color what the eye sees when a wavelength of light is reflected from a surface
line mark made with a tool across a surface
shape a 2-dimensional enclosed space
space feeling of depth in 2-dimensional art
texture real or implied tactile characteristics of a surface
value lightness or darkness of an area of color or tone
balance equalization of elements in a work of art
emphasis use of contrasts (color, size, shapes) to place greater attention on specific parts of a work of art
pattern repeating sequence of lines, shapes or colors
rhythm movement in art created through repetition of elements
unity wholeness, all elements belonging together in a work of art
variety diverse elements used together to create visual interest in a work of art
composition the organization of art elements into a unified whole
contour line used to define outside edges and interior details
cross hatching parallel lines layered in more than one direction used to suggest shadow or 3-D forms
detail a small, distinct part of a work of art
line quality attributes of line-harsh, bold, delicate, etc.
line type curved, straight, zigzag, or interrupted
portrait image of a specific person, group or animal-usually of the face(s)
realistic descriptive artistic style conveying visual reality without idealizing subject matter
sketch a quick drawing

Step VIII:
Distribute a Responding to Art as a Primary Source worksheet to each student group.

Tell Students:
  • Your group will be working together to describe, analyze and interpret the art (portrait of the person) your group has been assigned.
  • Use the art vocabulary words and definitions to help you.
  • Using the sample provided (of Chief Joseph), model how they should use the worksheet.

Emphasize the dynamics of an effective group process:
  • Make sure that your group promotes equal voice of all members and equal distribution of tasks throughout entire learning process.
  • Make sure that a consensus of group members is represented and that all questions are answered on your Responding to Art as Primary source worksheet.


Step I:
Distribute copies of individual biographies of Walla Walla treaty council participants corresponding with the portraits that have been assigned to each group.

Distribute a Point of View Research and Presentation worksheet for each group.

Initiate the student group research process:
  • We are going to now shift our focus to the actual words and life history of the person in the portrait.
  • Your group's job is to research and summarize the "point of view" of the person in the portrait: How would you describe this person? What did they say, what were their opinions, beliefs, and attitudes? What people, places and events in their personal history influenced them?
  • Your group will be presenting their research findings to the whole class.


Step I:
Facilitate each group's presentation of Point of View Research by arranging the class chairs in a circle so all students can see one another.

Ask each group to follow the guidelines in the Point of View Research and Presentation worksheet:
  • State the name, cultural identity, and role or title, of the person you are studying as you display their portrait: Introduce their point of view by describing their character attributes, quoting them and reading your group's summary.
  • Describe at least one example where a group idea recorded in the Responding to Art as Primary Source worksheet is consistent with Point of View research findings.

Step II (recommended):
Provide students at least one class period to research some of their unanswered questions about tribes, treaties or associated topics.

Step III:

Ask students to conclude the lesson by reflecting and responding in discussion:
  • Challenge the inevitability of history: pose an alternative to the treaty process and Governor Stevens' campaign that could have happened. What outcome would be most aligned with your group's council participant's point of view?
  • Find examples of the ideals of a democratic society in the treaty council process (analysis of issues through community input, equal voice, decision making through consensus). Compare the realities of the treaty process with the democratic ideals identified by the class.

Step IV:
As homework, assign the students the first draft of a persuasive position paper about the findings of their research. Remind them to use their Causes of Conflict student checklist to help start their paper. This paper should cover the points of research outlined by each group. Each paper needs to discuss the different factors of the conflict and include a timeline of the events discussed. Students will need to document their research, listing the primary and secondary sources used in a bibliography included with the paper. Please refer to the CBA Directions for Teachers for further specifics on what this paper should contain.

Step V:
Review and reflect on targets, criteria, and learning process. Distribute copies of student worksheet: Student group Self assessment rubric to each student group. Facilitate use of rubric for self assessment.

Complete the teacher assessment rubric and compare it with the student groups' self assessment rubric worksheets.

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