You must have a detailed knowledge of the Indians of the Plains for the exam. Divide your revision notes into these aspects:
- How the environment shaped their lifestyle
- How their society was organised
- Their beliefs and rituals
- Their wars with the Americans
- How their lifestyle was destroyed
You should aim to note down, memorise and recall at least ten facts/factors/points for each aspect.
Chucking them all in the air in the exam hall and writing down as much as you can remember about the Indians would in all likelihood just get you a D grade. To get a C you must apply what you know to answer the particular question being asked.
Typical questions might be:
1. Why were the Plains Indians able to live so successfully on the Great Plains?
2. Why did their way of life disappear so quickly with the coming of the settlers?
Answering question 1
* Describe the Plains Indians' way of life in detail.
* Explain how this way of life was suited to the Plains.
* Explain the problems that people faced living on the Plains and how the Plains Indians were able to overcome them.
Remember - you have to link your description of how they lived to the question. It is not enough just to describe.
Answering question 2
* Briefly summarise the Plains Indians' way of life.
* Describe the changes that the settlers brought.
* Explain how these changes destroyed the Indians' way of life.
* Conclude by commenting on whether the Plains Indians' were able to adapt to the changes, whether there is an issue of blame and whether the land could ever support both lifestyles.
Remember to include some of the following points:
* Land was the central issue that led to conflict.
* Railroads, buffalo herds disturbed, sacred burial grounds being mined for gold, settlers taking Indians' hunting ground, the use of reservations.
* The use of the US Army and the effect of misunderstandings about Indian life (which made it mentally easier to kill "savages").
* The Indians were not united (for example the Crow helped the US Army fight the Sioux).
* The question of inevitability - was it impossible to protect the Plains Indians' way of life?
Make a mind-map of all the factors you have listed. Join up factors in different aspects to create links between them. A handy site to do this online is http://www.bubbl.us . Use it and post up your mind-maps here if you wish.
In the exam hall, spend a couple of minutes drawing out your mind-map on your answer sheet - I guarantee it will up your grade!