In this lesson, students learn about the different forms of violence of western Dakota in the 1880s and the conditions that led to them. The following activities will help them apply what they have learned.
Activity 1: Photograph Analysis
Photographs provide a very different perspective on the past than do written documents. Depending on their subjects, they may reveal a great deal about material culture, social relations and individual and cultural values. We live in a visually-oriented society, so photographs also provide a very accessible way for students to study the past.
Use any of the photographs in the lesson to do this activity. Use the Photo Analysis Worksheet to examine the chosen photographs and then write a caption for the photo. Then share with the class what has been learned. In addition, students could pretend to be a newspaper reporter accompanying the photographer and write a newspaper story about the subject.
Students can then use the skills learned with the worksheet to study old family photos or current photos in newspapers or magazines. How much does the photographer influence the viewer’s perception of an event?
Activity 2: Compare the violence of Dakota to other western cowtowns. How does it compare to the image created by Hollywood?
Use the following websites to study violence in other cowtowns and then compare them to Medora in 1883. Or do your own internet search to discover other sites that deal with violence in the Old West.
Violence on the Western Frontier
Activity 3: The Myths and Legends of Medora
The founding of Medora by the Marquis de Mores and Roosevelt’s entrance into the Badlands of Dakota has made the Medora area one of the largest tourism sites in the state of North Dakota.
Discuss how the perpetuation of the myths such as duels and hangings adds to the tourism aspect of the area. What is our responsibility to history in telling these myths and legends? Students may write a short essay or perhaps form a debate on the pros and cons of using myths and legends to attract tourism.
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