What Should Wars Be Called?


What Should Wars Be Called?


Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State

Grade Levels


In this focused inquiry, students will investigate the question: What should wars be called?

They will also consider: How and why did wars happen in 1855 between the U.S. government and the Yakama Indians?

Students will engage in deep reading, develop summaries of information, conduct independent research, and participate in small and large group discussions.

Students will also write an argument with a well-formed claim, clear evidence, and reasoning.

Lesson Objectives

1. Students will be able to read primary and secondary sources and gather information that helps them answer compelling and supporting questions.

2. Students will explain the social, political, economic, and cultural impacts of the Yakama Wars.

3. Students will develop a claim with evidence and reasoning to answer the compelling question.

Source Materials

Featured Source(s):

Staging the Question Text:

Department of Natural Resources: Yakama Nation Maps (The map is on page 2, but the map on page 3 may also be helpful.)
Building Background Text:

○ Step 1: Yakama Nation History (About, Yakama Nation)
○ Step 2: The Yakima War, by Two Wheels, One Compass

Primary source texts to use with the graphic organizer:

○ “Latest News of Indian Troubles”. Pioneer and Democrat. Volume 4, Number 5, 12 October 1855 (Excerpt included below; link to original source: click here.)

○ “Progress of Indian Difficulties”. Pioneer and Democrat, Volume 4, Number 6, 19 October 1855 (Excerpt included below; link to original source: click here.)


H2.6-8.2 Explain and analyze how individuals and movements have shaped Washington State history since statehood.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


Compelling Question:

What should wars be called?

Staging the Question:

  • Ask students: How do you think “things” get their names? Ask for responses.

  • Distribute one card to each pair or small group of students.

  • Ask students to read the name on their card and brainstorm everything they know or think they know about that name.
    • McKinley, Battle of Greasy Grass, Tahoma, The Six Grandfathers, Ongtupqa, Mount Rushmore, The Battle of Little Bighorn, The Grand Canyon

  • Give students about ten minutes to complete a quick round of research. Students should look for information about the name on their card using an online search engine and write down as many facts as they can. Require a minimum of five facts.

  • Ask students to share the name on their card and the information they learned through their research.

  • During the sharing period, students should become aware that their cards have matching names.

    • McKinley is now called Denali
    • The Battle of Little Bighorn is also known as The Battle of Greasy Grass
    • Mount Rainier is also called Tahoma
    • The Grand Canyon is known as Ongtupqa in the Hopi language
    • Mount Rushmore is carved into The Six Grandfathers

  • Debrief: Why did these names change? Is it important that a name be accurate? Is it a good idea to change the name of a site or event in history.

  • Introduce the compelling and supporting questions.

Supporting Questions:

What were the social, political, economic, and cultural impacts of these wars? Why were they called “The Yakima Wars,” and not something else?

Formative Performance Task:

Step 1:

Students will identify social, political, economic, and cultural factors that help to define the Yakama Tribe’s history.

Note: This is a slice of their history, and is in no way meant to replace deep, comprehensive understanding of the Tribe. Read the text on the About page from the Yakama Nation’s Tribal Website. As students read (independently or in partners), they should read with social science perspectives in mind and identify those within the text to gain a clear understanding of the Tribe. Once they have completed this task, ask them to come up with as many questions as they can about the Yakama Indian Wars. Have students prioritize their questions and share their top three with the class.

Step 2:

Next, students will build background knowledge by watching a short video that gives an accurate description of the treaties and inciting incidents that started the war. As students watch, they should be jotting down important words or phrases related to the conflict. Students should also be writing down questions as they watch. Pause the video every minute or so to give kids time to write and discuss. Have students answer or add to the questions created in the first part of the lesson.

Note: The video also includes information on the Puget Sound War to add context.

Questions to help students focus:

  • Why did Stevens want tribes to sign treaties with the U.S. Government?
  • What natural resource drew white people to the Yakama’s land before their treaty was ratified?
  • What incident sparked the war?
  • Whom did General Wool blame for the fighting? (6 minutes, 24 seconds)
  • What was General Wool’s plan to win the war? (6 minutes, 40 seconds)
  • What did Oregon Territorial Governor George Law Curry do instead?
  • Who won the battle at Walla Walla?

Step 3:

Finally, students will read two excerpts from newspaper articles written at the start of the Yakima War. As they read, they should use the graphic organizer to help them keep track of their thinking. When they are done, they should share out their answers and write a response to the compelling question using a claim, evidence, and reasoning.


Have students use the information they got from the background texts and the primary source text set to answer the compelling question: What should wars be called? Student responses should include a clear claim, specific evidence, and a well-thought-out reason.

Taking Informed Action:

Invite students to research a local site and learn how it came to be named. They should evaluate the name and decide if it has been changed before or if it should perhaps be changed to something else.

Yakama Nation
WSL_What should wars be called.pdf