Unit Overview

Native Slave Trade Unit Plan.pdf

Unit Plan

The narrative of slavery in the United States centers on the horrendous acts of violence African Americans endured after being transported from Africa and continuously exploited during their time as enslaved beings. Solely focusing on the enslavement of African peoples in the United States pushes the history of Native enslavement to the margins, and perpetuates the erasure of Native American history within the context of the United States. This unit places the native slave trade at the center of discussion, which can be neatly situated within the larger context of U.S. colonialist history, alongside the history of the enslavement of African peoples.


The Native American slave trade in the United States dates back to 15th century when Christopher Columbus encountered Native Americans for the first time. About two centuries later the 1848 California Gold Rush would prove to significantly contribute to the enslavement of Native Americans. Despite the strong narrative of disease as causes for the extinction of Native peoples, the buying, selling, and killing of Native communities played a large role in the in the decimation of the Native American population, leading to the small number of tribes/Native American communities that we see today.  This unit will focus on the impact Christopher Columbus and the Gold Rush had on various Native American Population


This unit will also use the Native American slave trade as an example of how traumatic events like enslavement create physical, mental, and emotional trauma, which contribute to what is known as Generational Trauma. By analyzing documents that underscore the atrocities that Native peoples suffered during time of enslavement, students will be able to trace the origins of generational trauma within Native American communities today.