The Red Pony - Land Grants and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

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Discipline

History, Civics

Grade Level

6-12

Type of Activity

Document Analysis, Ongoing, Small Group, Outside, Out of Seat, Ongoing

Objectives

  • Students will review information about the exploration and conquest of North America.
  • Students will understand how the war between the United States and Mexico affected land ownership in California and the West. 

Overview

“I am Gitano, and I have come back” (43).

In “The Great Mountains,” the mysterious Gitano arrives at the Tiflin ranch. Gitano was born on the old rancho that the Tiflin ranch now sits on, and he has returned to the place of his birth to die. Gitano’s mysterious background hints at the deeper history of California and the West.

The war between the United States and Mexico (1846-48) was officially ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty gave to the United States the territories that now cover the states of California, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico, as well as parts of Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming. The border between Mexico and Texas was also resolved in the Treaty, placing the border at the Rio Grande. This was not, however, the extent of the Treaty. The land rights and citizenship of Mexican peoples living in the newly acquired territories was also covered—issues that are still yet to be completely resolved today.

In this activity, students will review what they have learned about the exploration and conquest of North America; in particular, students will look closely at how the war between the United States and Mexico affected land ownership in California and the west.

Materials Needed/Preparation

Estimated Time

2 – 3 class periods (can be condensed)

Procedures

Day One

  • Journal/Discussion topic: Who lived in, controlled, “owned,” etc. the land we call the western and southwestern regions of the United States?
    • Discuss student response
      • Native Americans, Spain, England, France, Netherlands, Russia, Mexico, and the United States.
  • Review the exploration and conquest of North America.
    • Remember to include the native peoples.
    • The aim is to create historical continuity.
    • Discuss the different types of land grants by Spain and Mexico.
      • Pueblos, presidios, missions, ranchos
  • Review the war between the United States and Mexico (1846-48)
    • The war officially ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
      • What do students know about the Treaty? What do students know about the results of the war (land ownership, national borders, citizenship, etc.)?
  • Distribute copies of Articles VIII and IX of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
    • Have students analyze the document.
      • If students are not ready to perform this analysis on their own, consider the following modifications:
        • Have students work with a partner or small group.
        • Analyze the document together as an entire class (use of an overhead projector, interactive white board, or LCD projector is recommended for this).
        • Simplify the process and ask students to determine what the articles do or how the articles affected people.
      • The goal is for students to see that article VIII was supposed to do the following:
        • Allow Mexicans to choose to become American citizens, or to remain Mexican citizens (they had one year to decide).
        • Grant American citizenship to any Mexicans who remained after one year and did not choose to be citizens of Mexico.
        • Allow Mexicans to retain their lands, or to sell them if they wish.
      • The goal is for students to see that article IX was supposed to do the following:
        • Grant the same protections and legal rights to those who chose Mexican citizenship, even if the government of Mexico did not accept them.
        • Allow for Congress to grant those people citizenship.  
    • Discuss student findings.
  • Wrap-up discussion: How do land grants and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo connect to Gitano and his past?     

Day Two

  • Journal/Discussion topic:
    • How does a person, or persons, prove they own a piece of land today?
      • Allow students time to write about/consider this.
    • In what different ways did people acquire land in North America under the rule of Mexico and/or Spain?
      • Unlike today, people could be granted land by the Mexican, and before that the Spanish, government.
      • Many of the land grants were decades old.  
      • Grants were made without modern surveying techniques. They used landmarks to describe the border of the land granted.
  • Distribute copies of Sections 1 and 8 of “An Act to Ascertain and Settle Private Land Claims in the State of California.”
    • Have students analyze the document.
      • If students are not ready to perform this analysis on their own, consider the following modifications:
        • Have students work with a partner or small group.   
        • Analyze the document together as an entire class (use of an overhead projector, interactive white board, or LCD projector is recommended for this).
        • Simplify the process and ask students to determine what the articles do or how the articles affected people.
      • The goal is for students to see that Section 1 set up a commission to resolve land grant claims/disputes.
      • The goal is for students to see that Section 8 required people to provide proof that they owned their land.
  • Journal/Discussion topic: How would someone prove they owned a plot of land that was granted to them under the Mexican or Spanish governments?
    • Show a deed or a land grant.
    • Require going to court, hiring a lawyer (expensive).
    • Discuss the results with students.
      • Of the 800-plus Mexican and Spanish land grants, more than 600 of them were upheld by American courts.
      • However, most of the people who won their claims, still lost some or all of their land.
        • Court costs were too expensive; they had to sell land to pay the court fees.
        • Old deeds and grants were based on old landmarks, many of which were gone or moved (rivers and creeks change course).  
    • How does this connect to Gitano and his past?

Day Three

  • Assign small groups (2-4) groups.
  • If possible, take the class outside (this can be done inside the classroom though).
  • Students will need paper and pencils/pens.
  • Each group will create their own diseño, a hand drawn map, describing their land grant.
    • Allow students time to create their maps.
    • Have groups exchange maps and try to determine where the other group’s land is based only on the map.
  • Bring the class back together as a group (inside or outside).
    • Discuss:
      • What was challenging about making the diseño?
      • What was challenging about understanding where another group’s land was? How would this be more difficult in 50 years? 100 years?
      • How would the difficulties be worse in the 1850s and 1860s with Mexican and Spanish land grants?
        • Different languages, different systems of measurement, lost records, changed landmarks, etc.
    • Discuss: How does this connect to Gitano and his past?

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

  • Post Activity
    • Have students script an interview or a dialogue with Gitano where he speaks about what happened to the rancho.
    • For more advanced classes, have students work on a research project that examines a people and their connection to the land (or the loss of land).
      • Native Americans, Cubans who fled the Castro regime, Israel and Palestine, Hawaiians, court cases involving Eminent Domain, people displaced by war or natural disasters, etc.
  • Takeaways
    • Students should see Gitano’s mysterious past in a larger historical context.
    • Students should see the aftermath of the war between the United States and Mexico from the perspective of Mexican-Americans.
  • Follow-up
    • Return to what students discussed about Gitano, his past, and his connection to the land after reading “The Leader of the People.” How would Jody’s grandfather feel about Gitano? 

Assessment 

  • Much of this activity is based on student participation. Students should be assessed on how involved they are during the process.
  • Taking into consideration individual skill levels, how thorough was the student’s analysis of the documents?

California State Content Standards Met

  • History-Social Science Content Standards 6-8
    • Research, Evidence, and Point of View: 1, 4
  • History and Social Science Content Standards 4
    • Students describe the social, political, cultural, and economic life and interactions among people of California from the pre-Columbian societies to the Spanish mission and Mexican rancho periods: 3, 7, 8
  • History and Social Science Content Standards 8
    • Students explain the economic, social, and political life in California from the establishment of the Bear Flag Republic through the Mexican-American War, the Gold Rush, and the granting of statehood: 2
    • Students analyze the divergent paths of the American people in the West from 1800 to the mid-1800s and the challenges they faced: 5

 Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 9
  • Writing Standards 6-12
    • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 8, 9
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
    • Comprehension and Collaboration: 1, 2, 3
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
    • Craft and Structure: 6
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 8
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
    • Text Types and Purposes: 1