Chapter 11: The Colorado River

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Shana Prue, 5th grade teacher, Bendorf Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: The chapter "The Colorado River," begins with Mr. Rose and Sallie's father celebrating the fact that they are within view of the Colorado River. This means the pioneers will soon be within reach of a city and great food supplies as well as ample water. A celebratory feeling descends on the group when a small group of Mojave seem to materialize out of nowhere. The Indians seem friendly so the pioneers trade tobacco and beads with the vistors and then accompanied them for some hours as they journeyed for the river. Suddenly they disappeared as silently as they had appeared. Although they traveled for many hours including all the night, they still hadn't reached the river and they were out of water. Father decided to unhook the wagons and leave them as the group was only a quarter of a mile from the river. Although many were tired and weary they made it to the river. Sallie and her sisters and brother waded in the water and drank the good water. The trek had caused many of the men to become delirious in the heat and they lay beside the water resting. In the night the men from the Baley train arrived without the wagons as they feared the animals would perish without water. Sallie's Mom feared for the travelers left back at the wagons but Mr. Baley seemed confidant in the men he left to guard the wagons. After everyone had eaten breakfast Sallie's father decided the oxen needed to rest and eat and drink to recover their strength for at least two days. While waiting for the oxen to recover he decided they should prepare for the river crossing by building rafts. Everyone was given a job, the women and children would wash, mend and prepare food while the men took care of the animals and prepared to ford the river. While the group was busy working, the chief of the Mojave strode into camp with several warriors. The Indians were concerned the group was going to settle in this location. Sallie's father asked Savedra, the guide, to tell the chief they were just resting and would leave soon. They also gave him gifts. Later that day another chief arrived and he shared the same concerns. Again they assured the chief they were only resting and gave more gifts. During that evening, some livestock was stolen but otherwise things were calm. The next day dawned hot and stifling. The settlers were trying to work while staying cool when suddenly war whoops filled the air and they were attacked by a huge number of Mojave Indians. Arrows were flying everywhere and suddenly Sallie was hit. Sallie passed out and when she came to she was being cradled in her sister Francie's lap. She wondered if her father was safe. Father came riding up from the river on a horse to locate his gun but was shot through his heart with an arrow. After two hours of being attacked the pioneers finally hit the chief in charge of the attack. This caused the Indians to retreat. After the attack there was one dead, the leader of the train and many injured. The settlers decided to turn back the ten miles to the Baley wagons. The travelers headed back hoping someone else would travel along the new Beale road and would be able to help with food and water.

Chapter Themes: One theme in this chapter focuses on optimism about the upcoming end of the journey and the value of a hard day's work. The second theme is about the Indians distrust of the visitors and the decision to attack them instead of supporting them.

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Letter to Sallie Fox
      • This is a pre-reading activity. The students will write a friendly letter to Sallie asking her how her trip is going using prediction from the chapter's title.
      • Standards Addressed
        • ELA 5.5.2 Write organized friendly letters.
        • ELA 4.5.4 Draw conclusions and make inferences using textual evidence
    • Comic Strip Summary
      • Students will create a summary of the chapter using a comic strip style. They will use five boxes with illustrations and captions to tell the story in the chapter. They may use a flow map style if they like.
      • Standards Addressed
        • ELA 2.5.3 Summarize a text
        • ELA 5.5.1 Write informative papers
  • Mathematics
    • Word Problems: Converting Equivalent Periods of Time
      • Students will solve as morning work two word problems that convert the days the travelers were at the river into hours and how many minutes from hours the settlers were under attack from the Indians.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Math 3.5.6 Determine equivalent periods of time"
    • Create a Survey
      • Students will design a question to pose to about what the pioneers should do now that they have been attacked and collect data to present. Students will work in groups of 3.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Math 5.5.1a Pose questions that can be used to collect data for a survey.
  • Social Studies
    • Land Map of Santa Fe trail and Beale Road to the Colorado River
      • Students will work in partners to create a scale map of the Santa Fe trail and the Beale Road.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.40 Locate and gather geographic information from a variety of sources.
        • (5)3.41 Create complex maps to display geographic information.
    • Multi-Flow Map
      • Students will create a multi-flow thinking map to display cause and effect thinking. The box in the middle will be Mojave attack at the river and the left side will have attached boxes that display possible caused of this event. The right side will display effects to the wagon train after the attack happened.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)4.10 Describe relationships among Native Americans and Europeans.
  • Science
    • Sink or Float
      • Students will hypothesize what materials will sink or float when placed in a basin of water. After they are done predicting they will actually test and record the results.
      • Standards Addressed
        • N5A7 Observable patterns to organize information and make predictions.
    • Design a Raft
      • Students will create a raft from a provided amount of materials to maximize the amount of weight they could carry across a "river".
      • Standards Addressed
        • N5A2 Use models as tools to explain how something works.
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes
    When land in the west was opened up to free spirited American Pioneers Native Americans were treated unfairly. In the beginning the government had a policy of "buying" the land from the Native Americans and forcing them to move further west. The Natives realized they were being cheated and stopped negotiating these land sales. Later the government sent the military to calm down disputes between the Natives and the new settlers. The pioneers moving west posed a threat to Native life as they killed the buffalo and disturbed there nomadic way of life. As the Natives were tired of the presence they started to fight. The military was promptly sent out to put down these skirmishes. Nobody knows why the Mojave attacked Sallie Fox's wagon train but the amount of settlers who started traveling the new "Beale Road" probably concerned the Mojave that more land was going to be taken away from them. The attack was only a short lived success as the military moved in to open up the road more safely. They built a fort and guarded the road.
Additional Resources

I am including the link to a video on unitedstreaming called "California Up Close - Westward Expansion and Statehood":


Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

You provide an incredibly detailed description of the chapter - thank you!

Consider having students use "Comic Life" (a program that enables easy development of comic strips available at when making their comics. This will add a technology component to the lesson while maintaining the artistic focus.

cmcgrew said...

I really liked your math idea about a survey. I always forget that surveys are a part of math. Could have worked them into my teacher's guides too!
I also liked your raft idea so the students will be able to see just how big the rafts would have had to be to get across the Colorado.