“Can There Ever Really Be Justice on Stolen Land?”: Deep Dive Read

“Can There Ever Really Be Justice on Stolen Land?”: Deep Dive Read

Time: 30-50 minutes for reading & discussion; 50-80 minutes with extensions

“Deep Dive Read” activities allow students to closely read powerful texts that are related to the story.


  • Analyze the author’s word choice and their impact on the narrative being told.
  • Analyze how the author’s use of rhetorical devices (e.g. juxtaposition, rhetorical questioning) affect the argument being made.
  • Use background knowledge from the Self-Evident episode “Can There Ever Really Be Justice on Stolen Land?” to read between the lines of a biased text.


Andrew Jackson was the 7th president of the United States, serving from 1829-1837. In addition to being president, he served as a general in the US Army, a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and a justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court. He was also a wealthy, slave-owning plantation owner. One of Jackson’s most impactful acts as president was advocating for and signing the Indian Removal Act in 1830. This Act forcibly relocated Indigenous people from the South to “Indian Territory,” or what is now Oklahoma. In Andrew Jackson’s written Annual Message to Congress (now commonly known as the State of the Union Address) in 1830, he included a speech on the Indian Removal Act, which had been passed approximately six months earlier.

  • Pass out the document.

Have students work alone, in pairs, or as a class to read and annotate it, answering the guiding questions as needed for comprehension.

  • The document is currently formatted for online use with the discussion questions lined up with the corresponding paragraphs. If you print it, please change the spacing to allow for students to write and make sure that the questions match the appropriate place on the letter.
    • Discuss

Individually, in pairs, small groups, or as a class, discuss the following questions to understand some of Jackson’s choices about craft and structure.

  • What kinds of rhetorical/writing techniques does Jackson use in his speech?
  • Imagine Jackson reading this speech out loud — what kind of tone or energy do you think he would have?
  • Why do you think Jackson chose to compare the forced removal of Native people from their lands to the migrations of white settlers?
    • Implications:

Discuss as a class.

  • What is Jackson’s goal in giving this speech?
  • What adjectives does Jackson use to describe Native Americans? What about white people? How do they compare?
  • Is / was it possible for there to be any kind of “fair” exchange for land between white people and Native people?
  • How biased do you think Jackson’s speech is?
  • What common (at the time) perceptions about Indigenous people does Jackson’s speech reveal?
  • What ideas in Jackson’s speech are still prevalent in North America today?
    • Extensions:

To help students engage more deeply with this text:

  • Black out poetry: Have students turn Jackson’s words into poetry:
    • Pick one essay.
    • Underline words or phrases that stand out to them.
    • Read through the underlined words and edit to make a meaningful piece when read in order, adding or eliminating words as needed.
    • Highlight in black or use black marker to “erase” the words not used.
    • Compare student poems and discuss choices.
  • Tweeting: Ask students to turn one or both essays into a series of tweets. Discuss whether they chose to maintain or change Jackson’s tone and why.