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Lost Nation: The Ioway

By Alice Kurtz - Posted May 1, 2010
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Company: Fourth Wall Films, P.O. Box 702, Moline, IL 61265. Phone: (309) 797-0544; Internet:

Price: $25—single DVD for home use; $200—license for institutional and public use.

Audience: Grade 4–adult.

Format: Interactive DVD, manual of written lessons and activities.

Minimum System Requirements: A computer or monitor with a DVD player and sufficient bandwidth to play video segments.

Description: “Lost Nation: The Ioway” allows students to explore the plight of one tribe of Native Americans as Europeans moved westward across the continent of North America. The full-featured version of the program includes a DVD with the complete award-winning documentary titled “Lost Nation: The Ioway,” a shortened version of the documentary for elementary-age students, 2 hours of features providing additional information on the Ioway culture and the field of archaeology, and an accompanying curriculum guide. This reviewer was one of the authors of the curriculum guide.

Report Card

Overall Rating: 4 stars

Installation: A

Content/Features: A

Ease of Use: A

Product Support: A

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: The DVD loaded easily. The main menu links directly to all of the segments on the disc—a 54-minute documentary, a 10-minute children’s version of the documentary, a version of the documentary in the Ioway language, a version of the documentary with accompanying commentary, and a special features section. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: The DVD, “Lost Nation: The Ioway,” covers the topics of American history, Native American history and culture, anthropology, archaeology, and language preservation. The program features native descendents telling their stories and offers glimpses into the work of social scientists as they uncover the past.

The storyline of the main video opens with the origins and prehistory of the native people prior to any contact with Europeans. The film’s visual images of archaeological sites, the examination of prehistoric artifacts, and the virtual reproduction of native structures enable the viewer to grasp a sense of the traditional Ioway life and culture.

The documentary examines the experiences of the native people with French explorers and other westward-moving Europeans, culminating with the tribe’s incorporation into the United States in the early 1800s. Viewers learn how the tribe coped with the changing times through the stories of two brothers, White Cloud and Great Walker, who chose different paths to adapt. The historical events of the tribe are overlaid with modern-day oral histories and reflections of the descendents of the Ioway people.

The 10-minute version of the film allows younger students to experience an even clearer examination of the plight of the Native Americans. The video includes captions with a readability level suitable for 4th grade students. This segment provides a glimpse into both traditional and modern Ioway life. The presentation helps to dispel the notion that Native Americans only existed a long time ago by offering stories of living descendents and glimpses into the tribal life of today.

The special features segment of the DVD provides quite a bit of material useful for a closer examination of native culture and an in-depth view of archaeology’s important role in examining and explaining the past. The segments here include Ioway history and culture, the tepee, tools, storytelling, singers, sacred bundles, powwows, field school, and more. This section also offers a look at how the film was made.

The special features on archaeology take students on a virtual trip to a native site that is being explored and preserved. Viewers can see the archaeologists at work and the tools that they use in their quest. Artifacts are shown and discussed, including pottery, tools for the home and the field, and very unique 200-year-old pumpkin seeds. Beautiful examples of clothing and beadwork are examined, as are cave art and effigy mounds. Each segment is accompanied by narrative explaining and modeling the uses or functions of the items.

The special features section also provides a variety of oral histories from current tribal members. Some of these tell an origin myth or explain personal feelings about one or more aspects of the tribe’s history and culture. Many of the vignettes are quite moving—especially the ones that talk about the loss of language or history. The filmmakers have captured some very powerful oral histories for this video that can be used very effectively for instructional purposes.

This DVD provides a potent look at the past for students of social studies and American history and has the potential to enrich a unit of study in which students conduct interviews, engage in memoir writing, or develop oral story-telling skills for language arts.

The accompanying curriculum guide, for use by 4th to 8th grade teachers, meets Iowa state standards for social studies and language arts. The themes of storytelling and culture are highlighted.

The guide includes student materials, background information, essential questions, objectives, and learning activities designed to support good teaching practices. The guide also offers suggested reading materials and resources, as well as websites for reading and researching historical and contemporary Native American issues. In addition to curriculum, the teaching guide offers film background information and a content overview by Colin Betts, a professional archaeologist.

Teachers may choose to use the entire curriculum as a unit, select specific lessons for use, or modify the lessons by determining how much written or video content to include. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The material on the DVD was easy to access and use. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: The producers of the film are available online for product support at or Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: “Lost Nation: The Ioway” provides a powerful and moving case study of the relationship between the early arriving Europeans and the native people. The documentary and its supporting materials can be used to explore the general themes and issues of this relationship, as well as to examine the methods of social science research.

The materials present a balanced look at one example of what it means to be Ioway and also a member of a Native American culture group. The oral materials set the tone for a dignified study of the events and introduce students to the importance of oral histories in the recording of history. The DVD clearly illustrates the importance of language and cultural identity.

The DVD’s extended special features, hour-long documentary, and shorter version of the production for younger students provide a variety of ways to meet the needs of students of varying abilities. The accompanying curriculum guide offers many suggestions for extending and using the DVD for social studies and language arts activities. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Alice Kurtz, 5/6 grade teacher, Irving B. Weber School, Iowa City, IA.

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