A "Role Play" Activity

This page was written by Erin Klauk as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education.


Gold is one of the most economically important metals produced. As of 1991, more than 83% of gold consumption went into jewelry, 6% was used for medals and official coins, 6% was used in electronic equipment, 2.2% was used for dental materials, and 2.8% was consumed in a variety of industrial applications. These markets support an annual gold production of about 2,200 tons worth almost $25 billion ([Kesler, 1994] ).

What are the benefits from gold mining on these lands? Who benefits from gold mining on these lands? What are the impacts (e.g. health, economic) on the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre peoples and the local environment?

To explore these issues, use these comprehensive webpages that provide essential information about numerous topics that address these questions.


We will use a "role-play" approach to explore many dimensions of gold mining on the Fort Belknap Reservation. Students will be divided into 4 groups representing 1) consulting geologists, 2) the mining industry, 3) tribal elders, and 4) public health officials/Environmental Protection Agency. Each group will take about 40 minutes to find information on the website pertaining to their assigned roles. In the next 10 minutes, each group will decide on the essential evidence that informs your point of view (at least 5 key points) making sure to address the above questions. Next, each group will have 5 minutes to report this information to the class during the 'town meeting'. This report out is to include key points about what is particularly interesting and/or important about these issues. We will end the class period with a general discussion about the overall issue of gold mining on the Fort Belknap Reservation addressing the bold questions above.

Group 1:

Consulting Geologists: Be sure to explore the geology, physiography, and hydrology of the Fort Belknap Reservation. What is the general geologic setting, what rock units, structures and landforms are present? What issues involve the quality and quantity of water resources?

Group 2:

Mining Industry: Be sure to explore the types of gold deposits, and the exploration and development history of this area. Describe the deposits present, how will you develop these deposits (mining and processing), how will the mining companies interact with the Fort Belknap tribes, what are the benefits (jobs, profits, tax base, etc.)?

Group 3:

Tribal Elders: Be sure to explore the cultural heritage of the Navajo Nation, and the environmental and health impacts from gold mining. You are responsible for the well-being of your people. What impacts were experienced from mining gold? Looking to the future, what impacts or benefits might you expect? How will you balance potential jobs, revenues against environmental and health impacts?

Group 4:

Public Health Officials/Environmental Protection Agency: Be sure to explore the environmental and health impacts, and policy issues related to gold mining on the Fort Belknap Reservation. What is the legacy of gold mining on the health of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine people?

Each group should start their investigation with the recommended pages above, but feel free to explore the entire case study. 

For further information about teaching with the Role Playing Technique, see the Starting Point collection.