Examining Cause and Effect: The Impact of the Gold Rush on BCs Aboriginal Population

- An Adapted Lesson Intended for Grade 5


This lesson fits in well with the grade 5 Social Studies IRP as it deals with the impact of the Gold Rush. The students have been looking at the novel, Cariboo Runaway, as a read aloud. This lesson also addresses critical thinking, specifically cause and effect in regards to the relationship between the Gold Rush, the miners, and the Aboriginal population. The students studied the Aboriginal peoples of BC in grade four, and looked at the impact of the fur trade earlier this year. There are issues that arise when discussing the Gold Rush that are similar to those discussed when dealing with these other topics.

Learning Outcomes

  1. The students will learn about how the Aboriginal peoples were affected when the miners arrived on their land looking for gold.
  2. The students will be able to determine cause and effect when looking at the relationship between the prospectors and the Natives.
  3. The students will be able to support their own arguments with sound evidence.


Teacher Activities

Student Activities


  • The teacher will explain to the class that there were two main groups affected by the Gold Rush
  • The Miners
  • The Natives
  • The teacher will explain to the students that they will be going "mining for nuggets" outside and that these nuggets will help to demonstrate some of the effects of the Gold Rush
  • As the students find their gold, the teacher will record what their fate was e.g.) you are an American miner who struck it rich/ you are a member of the Chilkotin band and died while protecting your family from miners


  • When the students have returned to the class and their information is recorded, the teacher will go over the fates of the "miners"
  • The teacher will discuss cause and effect and give some local examples e.g.) overfishing and overlogging has lead to cutbacks in both industries
  • The teacher will record a few examples of cause and effect as it relates to the lesson
  • The teacher will give the students a handout on cause and effect with either the cause or the effect provided and the rest left blank.
  • The teacher will remind the students that there may be more than one right answer for each cause or effect.


  • The teacher will review with the class how the actions of the gold miners impacted the Aboriginal peoples.
  • The class should be made aware that the Native bands knew what had happened when Natives in U.S. had opposed the miners in the San Francisco Gold Rush.
  • The teacher will ask the class if the miners were justified in their actions






  • The class will go outside to the mining area and collect nuggets (gold foil balls) with special message inside (1/student)


  • The students will report their message to the recorder and return to the class





  • The students will ask questions as to why things happened the way they did


  • The students will be asked to come up with some of their own examples of cause and effect
  • The students will be asked to discuss how cause and effect relates to the Gold Rush
  • The students will use their prior knowledge of the Gold Rush to fill in the rest of the sheet with the appropriate cause and effects












  • The students will offer opinions on whether the miners were justified

Critical Challenge

At the end of this lesson, the students should be able to fairly address the following questions

  1. What impact did the miners have on the lifestyles of the Native population?
  2. Were the miners justified in their actions in the pursuit of gold?
  3. Were the Natives justified in defending their way of life?


Requisite Knowledge

The students need some background knowledge before this lesson would be useful. They need to know about the Aboriginal people in BC and how they got along with minimal interference before the miners arrived. They need to have some prior knowledge of the Gold Rush - the events that caused it, where it took place, and who the stakeholders were (Natives, prospectors, shopkeepers).

Criteria for Judgement

  1. Students should support arguments with evidence.
  2. Students should fairly consider the alternatives available to both groups.

Thinking Strategies

Habits of Mind


Conner, Daniel C.G. Canada: Building Our Nation. Scarborough:

Prentice-Hall, 1985.

Duncan, Sandy Frances. Cariboo Runaway. 2nd Ed. Gabriola Island, BC: Pacific

Edge Publishing, 1990.

Fraser Gold (available at SD #69 DRC)

Time 4 Teachers: 400+ Time Saving Blackline Masters. CD-ROM. Released

Sept. 1999.

Steele, Louise. The Gold Rush Frenzy: Module 1 Gold Seekers. Vancouver:

Creative Curriculum Inc., 1994.

Sterling, Shirley. Our Beginnings. Ontario: Oxford University Press, 2000.


Students who are done early can be asked to complete a Gold Rush word search. The clues should relate to this lesson and can also draw on any previous lessons on the Gold Rush.

Student Evaluation

The students will be evaluated on how well they stay on task and participate in the "mining" portion of this lesson.

The cause and effect handout will be handed in and evaluated primarily for completeness. The students can be marked according to this scale:

3 complete with no obvious errors

2 mostly complete with a few minor errors

1 incomplete and/or some major errors in cause and effect

As this lesson is intended as part of a unit on the Gold Rush, the cause and effects chart will also become part of their Gold Rush portfolio.