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Essay: Essay on Native American Culture

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  • Published: 29 July 2014*
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This unit is an introduction to several aspects of Native American culture, for grades second through fifth. In this unit the class will learn about Native Americans way of life through the books selected. I have chosen these books because they teach and have examples of Native American history. In this unit the class will learn about history and traditions. Native Americans have a rich culture full of traditions and beauty


1. Students will be able to describe the lands and traditions of Native Americans
2. Students will be able to share the history of Native Americans.
3. Students will be able to differentiate the different tribes and areas of the country they lived in.
4. Students will create rock painting, tepees and dream catchers.

Skills To Develop:

1. Basic understanding of Native American history
2. Understanding of traditions
3. Importance of folk stories and ancestry
4. Cultural awareness
5. Artistic creativity
6. United States geography

This unit will last about a week long going into thanksgiving break. To introduce the unit I would start off with a viewing of Disney’s Pocahontas.
Brief History of Native Americans

The beginning of the unit would introduce the history of Native Americans. Creating a time can be used in the classroom to give the students an idea of American history, and a comparison between the Native Americans and the settlers.
An interesting way to start the unit would be to take the classrooms knowledge of Native Americans for later comparison after the unit.

The first book after this quick discussion of already known knowledge would be one that takes a look into the lives of Native Americans.

Title: The Very First Americans
Citation: Ashrose, Cara, and Bryna Waldman. The very first Americans. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1993. Print.
Summary: This book is about Native Americans from the plains, the southwest and costal regions of the country. The book covers the different areas and how the Native Americans tribes that lived in a certain area were able to survive in those different environments. The book uses a map that could be very effective to teach basic geology to kids. The illustrations are made with watercolor and very smooth without color that pops out.
Classroom Use: Using the map could teach basic geology to kids and also show cases the differences between tribes

Title: Grandmothers Dreamcatcher
Citation: McCain, Becky R., and Stacey Schuett. Grandmother’s dreamcatcher. Morton Grove, Ill.: A. Whitman, 1998. Print.
Summary: Kimmy has to stay with her Chippewa grandmother while her parents are away looking for a house closer to her dad’s job. . While her parents drive away Kimmy is reminded of some bad dreams she has been having. Telling her grandmother, her grandmother shows her a dream catcher and they start to make one for Kimmy, while they make one using twigs and feathers her grandmother tells her what dream catchers do and about the legend and power they hold.
Classroom Use: Discussing how Native Americans use folktale and legends, this book can lead the unit into dreams and how Native Americans interpreted dreams, as well as having the class make their own dream catchers.

Title: How Would You Survive as an American Indian?
Citation: Steedman, Scott, and David Salariya. How would you survive as an American Indian?. New York: Franklin Watts, 1995. Print.
Summary: This book describes the everyday life of various plains Native American tribes in the 18th century, as long as customs. From how they lived, what types of animals were found in the region, to what they wore and why. All while asking if you would be able to survive as a Native American given the knowledge you learn from the book.
Classroom Use: This book can be used to discuss in greater detail the lives of Native Americans. With the book going into so much detail it can be used to compare life then to life now. Create mini teepees made of toothpicks and paper have them design it anyway they want.
Activity/Homework assignment:
1. Compare the life of a Native American child to one in today’s time; write a short paper on it.
Discussion Questions:
1. What are teepees and how are they made?
2. Why are animals important to Native Americans?
3. What types of games were played?

Geology Activity:
For the geology project the class will have a chance to create a map and place pictures of different Native American tribes and where on the map they would live.

Title: The Mud Pony
Citation: Cohen, Caron Lee, and Shonto Begay. The mud pony: a traditional Skidi Pawnee tale. New York: Scholastic, 1988. Print.
Summary: This book is about a boy in an Indian camp who was poor and had to watch the other boys play with they’re own ponies. One day the boy went and made a pony out of mud, taking care of it day after day as if it were real. The camp had to move because they had run out of resources, when the boy went back to camp he found his people had gone. After the days events he fell asleep and dreamt of he pony, when he woke up he saw that his pony was alive and took him to his people. When he got to his people they were astonished at how he was able to travel so far and find them. The war chief asked him to fight in battle because of his gifts. After years he became chief of his people. The mud pony left back to earth once he became chief.
Classroom Use: This book can be used in the study of Native American folklore and talk about how Native Americans view creations.

Title: Corn is Maize: Gift of the Indians
Citation: Corn is maize: the gift of the Indians. New York: Crowell, 1976. Print.
Summary: This is about corn, how it is grown and its many uses. It teaches about Native American culture and how corn was used in the culture.
Classroom Use: This book can be used as a science book showing how to grow corn and how the sun and rain affect it to how the pollen reaches the kennel egg. The book can lead in to a science project for the class.

Science Activity:
For the science activity the class will start to grow corn, they will start a seed in a cup and take care of it for a while with water to make sure the corn grows. As the corn grows they will be able to observe the different stages of plant life and follow along with the book. Once the corn gets bigger the kids can take the corn home to do with what they want.

Title: Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest
Citation: McDermott, Gerald, and Gerald McDermott. Raven: a trickster tale from the Pacific Northwest. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993. Print.
Summary: Raven is a Native American trickster who feels sorry and sad for the people who live in darkness and really wants to help them, after flying over rivers and valleys he finds out that light is being kept hidden by the sky chief. Raven then uses his cleverness to get light to the world.
Classroom Use: This book can be used to discuss why Raven wanted the light and the importance that light has for the planet and us. As a project the class paint the main characters on rocks like rock paint that Native Americans did.

Title: North American Indians
Citation: Gorsline, Marie, and Douglas W. Gorsline. North American Indians. New York: Random House, 1977. Print.
Summary: It gives interesting facts about the different Native Americans that lived in different regions of the country while keeping it simple enough for young kids. It talks about how different tribes, in different regions of the country, lived, what they ate, according to foods found near by, and how they built their homes from animal hide or clay.
Classroom Use: Discuss with the class the differences of the tribes and why they were so different. The class will have to be able to describe the tribes and what makes them different from each other.

Title: The Rough Face girl
Citation: Martin, Rafe, and David Shannon. The rough-face girl. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992. Print.
Summary: The Rough Face girl is a book about a girl who lives on the shores by lake Ontario. In her village is a wigwam where a great, powerful and handsome invisible being lives. All of the women in the village want to marry him but his sister says only the one that can see him can marry him. The rough face girl is made to feed the fire flames by her two older sisters, the flames burn her face and hair, which is the reason she is called the rough face girl. The two older sisters ask their father for new clothes to impress the invisible being, but when they get asked questions by the sister to see if they can see him they fail even after trying to cheat. The rough face girl asks her father for new clothes but she was only able to get old clothes and while she walked to the wigwam the villagers laughed at her. When she got there she was able to see the invisible being, with his sister being able to see not her rough face but her kind heart. After answering the sisters questions she would become the one to marry the invisible being and was ordered to bathe in the lake, when she did she came out with no scars and as beautiful as her heart.

Classroom Use: This book is a great because it is a version of a story student already knows. This is great book to have a discussion about beauty and ones character. One can contrast the differences between the Cinderella story they know and this new one.

Activity: As an activity that can get the students to think and write, they will have a chance to write and illustrate their own folktale books that involves animals.

Timeline accuracy will be graded.
Native American youth and todays youth paper will be graded.
Science project: how well the students care for the plant and put an effort will be graded.
Geography quiz. A map of the United States, with various locations and Native American tribes that live there.
Classroom discussions and involvement will be graded.
Books that were written will be graded on story telling.

Choosing Native Americans, as the topic for the unit was easy, finding books and coming up with uses and activities was the tough part for me. When I was younger I was somewhat obsessed with Native American traditions and way of life. One reason that I chose the week before thanksgiving for the unit is because it seems like a time that even kids who would not be in to Native American culture will be around thanksgiving. This unit is very informative and filled with art that kids will be able to have fun with. Most of the books at the library seemed to reiterate the same material, so this made it hard to get books that were in a wide range of topics.

All in all, I found that I used books and activities that I would have loved to do and probably did do when I was younger, I feel that these books, activities and unit as a whole will give kids an appreciation for Native America history, culture and traditions. Although it was hard for me not to repeat activities and book themes I believe I did a great job finding a variety of thing for the unit.

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