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History Institute

Lesson Materials for Teaching About Native Americans

Grade 5 Materials

Museum of Native American Cultures: A Project-based WebQuest
A new world class Native American History and Culture Museum is coming in California. Your team is invited to submit plans for museum displays and in this way become part of the curator staff for this new museum of America’s First Peoples. Each team will focus on only one nation within a specific Native American culture region including: Eastern Woodland Peoples (north and south), Great Plains Cultures, Pacific Northwest Cultures, California Indians, and Pueblo People of the Southwest.
The interactive display that the team constructs needs to have the following in order to be approved by the museum board:
a map of the region in which the people lived
representations of the economy or material culture of the people including food production and consumption, housing, tools and weapons, clothing
significant customs or religious practices
an example of one of the stories, myths or legends
significant person, event, or leader and a timeline

Create Your Own Native American Board Game
Discuss how games reflect a culture’s beliefs, priorities, and aspects of everyday life. Learn about a few games and toys of Native American children. Analyze basic elements of a selected Native American nation in order to apply them to the creation of an original board game that can be played today. Requires internet connectivity.

Becoming an Expert on the Eastern Woodlands Indians
This is a teacher-written set of eight lessons built around student reading and research about geography, food, buildings, shelters, gender roles, beliefs, tools, and modern culture of the Eastern Woodlands people. To shorten the unit, divide the class into teams to research one of the topics. Connectivity is not required.

Indians of the Southwest
Learn about the Indian people of the Southwest by locating their homeland on a map of North America, comparing their culture to that of other major Native American groups, create a clay pot, and write a report about the Southwest Indians that you email to students at another school. Requires internet connectivity.

Southwestern Native Americans
Learn about the locations, homes, clothing, food, beliefs, and crafts of native peoples of the American Southwest including the Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, Western Apache, and Zuni. Compare the cultures on a chart. Finally, select the tribe of which you would most like to be a part and write about how your life would be the same or different and create a picture of yourself in this new lifestyle. Standard 5.1.1, 5.1.2, and 5.1.3

Northwest Indian Art for Sale
In this visual arts webquest, students learn about the history and cultures of Pacific Northwest Indians in order to create an art collection for a wealthy client. The collection of three works must represent the following: religious beliefs, social rank, and functional objects. Standard 5.1.0 and 5.1.2

Pacific Northwest Coastal Indians
All of the west coast tribes were considered rich by the other Indian nations. Of all the coastal Indians, the Tulalip, Swinomish, Lummi and Skagit tribes were considered the most rich. These were the Indian tribes who lived in the Puget Sound area of Washington State.

What made these tribes so wealthy? It wasn't the discovery of oil, although these early people did love to dunk their food in whale oil to give it flavor. It wasn't the discovery of gold or silver, although these early people were talented artists. They would have made gorgeous jewelry from gold and silver (if they had discovered gold or silver!) But, they did not use metal of any kind. They did not have gold statues or iron pots or brass weapons. What made them so rich and famous? Food! An abundance of food and safe, sturdy shelter made them famous.

Zia by Scott O’Dell
The story of Zia by Scott O'Dell is a sequel to The Island of the Blue Dolphins. Zia is a young Cupeno Indian girl who leaves her home in Pala near San Diego to follow the padres to a new home at Mission Santa Barbara.
As the students do these activities, they will consider:
  • A general description of the physical characteristics and migration patterns of the gray whales which were present in large numbers off the Channel Islands at the time Zia took place
  • What life was like in a typical mission of the time
  • How the religious culture of the Indians changed as they came in contact with the Spanish
  • How the folk tales of the California Indians are related to the folklore of the American Indians in general
Teaching from Objects and Stories: The Bering Sea Eskimo People
Using artifacts from the Smithsonian, this site has three lessons that guide students to interpret cultural objects to understand the life of the Eskimo people from the Bering Sea area.

Before Jamestown: The World of the Powhatans
You are a team of historians studying the Jamestown colony, focusing on the native population of Virginia before the Europeans arrived. You have been given the opportunity to interview a living leader of the Powhatan people, who is one of the many Powhatan descendants currently living on the Rankokus Reservation in New Jersey. In this interview, you will discover not only the history of the Powhatan people, but also their culture, legacy, and memory. This interview will reveal much to your team, as you are attempting to answer one ultimate question: How does the American nation remember the Powhatan story?

Native Americans - Searching for Knowledge and Understanding
In this lesson students will study Native Americans in order to become familiar with the contributions to and influences on American society particularly, but not exclusively, in the Western region of the United States. This lesson will focus on some of the cultural history, writings and symbols of the southwestern tribes. After researching, studying and comparing the differences among the various tribes in small groups, students will produce individual reports about a specific Native American perspective.

Native Americans in a Box
This lesson will help students recognize and critically analyze the influence nature/environment had on how Native Americans lived and survived. To do this, students will analyze replicas and teacher created pictures of artifacts drawn from and representing major Native American culture groups in North America. Standard 5.1.1, 5.1.2 and 5.1.3

Grade 8 Materials

Trade and Property
This unit presents the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition from the perspective of trade and property. It highlights the commercial motivations of the expedition and explores the established American Indian trade networks of the Northwest. It also asks how these cultures defined wealth, and the influence of culture on their trading practices. It explores the specialization of American Indian tribes, and the influence of geography on trade in the historical context of the expedition.

Trail on Which They Wept
This is the story of Sarah Tsaluh Rogers, a young Cherokee girl, her family, and the "Trail of Tears." The story begins in 1837 and describes the Cherokees' lifestyle in Georgia and the 115 long, difficult days of their journey from Georgia to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Standard 5.3.4 and 8.8.2

Trial of Standing Bear
It is 1879 and Judge Elmer Dundy of the U. S. District Court has just issued his judgment in a case involving Standing Bear, a Ponca chief, who was arrested and detained near Omaha, Nebraska, by General George Crook. Standing Bear was accused of leaving Indian Territory where he and his tribe had been forced to relocate from their home in northern Nebraska. You are part of a team of investigative reporters working for a major eastern newspaper whose readers are very interested in events occurring "out West." Your assignment is to assemble a portfolio of interviews and background information that is relevant to the case for publication by your paper. Standards 8.8.2 and 8.12.2

Reservation Controversies: Then and Now - An Indian Agent Interview
You are a Quaker applying for a job as Indian Agent for the Comanche Reservation in Oklahoma and must prepare and interview for that position. Standard 8.12.2

Sioux Treaty of 1868
Using the Written Document Analysis Worksheet, read and interpret the Sioux Treaty of 1868. Discuss the following questions: What does each side gain or lose in this treaty? Compare the signatures of the U.S. government agents and the chiefs. What is the significance of the two names of each chief or headman? What might this suggest about cultural differences between the two parties? What types of problems could these differences create? Speculate on what each party hoped to accomplish through this treaty.

Role play the negotiation of a new treaty today. Standard 8.12.2

Buffalo War: A Clash of Cultures
Using the PBS documentary "Buffalo War," students will discover how cultures living together often come into conflict because they place different values and meaning on items they share such as the environment and economic resources. Explore ways in which conflict may be reduced by developing potential solutions based on the commonalities between the cultures. This activity may be done without using the website or sources other than the documentary. Standards 8.12.2 and 11.11.5

Assess the effects of contact on the Indians and Europeans
After examining the situation in Europe that led to exploration and discussing the exploration policies of several European countries, students examine the effects of contact on both the Indians and the Europeans. The focus is on the resulting transfer of products, ideas, technology, or practices, and the positive and negative effects for both the Indians and the explorers. Standard 7.11.1, 7.1.2

What was life like for Indians before the arrival of Columbus?
This research activity will help flesh out the Indian perspective on early American Indian policies during the formation of constitutional government and the early national period. It might be of value to limit the research to groups directly affected by U.S. policies such as the Trail of Tears, the Greenville Treaty, or Lewis and Clark so that a direct correlation to U.S. policy can be easily drawn. Standard 8.2.3, 8.5.3, and 8.8.2
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