California Native American Day

The 4th Friday of September is California Native American Day. Third and fourth grade classes in California study local and state Indians. Native American Day is a great opportunity to bring elders and other representatives of local tribes to the classroom to share traditional stories and culture as well as information about current issues and concerns of native peoples. Here are web resources appropriate for students to learn about California Indians, their history and culture.

Content Resource Sites

California Native American Day
California Native American Day, celebrated each year on the fourth Friday of September, was established in 1998 as an official state holiday to teach people of all ages about the tribal cultures, histories and heritage of California's Native American Tribes

First Californians: 3rd and 4th Grade Resources
The Four Directions Institute provides information about the language, culture, and history of 50 California Indian culture groups. A workbook for third and fourth grade students is also provided.

Plants in the Lives of Northern California Native Americans
Some 12,000 years ago, the first human migrants to California found a rich and diverse flora of about 5000 different species of vascular ("higher") plants. Some 1500 of these exist only in California and are termed endemic species. But many of the others were already familiar to the immigrants and they knew how to use them (or closely related species) for food, medicine, and crafts.

First Peoples
Here are stories from Native peoples in all of North America including California creation lore.

Indian Tribes of California
This site for teachers or older students has historical and statistical information about California Indians. The introduction makes clear that the concept of tribe doesn't fit the California Native Americans but it was an idea imposed on them to fit Indian policy in other parts of the country.

Federally Recognized California Tribes
The California map shows California recognized tribes as published in November 1996 in the Federal Register.

View from Native California
This site by Claremont Colleges professor Ted Beckman has a brief book about California Indians and links to other resources for teaching about Native American Day.

Short Overview of California Indian History
This site by the Native American Cultural Heritage Commission has resources on the cultures and history of California's native peoples.

A History of American Indians in California
The history of California Indians is a different story from that of other ethnic groups who came in the last few centuries as immigrants to an already populated land. For Indians, this is their homeland, and their history spans more than 10,000 years of occupation.

Lesson Sites


California Indian Acorn Culture
Students study local environments where Indian people lived and make acorn mush, a typical Indian food across much of California. They reflect on the relationship of environment to the economy and culture of California Native peoples. Standards 3.2.2 and 4.2.1

Wappo Indians of Napa County
This lesson by teacher Andy Dooley Miller helps students experience the Wappo Indian culture of Napa by seeing example of baskets, homes, jewelry and tools at this great virtual museum. They explore examples of plants and animals that were once an important part of Native American culture and have fun learning a legend and even how to speak a few Wappo words. Standards 3.2.1, 3.2.2 and 4.2.1

Bay Miwok of Contra Costa County
The key to Contra Costa County's past begins with the Bay Miwok Tribe. Their culture and way of life is very different than that of today. You will discover how important the land and its natural resources were for their survival. The lessons in this unit will guide you step-by-step to understand the way of life and contributions of the Bay Miwok Tribe of Contra Costa County. Standards 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.3, 3.2.4, and 4.2.1

Island of the Blue Dolphins
While you are reading Island of the Blue Dolphins, explore life in a Chumash village, the geography of San Nicolas Island, and the ocean near the coast of the Ventura area using the resources at this web museum designed for English Learners. You are looking for Karana, an Indian girl left on San Nicolas Island, in the Blue Dolphins story. Standard 3.2.0, 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.3, and 4.2.1

The Serrano: People of the Pines
At People of the Pines Virtual Museum students explore the culture, environment and history of the Serrano people of inland Southern California. Included are stories, pictures and film clips with background on the tools, medicine, customs and much more. Standards 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.3, 3.2.4 and 4.2.1

Children's Literature

Back in the Beforetime: Tales of the California Indians by Curry, Jane Louise
Bone Man, The: An Adaptation of a Modoc Folktale by Simms, Laura
Cahuilla (Tribes of Native America series) by Ryan, Marla F.
California Native American Tribes (26 book series) by Boule, Mary Null
Chumash (Tribes of Native America series) by Ryan, Marla F.
Chumash Indians by Schwabacher, Martin
Chumash Indians: Seafarers of the Pacific Coast (The American Indian Nations" series) by Gibson, Karen B.
Coyote Fights the Sun: A Shasta Indian Tale by Carpelan, Mary J.
Creation of a California Tribe: Grandfather's Maidu Indian Tales by Trafzer, Cliff and Lee A. Smith-Trafzer
Day with a Chumash by Lee, Georgia
Day with Tupi by Hubbard, Fran
Dog Who Walked with God, The by Rosen, Michael J.
Fire Race: A Karuk Coyote Tale About How Fire Came to the People by London, Jonathan
Indians of the Oaks by Lee, Milicent
Lord of the Animals: A Miwok Indian Creation Myth by French, Fiona
Miwok Indians, The by Covert, Kim
My Ancestor's Village by Labastida, Roberta
Pomo (Tribes of North America series) by Ryan, Marla F.
Rainbow Bridge, The by Wood, Audrey
Rainbow Bridge: A Chumash Legend, The by Nechodom, Kerry
Salinan (also by same author Gabrielino, Mohave, and Yokut) by Gray-Kanatiiosh, Barbara
Weaving a California Tradition: A Native American Basketmaker by Yamane, Linda
When the Animals Were People by Sanger, Kay

SCORE 2005