Culture Graphics -- An Experience with Native American Things for the Elementary Student

byStephanie L. Johnson


What is fascinating about looking at other cultures? I would think that people and their cultures would be. In the seminar Native Americans: is about Understanding the Past through Things we look at the lifestyle of natives and how they used their environment to be successful in daily life. This unit will attempt to bring a few beliefs and cultural practices to life about certain North American Indians, using their resources to teach important concepts. As I sat in this seminar observing the discussions on things I appeared to have a moment of amazement: how did these early civilizations come up with such an elaborate and systematic way of living? As my seminar leader Mary E. Miller, Vincent J. Scully Professor of History of Art, explained about cloth, I saw several different things going on, especially teamwork, leadership, planning and teaching. For example, I watched an Inca woman in Peru spinning cotton, and that seemed to be all she did. But all of the aspects and skills of a great collaboration were going on. This collaboration was not seen until the final product. Even before they could get to the spinning or the weaving, they had to have llamas, just to get the yarn. This use of one's own environment shows that most cultures adapt and learn from their surroundings. How were environments used by the Incas, especially since they lived both way up high in the Andes Mountains and right near the Pacific Ocean? The Nazca were the ones who made animal shapes in the desert. Later, the Inca, in the 15th century, made their capital look like a big puma. The city looks like it has streets laid out along an irregular grid, but from an aerial view it looks like a shape of a cat. This same group of people made roads that are over 3,000 miles long. I wonder how the indigenous peoples of other countries learned to manage their environments, how they survived and, and how they lived daily with the things that were around them, even sometimes coming up with the same ideas that people had in other faraway places.. When the Native Americans arrived in the United States as we call them today, how they made their environment livable is still up for some debate. First, of all, according to current knowledge, they arrived by land or water. Most Native Americans are descendants from Siberia. Nowadays only 2 % of America is Native American with six million identifying themselves as so (Encarta, 2002). I will talk about them in ways I hope are appreciated and teach about how they used their environment to live and even thrive before settlers came to this land.

I have chosen six Native American nations, or tribes, to explore. (Some Native American Indians call themselves tribes, and some call themselves nations. Here I will call them all nations.) It is cleverly done because I attempted to look at only certain regions in the United States; during this exploration my students and I will be looking at an art genre that each of the nations contributed to and shared with their people. Our experience will be based on carefully selected strategies. These strategies have been enlightened by a reading from the seminar called Thinking with Things; Toward a New Vision of Art, by Esther Pasztory. This book questions what is or isn't art. I find that this is a question of who is defining the art form or the work. Pasztory refers to an essay by Thomas McEvilley, in which he summarized definitions of art. According to him, Formal art is based on beauty. Content art is based on the idea that art is expression and not form. Designation art is based on whatever people value regardless of form or content. Honorific art is designating an importance and value and it has no other meaning (Pasztory p.8-9). Along with this information it should be said all Native American things are considered to be art regardless of the use that the thing may also have or even not have. In this unit I have chosen to look at art in the same way, but using a different theory, so that my students can understand it.

This unit that I am writing will prove to be interesting and rewarding. It is for a kindergarten classroom but may be used in any early childhood classroom grades kindergarten thru third grade.


"In every society, culturally unique ways of thinking about the world unite people in their behavior" stated John Bodley concerning culture (Encarta 2005). Culture can be seen through symbols, learned habits and shared ways. This unit will explore another's culture through two specific variables, physical geography and an art genre. Looking at another's culture with respect and dignity will be prevalent throughout this unit. Some important aspects of culture will be pointed out. One will be the symbolic part of culture. This can be through totem poles, storytelling or writing. Culture also is learned through enculturation, in which customs and rituals and family traditions are repeated time and again. This process takes years, but it begins to give us what we call history. Lastly, culture is shared through borrowing of ideas, trading of goods, and living in close proximity. The physical homeland will often dictate the lifestyle through food or access to material and water. This is why I chose to look at land form.

Another important aspect of culture is art. A famous quote of John Dewey is "Art is a product of culture, and it is through art that the people of a given culture express the significance of their lives as well as their hopes and ideals." I and my students will basically be living with the six nations we are studying through experiencing aspects of their culture. We will be looking at the things that help them run smoothly. This can be seen through the Seneca and their planting of food, utilizing and paying attention to the seasons; after the planting, they might take the time for making a maize rug or jacket. They used to follow the weather and plant food, and then they use the food for clothing.

Now as you have read the title, I know you would want to know some specifics. The Native American nations that I will be looking at are the Pomo, Haida, Nez Perce, Seneca, Cherokee and Navajo. We will look at their geographical location related to location and physical environment along with their history The second will be an art genre. The genre may be material or nonmaterial art. Each nation will be introduced in this manner

  • - location
  • - history
  • - art genre
  • - graphic organizer

In introducing the nation we would locate the nation on a map and discuss landform and directional information. Then we will talk about the history and important customs or lifestyles. In this part I would like to use a graphic organizer to teach a content area skill. This will be associated to a skill previously taught in my regular classroom curricula, and used as reinforcement. I will then introduce a work of art. Then a graphic organizer will be completed. While learning all of these different attributes about culture we can begin to appreciate our culture and respect others.


My main goals are to sensitize my students to the qualities of other people of different cultures and how they live. I would like to give my students many opportunities to enjoy emergent literacy skills. This can be through hearing new and familiar stories. For example, I will include a folktale in the Haida lesson. This can also be taught to look at the repetitive text within a story. I would like to give my students the opportunity to use the puppet theatre to practice these skills. They can act out folktales during free time. They will also be able to express language through respectfully listening to and sustaining conversation with their peers. This will be when the students do paired and small group learning using the cooperative learning strategies. Also, practice will give them a firm foundation to perform other skills. This unit will encourage my students to ask questions, make simple predictions, observations and comparisons. This can be as they look at their own culture in comparison to the nations that are introduced. The graphic organizers will teach skills in organizing information. I will talk more about this in the strategies section of my paper. Aesthetic appreciation and concern for the work of art for a different culture will be fostered, when the students create the art piece and become the artist. They will be able to realize that the environment provides resources for creative expressions using a variety of art forms and media. I will use the environment to give my students an opportunity to create a representational piece of art work by looking at an actual work of art. I will be sure that they have exposure to familiar images, object events and people. This will help them to understand customs of other social groups. This can be through discussing the potlatch ceremony, for example. I also want them to be able to use simple map skills, along with geographical tools such as globes and other forms of directional information including a map key. A map is a form of a graphic organizer. The students will be able to use critical thinking and problem solving through the use of some content area information. These content skills will be taught a new way. They will be able to use basic pattern skills. The patterns can be created through weaving or counting numbers. I also want my students to be able understand human influence in shaping history, and to be able to understand the concept of regions related to landforms. The student will be able to learn and understand that an object may have different meanings such as an animal's characteristics for different cultures. Also, through these processes, I will be letting the students understand that these things help with shaping of communities, states and nations (tribes). All of the objectives and goals have been closely related to my social studies curriculum. I want the objectives to foster a strong identity of self as they learn about someone else's culture. This will give them the opportunity to use ideas and environments that value different things their culture. Our culture may value designer clothes where the Pomo nation valued the acorn. What I mean is understanding someone else's culture will assist in understanding ours.

The Pennsylvania Kindergarten Standards have been included because of their importance with regard to student achievement. In this section I will list the ones that will be used in this unit.

Arts and Humanities

9.1 Production, performance and exhibition of a dance music, theatre and visual arts. This will be with the folktales and puppet theatre. Some of the pictures will be used also.

9.2 Historical cultural context of works in the arts analyze and describe the work. The study about the art attributed to each nation.

9.4 Aesthetic response to works of the arts. When we do the strategies we will be trying to achieve aesthetic appreciation.

Family School and Community Partnerships

P.6 Collaborating with the community. We will be using the lending part of the Carnegie Museum and I will be borrowing some of their pieces on Native American Art. I will also be inviting an environmental organization to explain a compost and build one.


2.1 Number systems and their relations. In the Pomo nation they were skilled mathematicians. I have chosen a number activity for this that includes an estimation and probability.

2.6 Data analysis- The graphic organizers will be collecting data.

Reading, Writing and Speaking

1.6 Speaking and listening- this will be with the cooperative learning groups and discussions about the history of the nations.

1.4 Types of writing- This will be evident with the journal entries related to the work of art. It will also be part of some of the writing activities in the Haida lesson.

Science and Technology

3.1 Unifying a theme using the seasons in the Seneca nation. There will be activities to show how parts make up a whole.

3.2 Inquiry and design- This will be used with the graphic organizer activities and the work of art series of questions.

Environmental and Ecology

4.2Renewable and nonrenewable resources

This will be through the compost set up. There will be milk cartoons and cans to use for art activities.

Social Studies

7.1 Basic Geography literacy. This will mean just knowing left and right, east and west.

7.2 The physical characteristics of places and regions. I will be going over what regions are like, for example, if the area is a forest or plateau.

7.3 Interaction between people and places. This will be discussed in the history part of each nation.

8.2 United States History. This is basically what this whole unit is about.


What makes a culture function? How do people of one culture come together and have life run smoothly? The main way, it is said, is through ritual and beliefs. Emile Durkeim, a nineteenth century French sociologist, stated that "religious beliefs and rituals functioned to integrate people into groups and maintained smooth functioning societies." This was typically called functionalism. It was properly named, I think, because it basically helps a society function. Durkeim studied how cultural institutions kept a society in working order. This can be taken all the way back to South America where Machu Picchu both divided people up into different sides of the city and then had a central place to bring people back together again. Machu Picchu, an Inca site, is a place where Inca civilization existed and had an elaborate culture running. Even way back in 1440, the Inca figured out how to be sure people had food, clothing, and shelter—and this is a great example of a smooth running society. I did see the actual exhibit at the Peabody Museum in New Haven, Connecticut. In order to have a deep and personal knowledge of people and places, Durkeim also lived with the people he studied for extended periods of time. I do believe this was a good idea because it gave you an opportunity as a researcher to experience first hand. Durkeim also found that cultural areas were developed based on physical and natural resources. These aspects help to shape the cultures.

Another person of significance to this unit is Franz Boas, an American anthropologist and ethnologist. The grandfather of ethnology, with his concerns about cultures, Boas was driven to examine culture in its local context using specific cultural traits- behavior, beliefs and symbols. He came up with the theory of historical particularism which emphasized the uniqueness of a culture. This uniqueness is important to my students, because it will assist them with a positive self concept and respect for another's culture and as well as their own. This respect will help them with social skills. By studying a little about Boas, I can show that everyone contributes something unique to a culture.

Other anthropologists believed in diffusion. According to diffusion, cultural innovations had a single origin and passed from society to society. This can be seen in basketry and weaving, in which they are developed in one location and then passed on, from region to region. All of these theories are relevant and these factors will be discussed as we study the nations. How these theories will help in teaching about another's culture is clear. They help us to understand specific points on how cultures develop. Culture is learned through the teaching of the society around you. Culture is a way of communicating with each other within a society. Culture is shared by each person and with one another, and in this unit we will share in exploration of other communities by sharing their customs and traditions. All of this has been noted on how we use other cultural ideas in our lives.


The strategies for teaching this unit will be in three parts. Each part will focus on developing a particular area. Developing the areas will be necessary for my students to comprehend in detail the unit. I want to keep in mind the age group of my students. My students are from an urban school and have different abilities within the classroom—that is, they can be below basic, basic, proficient and advanced learners. The strategies have been developed to be inclusive to all learners. I have taken into account the developmental stages of my students. These stages predict if the student is capable of doing the lessons. I mean, for example: they can do the lesson because eye and hand coordination by cutting or holding a pencil correctly? I have looked at each lesson in this way because my students need to have ease in understanding and applying their knowledge of a subject.

The first of the strategies I will discuss is cooperative learning. This strategy has proven to be one of the most successful in helping students with social skills, leadership and cooperation. Some of the benefits of using this strategy are that students of varying learning abilities can be put into one group. As a group, they will help each person achieve. Each member of the group or team is responsible not only for themselves but for all the members each student works through the assignment individually but each member has to complete it for the team to be done. Mutual benefits are gained from each others' efforts. Some of the mutual understandings are that all members have a common fate. They can celebrate as a team because one performance depends on the other. This is one of the most important elements: interdependence. In every culture interdependence is important. This concept can be seen in all cultures (interdependence). Why I chose this strategy is because it promotes student learning and academic achievement. This factor is extremely important as I reinforce some of the skills in my content areas. Also achievement is what every educator wants. There is a high instance of student retention of information. I have used this technique before and I find it gives the students the opportunity to have conversations with each other about subject matter thus allowing for them to internalize. They get satisfaction about putting in their own input, and a better self concept is developed, along with a positive outlook toward learning. Leadership skills are developed because you are responsible for you but also responsible for others.

The second strategy will be a graphic organizer. These are what are called mind maps. They help you communicate more effectively and construct meaning about information. I will be using this strategy to assist with content area skills that relate to math, science, reading or social studies. I will be taking information from the background of the six Native American nations' histories. Through the history I will be looking at targeted skills such as counting shells as related to Pomo and their mathematical system. There will also be an example in which we work through the use of the Cherokee communication system. Some other important skills that graphic organizers provide for students will help the student focus the information given and interpret it. They help interpret information through putting it in categories. My students will enjoy this because it makes it manageable for their developing minds. Their focus is put to purpose. I know that this strategy will reinforce other skills and help relate the topic to the criteria. Graphic organizers are like maps in that they show a destination. That destination for my students will be to reinforce previously learned skills.

The final strategy will be related to the art genre that is chosen about each of the six Native American nations. I will be using methodology drawn from John Dewey's Art as an Experience. John Dewey, an American psychologist, believed that there are some key factors when dealing with art. One was that senses play a key role in artistic expression and creating it. The student has to engage his/her senses in the process. This engagement makes the art important. The emotions guide the overall character of the artwork. The quality and the meaning of the work of art should be seen and understood. Thus, like Dewey, we will believe that most art is absolutely nothing without the audience appreciating, assimilating, comparing and integrating it as the original artist did. The art is realized by engaging the audience. This engagement will be when my students look at a nation's work of art and discuss it using the steps listed below in the student's part of aesthetic understanding. Some aspects of aesthetic questioning you can ask yourself when selecting a work of art for as an educator/teacher. First, you should gain knowledge about what is or is not a work of art. In the reading Thinking with Things by Esther Pasztory, it will tell you all of the things that are considered art. You will find that most everything is. You should know now that it can be material (basketry, pottery) or non-material (drama, music). Does it engage in an encounter making a response? Does it meet standard and critical judgments? What was the role of the artist and the creative process? Does it have a relation to morality or a belief system? All of these will be considered when I choose a work of art. The explanation for the work will be given to my students.

The core objectives for the students when doing this work of art are:

  • - personal relevance
  • - little prior knowledge
  • - actual work of art
  • - distinct topic of work of art (nation)
  • - competence engaged
  • - co-learning
  • - intrinsic motivation

Some more important aspects of this theory are: 1, the teacher presents the work of art with excitement and enthusiasm. 2, then the student attempts to recreate the work of art through representation or process. This can be done through an art activity or a process of creating it. 3, then a reflection in a journal work is made. This is just writing about the art or a drawing about the art. In making art you can learn so much about another's culture. This process will help me and my students have a close bond with the nation that we are doing. I had the opportunity to experience this process when I took a class at the Arts in Education from the Center for the Arts. This was in their schools education Arts Residency program.

Background Information the Six Nations are- Haida, Pomo, Navajo, Seneca, Nez Perce and Cherokee

They will be introduced in this order. The nations will be discussed in four ways. These will be introduced in this order.

  • a. geographical
  • b. history
  • c. work of art
  • d. graphic organizer (conclusion follow up)

While using this suggested sequence, the teacher should remember to use the appropriate strategies with each. The work of art has the aesthetic theory with it and the graphic organizer teaches the content area skill. The cooperative learning takes place with the history and the small groups or with either one of the activities I just mentioned. The students should pair up for some of the activities in each of the areas


The Haida nation is in the northwest coastal section of the southeast of Alaska. Alaska is our forty ninth state. The Haida territory is considered to be sub arctic. The islands that they live on are Prince of Wales Island and Queen Charlotte Island. The later island is in Canada's territory. Although many people in the United States have never heard of it, Prince of Wales Island in Alaska is the third largest island in the United States, and it is in the Alaskan panhandle. These islands have deep forests on them and are considered to be pre-glacial. Native Americans first came to these islands 14,000 years ago, when the glaciers retreated. The islands are in the Pacific Ocean. They have great rainfall and a mild climate. This weather helps support the thick forest of fir, spruce and cedar trees. The seasons don't vary as much as ours do (I'm writing from Pittsburgh, were we have every season!). At this time I would show a map of where it is located, along with some pictures of the ancient trees and forests. This will give the students an idea of how the trees look and their size. This is a good place for a discussion of what a forest is, and what some of the things in a forest are. The Haida were great fishermen. They had plenty of fish from the water, especially salmon, smelt cod, clams and mussels. The Haida were good wood crafters; they would carve stories into the tree trunks of red cedar trees. They would put family history and ancient supernatural beings on them. Maybe a comparison at this time can be made by asking the students the question if they can think of any supernatural characters, to bring about an understanding. This was done to show how important the figures are on the totem poles. A totem pole might show eagles, ravens, whales or bears. With these powerful animals, (characteristics of these animals) they are making reference to ancestors. These carvings in the tree have come to be called totem poles. This would be a great time to show the pictures at this point to familiarize them with it. Start a discussion concerning the totem poles and the powerful animals. The Haida would put these tree carvings in front of their homes. They would also use the bottom opening for a doorway. This doorway would lead right into their homes.

The Haida would have what you would call a celebration, and this celebration was called a potlatch. The word potlatch comes from the Nootka word (patshatl) meaning gift or giving. (Fox 1995 p.18) The potlatch was considered to be a way to distribute or redistribute riches. To some people this was a form of warfare, because of the very power of gifts. They were using symbols and goods as weapons; the competing chief would display his emblems as the one who may have invited them displayed his. Now in a kindergarten explanation, this is like having a party where all of your relatives would be invited to come, because of a birth of a child or a major event. This was given to honor the leader whom was called a chief. At this time talk about some of the things families have and their composition. My students will tell me this. Gifts were given and exchanged based on how you were ranked in that family or clan. A clan is a group like a family. The clan name came from the mother's name. The clan name can go on blankets, spoons and crest poles (which is another name for a totem pole). They would also put their clan crest on their totem poles. A clan crest is like your name and things that make your name important around it. The crest also explained for them how they became part of this clan. For the Haida, the art genre will be the totem pole. It is very important that the students see the work through a visual art physical representation. This will make it easy to follow the strategies for the art genre. I will be borrowing from a lending museum—in my case, the Carnegie Museum of History and Art program—for totem poles (Appendix A-this is where the directions are for the lesson.) Now is the time to tell the story. This is a folktale. It is actually attributed to the Haida nation but I plan to tell it as a folklorist would in my own voice and using it to reflect the Haida nation. Let me add a little about folktales here: they reflect humanity, customs and cultures from where they originated. They have repetitive patterns and I am emphasizing this because the story teller can look for the patterns, so that the teller can remember the story. It's fun to tell the story, so that it can be characterized by the person telling the story. My school district also has a Reading Exhibit and in that exhibit a twenty five book requirement is displayed. As I work through the 25 books I read to my students, I choose a variety of genres. The folktale is always part of my reading curriculum. Oral traditions are an important part of the Native American culture. Like most cultures, they believe that thought and speeches are closely connected. Stories can define where a person may stand in a clan or a tribe or a nation. Usually stories may vary from nation to nation but they often have a closely related theme. Many of the stories have a moral lesson or a mythical hero. One of the most common themes is the creation of the world. Another dominant focus is issues relating to culture, in which the culture's own practices turn out to hold the solution to the problem. I will attempt to be a storyteller at this time.

Raven Steals the Light

Storyteller: According to a Haida story in the beginning the world was in total darkness. The Raven, who had existed from the beginning of time, was tired of groping about bumping into things in the dark. Eventually the Raven came upon the home of an old man who lived alone with his daughter. Through his slyness, the Raven learned that the old man had a great treasure. This was all the light in the universe contained in a tiny box concealed with many boxes. At once the Raven vowed to steal the light. He thought and thought and thought and finally came up with a plan. He waited until the old mans daughter came to the river to gather water. Then the Raven turned himself into a single hemlock needle and dropped himself into the river, just as the girl was dipping her water basket into the river. As she drank from the basket she swallowed the needle. It slipped and slithered down to her warm belly where raven transformed himself again this time into a tiny human. After, sleeping and growing there for a very long time, at last the Raven emerged into the world at once, as a human infant. Even though he had a rather strange appearance, the grandfather loved him. But the old man threatened terrible punishment if he ever touched the precious treasure box. None the less the Raven child begged and begged to be allowed to hold the light just for a moment. In time the old man yielded. He lifted from the box a warm and glowing light sphere, he threw to his grandson. As the light was moving toward him, the human child transformed into a gigantic black showy bird- form, wings spread ready for flight; and beak open in anticipation. As the beautiful ball of light reached him, the Raven captured it in his beak! Moving his powerful wings he burst through the house and escaped into the darkness with his stolen treasure and that is how light came to the universe.

The graphic organizer will be a simple family tree. This tree will also be in appendix A. In making this tree careful consideration was given related to family structure. The content area for this is related to family and self. A discussion should involve traditions. This conversation can be related to birthdays, marriages and other family traditions. When we get into making this I want my students to do portfolio writing. This will be in the form of a narrative; it is one of the required writings for my students. They can tell me about their family tree and add in some of their family celebrations. The writing portfolio follows the same process as if you were writing any other papers, but there are some requirements that are expected from the kindergarten student. All of the requirements are developmentally appropriate. They have a Writing Exhibit. This exhibit has the student demonstrate the ability to write in many genres. They have six writing genres to complete before the end of the school year. They are: personal story, poem, how-to, fictional story, informational writing, and description. The district supplies a writing conference checklist that serves as both an evaluation tool and an entry slip to their portfolio packet. Each checklist has different criteria (Writing Assessment Tool 2006) .They follow the writing process that is used universally in education. The steps are as follows.

The writing process has five steps that go with it. The first step is to pre-write in this step; you brainstorm what you want to write about. This is narrowed down for my students because it will be about the family tree. The next step is the first draft. This is just the first writing and it does not have to be neat. The next step is revising or rethinking what you wrote and add more information. I will be conferencing with them at this point to help with writing the material. The next step would be to proof read. They should be looking for mistakes in spelling, capitalization and punctuation.

Proof Reading Checklist

  1. Have a capital letter and a period at the end.
  2. Check the phonetic spelling of the words.

Now you can finally publish your work. This should be the student's best work. After they have written their final draft let them share with the class. Then I would put it into the student's portfolio.


The Pomo Indians are from Northern California up from the San Francisco Bay area. There were seven different groups within this nation. They lived close to two rivers, the Russian River and the Noyo River. Their homeland was somewhat hilly. They used the river bed as a great resource. They hunted small game if they lived inland, but around the rivers they hunted salmon and fish. They also ate a great deal of acorns. After storing them to get the bitter taste out of them they could be eaten. Acorns could also be ground up and baked in and earth oven. This made the flour and the bread. They used the red cedar trees to build there homes. The tall grass was used as well. The houses were conical shaped resembling an upside down bowl. They adapted their homes to what ever material was available. Our modern day steam bath houses are not as innovative as the steam bath house of the Pomo—what they called sweat houses. Water was poured over hot stone to make them steam. Rocks also were used for prayer. They believed that rocks had special power and that dances brought about good luck and health. The famous canoe was one of their productions. Living between two rivers made it easy for travel.

They also were known for their shell money and magnesite. Their type of money was made of clamshells. The shells would be ground down into a round shape, polished and strung. They were known to count up to 40,000 mathematically. They did a great deal of trading using this money. In the article Computation, Complexity and Coding in Native American Knowledge Systems (English, 2002), there is a study of the math systems throughout the Native American nations and a demonstration that they used some elaborate systems that made their societies function. This article discusses some of the ways math was used. The Pomo people are what are traditionally what are described as "moneyers" of math in central California. They kept a number base of stringed clam shells of 20 and 400. This was to keep track of their value which varied by diameter, thickness and fineness of polish. The second type of money they used was magnesite. It would be fired and it would turn an orange or pinkish color. They were made into tapered cylinders and sometimes beads. Comparatively, the clamshells were seen as silver and the magnesite as gold. This was not the first math system of Native Americans; for example, the Maya had a base 20 counting system. They used dots and bars to show amounts, as we studied in my seminar.

Pomo women and men wove baskets and designed them with geometrical shapes and shells. Feathers were used on baskets as well. The baskets were used to store food or other items. They would have them well adorned with other items as well. They used willow, root of sage and digger pine. The bark of red bud was used to make the red patterns and bulrush root for the black. They never encircled a design completely around the basket; they always left a break. They had a thought that this would keep the person making the basket from going blind and sometimes an initial design was placed at the beginning for religious reasons. Some baskets were destroyed during burial ceremonies to honor the artist.

The art genre for this lesson is decorating a basket. The basket making will be discussed. The Native Americans used three basic methods of weaving baskets. They are twining, coiling and plaiting. There are two different ways to twine wefts and warps. In plaiting it is sort of like braiding as in hairstyles. The coiling method has thin strips of plant wrapped around bundles and shaped into a spiral. I will bring in all of these materials as a sample for my students to see and do the twining method. They will be able to pick from different types of baskets to put their decorations on them. I want the decoration material to be eye catching because their baskets were often considered to be stunning. Appendix B is where the lesson plan for the Pomo is.

The graphic organizer will be to fill in a chart called a T- chart. This chart is in the shape of the letter T. My students will string counting beads. I will review the bundle form of counting that we do. Bundle counting is grouping by tens. We will count by tens and ones, using the stringing of beads. It may be easier to color code them. Each of the colors will represent one of the place values. As the students do the counting they can count the amounts and record them on the T- chart. The base ten systems are complimentary to the base twenty that they used. In the base 10 systems integers (numbers) are represented by digit contrary to the clamshells. In our system my students and I use the base 10. If I use the number 752, then the first number at right is a unit value (2). The second number is a value of 10 such as (5x 10 or 50). The third value is 10x 10 =100 (7x 100or 700). We will be only reviewing up to 30. But if they would wish to count further than that they may do so as well. (Appendix B).


The Navajo are located in the Southwest, mainly in the state of New Mexico. Today there are approximately 298,215 Navajos. The Navajo call themselves the Dine, which means the people. There is a harmony between lands, everything in it, the sky above. The world, religion and self are one. This is what I have read about them. When it is out of balance things go wrong such as an illness. They have a balance with the natural and supernatural world. They have a great deal of curative ceremonies. This nation is divided into 50 clans. The descendent is traced back to the female line. They must marry outside their clan. They lived in what you would call a hogan, a round house shaped with wood, covered with earth or hard mud. The entrance always faced the east to welcome the sun rise daily. They were semi-nomadic in that they hunted and were herdsman, but they returned to the same places year after year, especially with their sheep. They raised stock and planted crops and fruit orchards. Their land was full of desert and mesa with towering mountains. Just not to assume that it is common knowledge, I have never seen a desert or mesa. A mesa is similar to but smaller than a plateau: it is a large flat rocky region. Deserts have very little rain and are often composed of sand, but deserts can also be rocky. The air around where the Navajo live is said to smell of juniper, sage or onimosa. These are all herbal fragrances. I can take the prefix of onimosa (oni) and only come up with that it is like an onion. A hue of a rainbow also is part of the landscape. From the pictures I have seen it is beautiful. This is seen as sacred land. The Navajo believed that man passed through four previous worlds before coming to this one. The fifth world is called White Radiance, based on the sand of the deserts around the four sacred mountains. The sand is used to make paintings and is part of a song performed by a chanter or Hatili which was said to bring bad things under control. The making of sand paintings lasts about five to nine days. Each day something different is added. They may sing a song and it would be related to making a person feel better or prosper. If color was used in the sand it would be to signify a direction such as east or west. A Navajo chant about the landscape is: "I see the earth I am looking at her and smile because she makes me happy. The earth looking back at me is smiling too, May I walk happily and lightly on her." (Pritzker, 2000 p.1002) The Navajo reservation is the largest in the United States with 16 million acres. (Encarta 2002) Some of the caves on the reservations have petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are pictures chipped and carved out of the wall of the cave. Some of the images were animals and this was to show power over them.

Some important events have happened for this nation, in particular their national monument that is in north eastern Arizona established in 1909. Known as Navajo National Monument, the area preserves three separate prehistoric Anasazi cliff dwellings. Built in the 13th century, these ancient sites were once Pueblo, rather than Navajo, centers. One of them, Keet Seel, contains 160 well-preserved rooms and Kivas (ceremonial chambers). The Navajo have also benefited from the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site run by the National Park Services, where Native American arts and crafts are sold. The Navajo have also put their language—and the fact that almost no one else in the world could understand it—to use in times of national crisis. They were called the code talkers in World War II, because they relayed secret messages about troop movements that the Germans and Japanese could not understand. These are among some of the special things that I want my students to know about this nation and their accomplishments.

The Navajo are known as great weavers, especially of rugs and clothing and blankets. After they began to herd sheep they learned from the neighboring Pueblo people how to weave fine patterns and started their own significant signature of diagonal and horizontal lines. Some of the woven textiles were chief blankets for wearing with patterns with a combination of diamond shapes, crosses and stripes. They also do yarn work as in knitting. The Navajo also became great jewelers using sterling silver and turquoise. The southwestern art was known for its beauty and color. Some of the art work as with other nations is sacred. The weaving done today by the Navajo is worth comparing to the Inca weaving of long ago (The Inca Model of State Craft p.51).

The art genre for this nation will be making petroglyphs. My students will be using a family size bar of soap to carve with the use of a Popsicle stick. These carvings can be about daily life. What they do at home with their family or alone. The students will see pictures of petroglyphs and cave drawings. I do believe that if this becomes an expense to the teacher because of the bar of soap, they could use a rock and a piece of chalk to draw. I think both processes will convey what they were doing back then. I would let my students draw their pictures out on paper for practicing so that there is not any wasting of material. There are symbols that are universal among Native Americans and I would like to introduce them to my students after the petroglyphs are completed. They can be found in most Native American books. They would use waves for water and crossed arrows would mean friendship. Bear would mean strength.

The graphic organizer will be a simple world map and a globe. This will not have been the students' first time seeing these objects. They can compare and contrast the world map and the globe. I will identify the fact that a map is a different representation of the earth such as with land and water. Maps show a view from what is above and is actually smaller and show where things are. This map will point out trade routes; I will point out where they were. Now the teacher should show routes to the different states; this will show how goods came from one place to another, such as, the sheep that the Navajo used for herding. Discuss trading and the whole concept of a store and how goods arrive at the store. While doing this exercise the students should learn about directions and a map key. I will use the compass to show directions. This lesson will take at least two days because this will be a review of the landforms and the conditions that the physical environment was in. As enrichment have the students match the landforms on the globe with the world map. Also have some sand for them to see.


The Seneca Indian tribes of the Iroquoians are in two groups. They are in the northeastern part of the United States. One is in New York; the other is in Ohio. They are the largest group of the Iroquois. They are the only nation to own a city in the United States. The name of the city is Salamanca in Allegany County, New York. They once owned half of New York State. Now they own just 52,000 acres of land, divided into three reservations. I would say this is a great deal of land to my students, but this is much less territory than they had years ago. Seneca means the great hill people and keepers of the west. The keeper of the west title was because you had to go through their neighborhood to get to the west and they were the most western of the Iroquois. Most Native Americans names, as you may have noticed, mean people, with something specific about the people. They lived in longhouses on the riverside. The longhouse was an immense wooden structure of elm with an arch roof. They were about 15 to 35 meters long. They would house extended families and clan members. One of their most industrial undertakings was making these types of homes with a fence around it. They relied heavily on the seasons for food using agriculture along side it. They grew little hills of corn, squash and beans. They used the seasons to grow their crop. When you look at seasons, they are cyclical, as Charles Mann agreed in his writing about calendars and time. The contrast is about linear time with days, months and years. "On the other hand time is cyclical with the wheel of the season endlessly spinning, no clear end or beginning." (He is discussing that things are not as most people think from birth to death. Societies had used them both to make life move smoothly; Mann 355-356). The Mesoamericans used both linear and cyclical time. They became skilled at recognizing the time of the year. The men would hunt and fish and they used the seasons to elect what type of venture they were going to do, whether fish or hunt. They used the weather as a way of keeping up with time and the seasons to grow their crop. The Seneca called some of their crops life support food (Corn, beans and squash), and they named them the Three Sisters. They planted them together; corn stalks supported the vines of the beans plants while the large leafed squash plants served to keep weeds out. The food corn is often called maize. In the seminar we discussed about the many civilizations of the New World and the way they understood maize, even with maize gods in some places. Maize was the main food for the Seneca. Additionally, the Seneca were highly skilled when it came to war. To develop kinship bonds that could sometimes prevent war, they had the matrilineal system where the woman governed and selected the chiefs by the clan mothers. When a man married he went to the wife's family's longhouse.

In the late 19th century the Seneca developed an elected government system. They have their own law enforcement activities. Family relationships determine what will happen within the clans. The Seneca are broken into eight clans. They are the bear, deer, turtle, snipe, heron, beaver, wolf and hawk. They are all part of a council of eight along with the governing body. They have preserved a significant recording of historical events. These events were recorded on wampum. Wampum is a belt that records events through bead work. The usual colors were purple and white. They were pieces of shell that were placed on a string to form a belt or woven into a belt. They used them to take note of intertribal transactions and important public events. A communication from one tribe to another became official once it was delivered. The message or treaty would be symbolically woven in to the belt. The history, customs, ceremonies, laws and legends were recorded. Wampum was given for other matters as well, such as treaties, agreements and other important matters, and was used by many groups of indigenous peoples in the northeastern states. One of the important ones was the Huron Wampum Belt is for the 1683 agreement between the Hurons and Jesuits. Another significant time was the Pickering Treaty known as the Great Chain. (Encarta 2005) The Seneca joined the League of the Iroquois and this made the Iroquois stronger when negotiating with others. They seem to function better as a group of six United Nations instead of operating by themselves. The league includes the Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk tribes and another joined later, the Tuscarora. Some of the League functions will affect what the Seneca may want to do but they would deal with their own internal affairs. Among the Iroquois, sachems are chiefs, people who made decisions, and even today, many Iroquois sachems meet together on a regular basis, from among the Iroquois nations. The Seneca is one of the nations, I think, that shows that governments can work if they work together.

My students for an art genre will be making wampum belts. They will use the colors of purple and white to signify the main colors the Senecas used. This will be done using construction paper. The wampum is usually used as a medium or exchange. It can also show ranking within a tribe, and as we have seen above, it can commemorate a historic event. To motivate my students, I will talk about the character traits the Seneca value: peace between people and respect. Discuss what they are and have them think of a person they would like to give the wampum to. The process will be through the role playing activity associated with this lesson. The students will role-play situations that show the two character traits being used the correct way and the wrong way. This will be a make believe situation. My students will come up with the dialogue. The students' own experiences will dictate what the role-playing will be about. This role-play will help with the understanding of how the Seneca kept their communication within the league and others effective and made an agreement.

For the graphic organizer I will introduce the Cycle organizer. This type of organizer is like a circle, showing how the seasons flow in sequence. It shows things in sequence that go in a circle. The sequence I am trying to show will be the seasons. This will be the topic. I will relate it to the growth of plants and harvesting. The significance is due to the Three Sisters that the Seneca nation raised and valued so strongly. I would first start a discussion on weather and review the seasons. This topic is taught in math and social studies. How I plan to get this into harvesting is to use the science curriculum's prior information. We learned about trees, what they look like through the seasons. When giving the historical discussion on the Seneca I will include the fact that they grew crops at certain times of the year. We will look at the sequence of their planting habits, especially the way they planted their seeds in the spring and received a harvest in the summer and fall. This was enough for their winter food. Along with this activity I would like to have my students plant a lima bean. They can watch the roots form and transplant it to a small pot. Since this lesson is in the spring it will not confuse my students about time of season. I want to explore the importance of sun and rain as a factor of a plants growth.

Nez Perce

This nation lived in the northwestern plateau of the United States, where they lived in multi family dwellings with timber topped with grass and cattails. There are said to be a little over 200 existing or registered members today. Nez Perce is French for pierced nose but, they never pierced their noses or worn ornaments. (Encarta 2003) They used the land for hunting and ate berries. They traveled with the seasons. This made them migratory and somewhat nomadic. They had winter villages and other camps during other seasons. The Nez Perce National Forest is in Idaho and the National Historical Park commemorates their culture and history. It takes up parts of four states Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. (National Park Registry 2006) Imagine that! I guess it could come to be surprising to my students when I explain that concept, especially when they look on the map and see that each one of those states is larger than our state of Pennsylvania. The Nez Perce lived in bands. These were groups of up to 100 or more people, and in the 19th century, they had 40 bands. They were said to be a very peaceful nation. Each band had a chief.

One very famous Nez Perce chief was Chief Joseph. He received great respect and dignity from all his people. He was said to be an eloquent speaker in all of the researching that I have done. He fought very extensively for his land. He gave a profound speech at the time of his surrender to move to the reservation. One of his speeches was given at Bear Paw in Montana. When Congress passed a National Trails Act in 1968, the government honored the trail that Chief Joseph had taken with his band and where he gave his last speech. It stretches from Wallowa Lake, Oregon to the Bear Paw battlefield in Montana.

Chief Joseph's band, like other groups of Nez Perce, was like a family with hunters and herdsman. They often had many children. When a child was born they gave gifts and held a feast. At age ten and thirteen a ritual was performed, in order to seek a vision or helper for the child, in what was a rite of passage. They told stories to entertain and tell history. They lived in longhouses along the river where they could fish for salmon. Some of the arts they enjoyed were weaving and decorating buffalo skin with paint and porcupine quills. They believed that the earth was the mother and they were related to nature.

Some important facts about this nation are they dominated a great deal of forest and wonderful land for grazing buffalo and horses. In the early 1800s the Lewis and Clark expedition met them and brought horses to the forefront of their culture. They developed horse herds and became very good horseman. There was an ancient breed of horse named the Appaloosas. These were well built and highly prized horses. There are five different coats but they are mainly white with big brown spots. They are known to have great precision and can herd cattle on their own. There was also an Appaloosas Horse Club started in1938 to sustain the remaining stock. (Encarta 2003) There are several of these clubs today and an Appaloosas Museum which houses Nez Perce artifacts. Because these horses were colorful, the Nez Perce liked them and began to breed them. You could consider them to be equestrians, and indeed they were. They made horse accessories for their steeds. They also started wearing headdresses themselves using feathers. One of the great Nez Perce horsemen was Jackson Sundown. He was a legendary rodeo man. He won the World Champion Bronco Rider in 1916. (The Magazine of Western History.vol.33, no.4)

The art genre will be making a buffalo hide decoration; using paint my students can tell a story. The Nez Perce often told stories to one another. I would like to use this buffalo skin to tell a story. Buffalo hide could also be functional; it was used to make a home such as the tepee. It also provided clothing or saddles. They would also use it for band crest or for a ceremony. We will be telling a story about a horse they would like to have and how they cared for it. This will be a make believe story and will help them use their oral speaking skills as Chief Joseph did. Using a brown paper bag wrinkle the bag to resemble the texture of a buffalo hide. Have them record their story and share with the class. The students will be shown through pictures or the lending museum a buffalo skin decoration. For more information about buffalos and how they were used and respected go to the article, http:// The article is Native Ranching and Rodeo Life on the Plains and Plateau.

The graphic organizer will be related to horses. We will do a KWL chart on the Appaloosas horse and learn about horse breeding. This type of chart will identify what you know about this horse, which is the K. What you want to know about this horse which is the Want; what you have learned about the horse which is the L. This will be done using the cooperative learning model where students will be put into teams and they will share with the class. After they have shared I would have them do a drawing of their favorite Appaloosas horse and make a portfolio descriptive.


The Cherokee nation is located in the southeastern part of the United States. They lived along the Appalachian Mountains. The word Cherokee means those who live in the mountains. The climate was somewhat tropical, although mountainous. It was north of the Gulf of Mexico and was humid and wet. The Cherokee were the largest group in this region. They came to this region via further south. The Cherokee later were divided, and many Cherokee were driven away from their lands and pushed west in 1838-39, in what is known today as the Trail of Tears .Many died along the way, and it is remembered today as the saddest story in their history. My focus here is on the Cherokee of the Carolinas, where they lived in clans. A clan is a group of people who share kinship or descent. They lived in log houses in small villages or settled towns. The main structure was a council house. These small villages were separated by war villages or peace villages. They had two different places to conduct ceremonies; they would have a war village or the one for peace. The Cherokee used bows and arrows to hunt large game, such as bear and deer. Skilled farmers they were. They also enjoyed the Three Sisters—corn, beans and squash. Their basic economy was based on agriculture. They have a celebration called The Busk or Green Corn Ceremony. These were celebrations. Busk is a Cherokee word for green corn. They had orchards and poultry. They believed spirits lived in everything. They used herbal medicines. They believed every bulb would cure a specific sickness. For example, an iris root ground with beeswax made an ointment for cuts. They used the plants around them in much the same way that we may go to the store now and purchase natural healing.

"Writing begins with counting. When a culture grows big enough, it acquires elite, which needs to monitor things it considers important." (Charles Mann p.213) The Cherokee came up with their own writing system. A writing system is a means of intercommunication by means of forming marks that form a system. It is a system that is capable of expressing any concept. They speak an Iroquoian language that is related to that of the Seneca. The Cherokee language does not contain an r sound. So to say the word Cherokee, you would say (Cha-la-gee). A Cherokee by the name of Sequoyah wrote a syllabary. He invented this alone in 1821. He is one of few people in history to invent a widely used writing system. He never learned to read, write or speak the English language, so doing what he did was a great accomplishment. As a result, the nation became literate. They adapted well to the settlers early on. This special script was used to teach their language and to communicate their needs. They have 85 characters in the script. This system is a syllabic, which is different than the alphabet, in that it represents symbols for sounds that each combines a consonant and vowel. This can be easily transferred to phonetics. The symbols are related to a phonetic sound, or what we think of as a full syllable. For example, they could write any the symbol—Da, La, Wa, as long as they had that sound in their language. They do not have the sound of R, so there are no syllables for Ra, Re, Ri, etc. Because phonics is the one of the main ingredients for teaching a person to read and write, I will show this alternative phonetic system. Using their writing, they began a newspaper called the Cherokee Phoenix in 1882. It was printed in English and Cherokee. They still print the newspaper. Literacy helped them develop some of the other notable things they created, including an elective legislature and a legal system. Cherokee National Superior Court presided over them.

The art genre will be constructing a writing tablet. I will have my students make a muslin cloth note book. They will use heavy cardboard backing. This is just for them to have a way to communicate with each other using writings. This will be somewhat interesting because this age group has an excellent imagination. The writing should turn out to be to be very creative. Because they have to phonetically sound out their word, their share time should be exciting. I will be trying to get my students to do the process of creating their own written communication. It is always good not to forget to use the aesthetics process.

For the graphic organizer we will be using a Story Map. This tells you the sequence of a story along with some of the important facts. It is often called the beginning, middle and end chart. I will read the story The First Strawberries- a Cherokee Story retold by Joseph Bruchac. This is a delightful story about a romance and fruit. It explores different emotions and myth. Many skills could be learned using this story. You could explore verbs or adjectives using the text in the book. I will look at other ways of using this story after they understand the sequence.


A reservation is a tract of land set aside for ownership or use of a particular Native American tribe (Encarta 2003). Although the government said these reservations were created to avoid fights over land from the settlers that were arriving, they also pushed Native Americans off traditional lands and deprived them of their homes and homelands. In the 20th century some reservations turned out to be on land that has coal, natural gas and oil. The Native Americans' own the land but the federal government is the trustee of the land. The word reserve has many meanings but in this case it is said that the land is reserved for the Native Americans' own use. Some are beginning to prosper with businesses and self help programs started.

Classroom Material

2 rolls Butcher Block paper

20 cylinder dowels

20 packs of crayons

20 water paints

20 pencils

2 reams copying paper (graphic organizers)

1 ream primary writing paper

3 multi colored construction paper

4 boxes colored beads

20 baskets

2 hot glue guns

2 bags of sea shells

2 bags of rhinestones

20 world maps

1 box Popsicle sticks

3 yards muslin

1 pack of cardboard/oak tag

1 pack of plastic cups

20 brown paper bags

10 bottles of tacky glue

2 bags of feather

Most of the material can be purchased at a discount or art supply store. Some of the material such as globes, primary writing paper I am going to assume you have these items. I have these as part of my yearly supplies.

Comments (0)

Be the first person to comment

When you are finished viewing curriculum units on this Web site, please take a few minutes to provide feedback and help us understand how these units, which were created by public school teachers, are useful to others.
THANK YOU — your feedback is very important to us! Give Feedback