The Authenticity of Native American Indian Character and Culture in Book and Film

byJolene Smith

Numerous works of literature and many films do not provide us with authentic information about the tribes of Native American Indians they address. This unit hopes to correct this problem. The texts selected are the The Education of Little Tree and The Indian in the Cupboard as well as the films made about them. Both books and films have numerous examples of fictitious events and inaccuracies concerning the Native American Indian characters’ portrayal. This is where I as a Native American Indian educator step in to teach the authentic culture and traditions. Our own Diné culture and tradition will be studied along with that of the Cherokee and Iroquois. Often students do not know the truth about the many tribes, bands, and clans’ culture and traditions. Instead, what they know is what they read and watch. A second focus of this unit is to introduce students to the idea of thinking about film as something that can be analyzed. We will discuss the formal aspects of film and compare them with the written texts on which they are based. The unit is designed for fifth grade students, but it can also be taught to sixth graders.

(Developed for ELA- Vocabulary, Reading, and Writing, grade 5; recommended for elementary grades 4-5)

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