Archive for the ‘ Native American Indians Unit ’ Category

Native Americans of the Northeast Unit (Part II, Iroquois Indians)

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

This fall we are doing a huge unit on Native Americans.  We started with a study of the Native Americans of the Northeast.  We learned about the two major language groups, the Algonquian and Iroquois. Each of these groups consisted/s of a number of different tribes. Last week I shared some of our activities relating to the Powhatan Indians, a confederacy that lived in the region near Jamestown, Virginia. They are part of the Algonquian language group.

We then spent a week or so learning about the Iroquois Indians. You probably know about the Iroquois Confederacy, which consisted of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and later the Tuscarora. These tribes lived in longhouses in New York and the Great Lakes region. We read a number of books about the history of the Iroquois and learned about Hiawatha’s role in the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy.  We also learned about the significance of the wampum belts and how they were made. We finished filling out the notebook pages I made for the kids and then went on to work on a wampum belt project.

As you can see, we used these notebook pages when we were studying the Algonquian Indians as well.  (You might want to visit last week’s post, Native Americans of the Northeast (Part I, Algonquian Indians). You can download these sheets today by clicking on the link below:

Native Americans of the Northeast

We watched a documentary about the  Iroquois Indians called  America’s First Nations that was produced by the Discovery Channel.  The kids and I enjoyed it, but (in my opinion) it is not appropriate for young kids. I would definitely preview this first and decide whether it is appropriate for your family because it talks about the brutalities of war and cannibalism.  My kids found it quite riveting and learned a lot. It explained why Hiawatha was so anxious to bring peace to his people and how peace was finally achieved.

After learning about the Wampum belt, we did our own project.  Although we could probably have made a cardboard loom, I opted to buy a set off Amazon and shared the extras with friends.  For the project we used embroidery thread, an embroidery needle and pony beads.

Using the template in the packet above, I had the kids plan out their project by coloring in their sheets. The kids then started adding the beads according to the patterns they made.

Most people probably weave the thread and bead over-under-over-under the strings.  I had the kids do an easier version of this… I had them lay all 5 beads under, then all 5 beads over the strings.

Then after they finished the entire belt, I went back through with a needle and embroidery thread and ran the needle back through the beads on the other side of the strings… just pushing the beads down gently with my fingers to get the needle through all 5 beads.  (So for the beads under the strings, I ran the needle through the beads on the top side). This made the craft doable for my 6 year old and was much less complicated.  It took me hardly any time at all to run this second layer of thread through. Of course, if I hadn’t done that (gone back through a second time), the belt would not have been able to hold up on its own.

Once I had gone back through the belt and made the beads stable, it was time to finish off the project. We cut the threads in the back and then tied them together starting at the top two threads and then tied off the second and third, (then 3rd and 4th, followed by the 4th and 5th, then the 5th and 6th).

Here are a few more examples of our finished wampum belt projects. The kids’ friend K made the belt at the bottom.:

We are using several books for our Native American unit:

Native America On the Eve of Discovery by Suzanne Strauss Art — We are using this as our spine.

Native Americans: Discover the History and Culture of the First Americans by Kim Kavin

Explore Native American Cultures with 25 Great Projects by Anita Yasuda

A History of Us: The First American Prehistory to 1600 by Joy Hakim — My older two kids are reading this book on their own. They are reading a couple of chapters a day as part of their checklist of things to do.

We are absolutely loving this unit — and I CANNOT WAIT to tell you about the our latest experiences!!

See you again soon here or on our Homeschool Den Facebook page!

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Native Americans of the Northeast Unit (Part I, Algonquian Indians)

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

This fall we are learning about different Native American groups. The past few weeks we learned about the two language groups of the Northeast — the Algonquian Indians and the Iroquois and some of the tribes that make up these groups.

A few weeks ago, we went to Williamsburg, VA for homeschool week. That was truly wonderful and is the topic of another post!  We went with some friends who had never been to Jamestown Settlement and decided to go there for the day while we were in the area (Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg, Virginia are all within 30 minutes of each other). This was just perfect because we (I!) really wanted to spend time at the Powhatan Village. The kids got to grind corn, help scrape the hair off a deer hide with clam shells, help in building a canoe (scraping out the ash), see traditional foods being cooked over a fire and so forth.

The museum was absolutely incredible and the kids learned so much about life at that time both for the Native Americans and for the Jamestown settlers.

We also purchased a book about the Powhatan Indians while we were there and read that over the course of several days, Life of the Powhatan:

While we were at the Powhatan Village (at Jamestown), we paid very close attention to the way the dwellings were made as I told the kids they would try to make their own small version at home.

Once we were home we gave it a go. We took a close look again at the way the Powhatan dwellings were made.  We tried creating a similar structure with pipe cleaners.

Then it was time to layer the “mats” over top.  The kids really got a huge understanding of what a big project that must have been creating the “real thing.” In fact, the girls quickly resorted to taping all the layers on top of one another!

The girls decided to test and see how well their dwelling would hold up outside overnight.  DD decided hers needed to be staked down like a tent (I thought that was pretty clever of her!).

One of the other main books we are using is a book by Suzanne Strauss Art called Native America on the Eve of Discovery. We’ve been reading it aloud together. The kids always look forward to listening to this book. It has a lot of rich detail. (We used her book last year on Ancient China and loved it, so we thought we’d give this one a try as well.) She wrote it for Middle Schoolers, but it works well for my kids (6, 8, 11).

We also went over some things for our history notebooks, but I’m about out of time and will have to share that in another post.  I’ll talk about what we did as we studied the Iroquois Indians and will share the printable I made for the kids then. Be sure to check out the second part of this post: Native Americans of the Northeast (Part II, Iroquois Indians) where I shared our Wampum belt project and the printable you see below:

You might be interested in this post about Jamestown: A Tour of Jamestown, VA–Fabulous for Kids. We stopped through last May and I shared pictures of the fort and ships as well.

See you soon here or at our Homeschool Den Facebook page!

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6 Native American Picture Books to Share with the Kids

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

I was looking for Native American children’s books written by and about Native Americans.  I found Debbie Reese’s website, American Indians in Children’s Literature. What a great resource! Today I’d like to share some of the books we read together this past week.  I went with the books that were available at our library and that were appealing to the kids.

1) Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story

S.D. Nelson, author, is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux/Lakota tribe of the Dakotas

Buffalo Bird Girl was a member of the Hidatsa people who lived in permanent villages along the Missouri River in the Great Plains.  This book shares her story as she planted crops, tended the crops, tended the fields, did chores, played games and trained her dog. The book weaves teh words and stories of Buffalo Bird Woman with art work and actual photos. This book had rich details about her daily life and included real photos such as this picture of squash spread out on a drying stage:

Plate 8

 Picture Courtesy of the UPenn Digital Library

2) The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood

Virginia Driving Hawk Snerve, author, spent her childhood on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation.

Each day, Virginia has to walk to school fighting the frigid, bitter winds of South Dakota prairie. Each year congregations in the East send used clothing, shoes, coats and other items.  She has outgrown her winter coat and longs for a replacement.  Since her father was the Episcopal priest, she was taught that “The others need it more than we do.”  This is a really sweet book. I’ll definitely add this to the books we read at Christmas time because I love its message of having a generous spirit.

3) Shi-shi-etko 

Nicola Campbell, author, is of Interior Salish and Metis ancestry. She grew up in British Columbia’s Nicola Valley.

This is the story of Shi-shi-etko, which means “she loves to play in the water.”  She has just days until she has to go to the India Residential School. Once she arrives at school, she won’t see her parents for months or even years.  She will lose her traditional name and will be forced to speak English.

The kids loved this story and we talked about how the Aboriginal children in Australia were also separated from their families to be sent off to school.  These children are referred to as the “Stolen Generation” in Australia.

4) The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale

Joseph Bruchac, author, is of Abenaki Indian and European origin.

Gayle Ross, author, is of Cherokee origin.

Virginia Stroud, illustrator, is Cherokee-Creek by birth.

This is a traditional Cherokee legend which tells of the time when the world was new and there weren’t many stars in the sky. An elderly couple found that someone had been stealing cornmeal from them.  This tale tells how the community worked together to drive off the thief–a great spirit dog.

Joseph Bruchac has other highly praised Native American books including

  • The First Strawberries
  • Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back
  • The Earth Under Sky Bear’s Feet
  • A Boy Called Slow (who becomes Sitting Bull)
  • Children of the Longhouse

Gayle Ross also wrote: How Rabbit Tricked Otter and other Cherokee Trickster Stories

5) Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story

Adapted from the memories of Donald Uluadluak from Arviat, Nunavut (northern Canada)

In this story, Jake’s Grandfather explains how dogs were raised and trained when the Inuit relied on dogs for transportation and survival. His Grandfather shares tales of  how these dogs became helpful, obedient, hard working.

6) Jingle Dancer

Cynthia Leitich Smith, author, is a mixed-blood member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

This is a contemporary story about a girl who is a member of the Muscogee Nation and is also of Ojibway descent.  Jenna loves the tradition of jingle dancing that has been shared by generations of women in her family. She hopes to dance in the next pow-pow and visits with other women in her family to see if she can borrow jingles to sew on her dress.

If you are looking for Native American books for Tots, you might read this post by Debbie Reese: Top Board Books for the Youngest Readers.  And for Native American books for Middle School students, I recommend browsing through these lists (also by Debbie Reese):

I feel like we only just touched the surface of what’s available!  If you have any good recommendations, we’d love to hear from you over at our Homeschool Den Facebook page.
Meanwhile, we hope to see you next Saturday for our next post in this series! Click on the picture below to see all the posts in this series:

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Learning from Life: Archaeologist’s Visit and more

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about finding an ‘arrowhead‘ (really a hafted knife point) in the woods right behind our house. Yesterday morning we had the county archaeologist over to survey the site where we found the hafted knife. He examined it closely and said it was most likely a Piscataway Stemmed Point.  We then took him into the woods to show him the site where it was found. He found several flakes that show that stone tools were indeed made in the woods near where we found the knife.

The archaeologist spent a lot of time talking to the kids and me about how stone tools were made, showing us this illustration which shows flakes being methodically chipped away:

He said the piece we found was probably made sometime between 1500 B.C. and 800 A.D.

He was so full of information about the tool-making process, about Native Americans of the region, about the landscape and changes in the past 500 years.  We also learned so much about what his job entails as a county archaeologist.  It was a really great learning experience.

Meanwhile, we continue to excel in our naturalist studies! :) Does that count as a school subject?!

Over the weekend we found two turtles. One is a male that was wandering around in the woods.

The males have red eyes.

While I was weeding in the front garden, we came across a juvenile turtle. It was SO cute!

She quickly scuttled away when we put her down.

We were so excited when we noticed that one of the tadpoles in our homemade pond actually made it out of the water!  It still had a long tail, but spends most of its time on a rock or on the side of the enclosure. It’s so great to see the process from eggs, to tadpoles, to froggie youth!

In the picture above there’s a bad picture of some of the tadpoles. LD scooped them up with the pink net but I was so anxious about letting them go again that I didn’t realize the picture was blurry and (gasp) only took one photo! In the others you see the little froglet. ED has her hand near one so you can see just how tiny it is (about the size of your thumbnail).

We also came across a garter snake that morning:

And a really pretty-looking mushroom in our yard:

I’m not even going to pretend I know a thing about mushrooms, so can’t identify it for you!

We spent some lovely time at the park over the weekend:

The girls spent lots of time gathering mussel shells!

We topped off the weekend sleeping under the stars on top of the trampoline. We only saw a couple of meteors during the Perseid Meteor Showers, but it was fun listening to the night noises!

We still marvel at the greenery here (and obviously the varied creatures!) even though it’s been two years since we moved here. You can see the contrast with where we used to live in Alice Springs, Australia through this link.

I know I promised to share our homeschool plans for DD and LD (going into 2nd and 4th grades), but I haven’t made the time to sit down and do that yet. Guess I could have been doing that than writing this particular post, right?!! I have it mostly figured out so I should get to it pretty soon… hopefully this weekend.

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We Found an Arrowhead!!

Monday, July 30th, 2012

I’ve been bursting at the seams to write this post, but wanted to wait til I had more information before sharing our excitement! Can you believe, we found an arrowhead on our property?! Okay, so technically it’s not an arrowhead, more about that in a second.

The first thing we did was start googling to find out more information. I really didn’t know too much about arrowheads. I was only familiar with obsidian arrowheads of the west — and the metal ones a friend gave us years ago. It turns out arrowheads can be made of argillite, chalcedony, chert/flint,  diorite, hematite, jasper, rhyolite, siltstone, crystal quartz, quartz, and quartzite.

We have a huge set of quartz boulders up at the top of the hill on our property so it makes sense to find one like this. Below is a picture of “Quartz Castle.” That’s what the kids named it when we first moved in. :)  You can see part of LD’s “shelter” there on the right!  We found the arrowhead just at the bottom of the hill.

The next morning I went out to take pictures of exactly where the arrowhead (the white one) was found. I noticed a couple of other pieces that also looked like they had been worked on by humans (pictured in the top pictures above and below right, lying on the moss before I picked it up).

We decided we should contact an expert to see a) what it was that we had found and b) to see if anyone records information like this and wants to know about people’s finds.  I wrote the state archaeologist responsible for our region. I sent him pictures of the arrowhead we found as well as a couple of picture collages to show exactly where we found them.

The state archaeologist wrote back almost immediately and said that it did indeed look like a prehistoric artifact and was most likely a hafted knife. As for the other two pieces he said it was not possible to tell what they were but they may be debris from knapping stone tools. He then put me in contact with the archaeologist for our county.  He’ll be coming out in the next week or so to complete an archaeological survey.

This week the kids have been really intrigued by archaeology so in addition to pulling out the books we had on hand, we also pulled out  the collection a friend gave us a number of years ago to compare them to our find.

A few things we learned from this experience: If you make a discovery, you can contact your state archaeologist. Make sure you know exactly where you found the artifact.   Don’t dig to hunt for artifacts because you could destroy valuable archaeological evidence. If you were to dig and mix the layers, no one would be able to assess the data accurately.  Also be aware that it is almost always illegal to remove arrowheads or other artifacts from public lands.



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