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Jamie Rettke


Social Studies  


4, 5, 6  

Title – Native American Unit
By – Jamie Rettke
Subject – Social Studies
Grade Level – 4-6

TOPIC– Native American Unit, grade 4-6, 3 weeks

THEME– The removal and Americanization of Native American Indians in the southeastern United States with a focus on the peoples’ culture.

NCSS STANDARDS – Standards to be covered within the unit

State Goal 16: Understand events, trends, individuals and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States and other nations.

nLearning Standard A: Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation

· Learning Benchmark 16.A.2b: Compare different stories about a historical figure or event and analyze differences in the portrayals and perspectives they present.

·Learning Benchmark 16.A.2c: Ask questions and seeks answers by collecting and analyzing data from historic documents, images and other literary and nonliterary sources.

State Goal 17: Understand world geography and the effects of geography on society, with an emphasis on the United States.

nLearning Standard A: Understand relationships between geographic factors and society

·Learning Benchmark 17.A.2b – Use maps and other geographic representations and instruments to gather information about people, places and environments.

State Goal 18: Understand social systems, with an emphasis on the United States.

nLearning Standard A: Compare characteristics of culture as reflected in language, literature, the arts, traditions, and institutions.

·Learning Benchmark 18.A.2: Explain ways in which language, stories, folk tales, music, media and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture.


¨Culture (Anthropology)                         ¨Location (Geography)

¨Groups (Sociology)                                      ¨Conflict (History)


1.      How and why were Native Americans “Americanized”?

–  Due to misinformation about the Native’s ways, the Anglo people felt the Indians were savage and should be Americanized.  Political leaders including President Thomas Jefferson believed that the Indians should be civilized, which meant converting them to Christianity and turning them into farmers.

–  Native Americans had to leave their traditional ways and build European-style homes and farmsteads, develop a written language (called “Talking Leaves”), and establish a newspaper.

–  Some tribes of Indians were forced to give up their native names and language.  Children were forced to go to American schools to learn about the “white culture”.

–  Native Americans were not given protection under US law and land could be seized from them at any time.

2.      Why did the US Government propose the removal of Native Indians?

–  In 1830, when Americanization did not happen quickly enough, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act.

–  It was rumored that gold was found in the southeastern states on Native land.

–  The removal of some 90 thousand Indians to Oklahoma became known as “The Trail of Tears”.

3.      What was the “Trail of Tears”?

–  In the fall of 1838, US Army troops began to round up the Cherokee Indians and forcefully moved then into stockades in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

–  More than 2,800 Cherokee traveled by river to Indian Territory.  This group followed the Tennessee River to the Ohio River, which took them to the Mississippi River.  The Miss. River was followed to the mouth of the Arkansas River.  This led the Cherokee northwest to Indian Territory.

–  The rest of the Cherokee followed a land route to Indian Territory.  The northern route started at Tennessee, and crossed central Tennessee, southwestern Kentucky, and southern Illinois.  After crossing the Mississippi River in southern Missouri, the Cherokee trekked across southern Missouri and the northwest corner of Arkansas.

4.      What were the conditions on the Trail of Tears?

–  The Cherokee were loaded into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started towards the west.

–  There was little food for the people along the trail.

–  There were snowstorms with freezing temperatures.  The Cherokee had to sleep outside or in the wagons with no fire for heat.  Many would die due to lack of food, ill treatment, cold, and exposure.

–  Mortality rates for the entire removal were substantial, totaling approximately 8,000.

5.      Why is it important to celebrate Native Americans?

–  A great injustice was done to an entire group of people and it is therefore important to learn from it to ensure such acts will never reoccur.

–  It is important to celebrate all cultures to enrich our own lives.


Objective The students will explore the history and culture of Native American Indians

            As an introduction, the students will read the story “Creation of the First Indians” from Indigenous Peoples’ Literature.  This will serve as a preface to Native American legends.  We will talk about the idea of Indian names often reflecting a characteristic of the person, such as Running Deer, Black Hawk, Boy who Hunt Buffalo, etc.  Students will think of a name for him/herself that would reflect something about them.  Near the closing of the lesson, introduce a map of the United States and explain to the students that they will be looking at Native Americans of the southeastern US.


ACTIVITY (2) (1 day)

             Objective- The students will explore ideas about Native Americans and look for ways to gain insight into the culture.

            Students will begin by brainstorming their own ideas and beliefs about Native Americans.  In small groups, the students will create a K-W-L chart about Native American Indians.  This will allow the instructor to better focus the unit towards the students’ interests.  Here students may discuss what they would like to learn about while studying Native Americans.  The students will then construct a letter to The Council for Indian Education to request further information on their points of interests.  By doing this activity, the students are taking on an active role in what they will be learning, and therefore the unit will become more meaningful. The letter writing portion of this activity may need to be done weeks in advance so the information will be available at the time of this unit.  (Linguistic, Intrapersonal)

ACTIVITY (3) (3 days)

            Objective- The students will demonstrate a first hand experience of the Trail of Tears.

            To gain the perspective of the Cherokee Indians during the removal process, students will keep a journal.  This journal can be kept during the activities about the Trail of Tears, or throughout the entire lesson.  The students are to imagine they are Cherokee Indians in 1938.  They are to write of their experience while being removed from their homes and forced to walk thousands of miles to Indian Territory.  This journal will track their observations, experiences, and emotions while on the journey.  In their journals, they may include maps, drawings, poetry, or stories.  These journals could be worked on over the entire unit.  You may wish to break the class into two groups.  Group A would write in their journal from the perspective of the Cherokee Indian, while Group B may write from the Anglo perspective.  This will allow students to see multiple viewpoints of the conflict.  (Linguistic, Intrapersonal)

Objective: The students will research various aspect of the “Trail of Tears”, focusing on the reason the Native Americans were removed, and the consequences of the removal.

            (Day 1)  The students will be asked to read and explore works on the Trail of Tears.  This will include short stories, articles, and information found on the Internet. In doing the activity the students will locate, access, analyze, and apply information about this issue.  The students may use the computer, old newspaper articles, the school library, and the public library.  Students should work in groups of 2-3 students to enhance their learning.  (Linguistic, Spatial)

(Day 2)  After collection of information, the students will share their findings with the class.  The class will discuss Americanization of the Native Americans as well as the removal of Indians to Oklahoma.  Students will explore the influence of public opinion on government policy on public issues.  Using a map, the class will trace the route of the Cherokee Indians, the “Trail of Tears”.  (Interpersonal, Spatial)

            (Day 3)  After exploration of the conditions of the trail of tears, the students will attempt to gain insight of the experience.  The Native Americans were removed from their home in a very short period, taking only what they could carry.  The students will create a list of items they would take with them, if they were Indians, to travel to their new home.  The students should list only 5-6 items.  They will then discuss the items they choose and explain why these items where chosen.  (Intrapersonal, Linguistic)

ACTIVITY (4) (2-3 days)

            Objective – The students will investigate ways in which language, stories, folk tales, music, media and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture.  The students will gain insight into the lives of Native Americans through the many stories and perspectives in Children’s Literature.

            The students will have a very diverse choice of literature to read from this period that exemplifies Native American traditions and culture. In this activity, the students will compare different stories about the historical events relating to Native Americans and examine differences they present.  Some examples are: Only the Names Remain by Alex Bealer, Indian Chiefs by Russell Freedman, or Happily May I Walk by Arlene Hirschfelder.  Other examples are listed below.  The students will then need to share their book by making a creative presentation to the class including a visual aid, music, drawings, dances, or costumes, making it so every student is exposed to several books from the period.  The books should be read outside of class, although time will be given for presentation preparation.  During this activity, all students are required to read a book, yet students may wish to work together for the presentation.  Presentations will be done during the culminating activity.  (Linguistic, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic)

ACTIVITY (5) (1 day)

            Objective – The students will investigate Native American poetry and explore how it exemplifies their culture of yesterday and today.

            Each student will be given a copy of a poem written by a Native American.  The students will be asked to read their poem and respond to it in one of three ways.  The student may draw a picture that would illustrate the poem, write their own poem, or write a short paragraph identifying aspects of Native American culture.  [* See attached lesson]  (Linguistic, Spatial, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal)

ACTIVITY (6)   (1 day)

            Objective- The students will illustrate how Native American Legends are a way to learn about their culture.

            To help gain insight into the way of life of the Native American, students will read a number of Indian legends.  Some suggested readings are: The Buffalo Rock, The Legend of the Cherokee Rose, or The Creation of the First Indians.  Some books that the students may choose from are The Girl Who Married a Ghost and Other Tales from the Native American Indian by John Bierhorst or Star Tales: North American Indian Stories about the Stars.  The students should be placed in groups of 3-5 students each.  Each group is responsible for reading a legend and performing a reading theatre.  In this reading theatre, each student in the group will take on a role from the Native American legend.  The group will then perform the legend for the entire class. The Students to do not need to memorize lines, as this is a reading theater.  Rather, students may simply read their parts to the class.  Groups may wish to bring in props, which is acceptable but not required.

ACTIVITY (7) (2 days)

            Objective: The students will construct traditional Native American jewelry.

(Day 1)  This activity will take two days to create.  On the first day, the students will create the beads needed to construct the traditional necklace.  The bead can be made by mixing 1¼-cup flour, 1¼-cup salt, 1-cup water, and 2 tablespoons paprika.  Students will use this clay substance to create beans and small tubes.  Using a toothpick, they will make a hole in the center for later stringing.  Food coloring or sand may be added to have a variety of colors and textures.  These beads will need to be baked at 200 degrees for 2 hours.  This would be done by the teacher over night.  (Bodily-kinesthetic)

(Day 2)  Once the beads are hardened, the students will begin stringing them onto fishing line.  At this point, music will be integrated into the lesson.  Once all the students have created their necklaces, the students can “clap out” the patterns they have created.  For example, a red bead may mean clap and a blue bead may mean to stomp your feet.   Therefore, if a student had the pattern: R-B-B-R-B-B-R, they may “Clap-stomp-stomp-clap-stomp-stomp-clap”.  (Bodily-Kinesthetic, Logical-Mathematical, Musical)


ACTIVITY (8)  (2 days)

Objective- The students will authentically demonstrate what they have learned throughout the unit on Native Americans by way of a presentation.

            The first day of this activity will be learning about the Green Corn Festival.  Students will listen to stories about the festival and its significance to the Native Americans’ culture.

Day 2 of the activity is best suited to be an all day event. Before doing this activity, a letter must be sent home well in advance.  This letter would ask the parents for assistance in creating a traditional Green Corn Festival.  Parents will be given a number of recipes to bring in for the class.  Some suggestions are: succotash, butternut squash soup, summer squash, pumpkin seeds, corn, wild rice, baked apples, corn bread, and butter.

This activity on Native Americans will be an all day event.  This will allow the students to experience a wide range of activities.  The classroom should be decorated with Native American artwork created by the students.  To start the day, the teacher will read “The Thanksgiving”; this is a prayer read at the start of the Green Corn Festival.  During the feast, students will listen to recordings of traditional Native American music, available at most libraries (Songs about Native Americans by Lois Skiera-Zucek, Kimbo Education, 1994).  Once the meal and clean up is finished, the students will begin their group presentations described earlier.  This will allow the students to demonstrate what they have learned about Native Americans. As stated earlier, presentations should include visual aids, costumes, music, dances, or artwork.  (Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Body-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Linguistic)

Once the presentations are complete, the students will take part in a cleansing ritual in the same manner the Native American Indians once did.  Each of the students will clean out their desks, removing anything that is really old or broken.  This will help the students see how the Native Americans’ would do the same within their homes to help them start a fresh life.

Next, the students will play a game traditionally played by Native Americans during the Green Corn Festival.  The game is played similar to today’s basketball.

Near the end of the day, the students will have an opportunity to reflect on the day’s activities.  The students are to use their reflection journals to identify ways tribes celebrated differently.  They will then explore how the holiday compares to our present day holidays.

Students will be evaluated upon their ability to demonstrate their understanding for each activity.  Evaluation will also be based on effort, participation, and enthusiasm towards the topic.


Lynch-Brown, C., & Tomlinson, C.M. Essentials of Children’s Literature.  Allyn & Bacon,


Penny, D.W., & Longfish, G.C. Native American Art.  Hugh Lauter Levin Asso, Inc., 1994.

Schuman, J.M. Art from Many Hands: Multicultural Art Projects.  Davis, 1981.

Teaching Pre K-8.  Vol. 28, No. 7.  April 1998.

The Council for Indian Education – 517 Rimrock Rd., Billings, Montana 59107

Web Resources

Buffalo Rock – Legends

Creation of the First Indians – Legends

Dead Indians, Live Indians, and Genocide

Land Cessions of Native Americans in Georgia

Native Americans

Native American Activity Chart

Native Americans and Children’s Literature

Native American Pottery

Native American Recipes

Trail of Tears – North Georgia History

Suggested Native American Literature

Bealer, Alex.  Only the Names Remain: The Cherokee and the Trail of Tears.  Little, 1972.

Begay, Shonto.  Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa.  Scholastic, 1998.

Bruchac, Joseph.  Earth Under Sky Bear’s Feet, The.  Philomel, 1995.

— Lasting Echoes. Harcourt Brace, 1997.

— Story of the Milky Way, The.  Dial, 1995.

— Thirteen Moons on a Turtle’s Back.  Putnam, 1992.

Fradin, Dennis.  The Cheyenne.  Children’s.

Freedman, Russell.  Buffalo Hunt.  Holiday, 1988.

–  Indian Chiefs.  Holiday, 1987.

Hook, John.  Sitting Bull and the Plains Indians.  Watts.

Lepthien, E.  The Choctaw.  Children’s.

McKissack, Patricia.  The Apache.  Children’s.

Philip, Neil.  In a Sacred Manner I Live: Native American Wisdom.  Clarion, 1997.

Stein, R. The Story of Wounded Knee.  Children’s.

Picture Books

Baker, Olaf.  Where the Buffaloes Begin.  Warne, 1981.

Baylor, Byrd.  The Desert Is Theirs.  Scribner’s, 1975.

–  Hawk I’m Your Brother.  Scribner’s, 1976.

–  When Clay Sings.  Macmillan.

Blood, Charles.  The Goat in the Rug.  Macmillan

Goble, Paul.  Buffalo Woman.  Bradbury.

–  Beyond the Ridge.  Bradbury, 1989.

–  The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses.  Bradbury, 1978.

Martin, Bill, Jr. Knots on a Counting Rope.  Holt.

Miles, Miska.  Annie and the Old One.  Little, 1971.

The Thanksgiving

We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.

We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.

We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.

We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for out lands.

We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.

We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.

We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for out shelter.

We thank Him for the beings that come from the West, the thunder and lightening that water the earth.

We thank Him for the light, which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.

We thank Him for all the fruit that grows on the trees and vines.

We thank Him for his goodness in making the forest, and thank all its trees.

We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.

We thank Him for the bright spot in the skies that gives us signs, the stars.

We give Him thanks for our supporters, who have charge of our harvests.

We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of a Ga-ne-o-di-o (by his religion).

We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.

We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit’s music, and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.

We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies of this occasion.

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