Children are fascinated with Native Americans. Playing cowboys and Indians is a favorite game for many young children. Lesson plans concerning the Native Americans will teach the students about the different tribes that lived and still live across the United States. Encourage research on the tribal art being taught. A good exercise for junior high and high school students is to assign a one page report on the Indian tribe being discussed.
Indian fetishes were used and are still used by many Indian tribes today. The Indian fetish is a carving of an animal that is influential in the tribes, family or individual’s life. The spirit of the animal is captured within the carving. The carving is carried by the Indian to bring good luck in a hunt, initiation, diagnosing an illness, curing an illness, fertility, propagation and personal protection. The Zuni tribe of the Southwest is known for their fetishes.
Turn the fetish into a classroom project. Use clay, wood, soap, foam or other mediums that can be carved. Have the students select an animal they feel represents and protect them.
The Northwestern Native Americans are known for their totem poles. The totem pole has anywhere from 1 to 12 animal heads carved into the surface. Each individual animal represented is felt to provide protection and guidance to the Indian tribe. The Tinglit Indian tribe is most known for their totem pole carvings.
Turn the totem pole into a classroom project. Use paper towel or wrapping paper tubes for young students. Use clay, wood, foam, Plaster of Paris or other item that is easy to carve for students in junior high and high school.
The Inuit Indians of the North are famous for their scrimshaw. Scrimshaw is the process of carving into bones or ivory to create designs. The lines are then filled with lampback, dye or ink to create a black on ivory picture. The pictures tell a story of what was happening in the Inuit’s life.
Turn scrimshaw into a classroom project for students in junior high and high school. Plaster of Paris is the most commonly used item to do scrimshaw because it is readily accessible and easy to carve. Corian pieces from countertops make an excellent scrimsaw item. Carve the design in the corian using a 7-penny nail. Find a local home improvement center that cuts corian and ask if they will donate the scraps. The 7-penny nails and donated corian will keep the cost of the project to a minimum. Have the students rub black ink over the surface of the scrimshaw when completed. The ink will wipe off the corian surface but stay in the carved area.
- Cumbavac: Native American Indian Sites on the Internet
- Legends of America: Native American Totems and Their Meanings
- Collectors Guide: Indian Fetishes