Students will learn why it is important to hear the legends and stories of American Indians.
- The Storytelling Stone, Traditional Native American Myths and Tales
(excellent book for this age level)
- Native American Oral Traditions, collaboration and Interpretation.
Edited by Larry Evers and Barre Toelken. Teacher may want to preview
this book and only use some of the legends. There is comparison to
Russisan mythology. Interesting.
Background for Teachers
This is the first of five lessons in the Seventh Grade American Indian History Lesson Plan Unit:
Understanding: Legend is an integral part of culture and comes
from the land, background, religious beliefs and values of a people. Through
American Indian legends and stories we can learn "…respect. For everything—the
Earth, yourself, the way you carry yourself, the way you treat other people." -- Eddie
Spears, Lakota Sioux.
- Scope Magazine, November
- Stories, myths,
and legends of American Indian origin.
- American Indian
Mythhology by Marriott,
Alice and Carol K. Rachlin
- Flying with the Eagle, Racing
the Great Bear by Bruchac, Joseph
- Spider Spins
a Story by Max, Jill.
Student Prior Knowledge
People walked upon the face of the land known as the United States of America
long before it was a country. Some archeologists estimate that the first inhabitants
arrived 40,000 years ago, and others 13,000 years, before the present day.
Many American children are taught about Christopher Columbus discovering America
and the First Thanksgiving at Jamestown. Yet, this is not the correct history.
As so the history now unfolds.
The Indians that inhabited the lands of the Americas learned of this great land
by experience. They were eclectic biologists and scientists in their own right.
They knew of the waters, the trees, and the various animals. They tilled the
earth, grew food, and walked the paths through this great land. It was their
homeland. They were the first people to inhabit this land. Their history is
one of pride, sacredness, and knowledge of the land. Learning this history
requires a look into their past, their trials, and the story of the days when
others came to their land and began to change the face of their world forever.
However, some of their traditional cultural values, ethics, and sacred beliefs
exist to this day.
This unit is an attempt to help children understand the first people of this
land and develop an even greater appreciation for their diversity, culture,
and the generations whose hands helped forge this land and were pivotal in
the building of this nation.
Some general information about American Indians:
- Today there are many terms that describe the people who first inhabited this
land. There is conflict about what to call these people. Part of the problem
is that they are not one people, but many. Traditional names translated from
their native languages generally mean "the People." Yet, they are called Native
Americans, American Indians, First People, aboriginal and Indigenous People,
and by a very general term "Indian." The word "Indian" is wrongly
used, in its application as a term, which collectively designates tribal groups
Columbus' erroneous geography and impression that he had landed among the islands
off Asia le him to call the peoples he met "los Indios." His casual use
of the term "Indios" in
his letters introduced the New World to European populations; thus, similar
words in other European languages evolved, such as the French "Indien," the
German "Indianer," the
English "Indian." Subsequent usage of the term "Indian" for the New World's
inhabitants evoked descriptive words as "savages," "infidels," and "heathens." However,
Europeans had limited contact with groups of people with such diverse cultures
Initial establishment of the imagery of the "Indian," like the word itself, came
from the pens of Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. Such imagery and stereotypes
have prevailed to the present through inaccurate written accounts and Hollywood
movies. Each Indian tribe has its own language, which is different frome those
of other tribes; its own history and origins; its own customs (social and
spiritual); its own traditional dances; its own styles of clothing; its own foods;
its own values; its own culture; its own spiritual beliefs and practices;
its own life styles; and its own tribal governments. Most tribes also have
an extended family system.
- Indian tribes are not one people, although many tribal philosophies and concepts
are similar— e.g., nearly every tribe's beliefs have reference to
a Supreme Being; refer to the earth as "Mother Earth" and sky as "Father Sky";
have a belief that all things in creation must have balance and harmony; and
have respect for all animals, sea life, and birds, and for all things.
- There were 560 federally recognized Indian tribes and bands, as of January
2000, in the forty-eight mainland United States of America. Alaska has the
Aleuts, Eskimos, and Athapascan tribal groups that number 229. But there are
perhaps 300 more Native Entities in Alaska which, while eligible to receive
services, are not federally recognized as tribes/nations.
Indian tribal groups also exist in Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South
America. Tribes of the Caribbean were mostly destroyed by diseases
that the Europeans brought, and the remaining Caribbean tribal peoples
intermarried with the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and black slaves.
- There are 378 treaties which the U.S. government entered into with Indian
tribes, the first being the treaty with the Delawares (September 17, 1778)
and last the agreement with the Columbia and Colville (July 7, 1883).
- There are 292 reservations, rancherias, and pueblos. These land areas are held in trust under the United States Department of Interior.
- Today there are many new findings about the Indians. Science is linking
peoples and their migrations as far away as Siberia. Someday these links to
the past may open up explorations of where the native peoples really came from.
Does the theory of the Bering Strait link peoples of two continents? Do the
glaciers of Alaska hold secrets? What about connections with the people
of South America? We are now in the process of interweaving
cultures, people, and evidence that in the near future might establish these
Essential Question 1: Why Is it important to hear the legends
and stories and their origins to understand the American Indian culture?
- Discuss how values are obtained in any culture
and the part that storytelling plays in our lives.
- Read as a group the
Reader's Theater in Scope, November 10, 2003.
this by reading the "Cross-Cultural
- Read The Story Telling Stone by Susan Fieldman
(origin stories), ISBN 03853340028.
- Native American Oral Traditions -- Collaboration & Interpretation
ISBN 0874214157 T/S
Essential Question 2: Why is it important to hear
a variety of stories, myths and legends? (To broaden the view and understanding
of the students.)
- The teacher will tell a story or legend
to the class. This should be done in the same manner he/she expects the students
to use later.
- As a class, analyze the story
for its effect on the culture we see around us. What does the story do for
- Storytelling. Each student
will find a legend or story originating with one of the American Indian
nations. Remind students to be sensitive to the fact that some stories are
only told at certain times of the year.
and memorize the story. Remember that a story loses its power if changed.
Essential Question 1 - Assessment
- Written responses
on why the stories and legends are told and retold.
Essential Question 2 - Assessment
Students will respond to one of the following essay questions:
How have the legends and stories of the American Indians affected the culture
of Utah ?
and contrast the elements in two stories you heard from different American
the value of hearing a variety of stories and legends of the American
Indian nations. What have you learned? Why is it important?
Utah State Office of Education
Social Studies Enhancement Committee
American Indian History
Lesson Plan Writers:
- Gloria Thompson - Ute
- Nanette Watson
- Jeanette Badback - White Mesa Ute
- Don Mose - Navajo
- Merrillee Chamberlain - Paiute
- Venita Tavepont - Ute
- Rebecca Bennally - Navajo
- Tauna Christianson
- Gayle Buxton
- Judith Hegewald
Under the Direction of the Indian Education Specialist, Shirlee
Silversmith. Special thanks to Dolores Riley.