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Native Americans Past and Present

As we approach Thanksgiving, let us take an honest look at the heritage of Native Americans.

Native Americans are native to the land we now call the United States of America. They have a rich heritage and cultures that have survived adversity. Their cultures and heritage, along with achievements, have not always been acknowledged. Often they, as a people, are ignored. Since the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans have fought to become a part of the "white manīs world" while preserving their own.

Native Americans have often been portrayed as inferior to whites. Native Americans are often lumped together, with no distinction between nations or tribes. They have also been portrayed as existing only in the past. Their appearance, their professions, their status in society, and their way of life have been stereotyped. The challenge to teachers and parents is to address these prejudices. Although a good portion of their heritage has been taken away from them, through the Americanization of children by schools, jobs, and whites, much is to be learned about them and their heritage. To understand this better, students must learn about the differences among nations and the contributions, heritage, and culture of Native Americans past and present.

Featured Book

The Indian School, by Gloria Whelan
Lucy, finds herself living at an Indian Mission School with her aunt and uncle after the sudden death of her parents. While at the school, it does not take Lucy long to notice that all of the Native American children have been dressed the same, and given "white" names, and are forced to act as white children. Everything seems to be fine with the children, until one day a girl and her brother are brought to the school. Things start to turn upside down as the Native American girl, Raven, refuses to give up her identity and way of life.

Topics For Discussion

  1. Discovering the meaning of prejudice and stereotype.
  2. Exploring characteristics of Native American culture and heritage.
  3. A look at important Native Americans, past and present.
  4. Contributions of Native Americans, past and present.
  5. Universal themses of family, love, and survival.

Activities for the Featured Book

  1. Students will make a book cover for the book.
  2. Students will learn the process of surgaring, and eat some molasses taffy.
  3. Students will identify types of poisonous and non-poisonous berries, seeds, plants and trees.
  4. Students will keep a journal from the point of view of a character from the book.
  5. Students will make a list of 20 things they would have taken had they been Lucy.
  6. Students will learn about major figures in Native American history and their struggles to keep their culture alive.
  7. Students will draw a map of where the Indian nations were located in the past, and where they are located now, if they still exist.

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