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 (see this post for our activities) 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:
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: The Story of the First Americans, Book II (affiliate link) by Suzanne Strauss Art — This book was written for Middle School students. It is full of information & traditional stories. We’re using this as the spine of our Native American studies.
A History of Us: The First American Prehistory to 1600 (affiliate link) 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. They are really enjoying this book.
Native Americans: Discover the History and Cultures of the First Americans (affiliate link) by Kim Kavin
Native American History for Kids: With 21 Activities (affiliate link) by Karen Bush Gibson. This book has really good information about different tribes.
Explore Native American cultures! (affiliate link) by Anita Yasuda ; illustrated by Jennifer K. Keller. Good project ideas for lower elementary. I found it definitely needed to be supplemented with books with more information and actual history, but like the activity ideas.
Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears (affiliate link) by Cornelia Cornelissen This book was fabulous. It really captured the imagination of my kids; they would BEG me to continue reading for the day! It tells the story of the Trail of Tears from a young girl’s perspective.
We are absolutely loving this unit — and I CANNOT WAIT to tell you about the our latest experiences!!
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.
You may be interested in these related posts (all of our Native American Packets are free to download):
- Native Americans of the Northeast (Part I: The Algonquian Indians) – The kids make a “long house”
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Happy Homeschooling, everyone!! ~Liesl