How I Made Studying Native American Culture at Home an Adventure


I must admit that when I was a child and was first learning about the history of our great country and our Native Americans I was not very interested at all. Sure I really liked the way they dressed and the war paint they wore. I even liked making Native American type crafts in our arts and crafts class. But beyond that, as with many others things as a child, all the book learning we did in school went in one ear and out the other. Years later as a parent who has chosen to take a highly active role in the education of my children by homeschooling them I was bound and determined to find a much better means to educate myself along with my children on the subject of our great Native American culture .

The first thing I did was to research the Native American history right here in my area of ​​the United States. Being from the Chicago area I did not think that there was very much for my children to go and see to learn about this particular culture. But I was wrong. I did know that the origin of the name Chicago originated from a Native American term shikaakwa so I started from there and mapped out a very adventurous plan.

I had decided that instead of taking the afternoon summer off from our studies that we should take advantage of the warmer weather to learn more about the history of Native Americans with a more hands on approach. We began with a quick study on the history of the various Native American tribes across the United States ending with the Potawatomi right here in Chicago and a trip to the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian.

With a little research and ingenuity I was able to find and contact some wonderful Native Americans from our area. Over the course of three weeks I planned and scheduled a visit to four of them what were willing to share their own personal experiences and heritage with us, free of charge.

One of them took us on a tour of the area and showed us first hand where their tribe first originated, burial grounds, the first trading post, and even where many of his ancestors were killed at the battle of Fort Dearborn.

Next we visited a fabulous woman who taught us all about the clothing they wore and how they came about the materials to make them. Of course in this day and age we can not jut go out and kill a buffalo for its hide, so I purchased some materials from a local craft and store so we could make some for ourselves.

Another sat us down and explained the significance of the different types of head dresses that we wore and even explained to us how they were made. Then we were able to sit down and make our own as if our family were our own tribe. This is loads of fun.

The following week we visited a fellow whom taught us about how they lived and survived without any of the amenities we are accredited to today. My son especially liked hearing about how many things were made from one single buffalo.

After all of our micro-mini field trips were completed it was time to see how much we had learned in the past few weeks. I went out and obtained a great deal of bulk canvas, wooden poles, twine, and even a couple small flat stones. I cut the canvas into large triangles and tied the poles to the sides of the two longest sides to be tied together later to form a teepee. We then sat and painted a Native American type design on each of them. The next day we sat and made our own tom toms from empty coffee cans, scraps of canvas, and twine. In all we each made our own tom tom, two small teepees and one larger teepee. The children could not wait to sleep outside in their teepees. And I was not about to disappoint them.

Although our trips to meet all of these fabulous people had ended, they were not done with us. While speaking with them throughout the course of the summer it was decided to conclude the studies with a pow wow of sorts.They reserved a spot for us in a rather secluded nearby camp ground the following weekend.

When we arrived we set up our teepees and changed into the Native American garb we made. As if on cue, all four of our new friends arrived and one by one created what was to be the best adventure we have had to date. We built and cooked on an open fire. We sang and danced. And we were even given Native American names as our Chief put our head dresses upon us in a final celebration.

Source by Karen Olszewski


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