American Literature - Native American Stories
Created By: Marty Sierra-Perry, Centennial High School (Champaign, IL)
Grade Level: 4th
Content Area: Social Studies
Database Integration: Students
will access the TDC database
to find examples of diaries and other source material which give information
abou the nature and preparation of foods eaten by each of these groups
of Illinoisans: Archaic Indians, Illini Indians, French settlers,
pioneer settlers, immigrants of 1880-1910.
The tradition of storytelling in Native American communities serves many purposes. In most instances,
these stories are meaningless without understanding the story's significance
and purpose. Stories have been used to entertain, to teach moral lessons,
to pass on personal family stories, and to teach tribal beliefs. Many
stories were--and still are--the personal property of families.
The extension activities we
will complete during our study of Fools Crow include the following:
- Students will read legends
of the Blackfeet, the tribe of the novel, Fools Crow, by James
There are many sites
that list native stories; however, few relate any background information
about the significance of the story. The following Web site makes that
connection and is a great story resource. Once you get to the site you
may want to make copies of some of the stories and their background,
in order to analyze them and relate them to the novel.
Blackfeet legends can
be found at:
- In the Centennial Library
are over thirty copies of various legends and myths of various Native
Peoples. Some of the myths are creation myths, trickster/transformer
or culture hero legends. When you use books as a source for Native American
stories, try to evaluate the background of the author. Has the book
been written by an individual who is Native American? Or has a non-native
written the book? How might this affect the telling or interpretation
of the story?
Students will select
one of the books on closed reserve* and learn about Native American
stories and answer the questions below.
- What tribe places significance
to the story?
- What is the purpose of the
- When it is told, what are
the listeners supposed to learn?
- Can it be told by anyone?
- Are there times of the year
that the story can be told and not at other times?
* Closed Reserve means that the materials may only used in the Centennial
Library. I will schedule at least one class period for doing this, but
know that you may have to schedule an additional visit to the library
before/after/school or during lunch. The books will be available from
11/12 - 11/26 after which they will be returned to the public library.
(Due January 4)
- Oyate, a Native American
organization, offers an online directory of recommended books and books
to avoid, at http://www.oyate.org/books-to-avoid/index.html
Educate yourself by
reading the rationale for listing one of the books as one to avoid.
Based upon what you know about Native American Literature agree or disagree
with the arguments put forth and support your opinion.
- Native American Images:
Accurate Portrait or Stereotype?
How do newscasts, newspapers, books, movies, grocery products, sports
teams, and online news sources portray Native Americans? How much do
Americans really know about past and current Native American culture
and history? Is this knowledge constructed from accurate information
and representations or based on stereotypical misperceptions?
The following activity gives students
the opportunity to research contemporary portrayals of Native Americans:
- To start this activity,
students describe their personal perceptions by writing a journal entry
that answers the following questions:
- Draw your image of what
a Native American looks like.
- In what type of home do
Native Americans live?
- Where have you gained
most of your knowledge about Native Americans?
- Is it OK for sports teams
to use native images and names?
- Have you ever noticed
the use of native images to sell products in stores? If so, describe.
- Research and construct a
presentation that addresses the issue of stereotypes. Students could
use a variety of methods to report their findings which may include:
a PowerPoint presentation, a group report, a newscast, a talk show,
- Students may work alone
or in a group of 4.
- Construct a list of any
types of stereotypical images or representations they are aware of currently.
(These may include, but not be limited to, sports teams, films, grocery
store products, textbooks, or regular books.)
- Students will be acting
as reporters and researching a variety of topics that relate to Native
- Students may also want to
try to contact Native American community members or e-mail tribal Web
sites to find out what their opinions are.
- Each student or group will
be assigned different areas of focus (i.e., sports teams, films, food
- Students are expected to
use a variety of resources to examine their area of focus, and each
take responsibility for at least one item or example.
- The links listed below will
help students get started.
After students complete their
research and present their findings to their classmates, students in the
audience will take notes on things they learned, or issues they want to
discuss further. The presenters will compile the data and create a follow-up
journal entry reflecting on what they've learned. Follow-up actions they
might take are editorials, letters to companies or sports teams, etc.
if they are interested in extending the lessons learned.