Native American Folklore By Robert M. Ruiz August 2, 2005

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Native American Folklore

By Robert M. Ruiz

August 2, 2005
Grade 8 or 11 U. S. History
Lesson Overview:
Given instruction, students will listen to a Native American folklore tale, view a picture of a mask from the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Washington D. C., and write their own Folklore Tale about it.
Standards Addressed:
History/Social Science:

      1. Discuss the election of Andrew Jackson as president in 1828, the importance of Jacksonian democracy, and his actions as president (policy of Indian removal, emphasis).

      2. Describe the purpose, challenges, and economic incentives associated with westward expansion, including the concept of Manifest Destiny (removal of Indians, the Cherokees’ “Trail of Tears,” settlement of the Great Plains) and the territorial acquisitions that spanned numerous decades.

Language Arts:
Literary Response and Analysis: Students read and respond to historically or culturally significant works of literature that reflect and enhance their studies of history and social science.
3.4 Analyze the relevance of the setting to the mood, tone, and meaning of the text.

3.6 Identify significant literary devices (metaphor, symbolism) that define a writer’s style and use those elements to interpret the work.

3.7 Analyze a work of literature, showing how it reflects the heritage, traditions, attitudes, and beliefs of its author.
Writing Application: Students write narrative, expository, persuasive, and descriptive essays.

    1. Write biographies, autobiographies, short stories (tales), or narratives.

Written and Oral English Language Conventions: Students write and speak with a command of Standard English conventions appropriate to grade level.

English Language Learner (ELL) Strategies:
Use of Supplementary materials:
Use of listening skills in a high-interest, universally relevant story. Folktales have universal morals.

Use of a visual of the mask.

Use of a vocabulary list for assistance

Possible use of a real mask, if the teacher has one.

Adaptation of Content:
ELL students may write shorter pieces, however, their work must still contain the essential elements: Character(s), story line, and moral. More help and leniency on spelling and grammar.
Engaging Scenario:
It is 1880 and you are a Native American living in the West somewhere. The Medicine Man of your tribe has gathered some of you to his tent and begins to recite the following story: (Read Folktale)
Task Summary:
Students will listen to a Native American folklore tale and read along. Then, open a brief discussion of the elements of the tale (characters, story line and moral). Next, show the class a picture of a mask from the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Washington D. C. (attached), and have them write their own Folklore Tale about it.

Resources/Materials Needed:
A picture of a Native American ceremonial mask. May be obtained from the Smithsonian Museum of American Indians website or one of the books listed (see Resources), or you may use the attached, or you may, of course, use your own mask or picture of one.

Student Handout
Task 1: Read Along, Listen, and Respond
Read along silently and listen to the following Native American Folklore Tale. Pay particular attention to the Characters, the simple story line and the Moral of the story. Be prepared to discuss these elements of folklore with the class.
Task 2: Observe and Write
Now look at the picture of the Native American mask. Observe if it is a mask of an animal or spirit. What feelings do you get when you look at it? Is it happy or sad or angry? Now write a short Folklore Tale of your own based on this mask. Be sure to include at least two (2) characters, a clear story line, and a moral.
Task 3: Optional
Make a mask of any material, no larger than your face, and write another folktale about it.

Scoring Guide Task 2

Task: Write. Write a short Folktale about the Mask. The Folktale should include at least two Characters, a clear story line and a Moral. The Characters should be from Native American history, and the Moral should be universal (applies to everyone).

Exemplary (Exceeds the Standard) 45-50 points:

  • All proficient criteria are met, plus:

  • Folktale explains what connections were important between the topic and economic, political and social issues.

  • Folktale contains multiple perspectives on the topic

Proficient (Meets the Standard) 40-44 points:

  • Folktale sets the context (explains background) for the topic

  • Folktale explains the significance of the topic Native American culture of 1880.

  • Folktale format is correct

  • Few or no errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation

Progressing (Progressing Toward the Standard) 30-39 points:

  • At least 3 of the proficient criteria are met

  • Work contains numerous spelling and/or legibility errors

  • More work is needed

Not Yet Meeting the Standard 0-29 points:

  • Fewer than 2 of the proficient criteria are met

  • More work is needed

Peer Evaluation (Optional)

Teacher Evaluation

Art of the American Indian Frontier

By David W. Penney

Art of the American Indian Frontier examines an incomparable collection of nineteenth-century Native American art from the North American Woodlands, Prairie, and Plains. The collection resulted from the efforts of Milford G. Chandler and Richard A. Pohrt, whose early childhood fascination with the Indian frontier past evolved into a deep and comprehensive interest in Native American ceremonies, beliefs, and art. Though neither was wealthy or enjoyed the sponsorship of a museum, they traveled extensively early in the twentieth century, buying or trading for objects they could not resist. This volume presents the Detroit Institute of Art's Chandler-Pohrt collection with detailed documentation and commentary. Clothing and accessories of porcupine quill and buckskin, woven textiles, bags, beadwork, necklaces, rawhide paintings, smoking pipes, tools, vessels and utensils, pictographs, and visionary paintings are portrayed in 220 stunning color plates. Complementing the illustrations are essays dealing with historical context, ethnographic issues, and the lives and philosophies of the collectors.

North American Indian Art

By David W. Penney

A splendidly illustrated introduction to the rich history of Native American art, distinguished by its broad coverage and nuanced discussion. This timely new book surveys the artistic traditions of indigenous North America, from those of ancient cultures such as Adena, Hopewell, Mississippian, and Anasazi to the work of modern artists like Earnest Spybuck, Fred Kabotie, Dick West, T. C. Cannon, and Gerald McMaster. The text is organized geographically and draws upon the testimonies of oral tradition, Native American history, and the latest research in North American archaeology.
American Indian Art

By Stephanie Salomon

Lickle Publishing Inc, 2002
Well suited for both individual and classroom use, American Indian Art pairs quality art reproductions with thought-provoking questions, encouraging children to learn through visual exploration and interaction. Thoughtful text introduces the world and work of the artist, making the most of a child's natural curiosity.
What clues tell you that this is a mask for a horse? Point to and name the animals you can find on the side of the canoe. How many different shapes can you find in these wooden house posts? How many different colors?
Children will learn new ways of looking at and understanding Hopi Kachina dolls, a Pawnee ceremonial drum, a Yup'ik mask from Alaska used like a finger puppet, wooden posts carved in the shape of wolves for a Haida home, a fantastic drawing made in an account ledger book by a Lakota Sioux medicine man, and other captivating objects.
Smithsonian Institute: National Museum of the American Indian
American Trails
Native American Indian Tribes
Native American Indians: Folklore and Mythology list
Buffalo and Mouse

Once upon a time, when the Field Mouse was out gathering wild beans for the winter, his neighbor, the Buffalo, came down to graze in the meadow. This the little Mouse did not like, for he knew that the other would mow down all the long grass with his prickly tongue, and there would be no place in which to hide. He made up his mind to offer battle like a man.

"Ho, Friend Buffalo, I challenge you to a fight! " he exclaimed in a small, squeaking voice.
The Buffalo paid no attention, thinking it only a joke. The Mouse angrily repeated the challenge, and still his enemy went on quietly grazing. Then the little Mouse laughed with contempt as he offered his defiance. The Buffalo at last looked at him and replied carelessly:
"You had better keep still, little one, or I shall come over there and step on you, and there will be nothing left! "
"You can't do it! " replied the Mouse.
"I tell you to keep still,” insisted the Buffalo, who was getting angry. "If you speak to me again, I shall certainly come and put an end to you! "
"I dare you to do it! "said the Mouse, provoking him.
Thereupon the other rushed upon him. He trampled the grass clumsily and tore up the earth with his front hoofs. When he had ended, he looked for the Mouse, but he could not see him anywhere.
"I told you I would step on you, and there would be nothing left! " he muttered.
Just then he felt a scratching inside his right ear. He shook his head as hard as he could, and twitched his ears back and forth. The gnawing went deeper and deeper until he was half wild with the pain. He pawed with his hoofs and tore up the sod with his horns.

Bellowing madly, he ran as fast as he could, first straightforward and then in circles, but at last he stopped and stood trembling. Then the Mouse jumped out of his ear, and said:

"Will you know now that I am master? "
"No! " bellowed the Buffalo, and again he started toward the Mouse, as if to trample him under his feet. The little fellow was nowhere to be seen, but in a minute the

Buffalo felt him in the other ear. Once more he became wild with pain, and ran here and there over the prairie, at times leaping high in the air. At last he fell to the ground and lay quite still. The Mouse came out of his ear, and stood proudly upon his dead body.

"Eho! "said he, "I have killed the greatest of all beasts. This will show to all that I am master! "
Standing upon the body of the dead Buffalo, he called loudly for a knife with which to dress his game.
In another part of the meadow, Red Fox, very hungry, was hunting mice for his breakfast. He saw one and jumped upon him with all four feet, but the little Mouse got away, and he was terribly disappointed.
All at once he thought he heard a distant call: "Bring a knife! Bring a knife!"
When the second call came, Red Fox started in the direction of the sound. At the first knoll he stopped and listened, but hearing nothing more, he was about to go back. Just then he heard the call plainly, but in a very thin voice, "Bring a knife!” Red Fox immediately set out again and ran as fast as he could.
By and by he came upon the huge body of the Buffalo lying upon the ground. The little Mouse still stood upon the body.
"I want you to dress this Buffalo for me and I will give you some of the meat,” commanded the Mouse.
"Thank you, my friend, I shall be glad to do this for you,” he replied, politely.
The Fox dressed the Buffalo, while the Mouse sat upon a mound near by, looking on and giving his orders. "You must cut the meat into small pieces," he said to the Fox.

When the Fox had finished his work, the Mouse paid him with a small piece of liver. He swallowed it quickly and smacked his lips.

"Please, may I have another piece?" he asked quite humbly.
"Why, I gave you a very large piece! How greedy you are!” exclaimed the Mouse. "You may have some of the blood clots,” he sneered. So the poor Fox took the blood clots and even licked off the grass. He was really very hungry.
"Please may I take home a piece of the meat?” he begged. "I have six little folks at home, and there is nothing for them to eat."
"You can take the four feet of the Buffalo. That ought to be enough for all of you!"
"Hi, hi! Thank you, thank you!" said the Fox. "But, Mouse, I have a wife also, and we have had bad luck in hunting. We are almost starved. Can't you spare me a little more?"
"Why?” declared the Mouse, “I have already overpaid you for the little work you have done, however, you can take the head, too!”
Thereupon the Fox jumped upon the Mouse, who gave one faint squeak and disappeared.


If you are proud and selfish you will lose all in the end.

The National Museum of the American Indian

Smithsonian Museums, Washington, D. C.

Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World

Opening September 21, 2004

NMAI on the National Mall, Washington, DC
Our Universes focuses on indigenous cosmologies—worldviews and philosophies related to the creation and order of the universe—and the spiritual relationship between humankind and the natural world. Organized around the solar year, the exhibition introduces visitors to indigenous peoples from across the Western Hemisphere who continue to express the wisdom of their ancestors in celebration, language, art, spirituality, and daily life.
The community galleries feature eight cultural philosophies—those of the Pueblo of Santa Clara (Espanola, New Mexico, USA), Anishinaabe (Hollow Water and Sagkeeng Bands, Manitoba, Canada), Lakota (Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, USA), Quechua (Communidad de Phaqchanta, Cusco, Peru), Hupa (Hoopa Valley, California, USA), Q'eq'chi' Maya (Cobán, Guatemala), Mapuche (Temuco, Chile), and Yup'ik (Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska, USA). The design of these galleries reflects each community's interpretation of the order of the world.The exhibition also highlights the Denver (Colorado) March Powwow, the North American Indigenous Games, and the Day of the Dead as seasonal celebrations that bring Native peoples together.

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