Native Heritage Activity Suggestions

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Native Heritage Activity Suggestions
In this document you will find several mediums to use at your discretion. Videos can be watched in full, but also in segments across a span of days. The online videos have questions that could be used for short writes, morning/class warm-ups, discussion starters, projects etc. Please remember these are suggestions and you can freely do what you’d like for lessons with the resources.
Quotes: (can be used in announcements, writing prompts, posted in classrooms and/or hallways etc.)
"Athabascans never give up - they always keep going - for 10,000 years. Education is the most important weapon for Athabascan people today - use your education in a good way."

- The Late Reverend Traditional Chief

Doctor David Salmon

"Have you eliminated larceny or murder by passing a law against it? No law will eliminate crimes but, at least you as legislators, can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination." ~ Elizabeth Peratrovich

Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity. —Sitting Bull (c. 1831 - 1890), Hunkpapa Sioux.

It does not require many words to speak the truth. ~ chief Joseph Nez Pierce

“There is but one secret to success: never give up.”
Ben Nighthorse Campbell

"Being Indian is an attitude, a state of mind, a way of being in harmony with all things and all beings. It is allowing the heart to be the distributor of energy on this planet; to allow feelings and sensitivities to determine where energy goes; bringing aliveness up from the Earth and from the Sky, putting it in and giving it out from the heart."  - Brooke Medicine Eagle

"I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself." - Lone Man (Isna-la-wica), Teton Sioux
Lesson Plan Links:

7-12 grade

Videos (available in Library Media Services):

  • Communicating Across Cultures: Learning Your Story so You Can Understand Others” (1 hour)

  • For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska” (1 hour)

  • Hitting Sticks

  • Healing Hurts: A Minto Memorial Potlatch

  • Songs in Minto Life

Videos available online


  • PBS: “Games of the North” (27 min.)


  • Have you participated in some of the Native Games, describe what it was like?

  • Which Native games have you observed at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics?

  • PBS: “Native Americans and the Importance of Ancestry” (2 min.)


  • List all of the groups you belong to and from which you get part of your sense of identity.

  • Which of the “cultures” you listed have you been shaped by the most?

  • Which are permanent and/or temporary?

  • Which are most celebrated in our modern society?

  • Which are subject to negative stereotyping ~ever?

  • What would you do if you had to prove who you are? How would you feel? How do you think Alaska Natives and Native Americans feel about this?

  • National Geographic: “Culture & Places News: Oil Spill Threatens Native American “Water” Village” (5 min.)


  • What would it be like if you could no longer go to the grocery store for food? What types of foods could you eat that are around naturally?

  • How would you feel if your ways of living could no longer happen? For example, no more tv, no more technology, etc.

  • National Geographic, “History: Native Americans” (3 min.)


  • What are some traditions of Alaska Native people? Which groups of Alaska Natives do those traditions belong to?

Available on You tube

  • We are Still Here: A Documentary on Today’s Young Native Americans” (8 min)


What are some things that your family does that may be different than others?

What do you know about Alaska Native and/or Native American culture?

Describe what it would be like if you had to go to school in a different state than where your parents live.

Describe what it would be like if you weren’t allowed to speak your language (English) and got punished if you did.

  • The Loon Story-An Alaska Native Tanaina Tale (14 min.) A play acted by elementary students


  • Reader’s Theatre: Use a Alaska Native story from Library Media Services

  • Play enactment

  • Write a short story (could be myth, fiction, non-fiction, etc)

  • Native Storytelling-Thirza Defoe (almost an hour, but different types of segments)


Learn some of the songs within the video

Have students play instruments along with the video

Write a fictional story

Check out Alaska Native Songs in LMS

  • We are Still Here” (4 min.) Alcatraz Native American History


  • What would you do if your land was taken from you?

  • What would you do if you were forced to leave the place where all your relatives and family lived for hundreds of years?


  • Living Outside Tribal Lines (total 1 hour, but there are segments below to watch and corresponding questions)
Can start from beginning, but at 7 min. an interview begins with Sherman Alexie

This video has been broken up into segments for easier mini lesson, but feel free to watch in the entirety. If watched all of video an writing, video assignment, or discussion to follow could be to have students come up with a wrap-up of the beginning segment of Silicon Valley Disparity and the interview with Sherman Alexie. ~Why doesn’t the video tie the two segments together? What would the conclusion of the video look like if the producer went back to the Silicon Valley Disparity.

7-21 min. Corresponding Questions

  • What “worlds” do you go between?

  • What is sovereignty?

  • How can you be open to the experience of life that others that are different from you live?

  • Define beauty

22 - 27 min.

What inequalities have you experienced?

What is the Fairbanks community like?

27-36 min.

What stereotypes are there about Native people?

What stereotypes are there about your culture?

What steps can we as a people do to reduce stereotyping others?

What are ways you can cope with hurt and anger?

Provide examples of healthy lifestyles

36-40 min.

What is ethnic cleansing?

How would you feel if your family was required to live in one place and could not choose anywhere else to live?

What thoughts are occurring in your mind after hearing about President Lincoln?

40min. and beyond may be too inappropriate for watching with students in the classroom. Use your best judgment.

  • Alaska Native Corps. (16 min. of first part of video

  • What do you know about Native Corporations?

  • What do you thing about an outside agency/ethnicity evaluating Native lifestyles?

  • What are some fallacies about Alaska Native culture that are communicated by the investigator?

  • Should the CEO’s of Native Corporations be required to be Native? Why or why not?


Did you know? (these could be used as a daily announcement or fact of the day in a classroom)

1. Indians did not become U.S. citizens until June 2, 1924, when Congress

conferred citizenship on all Indians born within the continental limits of the

United States.

2. Federal laws prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages to Indians until 1953.

3. Federal laws prohibited Indians from owning firearms until 1953.

4. Only Tribal and Federal laws apply to Indians on reservations, unless

Congress has provided otherwise.

5. Indians are subject to the same laws and requirements on “military service” as all other citizens.

  1. More than 8,000 Indians served in the armed services during World War I, even before they were citizens.

  2. More than 25,000 Indian men and women served in WW II.

6. Indians are no longer considered wards of the Federal Government; the

Federal Government serves only as a trustee of Indian property and not as a guardian of the Indian person.

7. There are approximately 286 separate land units (reservations, colonies,

Rancherias, and communities) today under the jurisdiction of the Federal

Government and owned by Indian people.

8. The Navajo reservation is the largest Indian reservation in the United States, covering approximately 25,000 square miles and spread over three states (Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah).

9. The smallest reservation is the Strawberry Valley Rancheria in Yuba

County, California, which covers one acre.

10. The states of Arizona and New Mexico were the last two states in the union to allow Indians to vote.

11. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was established 1824 within the Department of War.

12. In 1849, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was transferred to the Department of the Interior where it remains today.

13. Ely Parker (Donehogawa), a Seneca chief and later a Brigadier General

under Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War, was the first Indian Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

14. The first treaty between the United States and an Indian tribe was made in the year 1778 with the Delaware Indians.

15. All together the United States negotiated over 400 treaties with Indian tribes, of which only 13 were ratified.

16. Congress ended treaty-making with Indian tribes in 1871; until this time

Indian tribes were treated as “Independent Nations.”

17. The Dutch were the first to start the art of “scalping” in the United States in the 1600’s.

18. In 1703, the Massachusetts Colony paid colonists as much as $12.00 for

each Indian scalp.

19. During the Dutch Wars with the Indians in the New England area, the Dutch built a wall across lower Manhattan Island; the street that ran through that area later was named “Wall Street.”

20. The Dutch bought Manhattan Island from the Wappinger Indians for

approximately $24.00 in the year 1626.Manhattan Island covers an area

over 14,000 acres.

21. Indians served as guides in the early exploration of this hemisphere. Their trails became many of the main roads and railroads.

22. Sites of Indian villages were advantageously located on waterways and

trails, and many of them became the locations of major U.S. cities: Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc.

23. Indians assisted the English, French, Spanish, and other European peoples in the struggle for control of the new country.

24. Indian people developed and refined democracy and inspired the thinking of this country’s founding father, Benjamin Franklin.

25. The Indians’ way of governing became the basis for many of the principles of American democracy.

26. Indians recorded their history in forms of pictographs.

27. Sixty percent of the foods eaten in the world were first harvested by

American Indians.

28. Early Indian people had an extensive irrigation system that allowed them to grow many crops in the desert.

29. Before the white man came, Indians had developed agricultural skills superior to those of Europeans.

30. Indian people developed many ways to preserve food.

31. American Indians set a sophisticated urban trading economy in motion when they unearthed undreamed of quantities of gold and silver.

32. At one time, Indians had made more advancement in technology (which included utilization of cotton, rubber, dyes, and related chemicals) than Europeans.

33. Indian people discovered the curative powers of quinine, the anesthetizing ability of coca, and the potency of a thousand other drugs, which made modern medicine and pharmacology possible.

34. Indian people had far more sophisticated calendars than Europeans did

35. The Indians of Mexico had a mathematical system based on place numbers superior to the numerical systems then in use by the Spaniards.

36. Indian people had a highly sophisticated understanding of the sky before the white man came and had solar observatories.

37. Indian architectural accomplishments include the precision crafted buildings of Machu Picchu, the apartment dwellings of the Southwest, hogans, earthlodges, and teepees.

38. Native Americans are known as the first environmentalists because of their concern for all living things on Earth and their extensive knowledge of ecology.

39. Indians view animals and all living things as their relatives.

40. Indian people have been called upon by NASA to help solve the global warming problem.

41. Earth, Air, Water, and Fire, the Four Elements, are highly respected by

Indian people and are sometimes referred to as the Four Ancestors.

42. Indian people used science in the developing of items such as tanning hides or making pottery.

43. Today there are Indian doctors, scientists, and astronauts.

44. Indian medicine men have been called to the National Institute of Health to help find cures for disease.

45. Indian people had their own religion(s) before the white man came. They are akin to other religions in the world in their beliefs of respect for each other.

46. Charles Curtis, a Kaw Indian, was the Vice President under Herbert Hoover.

47. Benjamin Feifel, a Lakota from South Dakota, was a member of the United States House of Representatives.

48. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Ute from Colorado, is a member of the United States Senate.

49. Indian people had keen military strategies they used during their wars with the white man.

50. Indian people had their own forms of policing operations within their tribes.

Alaska Natives and Native Americans making history (could be used in daily announcements)
Katie John ~ Born in October of 1915 and passed away in May of 2013. Katie John an Ahtna Athabascan from Batzulnetas, AK was a mother of 20 children and grandma of over 250 who fought for the subsistence rights for her family as well as Alaska Natives. John's granddaughter, Kathryn Martin, said her legacy was teaching "honesty, trust, love and forgiveness" to her family: "Her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren are the reason she fought for her fishing rights, to make sure her family would have a way to feed themselves forever." Passionate about preserving Athabascan culture and language, she helped create the alphabet for the Ahtna dialect. She received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2011.
Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich, a Tlingit Native Alaskan, worked to end racial discrimination against Alaska Natives.  Elizabeth and her husband were shocked by the blatant discrimination against Native Alaskans similar to the discriminatory policies toward African Americans.  For example, many storefronts and businesses displayed signs stating "No Natives Allowed" and "No Dogs, No Natives."  Many Natives faced unemployment and poverty due to segregation and discrimination based on their race. 

In 1945, at one of Alaska’s Territorial Senate meeting, Peratrovich was present as a representative from the Alaska Native Sisterhood.  She was the final speaker of the day.  She opened her eloquent speech about prejudice and injustice by saying, “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights.”  Peratrovich spoke about what life was like for her and other Native Alaskans as second-class citizens.  At the end of her speech she condemned the men’s “superior race” attitude.  Her speech was met with thunderous applause.  The Senate then passed the Alaska Civil Rights Act by a vote of 11 to 5.  It took forty years for Peratrovich’s efforts to be widely recognition.  In 1988, the Alaska Legislature established February 16th, the anniversary of the signing of the Anti-Discrimination Act, as "The Annual Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.”

Red Cloud ~Perhaps one of the most capable warriors from the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) tribesmen ever faced by the US military, Makhpiya Luta, his Sioux name, led his people in what is known as Red Cloud’s War. This battle was for the rights to the area known as Powder River Country in Northern Wyoming and Southern Montana. Eventually he led his people during their time on reservation.
Winona LaDuke is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Reservations, and is the mother of three children. She is also the Executive Director of Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support, and create funding for frontline native environmental groups.

In 1994, Winona was nominated by Time magazine as one of America's fifty most promising leaders under forty years of age. She has been awarded the Thomas Merton Award in 1996, the BIHA Community Service Award in 1997, the Ann Bancroft Award for Women's Leadership Fellowship, and the Reebok Human Rights Award, with which she began the White Earth Land Recovery Project.

A graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities, Winona has written extensively on Native American and Environmental issues. She is a former board member of Greenpeace USA and serves, as co-chair of the Indigenous Women's Network, a North American and Pacific indigenous women's organization. In 1998, Ms. Magazine named her Woman of the Year for her work with Honor the Earth.

Russell Means, an Oglala Lakota, served as the first national director of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and became one of the organization's best-known spokespeople. Means was one of the Indian activists who in 1969 occupied San Francisco's Alcatraz Island in a landmark AIM-led protest that lasted 19 months; in 1973, he helped lead the AIM takeover of Wounded Knee. Both events brought worldwide attention to the injustices and privation faced by American Indians past and present. As an actor, Means has appeared in such films as The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Natural Born Killers (1994) and provided the voice of Powhatan in 1995's Pocahontas. In 2004, Means ran for president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, but was defeated by Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first woman to be elected to that office.
Maria Tall Chief ~ Born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief to an Osage Nation father, she became an eventually well-know ballerina. In 1947 Maria began dancing with the New York City Ballet until her retirement in 1965. Soon after she founded the Chicago City Ballet and remained it’s artistic director for many years. Since 1997 she has been an adviser in the Chicago dance schools and continues to astound future dancers with her always-ahead-of-her-skill abilities and will be featured in a PBS special from 2007-2010.
Jim Thorpe ~ Indian Name: Wa-tho-huck
English Translation: Bright Path

A statue of Jim Thorpe stands at the entrance to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio. The inscription on the statue reads, “Jim Thorpe was named first team Walter Camp All American in 1911 and 1912. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics, played professional baseball and in 1920, was elected the first president of what became the National Football League. He was the first great performer of that league, its highest paid player, both the precursor and prototype of the weapons of modern football.” “He was the best natural athlete ever. No matter what sport he turned to, he was a magnificent performer. He had all the strength, speed and coordination of the finest players plus incredible stamina. His memory should be kept for what it deserves – that of the greatest all around athlete of our time.” — New York Times.

Squanto ~ Assisting the Pilgrims during their first, harsh winter, the Patuxet, Tasquantum (Squanto) befriended the group in order to see them safely through to spring. In 1608, alas, Squanto and several others were kidnapped by Georgie Weymouth and taken aboard ship to England. Though eventually earning a living and learning the English language, Squanto made his return home in 1613 aboard John Smith’s ship only to find his tribe completely wiped out by the plague.
Crazy Horse ~ With a name in his tribe, Lakota: Thasuka Witko, that literally means “His-Horse-is-Crazy”, this Native American was actually born with the name: Cha-O-Ha meaning in Lakotan, “In the Wilderness”, and he was often called Curly due to his hair. In the Great Sioux War of 1876, Crazy Horse led a combined group of nearly 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne in a surprise attack against General George Crook’s force of 1,000 English men and 300 Crow and Shoshone warriors. The battle, though not substantial in terms of lives lost, nearly prevented Crook from joining up with General Custer, ensuring Custer’s subsequent defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Crazy Horse went on to oppose the US Government in their various decisions on how to handle Indian affairs.
Will Rogers ~ Born William Peen Adair Rogers, a Cherokee-Cowboy, “Will” became best known as an actor, a Vaudvillian, a philanthropist, a social commentator, a comedian, and a presidential candidate. Known as Okalahoma’s favorite son, Rogers was born to a well respected Native American Territory family and learned to ride horses and use a lasso/lariat so well that he was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records for throwing three ropes at once—one around the neck of a horse, another around the rider, and a third around all four legs of the horse. He ultimately traveled around the world several times, made 71 films (50 silent and 21 “talkies”), wrote more than 4,000 nationally-syndicated newspaper columns, and became a world-famous figure. He died in a plane crash in 1935.
Chief Joseph ~ Born in 1840 in what is now Oregon, Joseph the Younger (also called Chief Joseph) had some big shoes to fill. His father, Joseph the Elder, had converted to Christianity in 1838 in an attempt to make peace with white settlers. His father's efforts seemed to work, for his Nez Percé people were given land in Idaho. But in 1863, the U.S. government took the land back, and Joseph the Younger's father burned his Bible and his flag and refused to sign any new treaties. When Joseph succeeded his father as tribal chief in 1871, he clearly had to deal with a rather delicate situation. He eventually agreed to move his people to the now smaller reservation in Idaho, but never made it. They came under attack by white soldiers, fought back, and then dealt with the wrath of the government. In an impressive battle, 700 Native Americans fought 2,000 U.S. soldiers successfully until Joseph surrendered in 1877. He died in 1904 from what his doctor reported was a broken heart.
Sitting Bull ~ Sitting Bull (Sioux: Tatanka Iyotake first named Slon-he, or, literally, slow), was a Hunkpapa Lakota medicine man and holy man. He is famous in both American and Native American history mostly for his major victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn against Custer, where his ‘premonition’ of defeating them became reality. Even today, his name is synonymous with Native American culture, and he is considered to be one of the most famous Native Americans ever.
Sequoiah ~ Though the exact location of Sequoiah’s birth and death are unknown due to historically inaccurate writings, he is well known through translation and spoken accounts of having grown up with his mother in Tuskegee, Tennessee. Sequoyah ( S-si-quo-ya in Cherokee) known as George Guess, Guest or Gist, was a silversmith who invented the Cherokee Syllabry, thus earning him a place on the list of inventors of writing systems as well. The giant sequoia tree is named after the man who felt that the pen would outlast the sword -- and he was right.
Pocahontas ~ Having taken many liberties with her overall appearance, Disney created the image many of us believe to be what Pocahontas may have looked like. This is far from accurate. Though the film’s history is similarly flawed, it does hold some truths. Pocahontas was a Native American woman who married an Englishman called John Rolfe and became a celebrity in London in the last year of her life. She was a daughter of Wahunsunacock (also known as Chief or Emperor Powhatan), who presided over an area comprised of almost all of the neighboring tribes in Virginia (called Tenakomakah then). Her formal names were Matoaka and Amonute; ‘Pocahontas’ was a childhood nickname referring to her frolicsome nature. In her last days she went by Rebecca Rolfe, choosing to live an English life by abandoning her Native American heritage.

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