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Southwest Native American Tribes Lesson

Updated on November 8, 2014
Navajo Sand Painting Craft Activity
Navajo Sand Painting Craft Activity

This is part 4 of a 4 part hands-on unit on Native Americans. Make Navajo Fry Bread, draw Pueblo chalk drawings, create Navajo sand paintings and concho-style belts, weave Apache baskets, and more! My lessons are geared toward 3rd-4th grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 17 children between the ages of 1-13. Use these fun lessons with your class, family, or homeschool co-op group!

Please DO NOT copy this elsewhere without giving proper credit: http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/southwest-native-american-tribes-lesson-plan

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Southwest Tribes Overview

*Please bring a bottle of glue for each of your children.*

1. Stretch & pray.

2. Discuss Romans 1:20-23.

3. Point out tribes on map. Sing the "Tribes of America" Song (Tune: "10 Little Indians")

Eastern Woodlands/

Northeast, Southeast:

Iroquois, Algonquian,

Seminole/Creek & Cherokee

All lived in the East

Blackfoot, Lakota, Sioux, and Comanche

Cheyenne, Crow, and Pawnee

All hunted buffalo on the plains.

They are the Plains tribes!

On the Plateau-Basin is the Nez Perce

And Sacajawea's Shoshoni.

Head to the Northwest to find the Haida

And the Inuit.

Pueblo (Hopi and the Zuni),

Apache and Navajo,

Housed in adobe in the desert

Wow, those Southwest tribes!

One little, two little, one-hundred little native tribes,

Covering the expanse of our land,

All created in God's image

They are Native Americans.

4. Read a section on Southwest tribes from "Famous Indian Tribes" by William Moyers.

5. Quickly discuss traits of Woodlands/Northeast & Southeast, Plains, Northwest, and Southwest tribes.

Mixing together Navajo Fry Bread dough
Mixing together Navajo Fry Bread dough

Navajo Fry Bread

6. Begin making Navajo Fry Bread. We will divide children into 3 groups. Each group will make the below recipe.

4 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm water (or more)

1-2 cup shortening or 1-2 cup cooking oil

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Gradually stir in the water and work it in, adding more water a little at a time, if needed. Knead by hand until soft but not sticky. Form the dough into a round ball, cover and let stand for about 30 minutes. Set the dough aside while children work on other activities.

While children knead the dough, tell them about how Native Americans were sent to reservations so American settlers could take their land. The government was supposed to provide them with food. Frequently it was flour and lard. They had to figure out how to use this new kind of food. One way was to make fry bread. They wouldn't have had baking powder, salt, or cinnamon sugar like what we used and will be using.

TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: 12 c. of flour, 1 mixing bowl, 1 mixing spoon, 1 skillet, & 1 pancake turner

TEACHER/PARENT 2: YOU WILL NEED: 3 Tbsp. baking powder, 3 tsp. salt, ¼ c. cinnamon sugar, 1 mixing bowls, 1 mixing spoon, 1 skillet, & 1 pancake turner

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: 4 c. shortening or oil, 1 mixing bowl, & 1 mixing spoon

Pueblos

7. Look at pictures of Pueblo tribes from books.

8. Remind the children of our Bible verses and how everyone in the entire world knows about God, though they might try to worship someone other than Him. Missionaries will sometimes use legends from a particular people group and will then use those stories to explain who God truly is and what He came to do. Read "Arrow to the Sun" by Gerald McDermott. Have the children discuss how they could use that legend to explain to the Pueblos who Jesus is and what He came to do.

Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale
Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale

This is a great Pueblo legend that is quite similiar to the story of Jesus.

 
Pueblo-style chalk drawing using sidewalk chalk
Pueblo-style chalk drawing using sidewalk chalk

Pueblos

7. Look at pictures of Pueblo tribes from books.

8. Remind the children of our Bible verses and how everyone in the entire world knows about God, though they might try to worship someone other than Him. Missionaries will sometimes use legends from a particular people group and will then use those stories to explain who God truly is and what He came to do. Read "Arrow to the Sun" by Gerald McDermott. Have the children discuss how they could use that legend to explain to the Pueblos who Jesus is and what He came to do.

9. Look at pictures of Pueblo chalk drawings from "When Clay Sings" by Baylor and "Stories on Stone" by Dewey.

10. Draw Pueblo-style pictures using sidewalk chalk on our driveway. Draw pictures of a modern event or image.

TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: (per child) 1 piece of sidewalk chalk

When Clay Sings
When Clay Sings

This fun book takes the drawings that have been found on Pueblo pottery and has they come alive in various stories. Both my 4 and 7 year old enjoyed this book.

 
Stories on Stone: Rock Art Images from the Ancient Ones
Stories on Stone: Rock Art Images from the Ancient Ones

The author tells of the images she saw growning up when her parents would take her to the Pueblo caves. My sons begged to head out West to see these drawings and caves after reading this book.

 

Favorite Zuni Books - These were out favorite books on the Zuni

We also enjoyed "Houses of Adobe" (Native Dwellings) by Bonnie Shemie which is a picture book that provides information about the dwellings of various Southwest tribes.

Coyote: A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest
Coyote: A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest

This tells of the Zuni Coyote trickster. My 4 year old thought the illustrations were hilarious.

 
Sunflower's Promise: A Zuni Legend (Native American Legends)
Sunflower's Promise: A Zuni Legend (Native American Legends)

In addition to the retelling of this Zuni legend, this also provides information about the historical and present day Zuni people.

 
Hopi squash blossom hair-do
Hopi squash blossom hair-do

Hopi & Zuni

11. Look at pictures of Hopi & Zuni tribes.

12. Demonstrate a squash blossom hair-do. Hopi girls would fashion their hair in this manner as a sign that they were ready to get married. Using a girl with long hair, make high pig-tails. Twist the hair like a bun leaving 2 inches untwisted. Wrap that around the pony-tail holders and secure with hairpins. It should look like the young princess Lela. You can see photographs at this link.

TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: 2 ponytail holders and lots of hair pins

13. (If you are not limited by time) Look at Hopi pottery and make a pinch pot by following the directions at this link.

YOU WILL NEED: 10 lb. terra cotta colored self-hardening clay, 16 squares of wax paper

Another Good Zuni Picture Book

The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story
The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story

This Zuni version of a Cinderella story focuses on a girl who keeps wild turkeys but does not keep true to her word.

 

Favorite Hopi Books - These were our favorite books on the Hopi

Also look for "The Warrior Maiden" by Ellen Schecter, which is about a young Hopi girl who saves her town from Apache raiders. We read through some of "The Hopis" (First Americans Books) by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. It is filled with facts on the life of the Hopi. "If You Lived With The Hopi Indians" by Anne Kamma helped us find out about specific aspects of Hopi life, but it is too long to read through as a story book.

The Mouse Couple: A Hopi Folktale
The Mouse Couple: A Hopi Folktale

A Hopi legend about a mouse couple that searches the world for a husband for their daughter.

 
Night Dancer
Night Dancer

Kokopelli leads the animals in an evening dance across the desert.

 
Navajo Sand Painting Art Activity
Navajo Sand Painting Art Activity

Navajo Sand Paintings

14. Look at pictures of Navajo using books.

15. Look at sand paintings. Have children make a sand painting.

Glue the turtle pattern to construction paper to make it sturdier. Then place glue on various parts of the turtle picture and sprinkle a particular color of sand over the glue. Pour off the excess sand. Place glue over another part of the picture, sprinkle another color of sand over the glue, and then pour off the excess sand. Repeat this until you've finished your picture.

We did this on tables outside, and we covered the tables with newspaper.

TEACHER/PARENT 2: YOU WILL NEED: (per child) 1 copy of turtle pattern printed from this webpage. (please cut out ahead of time), 1 piece of construction paper cut out the same size as the turtle circle, & colored sand (at least 2-3 colors) (We purchased a few bags of colored sand from the outdoor department at Wal-Mart. It's used for sandboxes. Each bag cost a few dollars.)

More of Our Favorite Books on Navajo

We also enjoyed "The Unbreakable Code" by Sara Hoagland Hunter which has a grandfather telling his grandson about the WWII code talkers.

The Navajo Year Walk Through Many Seasons
The Navajo Year Walk Through Many Seasons

Coyote leads you through the Navajo year. The name of each month is given in English and in Navajo, but it unfortunately doesn't include how to pronounce the Navajo words.

 
How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend (Sandpiper Houghton Mifflin Books)
How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend (Sandpiper Houghton Mifflin Books)

This Navajo legend in picture book form tells of the first man and woman. We compared it to the Biblical account of Adam, Eve, and the serpent.

 
Flattening Navajo Fry Bread
Flattening Navajo Fry Bread

Finish Navajo Fry Bread

16. Finish making Navajo fry bread. Have the children use their hands to roll the dough into a ball and flatten it. It won't get as flat as it should be, but it will still taste fine. While the children do the next activities, two moms will fry the dough until it's golden and then sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar. Let cool.

More Good Picture Books on Navajo

Dzani Yazhi Naazbaa' / Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk
Dzani Yazhi Naazbaa' / Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk

This picture book follows a young Navajo girl and speaks of the tragedy of the Navajo being forced off their land.

 
Turquoise Boy (Native American Legends)
Turquoise Boy (Native American Legends)

This Navajo legend in picture book format tells of a Navajo boy who wants to make Navajo life easier, so he sets out on a quest.

 
Navajo Cocho-style Belts made using yarn, aluminum foil, and pony craft beads
Navajo Cocho-style Belts made using yarn, aluminum foil, and pony craft beads

Navajo Cocho-style Belts

17. Show pictures of Navajo jewelry. Let children pass around turquoise & silver jewelry.

TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: turquoise & silver jewelry

18. Make cocho-style belts

Each child gets 3 ovals. Glue or tape aluminum foil to ovals and double the foil. Use a toothpick to gently indent and decorate the conchos. Glue a turquoise bead on each concho. Give each child 3 pieces of yarn. Knot the end and tape it to the table. Show them how to braid the yarn. Push through the previously-punched out holes. Attach conchos by putting the braid into one hole and out through the other, making sure the yarn is in the back of the concho. Tie a knot to secure the braid. *Note: To make this activity much shorter time wise and/or to use this for younger children, pre-braid the yarn. The moms spent the entire time braiding the yarn for those who couldn't braid.*

You can see a picture of a concho belt at this link.

(This activity idea is from "A Kids' Guide to Native American History" by Yvonne Dennis.)

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: (per child) 4 ovals (3.5"x2") cut out of cardstock with a hole punched on each side 1/2 inch from edge, aluminum foil, tape, 4 pieces of yarn that are 42 inches each, 4 turquoise colored craft beads, & 1 toothpick

A Kid's Guide to Native American History: More than 50 Activities (A Kid's Guide series)
A Kid's Guide to Native American History: More than 50 Activities (A Kid's Guide series)

This 256 page book is full of great games and activities to make learning about the MANY Native American tribes fun and memorable. It also contains lots of interesting information about many of the tribes.

 
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Apache Woven Baskets

19. (If time allows) Look at pictures of Apache and make a simplified Southwest woven basket by following the directions at this link.

Tie a piece of yarn around one of the pre-cut pieces of the bowl. Then weave the yarn over and under. Tie another piece of yarn on the pre-cut piece of bowl next to the one you started with. Go in the opposite directions, going over and under. The fatter the yarn, the shorter amount of time this activity will take.

We were able to start this activity but no one had time to finish their basket. Do you see the yarn in this picture? It is too thin! This is what our baskets looked like after we worked on them for 45 minutes (after co-op was over).

TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: (per child) 1 paper bowls (precut in 6 places) and 4 pieces of THICK yarn each cut 3' long OR 2 pieces of 6' long THICK yarn that has various colors

Coyote Steals the Blanket: A Ute Tale (Ute Tales)
Coyote Steals the Blanket: A Ute Tale (Ute Tales)

I know this claims to be an Ute legend, but it contains the same tricksters characters, Coyote and Hummingbird, that are so popular amongst the Southwest tribes. Both my boys laughed out loud at this book and wanted me to read it over and over again.

 

Favorite Apache & Southwest Books - These were our favorite books on the Apache and on the Southwest.

Also look for "The Apaches" by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, which is a fact-filled book on the Apache and has illustrations rather than photographs. If you'd like to read more on the Sonoran Desert, our favorite book was "This Place Is Dry: Arizona's Sonoran Desert" (Imagine Living Here) by Vicki Cobb. It's a very comprehensive picture book.

Antelope Woman: An Apache Folktale
Antelope Woman: An Apache Folktale

This was one of the few Apache legends we could find in story book format.

 
Geronimo (Childhood of Famous Americans)
Geronimo (Childhood of Famous Americans)

I read this 176 page chapter book with my 7 year old. It focuses on Geronimo's childhood and has illustrations every few pages.

 
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Eat Navajo Fry Bread & Review

20. Eat fry bread & talk about Navajo code talkers. (By the way, many children voted that making and eating the Navajo Fry Bread was their favorite part of the unit study on Native Americans.)

TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: 20 napkins, 16 cups for water

21. Five minute drill/discussion on what we learned. Review song for tomorrow night's powwow.

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Homework: Tribe & Missionary Reports

For each of the main tribes we studied, my sons and I completed an "Indian Tribe Report" page from this link.

We also completed a missionary report page using the form from this link. We did a missionary report on

Eusebio Francisco Kino, an Italian Roman Catholic priest who established many Spanish missions in modern day Arizonia during the late 1600’s. If you would prefer someone else, you could do a missions report on Navajo Missions, a modern mission serving the Navajo people.

Looking for the other lessons?

Setting up a tepee during Lesson 2: Plains Native American Tribes Lesson
Setting up a tepee during Lesson 2: Plains Native American Tribes Lesson

Hunt for arrowheads, build teepees, paint totem poles, draw Pueblo chalk drawings, present on specific Native American tribes, and more during this fun four week hands on study of Native Americans.

  • Northeast and Southeast Native Americans Lesson - This is part 1 of a 4 part hands-on unit on Native Americans. Make arrows, cook Three Sisters Stew, go on an “archeological dig” for arrowheads, create Iroquois Bowl games, bead Seminole necklaces, and more!
  • Plains Native American Tribes Lesson - This is part 2 of a 4 part hands-on unit on Native Americans. Create headdresses and war shields, build a teepee, eat dried “buffalo” and more!
  • Northwest and Plateau Native American Tribes Lesson - This is part 3 of a 4 part hands-on unit on Native Americans. Decorate parfleches, fry salmon cakes, create totem poles, dramatize a dramatize potlatch ceremony, and more!
  • Southwest Native American Tribes Lesson - This is part 4 of a 4 part hands-on unit on Native Americans. Make Navajo Fry Bread, draw Pueblo chalk drawings, create Navajo sand paintings and concho-style belts, weave Apache baskets, and more!
  • Native American Powwow and Field Trip Ideas - After our 4 part unit study on Native Americans, our culminating activity was a powwow. Each child presented on a different tribe and brought food from that tribe for us to share. I am also including where we went for field trips during this unit.
  • Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at the above link.

Konos Volume I
Konos Volume I

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great ideas! I love the book suggestions and pictures!

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      mattcut 4 years ago

      Loved this Lens thanks !

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