After reviewing two historical fictions surrounding key turning points in Native America history, I knew I wanted to explore and share the culture of American’s indigenous people with my kids!
Except I caught myself thinking of American Indians in a weird past tense sort of way.
In school American Indians were presented as an old and lost part of our history. Even though on several road trips I had seen Indians at tourist shops, I had never made the connection that they were a part of modern American culture. Or that they were authentically Indians.
Which is why I wanted to make an effort to learn more about our First Nation neighbors. I present here are So after learning a bit more about them I wanted to share with you some of the activities we found we could do with our kids to help them understand our multicultural heritage.
1. Arts and 2. Crafts
A good friend sent our family a gift of para-cord activities and a bead loom kit. Having served in the military I figured that the para-cord is our modern-day equivalence of weaving skills. Whereas the bead loom kit would be a fun throw back to traditional American Indian crafts!
Beading and weaving was frustrating for some. Which is why my back up plan was to let them
color this picture from www.coloring-pages-adults.com
3. What do the Lakota eat?
One of things I wanted to know more about the Lakota was the type of food they traditionally ate.
From Lakota Traditional Foods I learned about an Indian form of energy bars called Wasna! Essentially it was a patty of dried bison jerky, dried berries, and tallow mixed together. Pretty much an all season super food for the road. If you need a vegetarian friendly substitute you would probably make a zucchini nut bread.
On the other hand the Wojapi was a sweetened berry soup. Depending on your preferences this can be a soup, a pudding, or a berry syrup to either dip your bread or top it.
Both look really simple to make, but in an effort to not bite off more than I can chew I decided to make Chef Otaktay‘s Lakota Plum cakes from Food.com!
1cup dark raisin
1cup boiling water
1(16 ounce) can purple plums, drained and pitted
1cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped fine
1⁄2cup melted butter
4cups sifted all-purpose flour
3teaspoons baking soda
1 1⁄2teaspoons salt
1 1⁄2teaspoons allspice
1teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄2cup maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 350º F Place raisins in small glass bowl, cover with 1 cup boiling water; soak 30 minutes till plump.
- Lightly oil 24 or more muffin cups.
- Mash plums in a large mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients to plums and mix well.
- Add soaked raisins and their liquid. Blend together well.
- Fill each muffin cup 1/2 way full.
- Bake 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool 10 minutes on wire rack, loosen sides, and turn out of muffin pan.
- Serve warm with honey or raspberry-plum butter.
Now if you are thinking about going a little more hardcore you might want to consider looking into adding some of the 10 super nutrient rich foods traditionally available to the Lakota tribe into your diet;
- cattail broad leaf shoots
- beaked hazelnuts
- plains prickly pear
- prairie turnips
- stinging nettles
- wild plums
- rose hips
4. American Indian Sign Language
Each tribe had their own language and one of the ways they overcame their language barrier was to develop a universal sign language.
A form of communication that is still used today!
by William Tomkins
5. Learn the Lakota language
While learning more about the Lakota culture I came upon several efforts to reestablish the language. For several generations the focus was on teaching English and only English, but in doing so they noticed a growing loss of identity in their community.
Luckily they have been working hard to preserve their culture for generations to come;
- St. Joseph’s Indian School has been teaching the language and traditions of their culture for the last 85 years. You can also find on their campus the Akta Lakota Museum.
- In 2007 a Red Cloud School on the Pine Ridge Reservation developed the nation’s first comprehensive Lakota K-12 program.
- David Little Elk is a certified Language and Culture teacher who enables students around the world to learn the Lakota Language with his Book and CD set.
In the short time I have had to understand our Native American Brothers and Sisters, I realize that we don’t know enough about their culture. More importantly I learned that the culture (and the people) are not lost between the pages of a textbook and that they are more than a romanticized symbol of the old west.
While the ideas above focus on the Lakota tribe, it doesn’t have to end there.
Here are a couple of ways you can celebrate Native Americans in this day and age;
- January 27th is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Read more about MCCBD.
- May 21st is the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
- August 9th is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
- A rising trend in America is to celebrate the 2nd Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day, instead of Columbus Day. Some states refer to this as Native American Day or American Indian Day.
- The 3rd Monday in October is National Multicultural Diversity Day as per the National Educational Association.
- The Friday after Thanksgiving is American Indian Heritage Day, which specifically looks at the cultural and historical contributions of Native Americans.
In addition the Unitarian Universalist’s page on Indigenous People’s Day has several suggestion for you to study the origins of the holiday and share ways a community can support Native Americans.
In particular the book recommendations for the following were on point;
Lies My Teacher Told Me
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States
Help us learn more!
What other ways can you think of to celebrate or honor Native Americans? What is the best resource or book you have come across?
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