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Environmental Impact on Native American Culture

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Social Studies Age Level Elementary (9 to 12 years old)

Essential questions:

1. How are Native American groups defined by cultural practices?

2. How does the environment impact the culture of the people living in a region?

In this collection, students will analyze, compare, and contrast the similarities and differences of the cultures of Native American groups living in the northwest and northeast regions with a focus on food, crops, and natural resources, understanding how the environment influenced the cultures and traditions of Native American people.

American Indian Essential Understandings (Written by the National Museum of the American Indian Native Knowledge 360 https://americanindian.si.edu/...):

1. Culture is a result of human socialization. People acquire knowledge and values by interacting with other people through common language, place, and community. In the Americas, there is vast cultural diversity among more than 2,000 tribal groups. Tribes have unique cultures and ways of life that span history from time immemorial to the present day.

Key Concepts:

  • There is no single American Indian culture or language.
  • American Indians are both individuals and members of a tribal group.
  • American Indians share many similarities with other indigenous people of the world, along with many differences.

2. For thousands of years, indigenous people have studied, managed, honored, and thrived in their homelands. These foundations continue to influence American Indian relationships and interactions with the land today.

Key Concept:

  • The story of American Indians in the Western Hemisphere is intricately intertwined with places and environments. Native knowledge systems resulted from long-term occupation of tribal homelands, and observation and interaction with places. American Indians understood and valued the relationship between local environments and cultural traditions, and recognized that human beings are part of the environment.

Time: 3 class periods

Day 1:

Anticipatory set: Begin by viewing the “Food and Cultures Video” from the Pacific Northwest History and Cultures online lesson. Students should use the “Add 1” thinking routine after viewing to note the important take aways. After discussing, students can make a connection to their own cultural practices by writing about the foods they eat in their cultures.

Looking closely: Students can then read the essay written by Shana Brown to extend their understanding about the connections between foods and culture. Students should annotate the article using post-it notes to record connections, challenges, concepts, and changes to their thinking. They can then place them on a class 4 C’s poster to share out their learning during discussion. Students should explore the three case studies, using the annotation tools while they read to look closely at objects, images, and quotes. They can use the student handout to complete a case study analysis and support a claim that “Salmon is important to Native Peoples and Nations of the Pacific Northwest” with evidence from their exploration. Students can then read “People of the Potlatch” and represent the cultural practice of the potlatch with the “Colour, Symbol, Image” thinking routine.

 Day 2:

Anticipatory set: Assign students sections of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address to read aloud. When students have read the address, have them complete the “Step Inside” thinking routine about giving thanks from the perspective of a Haudenosaunee American Indian person.

 Looking closely: Students can read excerpts from the “HAUDENOSAUNEE GUIDE FOR EDUCATORS” with a focus on “Who are the Haudenosaunee” and “The Relationship to the Natural World,” and/or the “Celebration of Native American Food” article and create headlines for the most important information for each or all selections. When finished with the readings, students should complete the claims and evidence organizer to identify which foods were important to the Haudenosaunee people based on evidence from the text.

 Day 3:

Anticipatory set: Students should work together complete a Venn Diagram sort to compare and contrast Northwest and Northeast cultural practices/foods as review.

 Looking closely: Students will construct a compare and contrast writing explaining how the environment influenced the culture of American Indian people of the Northwest and Northeast regions using evidence they have gathered to support their thinking.

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American Indian Nations: Kwakwaka’wakw, Haudenosaunee, Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Tuscarora