5 Alternative Lessons for Teachers During Heritage Month


Last month, I was honored to be a guest on Native America Calling, a nationally syndicated Native American radio program hosted by Tara Gatewood. I contributed to their “Teach This” episode on October 22. I was joined on the program by University of Arizona American Indian studies professor K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Creek, and Indian Education Specialist Mike Jetty, Spirit Lake Dakota, who works for the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

At the beginning of the program, Gatewood asked me five alternative ways educators could approach teaching kids. As a speaker that often shares my experiences at schools, I compiled a list of teaching points that I have always found to make the greatest impact on students, teachers and school officials. Here is that list:

Conduct a Google Search of the Tribes in Your Region or State

Not all American Indian tribes had headdresses, lived in teepees or hunted buffalo. So often, teachers—and through no fault of their own, it has just been portrayed this way in the media for decades—choose to focus on the Plains Indians seen in Westerns. Though the Plains culture is rich and beautiful, there is a lot to be learned when studying the tribes from your own region. In this light, take some time to study the specific history in your region or state and compare that history to Native American tribes in other regions. A good place to start may be the National Conference of State Legislators, which has a website listing all federal and state recognized tribes. Just keep in mind those listed may not be the only tribes in your area, many are still fighting for recognition.

Contact a Local Tribe—Do They Have a Tribal Historian or a Tribal Museum?

Several tribes have a tribal historian or knowledgeable elder who can share their specific tribe’s history or could even visit your school to share information about their tribe. Some tribes have a museum and can allow for field trips or bring historically relevant items to your class. This way you can hear directly from Native American tribal members as opposed to simply reading it from a book.

The Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma is a historical society and museum that strives to preserve the language and culture of the Cherokee people. This is a representation of a 17th century village. (Wikimedia Commons)
The Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma is a historical society and museum that strives to preserve the language and culture of the Cherokee people. This is a representation of a 17th century village. (Wikimedia Commons)

Teach Current Native American News

Teachers often teach students about events affecting Native Americans in history, while contemporary issues are left neglected. One suggestion is to ask students to do reports on current Native American events using such publications or resources as Indian Country Today Media Network, the Native American Journalists Association, Native Peoples Magazine or listen to an episode of Native America Calling.

Do a Project on Native Stereotypes or the Meaning of Cultural Appropriation

In my presentations to schools, I make it fun to talk about the stereotypes placed on Native Americans. I have found that being lighthearted about stereotypes can bring genuine truth to a serious matter. Examples: we don’t run around going “woo woo woo,” we don’t still live in teepees or longhouses, always wear moccasins or ride a horse to work.

Chief Wansum Tail and Pocahottie costumes.
Chief Wansum Tail and Pocahottie costumes.

Check Out Active Native American Social Media Groups Online

A simple search of Google+, Twitter and Facebook can reveal huge communities of Native people interacting and talking about today’s issues. For example, the Native American community I started on Google+ a few months ago already has more than 2,600 members and is growing. In these social media streams you can find what Native people are doing today, the news affecting Natives and even a good bit of humor.

Read more athttp://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/11/06/5-alternative-...

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Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries had its humble beginnings as an idea of a few artisans and craftsmen who enjoy performing with live steel fighting. As well as a patchwork quilt tent canvas. Most had prior military experience hence the name.


Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries.


Vendertainers that brought many things to a show and are know for helping out where ever they can.

As well as being a place where the older hand made items could be found made by them and enjoyed by all.

We expanded over the years to become well known at what we do. Now we represent over 100 artisans and craftsman that are well known in their venues and some just starting out. Some of their works have been premiered in TV, stage and movies on a regular basis.

Specializing in Medieval, Goth , Stage Film, BDFSM and Practitioner.

Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of, Ask For IT was started by artists and former military veterans, and sword fighters, representing over 100 artisans, one who made his living traveling from fair to festival vending medieval wares. The majority of his customers are re-enactors, SCAdians and the like, looking to build their kit with period clothing, feast gear, adornments, etc.

Likewise, it is typical for these history-lovers to peruse the tent (aka mobile store front) and, upon finding something that pleases the eye, ask "Is this period?"

A deceitful query!! This is not a yes or no question. One must have a damn good understanding of European history (at least) from the fall of Rome to the mid-1600's to properly answer. Taking into account, also, the culture in which the querent is dressed is vitally important. You see, though it may be well within medieval period, it would be strange to see a Viking wearing a Caftan...or is it?

After a festival's time of answering weighty questions such as these, I'd sleep like a log! Only a mad man could possibly remember the place and time for each piece of kitchen ware, weaponry, cloth, and chain within a span of 1,000 years!! Surely there must be an easier way, a place where he could post all this knowledge...

Traveling Within The World is meant to be such a place. A place for all of these artists to keep in touch and directly interact with their fellow geeks and re-enactment hobbyists, their clientele.

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