If you’ve been looking for a free Native American unit study, this is it! Make sure you bookmark this page for quick reference!
But First… My Take on Commemorative Months
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time then you know I don’t particularly like commemorative months. Before you click away, hear me out. I think the intention behind creating heritage specific months may have been great, but I believe they fuel division.
I believe it is up to every family to go on their own journeys to learning about different nationalities, cultures, and the like. There is beauty in researching and finding your own truths about other people groups, how they live, and so on.
This isn’t to discredit Black History month or American Indian Heritage month… I just want to encourage you to go beyond the commemorative months and make learning about others a lifestyle!
Free Native American Unit Study
There is enough information below to do a one-day study, one-week study, or even a month-long unit study! Scroll through and pick a few things you and your kiddos may enjoy. To give you a quick idea of how to plan a unit study:
- Decide how long you want to do it.
- Choose resources to use.
- Gather any supplies needed.
It’s really that easy! And remember, unit studies usually involve multiple subjects and are perfect if you’re homeschooling multiple ages and grades. Simply dial up (or down) the resources to accommodate your child’s level of development.
True Native American History
I make no apologies for my attempts to share the true history and heritage of the Native American people. Being part Cherokee and Blackfoot, my only goal is to share resources to help you start your own journey for truth.
Indian Reorganization Act
“Indian Reorganization Act, also called Wheeler–Howard Act, (June 18, 1934), measure enacted by the U.S. Congress, aimed at decreasing federal control of American Indian affairs and increasing Indian self-government and responsibility.
In gratitude for the Indians’ services to the country in World War I, Congress in 1924 authorized the Meriam survey on the state of life on the reservations. The shocking conditions under the regimen established by the Dawes General Allotment Act (1887), as detailed in the Meriam report of 1928, spurred demands for reform.”
Sterilization of Native Americans
“Between 1907 and 1939, more than 30,000 people in 29 U.S. states were sterilized, unknowingly or against their will, while they were incarcerated in prisons or in institutions for the mentally ill. Nearly half of the operations were carried out in California. Race and class figured prominently in the decisions by panels of doctors and public health practitioners as they targeted for forced sterilizations those who were poor, non-white, and who were perceived as “foreigners.”
“The U.S. Indian Health Service (IHS) later applied forced sterilization to American Indian women in the 1960s and 1970s, sterilizing 3,406 Native American women between 1973 and 1976. In 1976, the U.S. General Accounting Office admitted that this took place in at least four of the 12 Indian Health Service regions. The numbers include women in Minnesota as well as 36 women under age 21, despite a court-ordered moratorium on sterilizations of women younger than 21. Their study, however, was very limited and the actual numbers are likely considerably higher.”
The Americanization of Native Americans
“As Native peoples confronted the hardships of reservation life, the federal government embarked on a campaign to assimilate—or Americanize—them. Rather than killing Indians through physical violence, as had been a hallmark of federal policies into the 1870s, politicians and reformers set out to kill off all markers of Indianness: language, clothing, and cultural and spiritual practices. In this context, the federal government criminalized Native healers and disparaged midwives and their birthing knowledge. Under pressure, ceremonial practices, including women’s coming-of-age ceremonies, were circumscribed, driven underground or ceased.”
Native American Tribes
There are 574 federally recognized tribes living within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. Below are the most popularly known today; however, you can click here to see an exhausted list:
- Lakota people
- Pawnee people
- Omaha people
Go on a journey of learning about different tribes by doing research online or utilizing your public library. If you live near a reservation or important landmark, like the Trail of Tears, give them a visit!
Native American Symbols & Language
Use the charts below to learn about different Native American languages. Have your children write stories using the symbols. Here is a YouTube playlist to hear some of the language actually spoken!
Native American Music
As with any culture, music plays a big role in livelihood! Native Americans typically used specific instruments to make amazing sounds, with the drums being the most common. They also use percussion-style instruments such as: rasps, bells, and clap-sticks. You’ll also notice melodic instruments like flutes, whistles and stringed instruments!
Enjoy the sounds of Native American music.
Native American Food
The most important Native American crops have generally included corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, wild rice, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, avocados, papayas, potatoes and cacao. Native American food and cuisine is recognized by its use of indigenous domesticated and wild food ingredients.
Here are some must-try recipes:
Three Sisters Soup
Used by several tribes to help survive harsh winters.
- 4 lbs. winter squash
- 4 quarts vegetable stock (or water)
- 2 small diced yellow onions
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped garlic
- 2 tsps. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 lb. fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 4 cans cannellini beans
- 1 bunch sliced green onions
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 large bay leaf
How to make it: Preheat oven to 350 °F. Slice squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then roast for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool once soft, then scrape out the flesh and save the liquid for later. Blend until totally smooth (you can use a food processor or blender).
Sauté onions in a large pot over medium heat until brown, then add garlic, thyme, and black pepper, stirring until the garlic turns brown as well.
Pour in the stock and follow with the bay leaf, wine, and squash. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes before adding the rest of your ingredients. Simmer for about 20 minutes total.
Every tribe has their own variation.
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsps. baking powder
- 3/4 cup milk
- Oil or lard for frying
How to make it: Mix all of the ingredients together well until a dough forms, then knead on a floured surface until it smooths out. Roll them out into a thin layer and cut small portions, then drop into hot oil to fry until golden brown.
Buffalo (or Beef) Stew
Known as tanka-me-a-lo in the Cherokee Nation, you can substitute regular beef if you’re unable to find any buffalo meat in your area for this filling stew.
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
- 1 can stewed tomatoes
- 2 lbs. buffalo/beef stew meat
- 4 quarts water
- 2 lbs. red or white potatoes (not russets)
- 1 cup barley
How to make it: Slice the carrots, celery, and meat into cubes about one inch long, then brown the buffalo over high heat for about three minutes. Add the water, potatoes, and carrots into a large pot and boil until tender.
Add in the tomatoes, barley, and celery, and let cook for another five minutes or so. Pour the veggies and meat into a baking dish and place in the oven at 425 °F for 30 minutes.
Members of the Chippewa tribe near Lake Superior have been enjoying this savory side dish for generations.
- 1 small pumpkin
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup melted butter
How to make it: Put the entire pumpkin in your oven and bake at 350 °F for about two hours. Cut the baked pumpkin in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds from inside, spreading the pulp into a casserole dish.
Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over the pumpkin. Bake for another 35 minutes.
Native American Arts & Crafts
Add a touch of Native American culture to your home with these arts and crafts ideas!
Paper Mache Rattles (Art is Basic)
Create cute (and slightly noisy) paper mache rattles using paper plates, paint sticks, beans, brown paper, and things to bedazzle it with.
Felt Teepee (Munchkin and Bean)
Grab that extra felt laying around and create a teepee! Bamboo skewers, watercolor paints, and thread will keep your kiddos busy for minutes on end.
Woven Basket (The Crafty Classroom)
Four materials and little hands are all you need for this crafty activity of making a Native American woven basket.
Simple Native American Necklace (Silly Gooseberry)
Native American Books to Read
What’s a unit study without some great books?! From early readers to chapter books, you’re sure to find something to include in your morning basket or family reading time!
Little You (by Richard Van Camp)
Little You is perfect to be shared, read or sung to all the little people in your life―and the new little ones on the way!
My Heart Fills with Happiness (by Monique Gray Smith)
The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story (by Roaring Book Press)
Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family.
We Sang You Home (by Orca Book Publishers)
In this sweet and lyrical board book from the creators of the bestselling Little You, gentle rhythmic text captures the wonder new parents feel as they welcome baby into the world.
The Girl and the Wolf (by Katherena Vermette)
While picking berries with her mother, a little girl wanders too far into the woods. When she realizes she is lost, she begins to panic. A large grey wolf makes a sudden appearance between some distant trees. Using his sense of smell, he determines where she came from and decides to help her.
Sing Down the Moon (by Scott O’Dell)
The Navajo tribe’s forced march from their homeland to Fort Sumner by white soldiers and settlers is dramatically and courageously told by young Bright Morning.
A Long Walk to Water (by Linda Sue Park)
A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.
Native American Heroes (by Ann Mcgovern)
Osceola, Cochise, and Tecumseh are three Native American heroes who fought valiantly for their land and for their people. This book is divided into three parts–each part recounting the life of one of these great heroes.
The Rough-Face Girl (by Rafe Martin)
In a village by the shores of Lake Ontario lived an invisible being. All the young women wanted to marry him because he was rich, powerful, and supposedly very handsome. But to marry the invisible being the women had to prove to his sister that they had seen him. And none had been able to get past the sister’s stern, all-knowing gaze.
Then came the Rough-Face girl, scarred from working by the fire. Could she succeed where her beautiful, cruel sisters had failed?
Night of the Full Moon (by Gloria Whelan)
In the winter of 1840, the night of the full moon is approaching. Nothing will stop Libby Mitchell from visiting her best friend, Fawn, during a special ceremony at the nearby wigwam camp. But Libby’s adventure takes an unexpected turn when soldiers suddenly rush in. They order everyone at the camp, including Libby, to move off the land—immediately! With each passing day, the displaced people must move farther away from home. Will Libby ever see her family again?
And there ya have it!
I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever studied the Native American people? Or any other nationality group? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to snag my Native American Tribal Chiefs Unit Study for only $5!