Native American Project is One That’s Built to Remember

Aven Brenner even built a small fire inside her Apache hut made of sticks, pine needles and bark. Large, dried leaves covered a framework of sticks created by Toryn Hills for his Shoshone tribe and Carter Oostindie used boxes covered with sand and fine gravel to create his two-story carved-out home of the Hopi tribe.

In addition to the displays, students also had to research a Native American tribe, create a slide presentation with photos and information, and give the oral presentation using the slides to the class. 

Even though he said he was nervous, Oostindie appeared calm and prepared as he presented what he learned about the Hopi tribe. He was credited with making good eye contact with the class and answering questions from classmates afterward. 

“Hopi” means “peace,” he said. “Their traditional colors were red, yellow, black and white and they lived in multi-story homes carved out of sandstone.”

Each student in Teresa Michalski’s class selected a tribe for their report. They had to dig into research to find out what area of the country their tribe lived in, how they hunted and what foods they ate, what their religion and beliefs were, and the social roles of family members within the tribe. They learned about the games they played, their rituals, and even the crafts and clothing they made. 

“I like that they have to learn how to research something. They don’t get to use the Internet. They have to read books that I have available here and articles I’ve printed out from reliable sources. I want them to read and not just type in a question and get an answer,” Michalski said of the classroom project she’s been doing with students for years. 

She also encourages students to work with their families to build model homes. “I’ve gotten feedback from parents thanking me for letting them do a family project with their kids.”

Students said they enjoyed finding out interesting and unusual facts about the tribes. “The most interesting thing about the Apache I learned was that they would roll in the snow to shower themselves,” said Brenner. “That would be cold!”

Students learned that all the tribes were different in some ways, but often shared some common traits as well.

Christopher Breckon said he really enjoyed the project. “I liked learning about all the different tribes,” he said. His most interesting fact of the Blackfoot tribe, he said, was of a physically-grueling custom boys had to endure as they transitioned from boyhood to manhood, noting he was glad he doesn’t have to go through a custom like that.

Hills said he found out the Shoshone wouldn’t physically punish their children because they believed it would damage their spirits. 

Piper Nagtzaam said she liked that the Mohawk would say a prayer before killing any animal and then thanked the animal for giving their spirit so the people could have food to eat.

“It took a lot of time, but it was a fun project. I was most nervous about the presentation in front of the class. But I think I did pretty good,” said Colton Reil. “It was fun and something I definitely won’t forget.”