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Tejas Coloring

Native Americans of Tejas


Grade Level:
     This unit was designed for a 6th grade Texas social studies class but could easily be modified for other levels, especially 7th grade Texas history, or 4th grade Texas social studies.   As a technology teacher, and because this thematic plan was developed as part of the Target II Technology Grant, the focus of many of the activities is technology based, and the plan could readily be integrated into any technology curriculum grades 4-7.  The activities also incorporate art and modeling skills, and a Texas art teacher who wanted to incorporate core curriculum TEKS might find this plan useful.  Teachers outside of Texas could easily modify this lesson sequence to fit either their regional area, or for Native Americans in general.

Unifying Theme:
    Rather than present a generic view of Native Americans, and also because of the huge amount of information available, I chose to focus the study on Texas Native Americans, and split them into five geographical/cultural regions:  Southwest Culture, Plains Culture, Western Gulf Coast Culture, Southeast Culture and Attacapan.  By studying each region separately, students will have an opportunity to explore the cultural differences and similarities of Texas Native Americans based on their geographic and cultural diversity.  This Social Studies unit is designed to integrate other content areas including Math, Science, Language Arts, and Computer Technology.

    At the end of this unit of study students will be able to:
    1.  Identify and understand some of the customs and traditions of certain Texas Native American tribes.
    2.  Explain ways Native American tribes lived and survived
    3.  Access the Internet and retrieve and / or research information
    4.  Create a PowerPoint slide presentation
    It is assumed that students have basic map skills and some familiarity with computers and word processing.  However, it is not assumed that students will have had previous experience accessing information from the Internet or using Powerpoint.  In my experience as a middle school technology teacher, students in grades 4-9 need a great deal of guidance in Internet research.  Allowing them to “Google” on their own usually results in wasted time, and often results in returning embarrassing or inappropriate sites.  Steering them directly to appropriate sites is probably the best bet.  On the other hand, students take to PowerPoint quickly, and you can often use students themselves to peer-teach those who are having difficulties.

    Teacher will provide modifications for students as needed.   Alternative activity suggestions for special education and/or gifted/talented students are provided throughout the sequence.

Cultural Sensitivity/Inclusion

    Appropriate Methods When Teaching About Native American Peoples

Tentative Timeline:
    At a minimum, this unit will take approximately one week or five class periods. Each lesson is about 60 minutes in length, but additional time will be needed to complete some of the projects.   Realistically, this sequence will probably take twice that amount of time.  Some of the project activities might be assigned as homework.
Opportunities to expand or enrich this unit are practically limitless.  Additional topics could easily be added depending on the interest of your students and the time you have available for this project.

    Teacher will introduce this unit to students with a PowerPoint slide presentation.  It will discuss the First Americans and where they came from (across the Bering Strait) and the five main geographical/cultural groups of Texas Native Americans that eventually evolved .  Students can use colored pencils and a blank map of Texas to shade and label these regions, create a Native American folder for this unit, and then begin a chart that will eventually compare and contrast the four major areas that will be studied within each group: shelter, transportation, food, and myths/symbolism. Students will add information to their chart after each lesson.   As an initial homework assignment, ask the students to talk with their parents and other relatives about any Native American heritage in their own families.

Lesson 1

Topic:  Social Studies - Texas Native Americans - Shelter


·       Students will practice using the Internet by researching the homes of
Texas Native Americans.

·       Students will build a tipi, pueblo, rock shelter, slab house, grass house or wickiup.

·       Students will give a presentation of their home when completed.



·       Computers with access to the Internet.

·       Assortment of craft and “building” materials.


·       Plains Indian Teepee

·       Teepee Photos

·       Wickiups

·       Chiricahua Wikiup

·       Native American Housing

·       Native American Housing Types

·       Prehistoric Houses

·       Native American Shelters - Information on homes



·       The teacher will ask the students what Native Americans could use to build a house if there were no metal available. The students will write responses in their journal.

·       A discussion will form and the teacher will give examples of Native American homes.

·       Guide students to use specific Internet sites chosen by the teacher

·       Students will identify the types of homes used by Texas Native Americans, learn how they were built, and determine the materials used to build them.    

·       The teacher will instruct the students to pair up and choose a home to build.

·       The teacher will inform the students of the criteria necessary for this activity. The teacher will also show the students a model of a Native American home to set an example for the students to follow.

·       Students will work with their partner to construct either a tipi, pueblo, rock shelter, slab house, grass house or wickiup. 

·       The teacher will walk around the room and check to see that everyone is working and answer any questions or concerns.



·       Packing to Move – A coloring book image that fits the lesson, and would be appropriate for main-streamed special education students who might not be able to complete the main project.

·       Gifted/Talented – Some students may discover shelter types that do not quite fit into the 6 examples (tipi, pueblo, rock shelter, slab house, grass house or wickiup).  Possibilities include wigwams, long houses, etc.  Allow these students to expand upon their discoveries, but require them to justify why they should be included.



·       Teacher observation of interest, participation, and ability to work with a partner.

·       The  finished project.

Lesson 2

Topic:  Social Studies/Science – Texas Native - Transportation


·       Students will construct a clay canoe.

·       Students will conduct a simple experiment using their canoe.

·       Students will discuss the use of the travois as an alternative transportation form, and how frictions comes into play.

clay, ice cream sticks, a basin of water for each group,  pennies, computers


·       Birchbark Canoes

·       History of Canoes

·       Canoe Building

·       Native American Watercraft

·       Bark Canoes

·       Dog Travois

·       Horse Travois


·       Guide students to understand that some Texas Native Americans traveled on foot and by canoe, rather than by horseback.

·       Discuss the use of dog and horse travoises, and how geographic differences led to different modes of transportation.

·       Because the Southeast, Attacapan, and Western Gulf regions contained many rivers, lakes, and streams, some Texas Native American Tribes became expert craftsmen of canoes. (Refer to map)

·       A canoe needed to be strong and durable  because they were used for hunting, fishing, travel, trade, and in times of war.

·       Most canoes used by Texas tribes were of the dugout variety.  Indians in other areas of North America built birch bark or plank canoes.

·       Each student will construct a canoe, conduct the experiment, and then use a computer to answer the following questions in their electronic science log.


    1.  Mold a piece of clay into a canoe
    2.  When everyone in your group is ready, place your canoe in a container of water.
    Did it float?
    3.  Place pennies in your canoe one by one.  How many pennies did your canoe
    hold before it sank?  Why do you think it sank?
    4.  Make a second canoe.  Try using ice cream sticks with the clay.   Sticks can
    be used on the bottom or any part of the boat. How many pennies did your canoe
    carry this time?  Which of the boats carried the heaviest load?
    5.  What makes some boats float better than others?
    6.  Why are some boats able to carry heavier loads?

    (Background Information - A floating object pushes aside an amount of water equal
    to its weight.  If the floating object weighs more than the water it pushes aside, it will
    sink.  The design of a floating object greatly influences how well it floats and how
    much of a load it can carry.  If the weight of an object is spread over a wider area,
    the weight of the water below will support a heavier weight.)


·       Horses on the Plains – A coloring book image that fits the lesson, and would be appropriate for main-streamed special education students who might not be able to complete the main project.

·       Gifted/Talented – Write a short essay on how the Western American History might have been different had the Native Americans developed the wheel prior to 1500 A.D.



·       Teacher observation of interest, participation, and ability to work with a partner.

·       The  finished project. 


Lesson 3

Topic:  Social Studies/Math – Texas Native Americans - Food


·       Students will identify major foods of the Texas Native Americans.

·       Students will measure ingredients and prepare “Yokeg” Muffins.

·        Students will use the Internet to find and print a recipe.


·        Recipe and ingredients for "Yokeg" (cornmeal) Muffins

·        Computers with access to the Internet


·       Native Food Index

·       Native Recipes

·       Native American Recipes

·       Mortars and Pestles

·       Indian Foods and Recipes

·       What’s For Dinner

·       Hunting without Guns

·       Nopalitos


·       Discuss with students that Texas Native Americans were hunters, fishermen,
gatherers, and farmers. 

·       The main protein part of their diet was usually bison or deer meat, but also included rabbit, squirrel, insects, etc.

·       They learned to grow and dry corn, beans, and squash, known as “the three sisters”. 

·       Each family was responsible for its own food, but it shared with anyone whose supply was low.

·       Most Indians ate only one meal, in the morning.  Any leftovers stayed in the pot all day in case a visitor came or someone got hungry.  They realized the importance of strong, healthy bodies and never overate or wasted food.  If they took it, they ate it!

·       Students will research how to gather and prepare nopalitos.

·       Teacher will accompany students on a walking fieldtrip to gather nopalitos.

·       Students will work with their group to measure ingredients and prepare muffins and nopalitos. 

·       Students will sample their corn muffins with nopalitos and butter.


How To Harvest and Prepare Nopalitos (Nopales)

Commercially two sizes of nopales pads are harvested which is small, (less than 10 cm long) or (medium less than 20 cm, about 100g).  The Nopales leaf pads are usually harvested between spring and the end of summer.  Select thin pads no longer than 20cm or 8 inches.   Make sure to wear heavy gloves to harvest the pads yourself. The pad will snap off easily or you can use a large knife to sever the stem. Beware, there are large and fine thorns so be sure to keep your hands protected. To prepare the pads remove the thorns and the "eyes" with a vegetable peeler or a small paring knife or this new gadget designed just for spine removal.  Wash the pads well with cool water and peel or trim off any blemished or discolored areas. Slice the pads in long slices or in pieces or leave whole depending on the dish you will prepare.

How To Eat and Use Nopales

Nopales is a vegetable that can be eaten grilled or boiled. Over cooking may give them a slightly "slimy" texture you may want to avoid. Frequently the nopales are added to eggs, or as a vegetable in soups, chilies or a filling in a tortilla.

The best preparation we have tried is to prepare the nopal leaves (remove spines) then grill over hot coals till tender and slightly browned. Then slice into nopalitos strips and toss with a squeeze of lime and a little bit of olive oil. They are delicious.  There is also a local restaurant that grills portobello mushrooms along with the nopales an slices both and serves them tossed together.


            Corn Meal Muffins

            Ingredients:  (for a group of 4)
            1/2 cup flour
            2 tsp. baking powder
            1/2 cup milk
            1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
            1/4 tsp. salt
            1/8 cup oil
            1/8 cup sugar
            1 egg


                        (assign each student in a group a number from 1 - 4)
                        Student #1 -  Measure, add and mix the flour and cornmeal
                        Student #2 - Measure, add and mix the sugar and baking powder
                        Student #3 - Measure, add and mix the salt and egg
                        Student #4 - Measure, add and mix the milk and oil
                        Students #1 - 4 - Spoon the batter into muffin cups (fill 1/2 full)      

                       Teacher - Ask the cafeteria staff to bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned on top. 

While students wait for the muffins to cook, they will work with their
group to double the ingredients and neatly rewrite the recipe.

Students will use the Internet to find a recipe, activity, craft, or game that they would like to include in a class book on Texas Native Americans.


·       Woman Digging for Food – A coloring book image that fits the lesson, and would be appropriate for main-streamed special education students who might not be able to complete the main project.

·       Gifted/Talented – Before the nopalitos field trip, have the students research other edible plants and animals that might be gathered, and have them look for them on the field trip.


·       Students will evaluate the snack prepared by their group.

·       The teacher will assess each group based on their ability to measure ingredients and follow the recipe directions.

·       Were students able to add fractions and double the recipe?

Lesson 4

Topic:  Social Studies/Language Arts – Texas Native Americans – Clothing


·       Students will make a pocket pouch.

·       Students will use a computer to write about their favorite possession.


·           Tan felt, scissors, glue, hole punch, yarn, markers, colored markers.

·           Computers with access to the Internet.
Ask students what they think Texas Native Americans wore for clothing.
Explain that the people of Texas dressed simply.  Men wore deerskin loincloths and women wore deerskin dresses or a skirt and mantle.
Everyone had moccasins.
Long leggings and fur-lined robes (animal skins) were needed for the winter.
Children dressed like adults and babies were coated with a layer of animal grease, wrapped in soft skins and carried on a cradleboard by their mother.
Decorated clothing was worn only for special occasions.
Students will work with their group to determine how many pockets are being worn in the group (include sweaters, jackets, and coats).
With students' assistance, tally the group totals!  (Include teacher's pockets.)
Ask students how they use pockets and why they do or do not like them.
Inform class that there were no pockets in clothing worn by Native Americans.
Invite students to suggest possible reasons for this.
How did they carry small items and tools?
Guide students to conclude that Native Americans carried these items in small deerskin pouches that hung from their waist or around their shoulders.  (Show samples)
Native Americans often carried food or small, prized possessions in their pouch. (For example, a handful of dried powered corn for food on the trail, or a beautiful leaf or stone that reminded them of something special.)
Students will create a pocket pouch.


·       Leather Bags and Pouches

·       American Indian Bags




        1.  Distribute precut pieces of felt to the students.
        2.  Fold front section in half and glue halves together.
        3.  Fold 5" up from the bottom and glue or staple each side.
        4.  Fold top down for flap.  Punch two holes at crease and thread a 36" length of
                yarn through holes.  Tie in a knot.
        5.  Decorate pouch with Native American designs.
            (Symmetry was very important to Native Americans - this is a great time
               to briefly discuss.)


For homework students should find a small treasure to put into their pocket pouch, and then write a short essay about what they chose and why it is special to them.


·       Students will share their pouches and essays with the class.

Lesson 5

Topic:  Social Studies – Texas Native Americans - Powerpoint Presentation


·       Students will work with a partner to create a Powerpoint presentation on Texas Native Americans


·       Computers with access to the Internet and Powerpoint


·       Teacher will provide students with a brief introduction to Powerpoint.

·       Assign each student a partner.

·       Students will work with their partner to create a short Powerpoint presentation on either the shelter, food, transportation, or clothing of a specific tribe of Texas Native Americans.

·       Partners will choose a topic, brainstorm, plan, create, and present their project to the class.

·       Students can use the school library, software available in the classroom, and Internet sites selected by the teacher to find pictures and additional information about their topic.


·       Powerpoint presentation.

·       Ability to work with a partner.

The following links to the Internet can be used by students and / or teachers to access information on Native Americans.

§       Native Americans - Student info on Native Americans

§       Notable Women Ancestors - Native Americans - Important Native American women

§       Just Curious - Native Americans - Library page with Native American links for students

§       Homework Center - Native American Sites - Many educational links

§       Tribal Histories - Information on specific tribes of each geographical region.

§       Native Americans of Texas

§       Journeys of the First Americans

§       The Caddo Confederacies

§       Coastal Indians of Texas

§       Plains Indians of Texas

§       Rio Grande Region Indians of Texas

§       Tonkawa Indians of Texas

§       Witchita Indians of Texas

§       Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site

§       Caddo Cultures in Texas

§       A History of the Caddo Indians

§       Caddo Effigy Bowl

§       Alabama Coushatta History

§       Alabama-Coushatta Indians

§       Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas

§       Kickapoo Indians

§       Kickapoo History

§       Prehistoric Peoples

§       Karankawas and the Austin Colony

§       Karankawa Indian Camp Site

§       Karankawa Hunter

§       Native American Myths

§       The Karankawas of Padre

§       Tonkawa of Texas

§       Tonkawa Nation

§       Indians in Texas

§       Rock Art Near El Paso Texas

§       Rock Art Foundation

§       Petroglyph National Monument




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Last modified: October 10, 2004