Native Americans of
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.
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.
Appropriate Methods When Teaching About Native American Peoples
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.
Topic: Social Studies - Texas Native
Americans - Shelter
Students will practice using the Internet by researching the homes
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
Native American Housing
Native American Housing Types
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
Students will identify the types of homes used by Texas Native
Americans, learn how they were built, and determine the materials used to build
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.
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
History of Canoes
Native American Watercraft
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
1. Mold a piece of clay into a canoe
2. When everyone in your group is ready, place your canoe in a container of
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
be used on the bottom or any part of the boat. How many pennies did your
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
much of a load it can carry. If the weight of an object is spread over a
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.
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 American Recipes
Mortars and Pestles
Indian Foods and Recipes
What’s For Dinner
Hunting without Guns
Discuss with students that Texas Native Americans were hunters,
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
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
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
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
(assign each student in a group a number from
1 - 4)
Student #1 - Measure, add and mix the flour and
Student #2 - Measure, add and mix the sugar and baking
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?
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
Tan felt, scissors, glue, hole punch, yarn, markers, colored
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
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"
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
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.
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
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.
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
Homework Center - Native American Sites - Many educational links
Tribal Histories - Information on specific tribes of each geographical
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
Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas
Karankawas and the Austin Colony
Karankawa Indian Camp Site
Native American Myths
The Karankawas of Padre
Tonkawa of Texas
Indians in Texas
Rock Art Near El Paso Texas
Rock Art Foundation
Petroglyph National Monument