Published on August 27, 2014 by Amy
Native Americans were the original peoples of the territory that now composes the United States, including the 48 contiguous states and Alaska. Native Americans were divided into tribes and regional groups. Although Native American clothing may share certain characteristics, such as being made of animal skins, each tribe had its own distinct clothing and typical garments, though they did in fact change over time, and later on they sometimes even incorporated elements of other tribes’ or American settlers’ garments.
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1. Talk to the kids about a few Native American tribes or tribal groups such as the Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Oneida. Introduce them to Native American culture by telling them where each group lived, how they were organized, what they believed, how they communicated, what they ate and how they traveled around.
2. Bring in, if you can, some modern traditional examples or reproductions of Native American clothing that the kids can pass around, touch and examine. Let them try the clothing on too, if that is possible. As an alternative, you can pass out photocopies or show slides of extant historical examples of Native American clothing from museum collections. Make sure you identify the correct tribal group each garment was a product of and identify which garments were worn by men and which garments were worn by women.
3. Talk to the children about the different materials the Native Americans used to create their clothing, such as buffalo skin, deerskin, moose skin and cotton. Talk to them about the different elements Native Americans used to embellish their clothing, such as beads, shells and plant dyes applied to the clothing in different shapes with porcupine quills. Show them images of different Native American designs, patterns and embellishments. Show them images of some of the tools Native Americans used to make their clothing, such as scrapers to aid in the process of tanning skins, awls to create holes in the animal skins for needles to pass through and animal sinew for thread.
4. Pass out photopcopies of a Native American man’s clothing and a Native American woman’s clothing. They should just be black outlines on white paper. Ask the kids to embellish the clothing themselves with crayons, colored pencils or paint as the Native Americans might have done with porcupine quills and plant dyes.