Turkey Jars

While turkeys today conjure up thoughts of bountiful roast meat meals and deli sandwiches, Native Americans were not driven by their dinner needs. The domestic turkeys were initially raised for their feathers, which were used in rituals and ceremonies, as well as to make feather robes or blankets.


Only later, around the 11th century, did the domestic turkeys become an important food source for the Ancestral Puebloans. The connection to today’s domestic turkeys is a complicated one, because when the Spanish arrived in the New World, they transported the Aztec turkey breeds from Mexico to Europe, where they were a huge hit. Over the following two centuries, several varieties of turkey were developed in Europe. And then in the 18th century, these European turkey breeds were imported back to the United States, where they eventually became the forerunners to the turkeys we eat today.


Drum Circle and Pow Wow

The most important Native American instrument was and still is the drum, as you can tell by going to any pow wow or Indian event.

20141106_1136391 (1)

Different tribes have different traditions about the drum and how to play it, but the basic construction is very similar in most tribes: a wooden frame or a carved and hollowed-out log, with finely tanned buckskin or elkskin stretched taut across the opening by sinew thongs.



Traditionally American Indian drums are large, two to three feet in diameter, and they are played communally by groups of men who stand around them in a circle.20141121_1727161

Pow wows are the Native American peoples’ way of meeting together – to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and starting new ones.


Pow wows were needed to help drive away sickness, ensure success in battle, interpret dreams, or to help individuals or tribes in other ways.


Prayers, singing, dancing and drumming were all used by pow wows in those ceremonies; and wherever Native American people gathered there was feasting, socializing and trading.


So, the gatherings themselves came to be called pow wows.



The Plains Indians were nomadic hunters of buffalo. This meant that they had to follow the buffalo herds when the animals moved from place to place, looking for fresh grass to eat. This required that they be able to unpack and move to another location quickly. They needed a shelter that was portable, durable and water resistant. The tipi was perfect for that. Made of brain tanned buffalo skin, the tipi was water resistant and easily disassembled.


The tipi’s structure consisted of lodge pole pines placed and secured in a cone. Then 14 to 20 buffalo hides were sewn together in a circle with sinew, and stretched across the poles with a smoke hole at the top. A flap was designed to enter and exit the dwelling. The firepit inside the center of the tipi served to provide warmth. Beds were placed against the tipi walls and buffalo furs served as rugs. The tipi was lined in the winter for warmth and privacy.


The structure lasted an average of 10 years. When the tipi was replaced, the old one was made into clothing or patching material for other tipis.The outstanding characteristic of the tipi was its portability. It took women only minutes to disassemble the tipi and transport it by horse. Tipi hides, poles, and household articles were placed on a device known as a travois and dragged behind a horse. Before they had horses, they used to make smaller tipis, because the tipis had to be carried by or dragged behind a dog.


A skin tipi might last two to three years, depending upon the amount of traveling done, and the weather during its use. New covers were very light in color. As time went on, the top portions became darkened with smoke from the fires inside, even though the fires were kept small. After replacing the cover, the old one was cut up for moccasin soles and other useful items. Leather of this kind was nearly indestructible and permanently waterproofed because it had been so thoroughly smoked.


Totem Poles

Many Native American Indians expressed themselves with their artwork carved into totem poles. Many believe that all Indian tribes carved totem poles but this is far from the truth. Those Indians living in the southwest, the plains and Inuit Indians did not have trees to carve. Long ago totem poles were found to stand 40 feet tall. Today Indian artists continue to carve trees but some are short and used in homes as decoration. True Indian carved totem poles take quite a bit of work, craftsmanship and time to produce. This means that an authentic Indian carved pole will cost more than $500 per foot.


The raising of a totem pole is a big celebration among the Indian tribe. A hole is dug to stand the pole in. The pole is carried to the site in a ceremony which often hundreds attend. Ropes will be used to raise the pole into place. Singing and dancing to drums accompanies the pole raising. Often poles are raised this way before the carving begins.

Many have believed that totem poles are religious symbols but this is false. Carvings will represent the tribal nation and will convey the tribes’ history. Many times the story of a totem pole will be passed down from generation to generation. Having the story documented will help keep this tradition recognized in our history.


Totem poles held messages by those that carved them. Carvings were symbols that may tell a story of the carver, such as his part not just in his own family but his standing within a tribe. Carvings such as an eagle could mean pride in his tribe. Often traditions and tribal life were carved into the pole. Carving totem poles is a tradition among many Indian tribes, especially those tribes that lived along the Pacific coast where forests grew. Many totem poles no longer exist because of decay and rot. Today these poles are still being carved and enjoyed by collectors.


Native American Pouches

Native American pouches were used for carrying certain objects like a pot or basket is, and native North Americans tended to place great importance on how well-matched a carrying case was to its contents. Not only were native bags specially sized and shaped to hold an individual type of object, they were often decorated to indicate precisely what belonged inside of them.


There were two very basic styles of American Indian bags: soft pouches, made of tanned animal hides (usually deerskin or elkskin), and parfleche, made of stiff rawhide.


Caribbean Canoes

Canoes were developed over the course of thousands of years by the native peoples of North America. The word ‘canoe’ originiated from the word ‘kenu’ – meaning dugout. These seagoing boats were used by the Carib Indians of the Caribbean islands, and were made of large tree trunks which were shaped and hollowed, and were strong enough to travel between the islands.


Wig Wams

A wigwam was a round building with a round top. It was made from tree logs, covered again with bark. Some were additionally covered with mats or hide. Some were quite large – about 6 feet long. There were huge rush mats in front of the fire, and brightly dyed mats on the walls. The women made the wigwam as colorful as they could. Extended families – kids, parents, and grandparents – all lived together in one wigwam.


Shapes and Emergent Writing

Early writing encompasses the manual act of producing physical marks, the meanings children attribute to these markings, and understandings about how written language works. Early writing is one of the best predictors of children’s later reading success. Specifically, early writing is part of a set of important foundational literacy skills that serve as necessary precursors to conventional reading, including developing understandings of both print and sound (i.e., phonological awareness). Print knowledge includes general understandings of how print works and the names and sounds of the alphabet. Knowledge about sound, or phonological awareness, includes the ability to attend to and manipulate sound structure of language.


These early skills work together to lay a foundation for later reading success. As children integrate their knowledge of print and sound, they begin to grasp the alphabetic principle, a critical achievement in early literacy. The alphabetic principle is the understanding that oral language is made up of smaller sounds and that letters represent those sounds in a systematic way. Children can grow in their understanding of how print and sound work together through experimenting with writing. Writing serves as a type of laboratory, in which even very young children are actively creating and testing hypotheses about how writing works. The key to carry out these hypotheses is to present a variety of scenarios that enrich the writing experience. For this activity, we used markers (an easy utensil for small fingers to grasp) to create shapes. We focused on proper grasp, control, and left to write sequencing.


Phonemes and Music

Music allows your little learners to acquire information naturally. It does this by presenting information as parts and wholes. A song gives students a chance to reduce the information into parts yet work with it as a whole. Learning music is an important developmental activity that may help improve the ability for preschoolers to carry out spatial-temporal tasks. Research in this area has concluded that singing even produces long-term modifications in the underlying neural circuitry of the brain. Music also benefits children’s oral communication.


They learn to be attentive listeners, which is a skill that helps their phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and overall fluency. When used in the classroom, music expands vocabulary, promotes sight words, identifies rhymes and retells stories. To help increase our understanding of the letter L, we played a musical game that required your little one to not only sing about the letter L, but recognize what it looks like, understand its function, and cooperate with their classmates with the goal of finding the L in mind.


We started with a song that included the lyrics, “Where is L, where is L? Here I am! Here I am!”. While singing this song, your little one scoured the room for hidden Ls. With the help of their classmates, they located one L, brought it to the board, and finished the second half of the song. The lyrics for this second half consist of “How are you today, L? What sound do you make, L? La la la. La la la”. Your budding vocalists enjoyed searching for their letters, and cheering their classmates on as they learned about this most exciting phoneme!