Providing Native Culture in your classroom

Guest blogger: Amanda Sorby, Nay Ah Shing High School, Onamia

I grew up about 30 minutes from the Mille Lacs Band Reservation, I had several Native American students in my school, local rivers, towns, and places held Native American names, and yet I hardly remember seeing native culture in my school let alone learning about it. We come from a state that’s history is rich in Native American influence yet our students rarely if ever see, hear, or experience it. Now as a teacher in a Native American school I am immersed in this culture on a daily basis and find it hard not to teach history without Native Americans. Because of this I try to pass on this knowledge to my family. I am blessed to be able to bring my children to cultural functions at the school and my hope is that my children will understand that this culture is alive today and question why it isn’t taught to them in school. But I am still learning every day and one of the most important things I have learned is that no matter where I teach in the future I will always incorporate as much Native American culture and history in my lessons as possible. I have created a “tool box” of Native American resources that I will carry with me through my teaching career.

There are many simple ways that I have incorporated culture in my classroom. Ojibwe words are labeled on items in my room. The date is in Ojibwe along with the days of the week on my schedule board.  I keep Native American newspapers available in my classroom. Posters of Native Americans are on the walls. These are simple things that teachers around the country can add to make their classrooms feel more multi-cultural.  There are many other resources available to use in teaching as well. I have been blessed by gaining a large collection of resources and books through the wonderful cultural staff that I have worked with along the way. Listed are some of my favorites.


Mille Lacs Band Historical Site:

Ojibwe People’s Dictionary:

American Indian Education (classroom games, lessons, and videos)


Iroquois Confederacy: (Government)

“We Shall Remain”

(Videos for Teens made by Teens)


“6 Misconceptions About Native American People | Teen Vogue”:

“What does it mean to be Aboriginal?”:


“Ojibwe in Minnesota” By Anton Treuer

“Ojibwe, Waasa Inaabidaa, We look in all Directions” By: Thomas Peacock and Marleene Wisuri

“Living Our Language” Edited By: Anton Treuer

News Papers: (Current Events)

“The Circle”

“Indian Country News”

“National Native News”

Teaching the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862

Guest blogger: Laura Pasiuk, Century Middle School, Lakeville


As I thought of what to write my blog post on I decided to write about how I teach the US Dakota War of 1862.   I just started teaching about it this week and I thought it would be helpful for my own personal reflection and perhaps give some ideas for other teachers to use.    To set the stage of the US Dakota war my teaching partner Christy and I used something called a History Mystery, we actually received this idea at the Northern Lights workshop that we attended in November at the MN History Center.   It was a great way for my students to analyze primary sources and set the stage for what they will be learning about when we study the war.

We spend 4 days reading the different sections of chapter 9 and taking Cornell Notes.   I like to cover each of the four main parts of the war: Setting the Stage, Government and Tensions, War, and Aftermath.   I also use some additional resources each day to enhance what we are learning.   For setting the stage I read pages 46-47, 76 and 211-212 from Little House on the Prairie to show what the white settlers view was of the Dakota.  For government and tensions I read the first chapter from Battle Cry I think it does a great job of reinforcing the Dakota’s frustrations.   For war we read as a class the Eggs Play, the kids think its fun and it gets them moving.   For aftermath I use the History Centers webpage about the war to review aftermath and today.

After we read we show the TPT documentary “A Terrible Massacre”, and I have questions that my students answer.   It’s free on MN Video Vault, which is nice.  This year we are also doing something new that we came up with.   We took events from the timeline of the US Dakota War that is on the History Center’s website.   We chose 16 events that we thought were the most important.   We separated the events and the dates and printed them on large sheets of paper, laminated them and put magnetic tape on them.   We are going to draw a timeline on our white board and give each of the 32 slips of paper to different students.   We are going to read through the script once and assist our students in putting the events and dates in the correct order.   Then after we do this once we are then going to give the class 5 minutes to get them in the correct order on their own.   If they can get it correct on their own then the whole class gets candy.

To wrap up the chapter we give our students a group test.   We allow them to use their notes and it’s a great way to teach them to work together and inspires good dissucction.   Logistically it also cuts down the number of tests that I have to grade down by a lot.   If I have extra time before the test I have my students create a powerful word quilt, see attached images from last year.






A Teacher’s Introspection

Mni Sota Makoce, MNHS Press.

Guest blogger: Brad Sidle, Folwell Performing Arts Magnet School

The book was Mni Sota Makoce, published by the Minnesota Historical Society.  After three weeks of reading a passage here, a chapter there, or a selected pericope fitting into a lesson on American history for seventh grade, I collected some reflections.

“I have a hard time reading this book.”

“I can’t pronounce the words, and I don’t know any of these names.”

“It hurts me to read so much of this.”

“I feel guilty even though I know it happened a long time ago.”

Comments from  my students?  No, those were many of my feelings and reflections.

Observation #1. I wanted to distance myself from so many of the cruel and hurtful acts that were perpetrated against a demonized people.  I wanted to protest that I didn’t live then, and I didn’t do this, and it wasn’t for me.  I wanted to say I didn’t benefit from any of the shameful and selfish actions I read about in the history.  I wanted to be one of the good guys, one of the protagonists, one of the Indians.  I for a moment was the 11-year-old reading the book about Squanto that was in my school library, and dreaming of hunting wild game and living in the wilderness to show my preparation for becoming a warrior, a man.  Of showing bravery and integrity and maturity beyond my years.  For being honorable and known as brave and true.  But I knew I was the outsider, the onlooker, and the “wannabe.”  I felt such a distaste for what I realized were my own ancestors, my own community, my own family.  I shook my head, I cried in silence, and I felt a visceral response to my own complexity in and benefit from the relentless barrage on the people who lived in the land I now call my home, and the small piece which I possess.

Observation #2.  The students in my seventh grade classroom come to historical studies from a wide range of perspectives.  As they read the passages chosen to supplement other readings under the umbrella of Manifest Destiny, they shared some of my feelings.  The names were unfamiliar, the vocabulary was difficult to pronounce or comprehend, the content brought up feelings of pain.  But most of those responses were not primarily from the perspective of the guilty conscience of the victor, but from that of people historically traumatized and victimized.  Much of the history I bring for students to consider is from a culture not theirs, naming names not historically theirs, in places so close in physical proximity but so far in psycho-emotional connection.  Some of them recognize their capacity for introspection and resources for change, and develop the resilience that will serve them in facing all of life’s cruelties and injustices.  Some are struggling to overcome a victim narrative and feel trapped in helplessness and pain.  And some have not yet developed the empathy to feel the pain of others, while some face such continual trauma that they can’t deal with the trauma of anyone else.

Observation #3.  It strikes me that some of the most resistant readers are the native Indian students in my classroom.  Every observation about the students at large in my classroom are observed in microcosm with these students.  Many know little about this history, and many don’t want to know details about this history.  Many don’t trust what their white male teacher chooses for them to read, no matter what the source, and some resent the white male teacher for trying to teach them about their culture, their background, their history.  I have been challenged at times that I don’t know the story, and I have to agree.  I offer the opportunity to them to tell me what I am misunderstanding, but their words often fail them.   Or perhaps it is untellable.  It is often attributed to Louis Armstrong about jazz: if you have to ask what it is, you’ll never know.

But in the end, it is my job as a history teacher to offer a breadth of material, from cultures I understand and do not understand, from perspectives I represent and do not represent, about events as they are recorded by the dominant culture and the non-dominant cultures.  I can only hope to plant the seeds of inquisitiveness and thoughtfulness, and this book has certainly fed my own impulses in this direction, and offers to feed my students.

Teaching about Standing Rock

standing-rockThe large-scale protest around the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota offers an opportunity to make history relevant for students by exploring connections between the past and present. Below are a number of articles and teaching suggestions we found that provide context and historical perspective to the current protest. There has also been a lot of compelling coverage via social media — an engaging and comfortable platform for your digital native students.
Have you discussed or taught about the Standing Rock protest in your social studies classes? If so, we’d love to hear how you have done this and what resources you have found most useful. Please share on the MNHS History Education Facebook Page, the Northern Lights Teacher Closed Facebook Group, or tag @HistoryEdMNHS in a Tweet. Let’s have a dialogue!

Great End to a Great Cohort

Cohort teachers
Cohort teachers and presenters at Mille Lacs Lake, June 2016.

We finished our 2015-2016 cohort experience at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post last week. What a fantastic group of teachers! We discussed reservations and sovereignty, treaties and AIM, and throughout the two days, our teachers were sharing and listening and learning.

Speakers Travis Zimmerman (site manager at Mille Lacs), Kurt Kortenhof (professor at St. Paul College), Leah Bowe (NAGPRA officer at Minnesota Historical Society), and Kevin Maijala (Manager of K-12 Programs and Services at MNHS) shared personal reflections and instructional wisdom about complex topics. The power of the place seemed to build a sense of camaraderie among the teachers, as Mille Lacs Lake and the museum became as much a part of the cohort as the participants themselves.

Heidi and I are grateful to our teachers for their outstanding participation this year, their dedication to their own learning, and their fierce loyalty to their students. We are also grateful to our knowledgeable speakers and to Historic Fort Snelling, Traverse des Sioux Treaty Site, and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post for their hospitality. Finally, we are grateful for the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, for making this engaging program possible.

Knowledge, Empathy and Listening

Guest blogger: Carol Bliss Quinn, Bagley Jr/Sr High School

Intolerance is a daily experience. People are intolerant of religious, cultural, linguistic, sexual orientation, and every other difference between peoples of various cultures living together in our country. In my opinion this can be especially difficult for Native American students.

Having taught at a Bureau of Indian Affairs school and now in a public school I have seen a substantial change in how we as educators approach the teaching of significant people and events from American Indian history. The issue remains however that most people in the mainstream culture are not changing as fast as we are. Students are still struggling with how do they personally feel connected to the events of the past and what relevance does that have to their daily lives.

Case in point, two students were working on a history day project for this year’s competition. Both are from mixed race backgrounds of Native American and white. I have worked closely with these girls for a couple years and I have seen them struggle with the events their ancestors on both sides suffered from and caused to occur. They embraced a topic of local history because even though they have lived here their entire lives, they were unfamiliar with the historical significance right in their backyard. They spoke with both non-Native and Native American experts on their topic and with the understanding that you can ask for information but sometimes events are still too painful to want to discuss, they went after the primary documents behind their event. Although they were content just to make it to the state competition, they were pleased with themselves for having dug deep enough and risked enough to learn the truth about an event that had sadness attached. Sadness, anger, frustration, hopelessness and every emotion in between was experienced as we drove to sites and visited where men had died and people had suffered. Their internal struggle is something I will never be able to completely understand. But I can offer empathy, a patience to listen and the skills to encourage them to find resilience in the aftermath of the event. Sometimes that is all we have as educators to offer.

Much of the research on historic trauma is hard to understand. Hard to place yourself in the historical role that we are usually unwilling to embrace. Thoughts of “my ancestors were immigrants, I’m not responsible for the boarding schools” etc.  We are taught to give kids a personal connection to the topic, the subject and the content. When it comes to tragic local Native American topics, let your heart lead you. Sometimes the truth is waiting to be uncovered. Sometimes the truth is buried for a reason and there are people unwilling or unable to discuss events personal and hurtful to themselves. Sometimes the past needs to stay buried… at least for now.

From a practical standpoint I would suggest the following:

Teach students the difference between massacre, battle, fight, skirmish and attack. Teach the difference between first peoples, Native peoples, Native Americans, American Indians, etc.

Teach the difference between a tribe, a clan, a reservation and a band.

Teach about sovereignty and dispel the rumors that every Native American gets a big check from the casinos.

Teach about the hunting and treaty rights struggles.

They hear these words in history yet do not understand the significance each has in describing the cultures. Insert significant people and events affecting Native peoples in each unit you teach. The events are there. Stress the perseverance, the strength and the choices they still had in each encounter. That choice may have been holding hands on the gallows, remaining silent after the attack at Wounded Knee or the shared language of the code talkers.  Reservations are vibrant wonderful places where the people are working hard to improve the lives of their elders, their children and their people. They are financially committed to trying to improve the natural resources, the preservation of history, the continuation of indigenous languages and the survival of the culture. Good educators who teach their children and those children who are not Native that this is a culture that is growing stronger with each generation strengthen them.

Finally, I would recommend gathering pictures from every place you can stop that hold Native American history. A few years ago I was lucky enough to tour the Little Big Horn National Battlefield as part of an educational opportunity. I took photos of the red/brown headstones that were there for the Native Americans who had died there. I also gathered photos of the landscape, the tour packet and photos of tombstones of the cavalry under Custer who died there. It went into my curriculum, and I would show the kids the changes the U.S. government was taking to make sure that both sides of this event had tombstones to honor their dead. One very quiet girl in my class asked me if I would allow her to bring a picture home to her Grandmother. I said sure and the next day she returned with the photo and the story of how that was the tombstone of her great-great Uncle. She connected not only with her own story, but her Grandmother’s story. Needless to say I gave her the photo. You will never know what lives you touch just by gathering information.

Trying to Provide Perspective, Context and Other Pet Peeves

Guest blogger: Ron Hustvedt, Jr., Salk Middle School (Elk River)

The more I teach, the more I find myself working with students to understand the complexities and depth of subjects we learn about rather than just trying to hit a lot of different things. That definitely has positives and negatives associated with it, and it’s something I’ve always felt like I did, but with almost 20 years of experience behind me, I feel like I’m really just beginning to understand how to do it well.

That’s always a self-deprecating thing to wonder about: if I’m just getting it now, what was I like back in the day? So I have a few considerations for other teachers to ponder that are solely based upon my ongoing a-ha moments. Most of those a-ha moments come from two sources (I take little credit for any great discoveries of my own): many of the great educational philosophers and writers who publish articles and books I enjoy reading; and, the written reflections of my own students who provide me with the greatest insights into my successes and failures as a teacher.

The focus of these insights will center around how I provide educational opportunities for students to learn about American Indian history both in a 7th grade U.S. Studies classroom and in a 6th grade Minnesota Studies classroom. Anybody who teaches U.S. History should be able to relate to this in some fashion.

Perspective and Context

Is there really a difference between those two words? I feel as if maybe I’m being redundant. There is a wealth of writing out there about the need and value of teaching perspective and context, but doing so requires one thing more than anything else: a teacher who is constantly trying to learn about it all on their own. Hopefully we all tell our students that they can never know everything about a topic, and hopefully we not only encourage them to be lifelong learners but model that as well.

One of the ways I’ve been able to learn the most is by having my students participate in National History Day. If you ever want to be made aware of all the things you never learned, have 150 of your students select their own topics. But talk about modeling lifelong learning, they enjoy teaching me new things, and I enjoy helping them dig for things which usually means I have to try to learn about it more myself. This is where most of my a-ha moments have come from, in trying to help students understand perspective and context of their own topics. It’s uncanny how many times I have learned something while helping a student that I was able to fold into class the next day.

Even if you don’t have your students participate in NHD, you can experience the same results if you have them conduct their own inquiries and if you dig around for good primary sources to use in class. Better yet, do all the above!

Of, by, and for the people

My first a-ha that’s transformed my teaching comes in the spirit of the Gettysburg Address. If we truly believe in those iconic words by Abraham Lincoln, then we must also own what that means when we talk about the actions of the U.S. government. When teaching about “Indian Policy” throughout United States history, there are plenty of negative things to talk about, but seldom does the blame/credit go to anybody else than the ambiguous federal government. I often read in books, commentaries and articles people talking about, “This is how the U.S. government treated American Indians…” and it heaps it all on the government, ignoring the people who elected, supported, and allowed that to happen. It’s like letting the Germans off the hook for the actions of the Nazis. Let’s just be honest with students, and each other, in stating that the U.S. government carried out the actions of those who wanted American Indians to just go away through assimilation, war or by isolation. Those actions were supported by a majority of the population who were largely indifferent to the treatment of American Indians.

But with that needs to come a sensitivity as well. When I took an American Indian studies class at South High School as a senior back in 1993, I remember the teacher, who was himself active in the American Indian Movement, telling us that he doesn’t blame any of us for what happened and he doesn’t blame our families–he acknowledged the fact that most of our families had nothing to do with it since they came here after most of the damage was done. He was very clear, however, in telling us that it’s not about punishing people of today for what happened, but trying to move forward in the most reconciliatory way possible. You can’t undo wrongs from the past, but you can learn and you can build. That’s our job as teachers, to expose students to the stories of the past and let them know what happened, not to paint the lines of good guys and bad guys but to be able to know what you are seeing when you look at the world around you.

Address complexities

I’m very proud that my 6th grade Minnesota Studies students can tell me that Little Crow and Henry Sibley are complex people from history. They know that both men did things in their lives to be proud of and both did things to be ashamed of, and that history judges them differently over time depending on the evidence that’s examined. I love that my kids realize that they themselves are complex people. We are all much more like Batman than Superman in that we are complex, multi-faceted, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and that our ideals are often compromised by the limitations of our time. The classic case of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson–great men who fought for freedom all while owning slaves. This conversation comes up in so many places because while we celebrate Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., for getting arrested standing up for what they believe in, when at the time those arrests were not seen the same by many, including leaders of the NAACP.

Simply talking with students about their own lives helps them understand these complexities. None of our students are all good and none of them are all bad. In their friendships, they learn to deal with shortcomings of others and their friends learn to put up with theirs. These people from history are not fictional characters, they are people just like us who are prone to the same faults and quirks. Helping students see those character traits, helping students see the multifaceted layers within seemingly simple historical events, gives them the opportunity to apply that to modern issues.

You don’t have to get into every complexity with students, but letting them see the chaos amongst the orderly narrative of a history book, definitely helps them achieve a deeper understanding of history and our modern world.

A Great Year at American Indian Magnet School

Guest blogger: Laura Czaplewski, American Indian Magnet School

It has been an exciting year at American Indian Magnet school full of amazing projects done by my students.  One of the courses that I have a privilege to teach is 6th grade Minnesota Studies through a Native Perspective.  It is my charge to embed Native history throughout all the eras and events that we learn about in this class.  I am so impressed with the work my young scholars have engaged in this year, and I would like to share some of the work with all of you. I would like to invite everyone to attend our end of the year Wacipi (powwow) on June 3. We have grand entries in the afternoon and in the evening.  I am unsure of the times right now, but I will respond to this blog later if anyone is interested.  Our address is 1075 E. 3rd Street St. Paul, MN 55106.

History Day Projects

First, we had a group of young men create a documentary about the Bdote for their History Day project and were selected as State finalists.  They were able to visit Fort Snelling State park and hike the area.  While they were there, they learned about the camp that the Dakota were forced to live in after the U.S.-Dakota War.  They learned about the Mdewakanton creation story earlier in the year in class, and were eager to find out everything they could about this sacred area. See “What Does Justice Look Like? : The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland.” by Waziyatawin, Ph.D.

We also have a 7th grade student who created an exhibit board about the Ojibwe Migration Story that will be displayed in the Madeline Island Museum this summer, so if you are in the area please check it out!

lost bird HD projectMy students created projects about the History of La Crosse, Ojibwe Activist and Singer Anne Humphrey, Little Crow, and Zintkala Nuni-Lost Bird of Wounded Knee .  Zitkala Nuni’s story is one of tragedy.  She was an infant and survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre; she was found three days after, frozen to the ground in her mother’s blood under her body.  A U.S. Colonel named Leonard Colby claimed her as a souvenir and brought her home to be raised by his suffragist wife Clara Colby. Lost Bird, who struggled to find acceptance in both Native and Non-Native culture, was often ill due to lack of a resistance to diseases, encountered extreme poverty, was exploited in silent films and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and died at age 29. She was buried in California, but later exhumed and laid to rest at the Wounded Knee Cemetery in South Dakota.  The young scholars that did this project learned that Native Adoption into Non-Native families is very common.  They learned that laws like ICWA Indian Child Welfare Act attempt to protect Native children by keeping them with relatives or members of their community if they are placed in foster care or adopted.

Other Exciting Projects

Norval Morriseau inspired Clan Animals

Students participated in an Art project where they learned about the Ojibwe Clan system. They learned the meaning behind each animal and the responsibility that is associated with being from a particular clan. Some great resources available that are often free for teachers come from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  We also looked at the artwork of Ojibwe artist Norval Morriseau, and created clan animals inspired by his style of art. He shows the spirit of his drawing by showing what is inside of a human or animal.

clan animals

Minnesota Reservation Webquests (Why Treaties Matter)

One of our units this year was all about why treaties matter today, and students learned the history behind each reservation in Minnesota.  They also had an opportunity to explore Reservation websites and see what these communities are doing today.  Many students discovered information about Native-run fisheries, wild rice companies, and natural resource and wildlife preservation organizations.

Building a Wigwam for Pre-K Students

Pictured below is a wigwam made from willow branches by AVID students for our Pre-K class as a space for reading.

student wigwam

Every year we take our kids to Harding Senior High to experience a story-telling event.  This year we had the privilege to listen to local Native hip hop artists Tall Paul and Native Son.  It was a blast.  Here is a link to one of the videos by one the artists: Native Son-Red Power.

Seeing History Close-Up with 3D Printing

Guest blogger: Eric Cameron, 916 Mahtomedi Academy

This is my first year using our school’s 3D printer and it has already revolutionized my teaching in many ways, some small and some large.  There are two main ways in which I use 3D printing in my classroom, first by using a pre-made or pre-scanned design and second by designing my own 3D render, or having students create a 3D design themselves.  No longer is Google Image search my only tool to show my students relevant historical images.  The ability to use or create 3D images and models has changed how I help students “see” history.

Inca stones
Inca Stones, Smithsonian X3D.

The first way to use 3D printing and scans is to find and view or print a pre-made or pre-scanned object from online sources.  I search 3D scanning and design software websites such as Smithsonian X3D, Thingiverse, or TinkerCad to see if a pre-made 3D version of an item exists.  If I am able to locate an image, I will either print it so students can get a hands-on experience looking at the item or I will show students the 3D rendering, which allows us to rotate and zoom, viewing the item at different levels from all angles.  For example, this 3D design of the Great Pyramid breaks into two pieces, showing some of the internal passageways. Interacting with this design helped my students visualize the concept that “tunnels” were not always under the pyramid and that the pyramids were not solid piles of stones.  In another student experience I utilized scans and 3D renders of Inca stonework (ex. 1, ex. 2, ex. 3) which allowed my students to understand the intricacies that the Inca people exhibited in their construction.  Some museums, including the Smithsonian X3D and The British Museum, have begun to scan items from their collections and post them online, free of charge, so viewers can 3D print replicas at home.  In addition, some teachers (Matt Fritz), as well as 3D printer (MakerBot) and software companies (Microsoft) have begun designing and sharing designs that are museum quality scans, but are accurate and user-friendly enough for classroom use.  Accessing this information is quick and easy, and the designs, if made by a reputable source, are historically accurate.    

Photo courtesy Eric Cameron.

The second way I use 3D printing in my classroom is to have students design and print a historical object themselves.  I facilitate this through a variety of design websites, such as TinkerCad.  My first venture down this path was to have students demonstrate their learning by designing and 3D printing Civil War Ironclads.  My students were to design Ironclads to highlight how new technology changed the ways wars were fought.  While this method of using 3D printing and technology takes more time it results in the student learning both the historical facts as well as technological skills.

As I reflect on how 3D printing and design has enhanced my teaching of topics such as Civil War technology and the ancient and modern 7 Wonders of the World, I imagine how I could use these same techniques in other areas of history that often challenge my students.  One such area is early technology, such as inventions of ancient peoples in World History or the technological innovations of Pre-Columbian American Indian cultures in United States History.  These early innovations and technologies are difficult for students to grasp because many students, as a result of the modern lens through which they view history, simply have a hard time understanding items without electricity or motors as examples of “advanced technology.”  While students view other aspects of history through this same contemporary lens, not all innovations are difficult to imagine.  For example, because students have life experience with vehicles, and they have seen the advances in automotive technology within their own lifetimes, it is not difficult for them to imagine what it might have been like when the first Model T rolled off the assembly line.  However, early technology, such as axes made from stone, awls made from animal bones, and wood and stone tools used for the tanning of hides seem incomprehensible to many students, especially when referred to as “technology.”

If I were to own a replica of these tools, it would help students understand how this tool, for example, revolutionized life for early American Indian peoples.  I would be able to show my students how the tool worked and how it was an improvement over previous methods.  If my students were able to handle and manipulate an early stone axe, feeling the grooves where it was chiseled to a fine point, seeing how sharp it can be, seeing how and where it would be bound to a wooden handle, I believe they would be able to better understand what life was like for the people at the time, as well as how this “technology” could have made life easier for early American Indians.  

artifactUnfortunately, I do not have any artifacts of early American Indian technology.  This is where 3D printing can play an important role.  With a 3D printer, a teacher can quickly and easily replicate artifacts, buildings, maps, and anything else to give their students a visual hands-on representation.  I have already begun planning how I am going to use 3D printing to make my lessons on early American Indian cultures come alive for my students next fall.  I plan to print versions of early American Indian technologies so students can get a hands-on experience and truly understand how these tools improved life for American Indians.  I envision using 3D printed tools to have students replicate making jewelry and sewing using an awl made of bone and using wood and stone tools to prepare a hide.  I also envision having students learn about different aspects of American Indian culture and use 3D programs to design and print replicas, with the goal of creating a mini-museum of American Indian life.  Some examples could include students researching, designing, and printing American Indian housing to compare longhouses to tepees, analyzing the similarities and differences between the mounds of the Mississippian cultures with the pyramids of the Mayans, or studying different art and sculpture such as totem poles of the Northwest and pottery of the Southwestern cultures.  

To give credit where credit is due, I do need to give my science teacher colleague Matt Nupen a lot of credit for bringing 3D printing into our school and for getting students and staff engaged in and excited about 3D printing and technology.

If you are interested in more information on how to use 3D printing in the classroom, here are some helpful resources to help you get started:

Teaching About Native Activism

Guest blogger: Rich Updegrove, Duluth East High School

Our way
Image from University of Minnesota Press website.

As a high school social studies teacher I have the opportunity to work with young adults as they navigate their way through the complex world that exists beyond the walls of our schools. A section of that map that all of our students need is a working knowledge of political activism in the Native American community. Minnesotans in particular have a rich local history of indigenous activism that includes the founding of the American Indian Movement, the many struggles to preserve treaty rights, and the international recognition that Winona LaDuke brings to our state.

One of the best experiences that I have had with high school students is using Mary Losure’s 2002 book Our Way or the Highway: Inside the Minnehaha Free State to teach contemporary political activism and indigenous histories of Minnesota. The books tell the story of “a diverse coalition of Native Americans, neighborhood residents, and young anarchists” who attempt to prevent the rerouting of Highway 55 in Minneapolis during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The fact that indigenous issues are woven together with national environmental organizations, state politicians, and local political activists helps illustrate the interconnectedness of all histories, indigenous and otherwise.

In terms of demonstrating how Native American history influences the present, Losure’s chapter “Little Crow’s Children” is particularly artful. In that chapter, students get a 300-year history of the Mdewakanton people that includes meetings with French Canadian fur traders in the 1700s, and protest letters to Indian Country Today from the 1990s about membership in the Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota. Students come away from that chapter alone with a better understanding on how the past is continually revealing itself to present, if you know where to look.

When I first used Our Way or the Highway, I was teaching at Community of Peace Academy in St. Paul, and the local connection had a greater impact than it does at Duluth East High School where I now teach. However, the eccentricity of the people involved, the fact that the initial raid is considered by many to be the largest police action in Minnesota history, and the engaging and approaching writing style of Mary Losure, make this book an exciting and unique avenue to reach students around the state.