There are several different articles and lesson plans on this page. Copy the links and paste it into the url at the top of the Internet webpage. Please check out our Teacher Pages & Children’s Pages for classroom exercises, poetry and more. Halloween Costumes article is near the bottom of the page.
“Let us put our minds together, and see what life we will make for our children.” Tatanka Iotanka (Sitting Bull)
My name is Raven. When I was in the third grade, our class read The Courage of Sarah Noble. In this book they said Indian people were savages and murderers, they chop your head off and eat you alive and that we were not really people. When the class put on the play for the whole school, the kids started taunting me, calling me “stinky” and asking me how many people I’ve eaten. Nobody would play with me or even sit next to me in class…I felt so ashamed. Finally, I told my mother I didn’t want to go back to school. Raven Hoaglen (Maidu/Konkow/Wailaki/Mono)
“I really don’t like the fake cartoon and illustration in Indian books that are here in the school library. My name is Monica Spencer and my tribe is Navajo, Laguna, Kiaoni and Pueblo, all full blooded. It makes me mad when children make fun of my culture. It makes the kids think we do that when we don’t. When the children grow up I don’t want them to think that Indians put feathers in their hair and dance around the fire. We don’t do that. And I don’t think that it is right for the kids to look at the silly things they put in those silly books. One day I saw a kid running around with a feather in their hair and putting their hand to their mouths and making weird noises and I cried when that happened. So what I want you to do is to put those books away and learn about our real history.”
Oyate is a Native organization working to see that the lives and histories of Native people are portrayed honestly, and so that all people will know our stories belong to us. For Native children, it is as important as it has ever been for them to know who they are and what they come from. It is a matter of survival. For all children, it is time to learn the truth of history. Only in this way will they come to have the understanding and respect for each other that now, more than ever, will be necessary for life to continue. Our work includes evaluation of texts, resource materials and fiction by and about Native peoples; conducting of teacher workshops, in which participants learn to evaluate children’s material for anti-Indian biases; administration of a small resource center and library; and distribution of children’s, young adult, and teacher books and materials, with an emphasis on writing and illustration by Native people.
We hope by making many good books available to encourage many more, especially from Native writers and illustrators. Oyate, our organization’s name, is the Dakota word for people. It was given to us by a Dakota friend.
Native American Lesson Plans www.cr.nps.gov/nr/feature/indian/ The National Register of Historic Places is pleased to promote awareness of and appreciation for the history and culture of American Indians and Alaska Natives during National American Indian Heritage Month. This month is dedicated to recognizing the intertribal cultures, the events and lifeways, the designs and achievements of American Indians and Alaska Natives. You can also view the entire collection according to location, time period, and U.S. History Standards. US Dept. of the Interior – Teaching with Historic Places http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/feature/indian/2002/Index.htm
National History Day Themes at www.nationalhistoryday.org Proposed Future Themes: 2014 Geography in History: Impact, Influence, Change 2015 Rights and Responsibilities in History
The Color of Words: An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Ethnic Bias in the United States, Philip Herbst – examines over 850 words & expressions that have carried ethnic bias or are commonly regarded today as controversial or confusing; www.interculturalpress.com.
Unstereotyping made easy!
This section is designed to help teachers from perpetuating wrong information concerning the Lenni Lenape people. It can also be applied to most of the other Native People. It is important to teach that the Lenape and other Native People are human beings with many things in common with other human beings physically, but that they have different cultural ways. One should not expect to understand Native Peoples (or any other people for that matter) in order to gain respect for them. Respect precedes understanding.
Lenape means “The First People”. It is already in plural form so should not have an “s” at the end of it. The Lenape are not extinct. The Lenape of the 17th century were not the same as their ancestors hundreds and thousands of years before. Their culture had evolved through time and continues to evolve. The Europeans that came to what is now called Pennsylvania, named the main river of the Lenape, after Lord De la Warre. The word later became slurred into Delaware. The Europeans called the Lenape “Delaware”. The Lenape people are not a possession! Although some of the Lenape who left their traditional homeland did sign treaties using the term “Delaware” the people here are really still Lenape.
Avoid using the term “Indians” or “Native Americans” when referring specifically to one Nation or culture such as the Lenape. One would not say “Europeans” when one is specifically referring to Germans.
When referring to the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere in general, use “Native People”. “American Indians” and “Native Americans” are least preferred.
Avoid terms such as “squaw”, “brave”, or “papoose”. “Woman”, “man”, and “baby” are correct.
Avoid stereotypic portrayals of Native Peoples as fierce, hostile, warlike, stoic, stealthy, savage, etc. Native People are human beings and have a variety of personal traits, good and bad.
Avoid phrases such as “acting like a bunch of wild Indians”, “Indian giver”, “going on the warpath”, “let’s have a powwow”, “sitting Indian style” (cross-legged), “walking Indian file”, “paleface”, “redskin”, etc.
Do not assume that a child of Native heritage knows anything about what happened in the past or is expert in his culture.
Do not assume that the skills of Native adults in the past can be easily learned by children. This assumption makes Native life appear to be simple and childlike. It takes years for people to master adult level skills.
Do not refer to the European colonists as the “first settlers”. The underlying assumption is that Native People just roamed across the land. Native People were settled in this continent for thousands of years.
Avoid using the term “prehistoric”. This only means, in common usage, before the presence of European methods of recording events of the past. “Pre-contact” refers to the time before European presence in this continent.
Avoid use of the word “primitive”. Native People, and others, of long ago were quite able to take care of themselves and had technology which we today would find difficult to master if we ever could.
If a story contains both Native People and Euro-Americans, do not use “Indians” to refer to the former and “people” to refer to the latter. Distinguish them by their nationalities.
Do not dress up animals in pictures as “Indians”. Do not dress up children as “Indians”. The Lenape in particular prefer to reserve the right of their traditional dress for themselves. Also some items of dress must be earned before permission is granted even amongst Native People.
A preschool example: dressing up in a “war bonnet, face paint and rubber tomahawk.” Do not attempt to re-enact Native ceremonies. This is considered to be sacrilegious.
Avoid generalizations such as, “Indians lived in tipis” when such cultural practices were not general amongst Native People but specific to certain cultures. One would not say that, “Europeans lived in castles.”
Avoid generalized statements about Native People being above human faults. For example, the statement that Native People never wasted anything is impossible to reconcile with true human behavior. It is more proper to express that Native People disliked waste or tried to discourage waste.
Do not use Native People as objects to be counted or alphabetized. Do not use images of Native People as mascots for groups. Such images dehumanize Native People and cause hurt feelings.
Costumes (Web Editor’s Note: Plan NOW for This Year & Next Year! Print this out, put it with the costumes!) Oct. 2004 — This month, parenting columnist Dana Williams offers tips for choosing Halloween costumes that don’t promote negative stereotypes www.tolerance.org
After several weeks of brainstorming what he needs to create a Halloween costume that resembles Morpheus, the Matrix character, my son has now decided on a Dracula get-up this Halloween……..So off we headed this week to brave the shopping crowds in search of the perfect Dracula cape, fangs and gory makeup……. Many of the current trendy choices were on display…… But it was the “Indian boy” and “Indian girl” that caught my eye. These stereotypical costumes, with their fake feathers, buckskin and beads, are staple Halloween choices for those who find it acceptable to dress up their child as someone from another ethnic group. From blackface at college fraternity parties to Arab, Mexican, Indian and Asian trick-or-treat ensembles, a host of costumes invoking ethnic, racial, gender, religious and other stereotypes crop up every Halloween. And I cannot count the many variations of the “evil witch” costume I see in stores each year.
Those who practice Wicca, an ancient religion with tenets of spirituality and respect for the earth, see these wart-nosed, green caricatures as harmful and offensive representations of themselves and their beliefs. They also are a painful reminder of times when witches, or those thought to be, were persecuted and killed. As parents, we cannot expect children to take seriously our calls for tolerance, respect and acceptance for others when we grant a one-day exemption from these values each year at Halloween.
Stereotypical costumes send the message that mocking another’s culture is acceptable, that insensitivity to those who are different from us is humorous and clever. Such messages linger long after the candy and jack-o-lanterns have disappeared. A little thought can go a long way in removing stereotypes from Halloween without removing the fun.
Here are some questions to guide you and your family’s costume choices this — and every — Halloween. Is the humor based on “making fun” of real people, real human traits or cultures?
For example: Though intended to be funny, costumes depicting “crazy,” strait-jacketed individuals can be demeaning, dehumanizing and humiliating to those struggling with a mental illness and their families. Such costumes can reinforce stereotypes and fears about persons with mental illness.
Is the “fear factor” based on real forms of violence or grotesque depictions of human traits? “This scary stud can empty out a full house just by walking through the door,” touted the tag line for Fright Catalog’s Vato Loco mask of 2002.
A bandana clad, tattooed, brown-skinned vinyl creation, Latino activists said the mask made light of gang violence, which takes a serious toll on families and neighborhoods across the country. This costume also sent the message that all Latinos are violent. If the costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?
The “Indian” get-up prevails each year as culture-turned-costume. But did you know few Native Americans wore buckskin and headbands and even fewer wore them together?
Did you know “war paint” and feathers carry religious meaning and were never worn by Native American children?
If the costume is meant to be beautiful, are these characteristics drawn from commercial references, such as movie characters? Too often, Halloween beautiful means white, blond princess masks.
What statement does your Halloween costume make about what constitutes beauty — and about who is beautiful and who isn’t?
With the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the United States government began a mass campaign against indigenous peoples, forcibly removing them from their homelands. When military officials relocated Native American groups, sometimes forcing them to walk hundreds of miles, thousands of indigenous people died. But White artists of the era chose to portray American Indians, who did not want to forfeit their land, as the aggressors – rather than the federal government that expelled them.
And the iconic image of the Native American as the “Demonic Indian” or “Ignoble Savage” was literally etched into our national landscape. Daniel Boone Struggling with the Indian is a permanent sandstone relief in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The Native American in the sculpture is huge in stature, his facial features exaggerated and devilish. He is unmistakably violent. He is meant to be feared. What did you think when you first saw this image? Have you seen American Indians portrayed this way before? If so, where?
Did you play “cowboys and Indians” when you were growing up? If so, how does that form of child’s play relate to the “Demonic Indian” stereotype? From http://www.tolerance.org/images_action/answer.jsp?p=0&id=14 Image Source: Image Source: Enrico Causici, Daniel Boone Struggling with the Indian, 1826-27. Sandstone sculptural relief in the rotunda on the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. Submitted by Shayne Del Cohen – Library Journal #281
Native Pride – Counting Coup (coo) from Native Reflections
In 1987, SuAnne Marie Big Crow, a young Pine Ridge Reservation Oglala student, liked to play all the sports that she could. You know how it is when your school team plays on the opposing teams home turf. There is some animosity towards the “visitor”. SuAnne was only in the eighth grade when she went with the varsity team to play ball at a town called Lead (leed), in South Dakota. This is in the Black Hills, a little northwest of the Pine Ridge Reservation.
In the fall of that year, the Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes basketball team went to Lead to play a game. SuAnne was a full member of the team by then. She was a freshman, fourteen years old. Getting ready in the locker room, the Pine Ridge girls could hear the din from some of the fans. They were yelling fake-Indian war cries, a “woo-woo-woo” sound. The usual plan for the pre-game warm-up was for the visiting team to run onto the court in a line, take a lap or two around the floor, shoot some baskets, and then go to their bench at courtside. After that, the home team would come out and do the same, and then the game would begin. Usually the Thorpes lined up for their entry more or less according to height, which meant that senior Doni De Cory, one of the tallest, went first. As the team waited in the hallway leading from the locker room, the heckling got louder. A typical kind of hollered remark was “Squaw!” or “Where’s the cheese!” (the joke being that if Indians were lining up, it must be to get commodity cheese); today no one remembers exactly what was said.
Doni De Cory looked out the door and told her teammates, “I can’t handle this.” SuAnne quickly offered to go first in her place. She was so eager that Doni became suspicious. “Don’t embarrass us,” Doni told her. SuAnne said, “I won’t. I won’t embarrass you.” Doni gave her the ball, and SuAnne stood first in line. She came running out onto the court dribbling the basketball, with her teammates running behind. On the court, the noise was deafeningly loud. SuAnne went right down the middle; but instead of running a full lap, she suddenly stopped when she got to center court.
Her teammates were taken by surprise, and some bumped into one another. Coach Zimiga at the rear of the line did not know why they had stopped. SuAnne turned to Doni and tossed her the ball. Then she stepped into the jump-ball circle at center court, in front of the Lead fans. She unbuttoned her warm-up jacket , took it off, draped it over her shoulders, then began to do the Lakota shawl dance.
SuAnne knew all the traditional dances – she had competed in many powwows as a little girl – and the dance she chose is a young woman’s dance, graceful and modest and show-offy all at the same time. “I couldn’t believe it – she was powwowin’, like, ‘get down!” Doni De Cori recalled. “And then she started to sing.” SuAnne began to sing in Lakota, swaying back and forth in the jump-ball circle, doing the shawl dance, using her warm-up jacket for a shawl. The crowd went completely silent. “All the stuff the Lead fans were yelling – it was like she reversed it somehow,” a teammate said.
In the sudden quiet, all you could hear was her Lakota song. SuAnne stood up, dropped her jacket, took the ball from Doni De Cory, and ran a lap around the court dribbling expertly and fast. The fans began to applaud and cheer. She sprinted to the basket, went up in the air, and laid the ball through the hoop, with the fans cheering loudly now.
Back in the days when Lakota war parties still fought battles against other tribes and the U.S. Army, no deed of war was more honored than the act of counting coup. To count coup means to touch an armed enemy in full possession of his powers with a special stick called a coup stick, or with the hand. The touch is not a blow, and only serves to indicate how close to an enemy you came. As an act of bravery, counting coup was regarded as greater than killing an enemy in single combat, greater than taking a scalp or horses or any prize.
Counting coup was an act of almost abstract courage, of pure playfulness taken to the most daring extreme. And yet this coup was not an act of war, but of peace. SuAnne’s coup strike was an offering, an invitation. It took the hecklers at the best interpretation, as if their silly mocking chants were meant only in good will. SuAnne’s dance has been danced for centuries, and the dance said, “we’ve been doing the shawl dance since long before you came, before you had gotten on the boat in Glasgow or Bremerhaven, before you stole this land, and we’re still doing it today; and isn’t it pretty, when you see how it’s supposed to be done?” Sadly, SuAnne died in an auto accident on her way home with her mother on February 9th, 1992. From: sdc 10.20.05