My World is Unique! Exploring Native American Life/Culture

This program can be tailored to your own geographic and culturally significant area -but it will take some research to find appropriate examples, guests, photos, and other supplemental materials. It is important to find literature and materials that feature modern day tribal members. Tribal members live in two worlds, very much honoring their past but learning, growing, and making a living in the modern world.


This is a bare-bones outline of a family event. Each station can be made into a separate Storytime – eight weeks or two months of learning and celebrating. This extended time helps with the research that every local librarian/storyteller/teacher must assume. Each topic can be general and flexible enough to bend around the unique features of each tribe, tribal group, clan, or geographic area. Alternately, all stations together are the basis of a family night activity.

If you have a perfectly wonderful book to use, use it. Be mindful, though, of titles and stories that always show Native Americans as historical characters.

Unfortunately, there is not a one size-fits-all program for Native Americans. We have/Each tribe has a very unique history and approach to life. It is valuable to the Native American people in your area to honor the traditions and history of your area. To remember that not every tribe lives in a tipi or teepee. Not every tribe has a war dance or wears feathers or has a totem pole.

And always remember that the Indians in your area may be wearing clothes just like YOU and living in a house just like YOURS.

Welcome/Opening Activity:

This is a display/station driven program.

-While everyone comes into the activity area, play music or songs unique to your particular area. Plains songs are different from Northwest coast songs.  Focus on the particular music of your area – traditional or modern.
-Present _Jingle Dancer_ and _Two Pairs of Shoes_ as a storytelling segment.
-Briefly explain that everyone gets to work through the different stations.  They must complete all other stations before they can experience the refreshments (if you have refreshments).
-Everyone gets sheet of paper.  This can have an image to color as part of the activities.
Title: My world is unique! Exploring Native American Life & Culture
#1 – I am a wonderful creation in my world/I live in two worlds.
#2 – Family in my world
#3 – Teachers in my world
#4 – Clothing in my world
#5 – Sounds in my world
#6 – Tools in my world
#7 – Homes/houses in my world
#8 – Food in my world


 Title: Jingle Dancer
Author/Illustrator:    Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Publisher/Date:          Morrow Junior Books, 2000
Comments: Jenna, a member of the Muscogee, or Creek, Nation, borrows jingles from the dresses of several friends and relatives so that she can perform the jingle dance at the powwow. Includes a note about the jingle dance tradition and its regalia.     Jenna, a member of the Muscogee, or Creek, Nation, borrows jingles from the dresses of several friends and relatives so that she can perform the jingle dance at the powwow. Jenna, a member of the Muscogee, or Creek, Nation, borrows jingles from the dresses of several friends and relatives so that she can perform the jingle dance at the powwow. Includes a note about the jingle dance tradition and its regalia.

Storytelling/Oral History:

Your area may have tribal members who will attend your event to facilitate the stations or share stories or dances. Ask local native groups. Your local historical society might have recordings of elders or others who have stories from your area. Find these living treasures!


Your storytelling or tribal group may be able to help with appropriate music. Otherwise, find recordings from “Grey Owl” or “Crazy Crow” catalog.


Station #1 I live in Two Worlds: Display photos or examples of traditional dress – historical photos and modern examples. Using an 11×17 size sheet of paper, print across the top “My Two Worlds”. On each half side print a blank body outline. Each child will color/decorate one figure in everyday clothes at this station, and the other will be colored/decorated in traditional dress at station #4.

Station #2 Family in my world: Display photos of Native American families, children, and babies. What kind of family was in _Jingle Dancer_? Write a story about your family or Draw a picture of your family.

Station #3 Teachers in my world: Who were the people that were teachers in the two books? Display photos of Native American students. This could lead information about Indian Boarding Schools. Describe or Draw a picture of your favorite teacher. What does your desk look like? What is your favorite subject in school? Where do you learn your lessons?

Station #4 Clothing in my world: If possible, have examples of traditional garments to touch. Remember to keep the focus on designs unique to your geographic area. There are patterns for simple bags that can be easily cut/made from felt and decorated with large beads. Some tribes have button decorations. Point out that no one had a lot of clothing. Many tribes emphasize that the outside of a person is not as important as the inside or character of a person. Complete the second part of the “My Two Worlds” figures.

Station #5 Sounds in my world: All the things that can make sound! Drum, rattle, bells, flute, whistle. Some things like the flute and whistle are look only items. A drum, rattle or bell can be experimented with. Alternately, have ankle bells to wear for a while to experience the sound of the bell sound with the stride. A simple rattle can be made using an empty drink bottle and beans. Many tribes have a version of a round dance. Have music for a round dance. Simply put the drum sound is the heartbeat of the earth – the rhythm is steady not syncopated and can be checked with your own heartbeat. (A stethoscope might be good to have on hand to hear your own heartbeat.)

Station #6 Tools in my world: Ancient people used stone grinders and knives. More modern people use steel and iron. In _Jingle Dancer_ some is cooking, what kinds of tools do you use in a kitchen? Would you use a bow and arrow in your area? What would you use instead? Fishing is a powerful industry in the NorthwestCoast. What kinds of fishing gear do those tribes use? Have examples or photos, if possible.

Station #7 Homes/houses in my world: Share _My Little Round House_ by Bolormaa Baasansuren. Focus on your geographic area and have other books on display about houses, both traditional stick-and-nail and environmentally specialized. Find photos or drawings of historical dwellings. Many are remarkably suited to the geographical area.
Ask each patron: What kind of houses did the characters have in the two books? Is there a museum in your area that has a replica traditional dwelling?

Station #8 Food in my world: Food is problematic for many programs, but something very easy and universal is popcorn and or potato chips. Water, too. If you have a traditional connection, maybe you can have other items. I ascribe to the KISS principal:
Keep It Simple, Sweetie!

Games/Other Activities:

As you gather information on tribes from your geographic area, you will find games and activities unique to your particular group. Incorporate them.


See Station #8 Food in my world.


Read _Whoever You Are_ by Mem Fox.
At most powwows there is a call for an Intertribal Dance. “Everybody dance,” the MC call out. “Whoever you are, whatever tribe you are – Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, White- man-tribe, Black-man-tribe, Yellow-man-tribe – everybody dance!”

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