Natives Along the Wabash

Teachers, educators and historians, here is a book that will help you teach young people about the real Native Americans that lived in the Wabash Valley. This special teacher resource guides you from one time period to the next with line illustrations that can double as coloring book pages for the very young. Each illustration is clearly defined and detailed with an explanation of the time period, the activity depicted and in many cases the materials that are used in the clothing of the individuals.

This publication called, “Natives Along the Wabash, a Teacher Resource Book” is divided into sections starting with how this book meets or exceeds Indiana Department of Education’s Academic Standards for the 4th grade Social Studies unit on Native American studies. Next, the book outlines the basis for its existence which is a professional hands on Woodland Indian Educational Program that was created for classrooms and has been used successfully for decades by teachers in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. It also briefly goes into the expansion of this program by the educational director into new areas of culture and new areas of the eastern US starting in the fall of 2008. The book clearly covers the timeline used by academia to establish cultural changes through time by Native inhabitants of the region. This will help teachers establish which American Indians lived in the most distant past and those that came to be identified as living in the Wabash valley at later times and often how these changes occurred.

Before we can educate students, we must educate the teachers. So often, teaching units and resource materials are laced with generic views of Indian people. Even when such illustrations are labeled, “Woodland,” the message is still very clear, the view that kids get is usually a standard stereotypical view of Indians in fringed buckskin or poorly conceived trade clothing and shown in front of some generic wigwam or even just a tipi. This type of publication does nothing to convey realistic information to the student. It continues to teach them that it is alright to believe that all Indians were basically alike and that there is no need to make clear distinctions between specific time periods or specific tribal cultures. That notion is like saying all Americans are alike or all “caucasian” people are alike as if there is no difference between a child growing up in the Bronx and a child growing up in the mountains of Virginia. There are cultural differences, dialectic differences and even value differences. Teaching about American Indians is no different. Each region has its cultural affiliations and those should be made clear to the students. One of the goals with this teacher resource book is to untangle the web of mixed up and artificial ideas along with the generic profiles so standard in American education today and define these people in a clear way by time period, culture and even as individuals for the purpose of better understanding by students. The author wants teachers to be able to help students identify a Miami or Shawnee tribal member of the 19th century from a Mississippian living in a very different society 400 years earlier.

There is an extensive section showing Native Americans in the Wabash Region through time from 300 BC to 2005 that has been carefully illustrated by Steve Tucker, President of Piankeshaw Trails. Steve, himself was an art teacher for many years and has been guided by the author’s meticulous research in how each time period is to be shown. The details in clothing and background are very much in keeping with the author’s goal of bringing a very authentic publication into the hands of educators for use as a tool in the classroom. These pages can also serve as a coloring book for the very young. Teachers can feel free to copy them and pass them out to students. This section also picks specific cultures and shows how each would have looked and activities they may have been involved in during a specific time period. There are definition of words such as pow wow that are introduced as well as tribal names and events that are introduced with both text and illustrations.

One of the first critical thinking activities is offered through a view into a longhouse. Students are asked to peer into the living area of a 1755 woodland structure typical of that time period in the Wabash Region and find things of the 21st century that are clearly out of place. Then once they have achieved that, students are asked to think of things that Native people of that era might have used instead even though there may not be a direct replacement but to try and come as close as possible. An example is given to get them started. This is great for a test question or quiz in the classroom.

There is a two-page illustration of a bison with parts defined and what they were used for by Woodland Indians of the Wabash. Although, the bison is more often related to the “Plains” Indian people, the bison was a part of the Woodland culture of the Wabash. Often tribes would spend a great deal of time away from their summer homes located on the Wabash on late season hunts in the prairies of Illinois. The items covered in the text are specific to items used by the Indians of the Wabash.

In order for students to remember what they read, a useful tool is often a set of deliberate questions that encourage the students to do research while they read. The next section is just such a tool and offers a set of 18 questions that often require students to look very deep inside the text of the book to find the answers. Sample questions include, “What ceremony did young Miami people go through before becoming adults?”; “Explain the meaning of the Thunderbird and Underwater Panther.”; “What kinds of clothing did Mississippian Indian people wear at Angel Mounds?” and finally, “What purpose was the brain of the animal used by the Miami, Piankeshaw and other Native woodland people?” These are just a few of the brain activating questions that students will find stimulating in this publication.

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