Friday, July 26, 2013

Who were/are The Nez Perce?

This page is written as a part of a larger unit centered around The American Girl's Kaya Collection.  However, it is intended to be a great resource for anyone wishing to learn more about the Nimi'ipuu people and their history.  I thought it would be important to get past just Kaya and her life from long ago and make it clear that the Nimi'ipuu have a long history that started before Kaya and continues to this day.  So, the links below will include lessons and information about Nez Perce culture at the time of Kaya as well as Chief Joseph and the war of 1877, and Nez Perce projects, culture and activism today.

As a basic first step, we added the arrival of the horse to the North American continent, The arrival of Lewis and Clark in Nez Perce land, The arrival of missionaries, the War of 1877, the years Chief Joseph and his band spent on the Oklahoma Reservation, and the inauguration of more recent projects such as the such as the Wolf Conservation and Management Project to a timeline we are making regarding all of our history studies.  For more lessons (from Pinch of Everything) about the Nez Perce OR the Kaya series and language lessons that can accompany it, you will want to return to the Kaya Unit Home Page, to do this, simply click the titled link, or scroll to the bottom of the page for another link there.

Tons of Lessons and Tons of Choices

Native American Arts - This link will take you to pages upon pages of wonderful information for background and research on cultural aspects of this nation of people yesterday and today.

National Park Service - Nez Perce Historic Monument -This link will actually take you to a whole page full of lessons about not only the Nez Perce, but other groups too.  Scroll to the Nez Perce for eight fabulously detailed and well-designed Lessons on Nez Perce and their history.  Additionally, I want to highlight the Isaaptakay Project - A set of lessons that includes wonderfully engaging activities, a little math, and fabulous photos for use with the lessons.

PBS Nez Perce - This site has general information relating to the Nez Perce and their History as relates to the PBS special, "The Nez Perce."  On the left-hand side, you will find links to further pages including one for "Classroom Resources."

Idaho Historical Society - Junior Historian Program - "The Prospector" is a pseudo newspaper for kids that outlines what was happening during the war of 1877, who was involved, and different perspectives on the matter.  Have your student/students analyze for evidence of bias to one side's perspective or the other.  Read through the newspaper together, but also watch the PBS special and then have your students/child present the same information in a new way - a children's book?  Graphic novel? Play/reenactment. . .  For more background information from the society, click here.

Discovery Education Lesson Plan - "Breaking the Stereotype - the Writings of Chief Joseph" is a lesson that uses Chief Joseph's speech as a way to introduce kids to a different vision of what it means to have been a Native American during the time of Westward Expansion in the United States.  You might consider having your kids also take a look at photos of Chief Looking Glass in the same way the lesson asks kids to take a look at photos of Chief Joseph.
Photos - Archived photos from the Smithsonian.

A Chart for Comparing Tribes of North America - Make some of the spaces in this chart blank by covering them before copying and then have your kids do research, or use what they've learned during your lessons to fill in the blanks.  Leave tribes you don't study right where they are, or replace tribes you don't study with those you do.

Return to Kaya Unit Home Page

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sign of the Beaver Reading Guide and Resources

Sign of the Beaver is one of those books that (like Indian in the cupboard) has won awards for the  tale of survival told by Elizabeth George Speare, but is argued to be un-enlightened in regard to its treatment of its American Indian characters.  Despite its critique, it is one of those stories that has become a classic and is still on elementary reading lists.  I must say, it is a compelling tale.  As a homeschooling mother, I have more choice as to what goes on my daughter's reading lists.  However, the school cooperative still has some say in the matter as well.  I still have not presented the book to Alice, but just finished reading it and am writing this in case we do complete a study of this book.

It is important to note that Elizabeth George Speare, like myself, was obviously sympathetic to American Indians, but perhaps not as well educated on the subject as would be preferable for someone writing a novel (or in my case, a blog) that will expose others to information shared on the subject.  There are some wonderful lessons within the story about learning about "others" and how similar they really are.  However, in it, the American Indians that are depicted do use "Tonto speak" and wear the stereo-typical "Indian garb."  There are passages that are clearly racist - even if only through naivete.  Additionally, Mrs. Speare never specifies an actual historic tribe to which the main characters belong.  While they are most likely Penobscot based on their dress, location and language, the story never really does specify.  Attean, the main American Indian character, epitomizes the "Nature Aware Native" stereotype.  After finishing my pre-read of the book, I looked up the book on American Indians in Children's Literature - You may want to read this critique of the book from the Students and Teachers Against Racism posted there before getting started to help alert you to problem areas within the book.

To counter-act these stereo types, while still reading the book, it would be wise to take a look at the American Indians tribes mentioned in the book and what their traditional dress really looked like, language really included, and how they operated on a day to day basis.  Especially with Sign of the Beaver, you'll want to take a close look at gender roles.  The way gender roles are depicted in Sign of the Beaver insinuates that the Women work very hard while all the men do is hunt and play games - this is a stereotype.  Maine Indian Tribes and Languages gives a good over-view and links to activities for learning about the four major tribes in Maine at the time of European settlement.  The character Ben, also mentions the Iroquois.  To explain the "Tonto Speak," we'll discuss how difficult it can be to speak in a second language and talk about how funny Matt must have sounded to the American Indians that help him when he tried to speak in their language.

If we wind up using the book, I plan on having Alice highlight areas that may stem from a white bias.  We will use it as a study on bias as well as a lesson in how our shared history of enmity still haunts us to this day.  However, for kids to identify the bias, they first must be exposed to literature without the bias in it.  When my mother was trained as a bank teller, the way she was taught to identify counterfeit bills, was to count as many real bills as possible during the training.  As she counted them, she was feeling them as well as seeing them to the point that anything out of the ordinary would stand out because it didn't fit what she was so used to seeing.  Likewise, children need exposure to literature without stereotypes and biases in order to identify the literature that does contain those stereotypes and biases.  These books are recommended as good starting points before doing any analysis for bias in books like The Sign of the Beaver.  I is not for Indian has good questions to ask oneself as you read in order to check for bias.

Just For Fun

These activities may be useful whether you read the book or not, just as fun things to do with your elementary school student as part of a study of the period in history when many people (Frontier Settler AND American Indian) had to be much closer to nature than we do today just to survive or when American Indians and Frontiersmen were encountering each-other frequently.

As the chapters are fairly short, I chose NOT to do a special activity for every chapter (that can often become overkill anyway).  However, you will find a few activities to do alongside your reading here if you wish to use them. 

Chapter Two

At the end of chapter two (as well as elsewhere in the book), sounds Matt hears in nature are listed very briefly.  If you would like to hear some of the sounds Matt heard, here are appropriate links to get you there.

Great Horned Owl (Lots of options)
Trumpeting of Canadian Goose and Trumpeter Swan

Learn the calls of some of the night creatures common to your area (or a State or National Park you are headed to in the next month or two).  Then, plan to get up before the sun, or stay up long after sunset one night and listen to the morning or evening chorus.  You'll need to turn off flashlights and other lighting and be ready to be quiet and still to get the most out of your experience.

Morning Chorus
One of the best ways to really enjoy the sounds of nature is to sleep a little and then get up before sunrise.  Bring hot cocoa (but sip it silently and move slowly).  Bring lots of blankets to wrap yourself in and pick a spot to sit quietly.  Be seated and silent about 15-20 minutes before dawn.  I know it is really hard to sit completely silent and nearly still for a long time, but if  you manage it, you are in for a treat.  As the birds awake they call to each-other claiming their territory and if you are quiet and still enough you'll not only hear their beautiful cacophony, but see lots of birds and maybe a few other creatures too.

Evening Chorus
If you life near a wetland, pond, or calm stream, (particularly in the Midwest and Eastern United States) you can also go out at twilight and sit very still and listen to the night choir of the amphibians at the pond - frogs don't really say ribbit-ribbit (at least, that isn't all they say).  You'll need to pick your seat a little before sunset and then sit very still and very quiet for them to come out and get started.  While you listen, watch the sky for bats and owls!  Not many people take the time to go out at night and notice them - you'll be one of the few that can say you've seen these night critters in the wild if you are lucky enough to spot one.

Chapter 4 and 5

Experience Matt's food predicament.  Spend an entire day eating raw (this first link will take you to a description of what it is and how to eat raw healthfully).  Eating raw means nothing processed and only raw.  To be more like Matt, add to this, using no honey (this second link will take you to a blog about a person who experimented with eating raw for a month and wrote about it).   To make things a bit more like Matt, you COULD roast some foods still, but they have to start out raw in your hands.  You can't eat anything with flour, sugar, vegetable oils or other such items.  You might even check out this blog about eating only what grows here in the states, A Week of Indigenous Eating.  The week of indigenous eating is much more varied than what Matt went through, but it may offer up some recipe ideas for any diet that one could use during a week of eating non-processed foods. 

Chapter 10

Of course if you have the means and the location, you could spend a day fishing.  However, this activity is about learning a skill that can help pass long hours with little to do, AND help in making tools like Attean's fish-hook.  Try Whittling (to reduce gradually or carve with a knife).  If you've read the Kaya books, you will have also seen Two Hawks learn to carve a flute (no simple feat, let me tell you!)  At The Art of Manliness, you can learn the basics of whittling.  Most importantly, keep safety rules in mind AND remember that dull knives are actually more dangerous so take care of your tool as well.  For all the little girls out there - sorry about the title, the reality is, when considering traditional gender roles, whittling was something considered to be for the men (in white society anyway).  However, just because it was once seen that way, doesn't mean it has to remain that way.  Whittling is a useful skill and a fun craft no matter who you are.

Chapter 12

Try your hand at archery.  If you can't go to a range, or have access to the "real thing,"  You can try making your own.

If you choose to make your own bow, you'll simply need a long piece of PVC you can bend into a bowed shape.
  1. Use a drill to cut a hole in one end of the pipe and a fine hand saw to cut a slit in the other end.  The slit will need to be at least a couple inches deep.
  2. Thread a strong chord through the hole and tie it off securely.  You may even want to wrap some extra chord around this spot so it runs over the bow string some to make sure you bow string can snap tightly without coming untied. 
  3. Bend your pipe so you can measure how long the string needs to be in order to be tight and make the bow the right shape.  
  4. Tie a heavy bead tightly at this point on the string and trim the excess chord/string.  
  5. Pull the bead up and over the end of the pipe and thread the chord into the slit you cut with your saw.  
  6. Tape or tie more string at the slitted end of the pipe to secure the bead.  

You now have a bow.  Accompany this with some lengths of dowel that fits the size of the bow.  The dowel must be long enough that you can pull the string back and still have the dowel rest against the bow.  For fun add some feathers to one end of each dowel - be careful to keep the weight and size of the feathers balanced and even around the circumference of the dowel - the flight of your arrow will be affected by these feathers.
We made this bow for a halloween costume for "Hubby Dubby".  He was the huntsman in Red Riding Hood.  Bows and Arrows were used all over Europe Once Upon a Time Too.
For safety, you might want to cover the end of the dowels with foam or small rubber balls. Depending on the length of your bow and how tight you've strung your chord - this bow and "arrow" can cause injury if it hits someone in the wrong spot.  Always make sure no one is in your line of fire. 
The Nez Perce played a game where they tried to shoot arrows through a moving hoop.  Once you get good at shooting stationary things, try their game - instructions are about half way down the Kaya Reading Guide page.
Only allow kids to use bow and arrows while supervised.

Chapter 16

Check out this presentation of different styles of American Indian Dance.  Toward the end a circle dance is performed.  

While not mentioned in the book, there is also "hoop dancing."  First check out this demonstration.  While you watch, look for symbols and familiar shapes in the hoops in the dance.  She is telling a story.  Then, there is a really fun tutorial with kids online here.

Chapter 23

Make your own fur cap just like Matt's
project instructions for use with a real pelt or with faux fur.

I would usually include a vocabulary list with such a guide, but since I decided to handle this book in a somewhat more casual way (and as an ancillary book to all our work with the Kaya series), I decided to forgo the vocabulary aspects of the book.  Instead, you'll find a discussion question or two for each chapter, fun related activities, and links to other resources for discussion guides, vocabulary lists and similar resources.

For Discussion/Writing

Chapter One

  1. In Chapter One we meet only Matt.  Where is the rest of his family?
  2. What is the setting in this book and how do you know?

Chapter Two

  1. At First Matt feels one way about being alone, but the feeling changes as time passes.  What words does the author use to show us Matt's feelings? List three different examples and use quotation marks.
  2. Think of a time when you've been nervous to do something and then grown more confident over time.  Describe this experience to us in writing.

Chapter Three

  1. Why did Matt lie to Ben about where his Pa was and how long it would take him to return?
  2. Review what you should do if you are home alone and a stranger comes to the door.
  3. This story takes place at a time when there was a lot of fear between Natives and settlers.  As a result many settlers used inappropriate names for American Indians and hardly saw them as people.  Is Ben friendly, combative, or somewhere in between toward the American Indians he has encountered?  Does his attitude toward them depend somewhat upon which tribe the individual is from.  Use examples from Ben's words to support your claim.
  4. Why is the rifle so important to have?  What can Matt do without it?

Chapter Four

  1. Now Matt doesn't have flour, salt, Molasses (or honey), or a rifle (to catch meat with).  How would you feel about fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

 Chapter Five

  1. Why is Matt so desperate for honey?
  2. What happened when Matt tried to climb the bee tree?

 Chapter Six

  1. Why do you think Saknis helped Matt?
  2. Why is Matt honest with Saknis and not Ben?
  3. Why does Saknis want Attean to know how to read?

 Chapter Seven

  1. What does Attean find frustrating about reading?
  2. What does Matt do that gets Attean interested?

 Chapter Eight

  1. Why does Attean say, "White man not smart like Indian" and why does Matt come to agree after thinking it over?  

Chapter Nine

  1. Why does Attean continue to bring food even after Matt says he doesn't have to anymore?
  2. At the beginning of the book, we learn that Matt and his father could spend hours together without actually speaking.  Why do you think it bothers Matt that Attean speaks so little then?
  3. What upsets Attean so about the section of Robinson Crusoe Matt reads to him in this chapter?

Chapter Ten

  1. In Robinson Crusoe "Friday" is "thick-headed," meaning, he is not very smart.  Matt reconsiders this and realizes that Friday probably could  have taught Robinson Crusoe a thing or two about the Island and living there.  What experience has Matt had that makes him realize this about his favorite story?
  2. What did Matt lose while fishing other than his hook and a fish?
  3. Why is Attean's hook better than "white man's hook?"

Chapter Eleven

  1. Attean uses the word, "squaw" meaning woman.  Originally, this was the Algonquian's word for woman.  The word is used frequently now to mean woman in contexts relating to American Indians.  It has become offensive because of its over and incorrect usage by non-American Indians. What do you think of its use here?
  2. Attean clearly cares about his dog, but also says it is "good for nothing."  Make a table showing helpful qualities of Attean's dog and qualities that are not so agreeable in his dog.
  3. While they are walking in the woods, the narrator says, "They didn't like each other, but they were no longer enemies."  Were they ever really enemies?  Give evidence to show they are friends now - whether they like to admit it or not.
  4. Why are the Beaver Tribe waiting before hunting the Beaver?

Chapter Twelve

  1. List five important things Attean has taught Matt.
  2. Why is it so important to Matt that he have a bow and arrows and learn to use them?

Chapter Thirteen

  1. Matt is tired of Attean's scorn for white man.  Do you think Attean has ever felt scorn from white men?  Explain your answer.
  2. Matt has learned a lot from Attean.  What is Attean learning in return?
  3. What makes the iron trap so different from the twig and root snares Attean and Matt use?  Why is it a, "cruel way to trap an animal?" when the twig and root snares are not?

Chapter Fourteen

  1. Matt discovers that Attean and his people have a story about a great flood, much like the story of Noah and the flood from The Bible.  What other things do the two boys have in common?

Chapter Fifteen

  1. What part did Matt play in helping to defeat the bear?
  2. Why does Attean consider it sad to have killed a mother bear that still has her cub with her and apologize to the bear for it?
  3. Why does Matt take the rabbit after meeting the bear, even though it is bloodied and less appetizing to him now?

 Chapter Sixteen

  1. Why does Attean know so much about hunting and trapping?  Would he know as much about the land if he had to move to a different region of the continent such as the Great Plains, Northwest, or Southwest?
  2. Why does Matt know so little compared to Attean?
  3. Why does Attean's appearance startle Matt at the beginning of the chapter?
  4. The narrator describes the lone dancer's moves as "ridiculous contortions, for all the world like a clown in a village fair."  Is that how Attean's community would have seen it or is that how Matt saw it?  How would Attean see dances of today?

 Chapter Seventeen

  1. What do you learn about the results of the war and the lack of understanding between the settlers and the American Indians from chapter seventeen?  For more information about the French and Indian War go to The History Channel and/or
  2. Do you think it is easier to hate and fear new and different people and things or to learn to understand them?

Chapter Eighteen

  1. What is Matt noticing in the nature around him that tells him his counting sticks aren't wrong and his family is more than a month late in returning to the cottage?
  2. Was it courageous of Matt to go to Attean's Grandmother about Attean's Dog?  Explain your answer.
  3. Why is it unlikely that a young American Indian man would have seen his sister as good for nothing?
  4. Why is it not likely that Marie will go to visit with Sarah?  Explain your Answer.

Chapter Nineteen

  1. Why does Matt want to learn the work of the women?  Do you think a real Attean would  understand about how important those skills are to Matt since he is alone, or do you think the book portrays this correctly?
  2. Describe one of the two games Matt plays with the boys of Attean's community.

 Chapter Twenty

  1. In "The Sign of the Beaver" we learn that Attean must go to receive his manitou.  Although not the same, there is a tradition regarding "Guardian Angels" in Christian European culture.  The Nez Perce called their spirit guides or guardians, Wyakin.  Do a little research and find out about one other name for a "spirit guide" and the name for the group of people that used it.  How is this spirit guide similar to a manitou and how is it different?  Learn a little about the environment and the unique ceremonies centered around this rite of passage for the type of guide/guardian you discover in your research.

Chapter Twenty-One

  1. Matt has a very serious choice to make.  What are the advantages of going with Saknis and Attean?  What is the advantage of staying at the cottage while Matt waits for his family?
  2. What choice would you make if you were in Matt's shoes?

Chapter Twenty-Two

  1. Why does Matt's refusal to leave win Attean's respect?
  2. Even though Attean will never use the watch Matt gives him, he takes it gratefully.  Why do you think he is grateful despite its use-lessness?
  3. When Attean and his clan move West, they will find other tribes are already living there AND the white settlers will also continue to follow further west.  How does moving to a new land make sustaining themselves under these conditions even harder than it is in their home land? 

Chapter Twenty-Three

  1.  If you were alone in a cabin in winter for months (no TV or video games) how would you choose to spend your time?
  2. Why do you think Matt chooses to make things for his Mom, Sister, and the baby?

Chapter Twenty-Four 

  1. Why is Matt suddenly content and happier?  What worries have lifted now that the snow arrived?

Chapter Twenty-Five

  1. What kinds of adjustments will Matt have to go through now to get used to sharing the cabin with his family again and sharing the woods with the new neighbors arriving in spring?  He is glad, but it also means changes and loss of certain things - what do you think some of those things are?
  2. Why does the mention of a town growing up around them make Matt think of Attean and his family?  What do you think happens to them? 
  3. Do you think Matt's feelings and friendship with the American Indians obviously disturbs his parents.  What was happening at this time in history that would make his parents react the way they do, rather than simply having gratitude their son had help surviving their absence?
  4. How does the fact that books like Sign of the Beaver and our History books have largely been written by descendents of people like Matt's parents still play a role in our relationships with each-other today?  What can we do to over-come our own mis-understandings today?

Other Resources

Homeschool Share
Sign of the Beaver on Hulu (I have not yet previewed this)

Related or Complimentary Activities from PinchofEverything

American Indians Throughout US history and Today
The Seven Years War/French and Indian War

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nez Perce Foods

One of the funnest ways to relate to a culture you aren't really familiar with is through its unique foods.  With some cultures, this can be really difficult to do (and get the genuine article), but I know the Roman feast we had was a huge hit (even without sugar).  Since we are reading the American Girl Books as our "in" to US History, we are starting with Kaya.  For more information and other activities from the unit (not all of which specifically go with Kaya), simply click the link at the bottom of the page for the Kaya Unit Home. 

Besides the information in the Kaya series itself, I found the American Indian Health and Diet Project website to offer a straightforward and brief synopsis of Nez Perce history of food habits very helpful.  The National Historic Monument Site also had great general information about the plants most readily available in the area the Nez Perce traditionally inhabited, how they used those plants, and how being confined to a reservation affected their diet.

Since the Nez Perce were largely migrational, it is important to make sure kids understand how Nez Perce foods changed with the seasons.  This lesson plan is a great way to get your kids started on planning their feast while also teaching them about the way the Nez Perce of Kaya's time perceived the seasons.  It is also important to differentiate between migrational living and hunting and gathering.  Notice, when Kaya's community migrates to the valley where camas is gathered, they go to a place where they know the bulbs are already growing.   Same is said for berry season.  This isn't exactly the same as simply gathering what is found.  Additionally they make sure to leave some berries on the bush (which produce seeds and help to keep other animals fed as well),  Same is true for the way they treated the camas bulb.  They cultivated what already grew, they didn't just gather what they found.  Each season they have villages they return to each year for what that particular location offers at a particular time of year.  For a picture of a modern Nez Perce in the process of gathering roots, simply click this sentence.  The description under the photo claims the subject in the photo is harvesting camas bulbs.  However, the flowers do not look at all like camas, instead, I think he may be collecting kouse or biscuit root, based on the look of the flowers around him.

To compare a migrational lifestyle with that of a farming lifestyle, you might also teach your students a bit about the Tribes that farmed such as the Shawnee, Iroquois or the Navajo.  These farmers tended the soils and, sometimes irrigated their fields.  A helpful online article for the teaching adult, or high school student about Permaculture and Native Agricultural practices is on The Why Files and might provide good background information for your own understanding before presenting the differences to your students.  Your students might enjoy learning about the "Three Sisters" to better understand a farming practice common to some of the farming Eastern Tribes.  This particular version is Iroquois.

When it was Fresh

In spring and summer, Nez Perce would have access to their dried foods as these were made throughout the year because they stored and traveled well in order to accomplish having food throughout the colder months too.  However, fresh foods would have been a special treat during the seasons of abundance.  Foods that were dried to store for the rest of the year (as well as eaten fresh were, choke cherries, blueberries, huckleberries, service berries and thimbleberries among others.  They also would have dried meats and roots to store.  Additionally, a number of greens such as clover would have been enjoyed during these periods of time. 

Fresh salmon would have been abundant during the salmon runs.  Salmon and camas bulbs were main staples in the Nez Perce diet that were used frequently throughout the year.

A Winter Meal

Some winter foods would have included dried or smoked meat (jerky) and root soup.  Dried meat and berries as well as roasted meats fresh from a hunt.  There also may have been various nuts and seeds.  In the photo above you can see plain sunflower seeds - lightly toasted.

Food For Travel and On the Hunt

Fingercakes were a special treat made from the kouse root that would have been available especially in spring, but again stored and kept well for long periods too.  Pemmican helped keep hunters fed on very little while off on a long hunt (such as was required to treck into the plains for buffalo after horses were part of the Nez Perce culture.

What We Made

Some of the foods the Nez Perce ate were easy to get (blueberries - even dried) aren't all that hard to find,  Camas bulbs were not easy, and kouse (pronounced something like cowish) even tougher but alternatives with similar taste or texture CAN be found and used to at least give a kid a memorable experience.  It is important to make sure a child knows the taste may not be exactly right though.

Blue Cams Flower (I think it is a different species than the edible one though)

Cooking and Eating Blue Camas is a blog about Hank Shaw's experience with camas bulbs in the kitchen.  He foraged for his own, but he does make them sound delicious - and HARD to FIND!!  If you do go foraging, be aware there are two plants that look almost alike.  One is called, "The death camas." If you would like to see a video about Camas bulbs (and what they look like) in the field THIS VIDEO is a good one with which to start.  After watching you may want to ask, "why do you think he is saving the smaller bulbs to replant?" and see what answer your kids can come up with.  If they don't answer, "the small ones won't be much to eat and if they just toss them there won't be any the next year" (or something like that)  This Second Video is all about preparing the camas in different ways and what they look like "in the kitchen."

Our "Nez Perce Dinner" wound up not being authentic really at all.  There were many times I wished I knew a modern Nez Perce or two as that might have been helpful in getting the flavors closer (even if I couldn't get exactly the right ingredients,) because they do still cook SOME of their traditional foods in addition to eating a modern American Diet.   However, the experience did give Alice the idea of cooking from what was available and something truly memorable to attach information from her other lessons to (something that helps with information retention).

Since we couldn't get camas bulbs, we roasted sweet potato and roasted onions - one to taste the flavor many name as most similar as that to a nicely roasted and caramelized camas bulb, the other to see how a bulb would change in appearance (and flavor) while roasting as well as to experience the most likely texture the bulbs would have had.  In both linked recipes I followed the directions given, but omitted the herbs the recipe called for.  With the onions, I added a smear of canned coconut milk to the top to help them sweeten and caramelize.  If you are looking for more alternatives, you can sort through these other plant species that grow in the NW wild to see what flavors you might prefer.  Also, remember tribes across the continent were connected through a sophisticated series of trade routes and associations.  The Nez Perce were exposed to, Horses, European Trade Goods, and European epidemics long before they ever actually met a white man in person because of the sophisticated trade relationships that existed.  Traded spices may also have been used (though probably not as frequently or in as great quantities and supplies native to the Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington Valleys and Mountain slopes.

Another Nez Perce standard was the "kouse root."  Finding anything about this plant online was extremely difficult. One example I could find was on a site called, "countries and their cultures."  On that site, the root is described as "corn like."  Scroll down to the part titled "cuisine to read the reference yourself."  I also found this resource, that refers to "biscuit root" and associates it as the Nez Perce "cousroot."  When I did further searches on biscuit root (and as a result, lomatium) I discovered a lot more information, incuding photos of the flower, and its equivalent flavors.  Since Aalah makes finger cakes in Meet Kaya, again we did our best knowing we weren't quite on target and made corn meal finger cakes with parsley in them to try to approximate the flavor.  It took half cornmeal half flower to mellow the corn flavor enough to taste the parsley (I wound up using a bottle of parsley and about three cups each of cornmeal and flower to get it to work).  Be careful, add the water very slowly.  If you get too much water in it, then it is too sticky and you can't get it off of your fingers enough to let it dry. Shape them by squishing them in your hand and then leave them in a safe spot to dry for a few days.

Jerky Stew - Although I had no recipe references from which to work for this one, jerky was used in stews or soups in winter.  The meat re-hydrated somewhat while boiled in water.  I decided since the wild carrot was available and used by the Nez Perce, I would simply make a parsnip (which I couldn't find this time of year, so I settled on carrot), leek and potato soup with the jerky in it.  Although the potato we use frequently today was not native to the area (even though Idaho is known for its potato farms today), they did eat many roots and tubers which have similar starchy blandness to them.  Again, I added parsley because it is likely the kouse root would have been one ingredient used for this kind of purpose AND the camas bulb while sweet and sugary when roasted, would have been more oniony when dried or eaten raw (hence the leeks).  I simply boiled the jerky, leeks and parsley for awhile, then added small potatoes and forgot about the carrots (because I can be like that sometimes).  It was really tasty - even without the carrots

Pemmican can be made a lot of different ways.  As you may know from reading Kaya's Escape, pemmican is a high energy food that was wonderful for keeping bands in transit well-fed without the need for a lot of cooking.  Hunting groups would have had pemmican in their saddle bags.  The Northern Tribes, such as the Inuit, made Pemmican with a little jerky and a lot of fat, but it does seem the Nez Perce used jerky, oil and dried fruits to make it (which sounds a little more appealing to me).

One article I found goes over quite a bit more detail about how Plains Indian Groups made pemmican with buffalo as well as how they used it.   The best list of resources available was from Cornell.  The Nez Perce would have had access to buffalo to make pemmican this way at times, but we know they also used deer meat and sometimes even dried salmon.  For supplies that are easy to find (even if they aren't exactly what the Nez Perce would have used) you can try the recipe NPS gives on the Nez Perce Nation Historical Monument site.  You will have to scroll down to find it.  For more authentic fair - there are TONS of ideas on what was used and how to make the pemmican online (it is considered a survival food).  Unfortunately, it would seem not a lot of it is focused on the Nez Perce way or well substantiated (in terms of amount of fruit and nuts).  Quite an argument seems to exist out there about whether fruit was ever used in the first place.  Most recipes do not call for adding nuts or seeds.  Personally, I doubt if there was only one authentic way.  Any migratory group of people used what was available to them at the time they needed something.  Seasonally, what was available changed dramatically.  Sometimes, it probably was jerky, animal fat, and that was it.

Roasted or smoked deer, buffalo and salmon for protein would all be authentic foods.  Jerky made of these meats would be an appropriate protein to start with for making soups or just eating as a jerky for a Winter meal.  Seasoning is a bit more of a question.  In 1764, The Nez Perce would NOT have dressed their roasted  meats with rosemary for instance.

The Idaho Botanical Gardens have a lovely packet online about plants from Idaho, how they got there, and how they are used by humans.  Check out their lessons and activities guide called "Idaho Plantlore".

I guess many people connect "fry bread" as yummy American Indian food.  However, according to Navajo tradition, fry bread was made with the flour, sugar, salt and lard the US government gave them when the Navajo were relocated to lands that made it difficult if not impossible to sustain themselves with their traditional foods.  Fry bread is incredibly fattening and requires processed ingredients.  Additionally, the Nez Perce were somewhat migratory so growing wheat and processing that wheat into flour of any kind would be impossible.  One source I read online said it was possible the Nez Perce made a flour from camas bulbs but even that was pure conjecture from a chef that was trying to figure out how to make his fry bread "authentic."  I think it fairly unlikely the Nez Perce would have eaten it pre-European contact.   However, discussing fry bread and its POSSIBLE history, can be another way to talk about how humans transition through time.  It can be a way to start the discussion about how we've all changed over the past centuries AS WELL as the oppression Native Americans were forced to endure.   It also may offer up a way to discuss one of the issues many American Indians still face today - maintaining a healthful diet.  For more information on this current issue check out more on the American Indian Health and Diet Project site.  If you WOULD like to add this to your feast, I thought this recipe looked simple enough to try.

Back to the Unit Home Page - US History with Kaya

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Comprehension Approach for any Book

Before Reading

Prompts to Try
I predict this book is about _______________________________________ because . . .

I am excited to read this book because I heard ________________________

KWL Charts

If a book is non-fiction, or has non-fictional elements (such as historical fiction) you might also try a KWL chart.  If you need to know what a KWL chart is and how it works, here is a link with more detail.

While Reading

Prompts to Try
The first prompt is about visualizing while the second is about asking questions.  The first, helps a child realize they are imagining things in response to what they read, slow down and notice what they are picturing and learn how to communicate those pictures.  The second prompt can ask questions that are "real life" like (if reading the Kaya series from the American Girl Collection) "wonder what camas bulbs taste like."  OR it can be about what will happen next, "wonder if speaking rain will survive her fall into the river."  I suggest asking kids to fill in each of these prompts at least once/chapter. 

When I read, "______" it made me picture or imagine . . .

When I read, "______" it made me wonder . . . 

Questions to Ask
  • What does this page mean?
  • Can I explain what is happening here in one sentence? (summarize)
  • Why is (character) making this choice or doing/saying this thing?
  • How do the perspectives of (character A) and (character B) differ?  How do they match?
  • What do I know that the character doesn't know?
  • What do I predict will happen next?

After Reading  

Ask kids to Summarize
Summarizing is something far more difficult for elementary kids than most of us think - so be patient.  A summary can be done as a formal writing experience, or just be done orally, or even in pictures for really young kids.

If you choose to have you student/child write a formal summary, you might help them by creating a chart such as the one below.  You'll also need to point out they are  supposed to include the most important experience or struggle in the chapter not just any experience or struggle.

EXAMPLE for youngest, newest writers:
Summarize the book:  In this book (main character)  (has biggest experience or struggle) and (learns -choose the most important lesson . . .)

Of course older kids can handle writing a longer summary and include more detail. Here is an example for slightly older, but still learning writers (say third grade to fourth or fifth grade)

Identify the Setting: Place and Time should both be included:

Describe the Main Problem in the Story:

Describe the Reaction the Main Character has to the Main Problem in the Story:

List the Resolution to the Main Problem (or, if you are trying not to give away secrets, you COULD just answer this for your teacher, but not include it in your synopsis and ask "will (main character) find a way?" instead.

For a NON-FICTION book try:

What is the main subject of the book?

List two to four important ideas (big ideas) a person should be able to remember about the main topic at the end of reading the book (hint, ideas that are repeated and ideas that have lots of evidence and examples are usually the big ideas).

What was the most interesting thing you learned from reading this book?

Asks Kids about Recommendations
Who would they recommend the book to and why?
To help them specify clearly, you might say - would ALL of your friends like this book? none of them?  Can you think of one friend that might like it for a particular reason?  OR perhaps you think someone you know that is a  little older might like it even if you didn't because the reading was really hard. . .  Insist on specificity.

Have them Write a Book Report
A book report will usually summarize the book, state a recommendation (or an "Avoid this book.  It was awful.") and give bibliographical information.

Here is a link about helping a child write up a book report if needed.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Make a TRUE Rag Doll

The herb pictured here is Pelindaba Lavender, but pine needles, rosemary, any dried herb should work well.

 You will need scraps of cloth, scissors, a favorite fragrant herb, string and ribbon and yarn for adornments.

 Cut the fabric into a square and a rectangle
Don't worry about precision.  Just get the general shapes.

Place a pile of herbs in the center of the fabric square as though you are making a sachet.
pull the corners together and bunch the fabric around the herbs.
Tie off and now you have a head and "neck.

Roll the rectangle of Fabric up and place behind the neck of the sachet you created.
Tie the arms on by wrapping string around the arms and neck and tying off.

You now have the general shape of the doll.  She can be adorned in whatever way you wish.
Use more string, ribbon or yarn to tie on colorful bits of fabric for clothes, draw on a face with markers, and pull one stitch through the head and around some yarn to make hair if you wish.

You can also simply dip the "dress end" in dye - even a home-made "dye" using squashed berries would work well to give the dress some color and interest.

Kaya Series Reading Guide

To return to the Kaya Unit Home Page, simply click here.  The unit will include a series of lessons that teach about American Indians in a broader and more experiential way.  This article is one amongst many related articles to come.

If you'd like to have your kids do some vocabulary and comprehension work alongside their reading of the Kaya Series of books, this set of words and questions should work well for most elementary school students between third and fifth grade who might read, The five books that follow Meet Kaya.  To access a guide for the first book, Meet Kaya simply click the linked title. 

There are a few things to consider in order to responsibly teach about American Indians and our shared history.  Please take a look at the article Pluses and Minuses for resources and ideas about avoiding passing on common stereotypes of American Indians AND for information about the "fictional" aspects (or historical and cultural inaccuracies) inherent in the stories so you are informed about these as well.

By The Book

Kaya's Escape


  • provisions
  • praised
  • plunged
  • fatigue
  • satisfaction
  • Salish
  • abalone
  • constellation
  • basin
  • lean-to
  • sniggle
  • sleet
  • cairn

Questions to Answer

  1. Why is it so important for the Nez Perce to dry meat and berries throughout the summer months?
  2. Why does Kaya go toward the horses even when she was told to follow her grandmother into the forest to hide?  What would you have done?
  3. Why does Kaya feel it is her fault she and Speaking Rain are made slaves?
  4. Why do Two Hawks and Kaya use signs to communicate?
  5. Why is the snow such a danger to Kaya and Two Hawks?
  6. What makes Kaya's Cairn so important to the scout that saw it that the men would go back up into the mountains?
  7. What do you think is happening to Speaking Rain?
  8. Can you predict what will happen in the next book?  What will it be about and why do you think so?

Try It

It can be a lot of fun to make forts.  If you have woods, or a beach with log jetsam on it, take some  time to build a lean-to together.  If you can, spend the night and use your lean to while you also take some time out to do the following activity as well.
Find a place where you can see a dark night sky (you'll need to get away from the city lights) and see if you can identify the north star and any constellations while you gaze.  Can you see the milky way?  Prepare first by perusing these sites: American Indian Starlore, Astro Bob's experience with a Pawnee Star Map, and this Teacher's Guide for Native American Sky Legends.  You might also want to bring a standard star chart with you.   This isn't so much about seeing the exact constellations Kaya would have seen, but experiencing the night sky and understanding how it was a map for early travelers.  After having a night under the stars, have your kids create their own star chart complete with a constellation from their own ideas and a myth to go with it.

Build an artful Cairn.  Take a look at nature art such as that made by Andy Goldsworthy.  Let Kaya's Cairn and the nature nearest your "special spot" inspire you to build an artful Cairn

Kaya's Hero


  • tee-kas
  • seized
  • uneasy
  • pemmican
  • beckoning
  • frigid
  • determined
  • seek
  • crease
  • cocked
  • horizon
  • descend
  • isolated

 Questions to Answer

  1. In Kaya's Escape, Two Hawks refused to help build the lean-to because it was "women's work."  As you read Kaya's Hero, make a list of the tasks the men and boys generally did and a list of the typical tasks the women generally did?
  2. Swan Circling says, "You have a strong will, Kaya, and I'm glad you think of the needs of others."  How does Swan Circling description of Kaya compare with the "Magpie" part of Kaya's past?
  3. What do you think about the idea, "to make a mistake is not a bad thing, but I (Swan Circling) should be wise enough not to make the same mistake again-and again."  Can you think of any examples of a mistake you or others you know about have learned from?
  4. How could the lesson about lopsided baskets help two hawks with his flute?
  5. What made Kaya so reluctant to tell Swan Circling about her nickname?
  6. What honor had Swan Circling bequeathed on Kaya?  Why was it so important to Kaya to learn of this honor AND to learn that Swan Circling had indeed known about Kaya's nick-name all along?

Rites of Passage

In every culture there are rites of passage.  Graduation, Marriage, and Prom are among the rites of passage we experience in our own modern culture.  In Nez Perce society, There were many rites of passage.  The first time a girl helped dig Camas Bulbs involved a ceremony and special recognition.  However, the most important right of passage for children in the community was the Vision Quest.

Birth and Death are two rites of passage every human in every culture experiences.  If you have access to Welcome to the World of Kaya, read "How Bear Helped Nimiipuu" and discuss ideas about death from different cultures with your child/students.  What do we learn about how the Nimiipuu honored the loved ones who died from Kaya's Hero?  How does your family remember/honor loved ones that pass on?

Try It

Kaya and her family members, make toys for the little ones out of the materials around them and scraps from the resources they use to make larger clothes and items.  Whether they were from North America, Europe or Asia, people used to make toys out of what was available near-by.  For Kaya that meant using twigs, sticks, pine needles, tule reads and scraps of buckskins.  Make a toy out of scraps of fabric and yarn, or corn husks, or if you are particularly creative and able, figure out how to use twigs from your yard, or pine needles to make a doll of a person or horse by twisting, bending and tying these objects together to make your doll.

Kaya and Lone Dog


  • canyon
  • disrespectfully
  • lope
  • gnat
  • approached
  • commanded
  • crooned
  • contentedly
  • frantic
  • murmured
  • viciously
  • affectionately
  • solitary
  • miserably

Questions to answer

  1. How does having a pure mind and heart help in digging roots?
  2. Why does Kautsa think Kaya should listen to snow paws?
  3. How do the boys compare Lone Dog and Kaya?  What do the say is the same?
  4. Kaya has had a lot of sadness she is dealing with.  Lone Dog helps lift her heart and so does working with the horses.  Have you ever had a time when you were sad and a pet helped you feel better.  Tell about that time here.
  5. Why did the twins finding the puppies make Kaya so nervous?
  6. Would you have tied up Lone Dog to keep her with you or would you have made the same choice as Kaya?  Why?

Different Resources, Different Shelter

Remind your child/students of the tale of the three little pigs.  Each pig finds a different resource with which to build its house.  All over the world in every ancient culture, people had to use the resources around them in order to provide shelter for themselves.  The Nez Perce used Tule Mats and Lodge Poles to make Tepees in the hot summer months and long houses in the winters.  However, the Pueblo made vast adobe complexes.  Unlike the three little pigs, all people developed good shelters for their needs using what they had in the environment around them.  Take a look at the different kinds of homes different people used based on the resources available to them.  Take a look at where each of these styles of homes was made, what resources are used in their construction, and what was available where the homes were constructed.  Also remember some American Indians were migratory (like Kaya and her people) and some were more agricultural staying in one place for longer periods.  How would this affect what the people needed their homes to be like.  Then choose your favorite shelter type, study it a little more and make a shelter in the same style for a doll of yours.

Kaya Shows the Way


  • crested
  • descent
  • dismounted
  • admired
  • surging
  • current
  • sobered
  • gored
  • commotion
  • pigment

Questions to Answer

  1. Why is Brown Deer both happy and nervous about the arrival of Cut Cheek's aunt?
  2. When Kaya pretended to be a magpie on the island after Fox Tail used the nickname again, everyone laughed.  Do you think Kaya's nickname may begin to fade if the others think it no longer upsets her?
  3. Why does Speaking Rain choose to stay with White Braids?  Is it as simple as her vow, or do think it also partly because of how much White Braids needs her?  Is it rewarding for Speaking Rain to be needed so?
  4. When Kaya is explaining Speaking Rain's choice to stay with White Braids to her sister, Brown Deer says she has, "split feelings."  What does this mean?  Have you ever had split feelings?  Describe your feelings and what those feelings were about.
  5. Speaking rain likes Kaya's idea to live with both families - each for part of a year.  Eetsa is concerned with this idea.  It is easy to see why Speaking Rain settled on this idea in the end, but what could be especially difficult about it in the future.

Science Connection

In Kaya Shows the Way, we learn about the great gathering for trade and fishing at Celilo falls.  This waterfall is now flooded under a resevoir behind a dam that was built in the 1950's.  Because of the Dalles dam and others on the Columbia River, fish populations are struggling.  Fishermen making a living at sea and today's Nez Perce are all suffering the consequences of smaller salmon populations because of the dams.  Read about the issue in, "Looking Back" at the end of Kaya Shows the Way. 

Watersheds and the salmon (and other resources) the river provides were important to Kaya and her family and are still important to all of us (Nez Perce included) today.  These two sets of activities will help students learn about watersheds and the life cycle of salmon.  Watershed investigation, and The Salmon Story (while officially about Alaskan Salmon, the same life cycle applies also to salmon in Washington/Oregon and in Idaho).  Learn more about the impact of Dams at Idaho Rivers United and the story of Celilo Falls and the Nez Perce fight to save it as well as their on-going fight to restore healthier and higher fish populations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho rivers.  Then get involved, participate in a watershed clean up with the ocean conservancy, learn about responsible salmon eating with Nature Conservancy or learn about Salmon Restoration Programs with the Department of Fisheries. 

Changes for Kaya


  • spoil
  • foothills
  • beloved
  • keen
  • endanger
  • neglected
  • dashed
  • considerate
  • vigorous
  • backfire
  • haze
  • ascended
  • hobbled
  • defiance
  • intruder
  • elude
  • updrafts
  • plume


  1. Who were the people with pale hairy faces?
  2. How did Soar Like an Eagle Save so many people?
  3. Kautsa tells a tale to the twins about how fire was brought down to the people.  List some of things for which fire was needed.
  4. How did the magpies remind Kaya about what she was supposed to be doing?
  5. Why did Kaya need to rely on Steps High allowing her to ride in order to escape the fire?
  6. What do you think made the whistle Kaya followed?  Why?
  7. Read, "Looking Back - Changes in the Wind" and then predict, what do you think the next story could be for Kaya if someone decided to write it?  Write the next chapter of Kaya's life the way you think it would unfold.

Try It

I came from a rural place where we often could go pick berries at the end of summer.  I must say, childhood, simply isn't childhood without this experience.  If it is the right time of year to go pick blackberries, blueberries, currants, huckleberries, thimble berries, or others take an afternoon off to go berry picking.  Stop for a picnic along the way and read Blueberries for Sal, or more of this last installment of Kaya.

Whole Series 


  1. Retell two lessons Kaya learned that helped her grow up within her community to be well on the road to becoming a leader.  Can you include any myths or stories her elders told that helped her along the way?
  2. What did the Nez Perce believe about how they were created as a people?
  3. When the Nez Perce prayed, to whom were they praying and what kinds of things did they pray for?
  4. How did the Nez Perce get around during Kaya's time?  How did they get around 50 years before Kaya (her grandmother)?
  5. How did the Nez Perce way of life reflect the setting in which they lived?  How did the resources available to the people impact the way lived?  How did life change with the seasons? 
  6. One of the themes repeated in a few of the books is about practice and growing through practice and repetition.  Can you think of a skill that was hard for you at first (like whittling a flute for Lone Dog, basket weaving for Swan Circling or refraining from boasting for Kaya) that you've had to practice in order to get better?  Describe the skill, how things started, how you practiced and how it felt as you became more accomplished and confident in the skill.
  7. Name a favorite theme you found in multiple books in the series.  Give examples of how the theme came up from at least three books and include page numbers where the examples can be found.

Try Its

Use any of these activities from our National Park Service as tie-ins for any number of chapters of the books.  You will find instructions for playing the stick game, making Pemmican, constructing a toy canoe and more.

While reading, ask your students to keep track of the food the Nez Perce are gathering throughout the seasons.  Create a table with four columns and many empty rows.  Then, with your child/students, find as many examples of foods Kaya and her community eat as you can.  Fill in the first column on a table titled, "Foods by the Season."  As you read, continue to collect examples of foods discussed in the book.  Label the top of the second column "fall."  Continue filling out the table so your food samples fall into the correct columns for each season.  For example, Kaya eats fresh huckleberries in the late summer/early fall, and she dries them so they will have dried huckleberries to eat through the winter.  At the end of your reading adventures, have a seasonal feast of Nez Perce foods (or at least modern versions of them).  Please look forward to a lesson that will include recipes and other related resources.

Visit the Nez Perce National Park - I have not yet had the opportunity to visit this collection of locations that honor and celebrated this tribe as well as memorialize the trials and pain of the past, but I'm sure it would be a great experience - if you are nearby, take advantage.  If you are not nearby, you can still take advantage of the online resources and visual opportunities offered by the National Park Service.  Check out these activities for kids, as well as the curricular resources available for teachers and parents.

Even if you can't visit the Nez Perce Park, there are other National and State parks throughout the country that celebrate the American Indians that inhabit and inhabited the region in and surrounding the park.  Learn about the people that were/are local to your area alongside your study of the Nez Perce.  You can compare similarities and differences in culture, tradition, resource availability and use and learn a lot about how not all Native Americans are any one thing.  See if the nearest reservation has an outreach or education program (some do) in which you can participate or if an elder can visit your class (or cooperative) and share some of the stories he/she would normally share with young tribe members.

Have your students list the different kinds of plant and animal life that is mentioned throughout the book.  Then, have them research the plants and animals they list to find photos and pictures.  Print these resources and have them create a collage showing the type of environment the Nez Perce lived in and what lived there.

Print out an outline map of the North American Continent AND a map of the 5 North Western States and their neighboring provinces to the North.  Ask your students to map the approximations of the migrations described in the Kaya series, map the approximate area where Speaking Rain, Kaya and Two Hawks were taken during Kaya's Escape and even include some elevation using clay to show where mountains are and approximate heights of the different valleys and locations mentioned along with place names.  Can they use information from the "looking back" sections, the stories themselves, and research about the Nez Perce to complete their maps in a fairly accurate way?  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Meet Kaya Reading Guide

If you'd like to have your kids do some vocabulary and comprehension work alongside their reading of the Kaya Series of books, this set of words and questions should work well for most elementary school students between third and fifth grade who might read, Meet Kaya.  This is a single reading guide from a whole unit that includes history, art, and language arts elements centered around Kaya and her people.  To access more lessons and resources, check out the Unit Home Page.  For a description of historical inaccuracies and resources regarding those inaccuracies as well as how to approach teaching about American Indians without perpetuating stereotypes, please see Pluses and Minuses.

First, a discussion of the words the Nez Perce and their neighbors used to describe them: Nez Perce Website Page regarding the name, "Nimiipuu"

I suggest having kids finish each of these prompts for each chapter.

Before Reading

I predict this chapter is about _______________________________________ because . . .

While Reading - the first prompt is about visualizing while the second is about asking questions.  The first, helps a child realize they are imagining things in response to what they read, slow down and notice what they are picturing and learn how to communicate those pictures.  The second prompt can ask questions that are "real life" like "wonder what camas bulbs taste like."  OR it can be about what will happen next, "wonder if speaking rain will survive the river."

When I read, "______" it made me picture or imagine . . .

When I read, "______" it made me wonder . . . 

After Reading  This helps kids practice the critical skill of summarizing - something that is very difficult to do btw so be patient.  You might help them by creating a chart where they fill in the subject or predicate underneath.  You'll also need to point out they are  supposed to include the most important experience or struggle in the chapter not just any experience or struggle.

Summarize the chapter:  In this chapter (person)  (experience or struggle) as a result, I wonder . . .

Meet Kaya

Let's Race


  • beloved
  • buckskin
  • reined
  • glanced
  • travois (this is actually the french word)
  • serenade
  • boast
  • deed
  • dismounted
  • tule
  • disguise
  • skittish
  • nickering
  • hesitantly
  • plunged

Questions to Answer:

  1. What season is it when the story begins?  Use a quotation that shows how Kaya describes the season, then decide whether you think it is summer, winter, spring or fall and cite evidence to support your answer.
  2. Who was Kaya asked to do watch?
  3. What is a Travois for?
  4. Why does Kaya race Steps High even though Toe-ta told her not to?
  5. Raven tells a story with some chord and his fingers.  Like a myth, the story is meant to entertain and to teach all at the same time.  What does the story teach the twins?

Try It



  • gaze
  • responsibility
  • bough
  • discipline 
  • wyakin
  • fingercake
  • crier
  • witness
  • pranced
  • clenched

Questions to answer

  1. Do you think the stick people are real?  Why or why not?
  2. Why does Kaya do the looking while Speaking Rain does the listening?
  3. When the author writes, "The boys were clinging to the trunk like raccoons" she is using a simile by comparing the boys to something else to help create a picture in our minds.  The two boys are good at climbing (because raccoons are good at climbing).  Find another simile in the chapter and write what you think the simile is trying to show us.
  4. What is worse for Kaya - the fact that she got whipped or the fact that because of her all the other children also got whipped?  Use evidence from the book to support your answer.
  5. What do you think about the idea that what one person does affects all the rest?  How is this true for Kaya and her tribe?  How is it true for you?  Do you think it fair that all the children got the switch because of Kaya?
  6. Kaya has to learn to control her boasting.  Have you ever had a bad habit you needed to break?  How did you do it?

Try It

Try the shooting game the boys in the book were playing. 

Make your own Bow and arrows or use a Nerf shooter.  Then make the hoop target using the instructions below (you can also just use a Hoola Hoop).   Have a friend throw the hoop into the air and see if you can shoot through it.
For your hoop you will need:  a pool noodle, duct tape, used toilet paper roll, and hot glue gun and glue rods.

  1. Glue the toilet paper roll into one end of the noodle and make sure it is secure.  This will require a lot of glue.
  2. Bend the noodle so it loops back around and put the other end of the noodle over the toilet paper roll.  
  3. Again, use the glue generously and hold in place until the glue has set completely.  
  4. Wrap the seam where the two ends of the pool noodle meet with duct tape to be sure it is fully secured and your target hoop is complete.
If you choose to make your own bow, you'll simply need a long piece of PVC you can bend into a bowed shape.
  1. Use a drill to cut a hole in one end of the pipe and a fine hand saw to cut a slit in the other end.  The slit will need to be at least a couple inches deep.
  2. Thread a strong chord through the hole and tie it off securely.  You may even want to wrap some extra chord around this spot so it runs over the bow string some to make sure you bow string can snap tightly without coming untied. 
  3. Bend your pipe so you can measure how long the string needs to be in order to be tight and make the bow the right shape.  
  4. Tie a heavy bead tightly at this point on the string and trim the excess chord/string.  
  5. Pull the bead up and over the end of the pipe and thread the chord into the slit you cut with your saw.  
  6. Tape or tie more string at the slitted end of the pipe to secure the bead.  
You now have a bow.  Accompany this with some lengths of dowel that fit he size of the bow.  The dowel must be long enough that you can pull the string back and still have the dowel rest against the bow.  For fun add some feathers to one end of each dowel - be careful to keep the weight and size of the feathers balanced and even around the circumference of the dowel - the flight of your arrow will be affected by these feathers.
For safety, you might want to cover the end of the dowels with foam or small rubber balls.  Depending on the length of your bow and how tight you've strung your chord - this bow and "arrow" can cause injury if it hits someone in the wrong spot.  Always make sure no one is in your line of fire. Only allow kids to use while supervised.

Courtship Dance


  • courtship
  • sinew
  • antibodies
  • elk
  • quill
  • porcupine
  • parfleche
  • rawhide
  • shied 
  • steadied

Grandma's Story

Horses did not exist in North America until they were brought over from Europe by the Spanish Conquistadors.  Spanish Europeans Landed and explored in the Southern and Western regions of what is now the United States before English Settlers were very prevalent even along the Eastern seaboard.  When Aalah speaks about the time before horses it is because she lived through the changes brought about by these Spanish Explorers.  The Spanish explorers brought goats, sheep and horses with them.  They also brought diseases the American Indians had never been exposed to and had not developed antibodies for. 

1.  What do we learn from Aalah's tale about the time before horses about how the explorers affected the Nimiipuu?  

2.  Culture, traditions and many ways of life changed dramatically for those American Indians that did survive the sickness and were left with the horses that had gone wild left by the Conquistadors.  Research another of the horse tribes and find out how their clothes, migrations, food, and shelter changed by comparing what you learn about their way of life before and after the arrival of horses to North America.  How does the story of the tribe you study compare to Aalah's?  

Try It

Try your hand at weaving!  There are any number of looms available on the market or you can make your own.  Circle weaving is simple and fun - plus the kids can make their own Rosettes this way if they wish.  You can also make your own tule mat.  If you don't have tule, rafia or other reeds will also work.  Just remember the story of Coyote and the Tepee.  Some things can't be done fast or they will fall apart.

Rescued from the River


  • Surge
  • flailed
  • churning
  • angled
  • withers
  • admiration

Questions to Answer

  1. Why Does Kaya run her horse even though she isn't supposed to in this chapter?  Why is this different from what happened in the first chapter?
  2. Why is it so important that Foxtail called Kaya by her name rather than magpie - what is the meaning in this gesture?

Looking Back

You can either use the "Looking Back" section, OR "Chapter 1: We The People" from Welcome to Kaya's World for this portion of the lessons.  Start by describing that myths are stories people tell to either explain natural phenomenon or to teach important lessons.  Then, read the tale, "How Coyote created the Nimiipuu."  If you have "Welcome to the World of Kaya" you have access to the complete story in the first chapter of the book.  If not, you can read the synopsis of it in "looking back" at the end of "Meet Kaya."  Then, introduce your students to a few other myths - Alice is familiar with a number of Greek and Roman myths as well as the Myth of Oster and Tammuz, so I stuck with American Indian Myths and only reminded her of myths from the European and Asian cultures she already knew.  

Some possible Myths to use:
American Folklore has quite a list of mythology available online at Native American Myths.
Welcome to Kaya's World also has "How Bear Helped Nimiipuu"
There are more myths in the Looking Back sections of, Kaya's Escape which has "Ant and Yellow Jacket"and Kaya's Hero which has, "The Glutton."
The Legend of the Blue Bonnet as retold by Aliki
Storm Boy - this is not a genuine American Indian myth from long ago, instead it is a modern myth written and illustrated in a style akin to that of the coast Salish communities (Pacific Northwest Natives).
Borreguita and the Coyote - Again, this is not a traditional tale, but rather a twist on the "trickster" tales common in Native mythology. In many regions the Coyote was the trickster, but where I grew up, I also encountered trickster tales centered on the Raven.  I don't know how prevalent the use of Crow as trickster is.
Arrow to the Sun - This is now a Pueblo Classic in classrooms across the country having won a Caldecott Honor.

After you've read a few different examples of myths from a variety of cultures, go ahead and ask your students to brainstorm phenomenon to explain, or important lessons every child has to learn.  Then have your kids work together, or separately to write their own modern mythology.

If you will be reading on:

Teacher/Parent - Create a table with four columns and many empty rows.  Then, with your child/students, go back through the story and find as many examples of foods Kaya and her community eat as you can.  Fill in the first column on a table titled, "Foods by the Season."  Label the top of the column, "Summer."  Then, as you read the next story, continue to collect examples of foods discussed in the book in the next column.  Lable the top of the second column "fall."  Continue filling out the table so your food samples fall into the correct columns for each season.  For example, Kaya eats fresh huckleberries in the late summer/early fall, and she dries them so they will have dried huckleberries to eat through the winter. 

Don't forget to also use the American Girl's Website sheet "Nature's Supermarket"

To Return to the Kaya Unit Home Page: Click Here.

For Similar Activities, Vocabulary and Questions for the rest of the Books in the Series: Click Here.