Sunday, July 14, 2013

History with American Girls - Kaya and Pre-colonial America

I am a fan of the American Girls Historical Collection and most importantly, so is Alice.  So, as a way to get into American History, I thought it would be really fun to use the American Girls collection as the "in."  Since that is the case, we will begin with Kaya.  Kaya was not the first American Girl developed, but she is truly the first American Girl in that she is an American Indian Character and fits first chronologically.  The American Girl Website describes her as, "an adventurous Nez Perce girl growing up in 1764."

Lessons From PinchxEverything

Kaya and the Nez Perce

Other American Indian Groups

    Changes for the American Indians

    I know that in later American Girl books there will be opportunities to discuss other tribes and their interaction with the new Americans within their historical context.  In particular, I am fairly certain both Caroline and Kirsten (or at least, her counterpart about whom we will also be reading, Laura Ingles Wilder) have "encounters."  I plan on having lessons - or at least a discussion where we delve into these encounters from both the perspective of the girl in question and the Native American encountered as best we can.  Please also look forward to these lessons and their associated resources.

    A Few Things to Keep In Mind

    The quality and accuracy of the stories behind the first three characters released when I was a girl was pretty high, so while I trust the name of "American Girl," I also know changes have occurred in the last few decades and thought I should check out the series for its accuracy before diving in with the assumption it is all accurate.  Additionally, it is fiction and a certain amount of artistic license is often taken for the sake of the audience in fictional writing.  Even in these cases, it is good to know so fictional elements are not passed down as standard or fact.

    In my experience, introducing cultures from the past to kids can be particularly difficult - especially if you are teaching about a culture different from your own ethnicity or religion.  They tend to believe, the people about whom they are learning no longer exist, OR still exist somewhere living exactly as they did during the era about which they are learning.  It is common for young people to believe that Native Americans no longer live and exist today if we focus too much on the past.  Just as the Dutch no longer walk around in wooden clogs while churning milk into butter in front of a windmill, Native Americans still live, work and learn today but they don't do it the same way they did centuries ago (contrary to the beliefs of some).  In some ways these changes are in the natural order of things.  In order to be sure Alice understands Native Americans are not simply "of the past," I have the set up the page, Today's American Indians as a resource that describes a few of the things we have already done, as well as offers resources I plan to use in the future.  Here are Two additional and relevant lists of other Modern Natives: 11 Native Americans Everyone Should Know and STAR's List (Students and Teachers Against Racism).

    You also don't want to give kids the idea that a particular group of people or region of the world is static - frozen in time.  One can point out to their children how European Colonialists dressed and lived, and how life has changed in that realm too and make comparisons.

    For specifics about educating sensitively in using the Kaya Series, click here.

    Online Resources

    Nez Perce Tribal Website has a page describing answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Nez Perce.

    Nez Perce National Historic Monument

    Crash Course US History - Spaniards and the Native Americans I love these - particularly for highschool kids, much of this is probably advanced for your average American Girl Doll Lover, but preview and see what you can use with your particular student/s.  The Natives and the English

    PBS Nez Perce Page and PBS Video, Sacred Journey of the Nez Perce

    Facts for Kids

    History of Native American Indians - A Documentary Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.  While it is dry and a bit out of date, it does offer a nice survey of the general history of American Indians from the plains in the 1700's on.

    Video Chief Joseph's Speech

    American Girl and Kaya Resources

    American Lesson Guide Links

    I used all six of the books from the original series:
    Meet Kaya, Kaya's Escape, Kaya's Hero, Kaya and Lone Dog, Kaya Shows the Way and
    Changes for Kaya.  I also used Welcome to Kaya's World, which is, unfortunately, no longer in print - but can be found used if you would like to access it too.  Also available are American Girl Mysteries including: The Silent Stranger - A Kaya Mystery.

    Kaya Book Read on YouTube

    Kaya Games 

    Resources from other Blogging Parents/Teachers

    Many of these outline some fun activities - just be careful to identify which tribes are Nez Perce related and which ones are not.  For example, for Kaya's Hero (week 3) on the More than a Housewife blog, "Big Red" makes a dream catcher.  The sweeping generalization that "dreams were very important to Native Americans" is one of those anachronistic generalizations that is actually only true for SOME cultures.  The craft is a GREAT craft to do - particularly if alongside the Nez Perce you decide to also study Ojibway - the group that actually made these beautiful creations.      For more information on the symbolism in dream catchers, check out: The Truth about Dreamcatchers (which I hope is fairly accurate). For more information about how to avoid perpetuating stereotypes such as this one, check out the article, "The Kaya Series - Pluses and Minuses."

    More than a Housewife   I LOVE this blog's math tie in for week #4  What a GREAT idea!

    The Unlikely Homeschooler

    The Every Day Homeschool

    American Girl Class

    Other Resources

    Picture and Children's Books with American Indian subject matter

    AICL's Top Ten List - This resource will offer a list of books that are positive reads without stereotyping the American Indians within the books or their culture.  There is a top ten list for each age group so its a great resource for those of you with multiple ages in your household as well.

    Red Bird Sings  This tale Chronicles the life of Zitkala-Sa. a Native American activist and musician that lived in the late 1800's an important part of American History when westward expansion was creating tension between the people that already lived in the North American West and those that had decided to move in.  The story is told from an autobiographical perspective (although it is really an adaptation for children by Gina Capaldi and Q.L. Pearce) and illustrates the struggle to live in "both worlds" and find a way to "belong" to each culture.  It shows how one young girl had to change and adapt to a new way of life while struggling to keep the traditions, values, and beliefs she knew and loved alive and carry those into adulthood with her so she could share them with the rest of us.  The great thing about this book is the demonstration of the blending of cultures and the unique way this one woman found to synthesize parts of both lifestyles into her own.

    Awesome Ancient Ancestors! - Elizabeth Levy

    National Geographic's Who Came First? - Patricia Lauber

    The Legend of the Bluebonnet - Aliki

    Sign of the Beaver - Elizabeth George Speare - (Reading Guide and Resources)  Since this book takes place in the same decade as the Kaya books, but is set further east where there was already contact (and hostility) between settlers and the American Indians, it seemed this book may be a good compliment to the Kaya Series, but use with caution please.

    History Resources that May be helpful

    I haven't seen the series, "The West" since it debuted.  However it has a lot of potential as an information source, idea resource and possibly as something to have Alice watch (depending on maturity matters) over the course of our history studies.  Particularly episode 1, "The People," episode 6, "Fight No More Forever," and the last episode, "One Sky Above Us" look relevant to this specific unit of study even though the series does not fall exactly in line with the 1764 time-line of the book.  If I can get a hold of these for borrow, I'll check them out and update this with what I did with them.  Please feel free to add a comment if you have more information about the relevance of this video series.  Associated with this episode description are other pages on the site that include information that might also be useful.

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