I remember my first Pow-Wow and how the music of the drums seemed to keep beat with my heart and soul. At first I felt embarrassed and was unsure whether I could perform the Native dances or would look foolish. It is certainly normal to not be confident, but it is not until you join the circle of dance that your best comes out. … Dont Just Sit There –Dance »»

Native Culture


Article Index:

Appropriate Methods When Teaching About Native American Peoples

Research the traditions and histories, oral and written, of Native Americans before attempting to teach these.

Avoid referring to or using materials which depict Native Americans as "savages," "primitives," "The Noble Savage," "Red Man," "Red Race," "simple," or "extinct."

Present Native American Peoples as having unique, separate, and distinct cultures, languages, beliefs, traditions, and customs.

Avoid materials which use non-Native Americans or other characters dressed as "Indians."

Avoid craft activities, which trivialize Native American dress, dance, and beliefs, i.e. toilet-paper roll kachinas or "Indian dolls", paper bag and construction paper costumes and headdresses. Research authentic methods and have the proper materials. Realize that many songs, dances, legends, and ceremonies of Native American Peoples are considered sacred and should not be "invented" or portrayed as an activity.

If your educational institution employs images or references to Native American peoples as mascots, i.e. "Redskins", "Indians," "Chiefs," "Braves," etc. urge your administration to abandon these offensive names.

Correct and guide children when they "war whoop," use "jaw-breaker" jargon, or employ any other stereotypical mannerisms.

Depict Native American peoples, past and present, as heroes who are defending their people, rights, and lands.

Avoid manipulative phases and wording such as "massacre," "victory," and "conquest" which distort facts and history.

Teach Native American history as a regular part of American History and discuss what went wrong or right.

Avoid materials and texts, which illustrate Native American heroes as only those who helped Europeans and Euro-Americans, i.e. Thanksgiving.

Use materials and texts, which outline the continuity of Native American societies from past to present.

Use materials, which show respect and understanding of the sophistication and complexities of Native American societies. Understand and impart that the spiritual beliefs of Native American Peoples are integral to the structure of our societies and are not "superstitions" or "heathen." 

Invite a Native American guest speaker/presenter to your class or for a school assembly. Contact a local Native American organization or your library for a list of these resources. Offer an honorarium or gift to those who visit your school.

Avoid the assumption that a Native American person knows everything about all Native Americans.

Use materials, which show the value Native American Peoples place on our elders, children, and women. Avoid offensive terms such as "papoose", and "squaw." Use respectful language.

Understand that not all Native American Peoples have "Indian" surnames, but familiar European and Hispanic names as well.

Help children understand Native American Peoples have a wide variety of physical features, attributes, and value as do people of ALL cultures and races.

Most of all, teach children about Native Americans in a manner that you would like used to depict YOUR culture and racial/ethnic origin.

 © 1998; Ableza Institute 

Bald Eagle and the Flag

An eagle feather is a lot like the American flag. It must be handled with care and can never be dropped on the ground. Feathers mean a lot to Native American Tribes.  A feather isn’t just something that falls out of a bird, it means much more.  The feather symbolizes trust, honor, strength, wisdom, power, freedom and many more things. To be given one of these is to be hand picked out of the rest of the men in the tribe – it’s like getting a gift from a high official.

If any Indian is given Golden or Bald Eagle feathers it is one of the most rewarding items they can ever be handed. The Indians believe that eagles have a special connection with the heavens since they fly so close. Many Indians believe that if they are given this feather, it is a symbol from above. They believe that the eagle is the leader of all birds, because it flies as high as it does and sees better than all the birds. 

Once an Indian receives a feather he must take care of it, and many will hang it up in their homes. It is disrespectful to hide it away in a drawer or a closet. An Indian will be given a feather to hold on to or to wear, and if they hold it they must put it out for everyone to see. This will be a constant reminder of how to behave.

The only way an Indian can actually get one of these feathers is by doing a brave deed, like fighting off a bear or going up against the enemy. They were never allowed to wear the feather until they went in front of their tribal court and retold the story of their victory. It was at this time that they were allowed to put it in their headpiece. Only chieftains, warriors, and braves have ever been awarded this special gift.  The next time you see eagle feathers in a headdress, think about how they were earned.



For more information see: http://www.indians.org/articles/feathers.html


Be Aware…

You should ask what the craft object is and what it is used for. Also, ask what tribal affiliation made the craft and does it have symbolic representation and meanings. These questions will allow you to make an informed decision. 

In the Native American culture, as in many other cultures, some of its ancient craft objects are believed to posses powers. These craft objects are generally carved animals which were crafted as fetishes. A fetish is generally a variety of animals which are carved out of wood, bone, glass with the belief that the animal fetish will bestow an attribute to its owner. Some fetishes appear to be positive, for example, deer fetish represents gentleness, and a beaver represents a builder. On the other hand some fetishes appear to be sinister. For example, a snake can represent death, and a raccoon can represent a bandit.  

Also, a fetishes may have several potential meanings some positive and some sinister and it is the craftsman that makes the fetish with a particular intent. Thus, it’s best to ask questions and not make purchases of things your religion would not approve of or that you personally feel uncomfortable with. 

Be aware so that you won’t be sorry… 

Article by CherokeeCloud

Written September 25, 2006


Civil Rights Movement and the American Indian Movement
CLAN WITH A “C” not a “K”
Dance Shawls
Discovering the Meaning of a Pow Wow
Dont Just Sit There –Dance
Earth Day – April 22
Effects of Abuse
Ettiquette for Pow Wow
Gourd Crafts and Decorations
How Do I Obtain A Native Name?
Indian Flag
Indians of the Caribbean
Let Us Dance…
Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
Moving Back Home…
Native American Arts and Crafts
Native American Studies Programs
Native Americans And Christianity
Native Americans and Christmas
Native South American Indians
New Mexico Native Americans
Regional Overview Of Native American Clothing Styles
Thanks without the Giving
The Meaning of Color
We Shall Remain
What Does A Native American Look Like?
What’s In A Haircut?
Without Warning