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Hap Gilliland

Developed for the Indian Bilingual Teacher Training Program
Eastern Montana College, Billings, Montana, December, 1987


Curriculum developed for use in non-Indian schools is seldom appropriate for use with Indian or Eskimo students, without adaptation. In fact, it is important that the curriculum being used in any school be adapted to meet the needs of the students in that community. The extent to which you relate the content in any subject area to the local language and culture tells the students a great deal about the value which you place on their way of life.

One way that we can be sure that Indian culture is effectively integrated into the curriculum is to write units of study in every subject area which will emphasize Native American thought and culture, then be sure these units are used in the classrooms.

Perhaps it is easiest to integrate an actual in-depth study of Indian culture into the social studies curriculum. however, discussion of Native culture, activities, and beliefs, as well as local uses for information, can enhance the study of many other subjects, including music, art, mathematics, reading, writing, drama, and physical education.

These units will not, of course, be the only times the Indian culture is brought into the classroom. There should be references to Indian values and Indian methods of doing things in our discussions almost daily throughout the year. However, these units will provide a time when we particularly concentrate on some phase of Native American life. What will be covered each year may depend upon the general social studies curriculum for the year, as well as local school decisions, and the maturity and level of understanding of the students.


The whole curriculum development process needs to be well planned. Too many attempts at development of culturally related curriculum have consisted of interested people going out and interviewing tribal elders, gathering other materials, and making them available, but with inadequate planning for their effective use. The original planning for the project should include ways of assuring staff cooperation, promoting community involvement, curriculum writing, field testing, revision, and the in-service training of teachers.

Development of a culturally related curriculum can occur at either the classroom, school, or district level. It should be done at all three levels. Your part in this process will depend upon your position and your influence. Hopefully, if there are many native students in your district, you can help to see that the entire curriculum is made relevant to the culture. However, each classroom teacher must still develop some of his or her own curriculum to meet the needs of the students in the classroom.

How rapidly the school should go into curriculum development will depend both on community and teacher interest and on finances. The thorough development of curriculum and related materials in all or several areas at once may require large expenditures, especially at the secondary level, however, if there is not much money available for this purpose, this should not prevent the development of curriculum. It means only that the school will have to concentrate on the curriculum in one or two of the content areas at a time. This way, teachers and other experts are not required to take time off to develop the curriculum. Also, the necessary expenditures for materials are spread over a period of years rather than all occurring in a short time.

1. Planning

If you as the bilingual program or curriculum director are planning for development of curriculum on a district-wide basis, you have to decide whether you will start with district and village involvement, or start with one school, one grade, or even only one class.

Your first step is to identify the need, and gather enough evidence to show that there is a need for change. Consider how the materials will be used, the appropriate language to be used in those materials, and who may be involved in the development and use of the material.

Development of a culturally relevant curriculum should be, as much as possible, a team effort. If the curriculum is to be used cooperatively by teachers and teacher aides, then as many of these people as possible should be involved in the development of the curriculum. Cooperation and a willingness to help each other are essential. All team members should share their information and ideas and help wherever needed so that every person is able to do his part successfully. The final product should be a team-developed curriculum that will benefit everyone.

Some schools have found that the most effective curriculum development begins in the Spring with preliminary planning and making teachers and the community aware of what is to be done. This means that the staff will be ready to begin the actual curriculum writing, field testing, evaluation, and integrating the plan into the classroom the following year. Of course, if staff is available, much of the actual writing of the curriculum can be done during the summer when concentrated time can be devoted to it. The time when a school does Title VII (Bilingual) or Title IV (Indian Education) proposal writing is also a good time to start this process.

Before developing your own curriculum, check as thoroughly as possible to see if a similar effort has been made in any other schools. Locate, study, and evaluate any cultural curriculum or materials others may have produced. The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) system and neighboring schools are a good place to start. If there is some, evaluate it for biases, omission, stereotyping, etc. Decide how useful it is. Do you need to start from scratch, revise what is available to make it applicable, or simply promote the use of already available material? This may give you a big head start. It is much easier to adapt someone else's material to your community than to start from scratch.

Hold a meeting to discuss with all interested the areas to be covered and the responsibilities of those who are involved. Anticipate questions to be raised by people who may make decisions or influence the use of your curriculum. Write a brief outline of the proposed curriculum for review by these people.

Identify formally the person who will be responsible for coordination of the project. That person needs to be assertive, creative, enthusiastic, and flexible. He or she needs to be good at involving other people and delegating responsibility, and he needs to have good relationships with people, both inside and outside of the school.

If you are the person who will develop and promote the integration of native language and culture into the curriculum, you will have to be enthusiastic and willing to expand time and effort. Be sure that all those who will be using the curriculum or whose cooperation will be needed are involved. You will need to work with all the school personnel, not just the teachers but the librarians who are the resource people, the administration who are the promoters, and the people in the community for they are the experts on the culture. You will need a committee of enthusiastic people representing all these groups. You may want to contact others who can gain community support: tribal council members, community center managers, radio and newspaper reporters, and church leaders. You will also need to be on the various subject area curriculum committees so you can show them how the Native culture can be used to enhance their subject matter teaching. You will have to learn their objectives and influence the subject specialists, and you will need to share the positive results as you see them develop throughout the district.

Develop realistic objectives, methods of procedure, and proposed dates. If local tribally oriented materials are to be included, determine who is to develop them, and what the sources will be. Also identify and make use of linguists and educational consultants.

2. Assuring staff cooperation

Wholehearted staff cooperation is important to the success of any curriculum development project. The teachers who will use the curriculum must feel that they have an important part in the development process from the beginning. Staff support will depend on their feelings about the benefits, the work they will have to do, the acceptance of their input, and parent interest. They must be convinced within their own minds that there is a need for change. All those who will use the curriculum should have a part in the planning.

The original orientation should include:

a. Goals
b. Explanation of program
c. Input from teachers who will develop and use the curriculum
d. Information on possible activities and resources including consultants and inservice training
e. Scheduling
f. Evaluation procedures
Staff roles and responsibilities should be clearly stated. Who is to make final decisions should be clear. As the curriculum is developed, information should be shared regularly with all who will use it. Remember that in most schools the School Board working within the laws of the state or with Bureau of Indian Affairs educational standards have the final authority.

Teachers are busy people. The more complete the plans, materials, and background information, the more likely they are to use it. In-service helps, but information the teacher will need should also be built into the materials.

3. Promoting Community Involvement

Community members are not only good resources, they should be involved as much as possible in the curriculum development process. Indian involvement is essential in both planning and validation of cultural content. The culture of each community is unique. Only the local people can determine the accuracy and authenticity of the material.

If local cultural materials have been included, you will need a committee of Native people to review the materials. The community must determine who the cultural experts are - respected elders, people with much cultural knowledge. For contemporary content these may be tribal police, forestry personnel, etc.

Some material can be used only at certain times, places, or circumstances, for example, "winter telling stories." Record this information and emphasize the importance of teachers abiding by the wishes of the community leaders.

Consider the "ownership" of certain kinds of information. Some Northwest Coast families own stories. Some tribes do not want their stories published because they believe that some outsiders have made a profit for themselves or have given no credit to story tellers.

4. Curriculum Writing

Before actual writing begins, a general plan of action and unit outline should be agreed upon, so everyone's responsibilities can be defined, and all materials developed will dovetail easily into the final product.

It is usually best to hold, from the start, monthly meetings of all those who will be involved in any way. Most of the work can then be done by individuals and committees which meet more often, and the meetings of the entire group can be largely reports of progress and decisions on major areas rather than discussion of details. Individuals who are working on specific items can meet together to write, share, improve, and correlate their materials. If parents or other community representatives are writing, staff members should offer technical assistance, but not force it on them, or interfere more than necessary. Be sure information is shared as frequently as possible so all those involved know what is being done, understand how their part coordinates with others, and stay enthusiastic.

One coordinator should be in charge. That coordinator will collect the material from committees and individuals and help combine it into a curriculum plan. The staff should edit the material as needed, then tribal people should check it for validity. If there are important changes, these should be referred back to the Native committee for approval. The coordinator is then responsible for final editing before layout, paste-up, and printing of trial copies begins.

5. Field Testing

If the curriculum is to be used in more than one school, you will need to select the target schools and classes who are to pilot the program. Thoroughly orient the principal and others to be involved, then complete any necessary staff training before proceeding with the field testing. Identify all resources and be sure they are on hand and ready before beginning any activities. And plan how you will monitor the field testing on a regular basis. The field testing may include:

a. Pre- and post-testing which is based on the stated objectives. (Post testing is useless unless there is pre-testing also.)
b. Observation in classrooms
c. Evaluations by students. How well did it relate to their needs?
Decide how and when student and teacher reactions will be gathered and analyzed. Some questions which might be used in teacher evaluations are:

a. Will the curriculum meet the stated objectives?
b. Is it organized so as to be easy to use?
c. Are materials for activities readily available?
d. Is background information sufficient for your use?
e. What additional information would you like included?
f. Is there excess material?
g. Was student interest high?
h. Was the information clear and easy to use?
i. Was it at the proper reading and maturity level for your students?
j. Is there excess material?
k. Did students meet the stated goals and objectives?
l. Which activities did you use?
m. Did these help to clarify concepts?
n. Why did you not use others?
Both students and parents should be interviewed to get their reactions.

Butterfield (1985) has a good suggestion for measurement of interest level. An observer sits in the room and every three minutes, tallies the number of students actively engaged in product use. He or she then does the same when other materials are used and compares the totals.

Be sure the evaluation is complete, the findings are studied by the original developers, and that recommendations for revision are based on these.

6. Revision

After field testing, the revision of the materials may be done either by the original or a new committee. The revised version should then be approved by the teachers who used the original version.

You are now ready for the printing to the final version and distribution to the teachers - but you are not through yet! You may find, as the materials are used, that there is a great need for development of supplementary materials. And the curriculum plan should never be considered complete. Continued improvement and refinement should be planned.

Be sure that enough copies are printed to supply two or more copies for every local teacher who can use them for at least the next three years, and so that copies can be furnished to neighboring schools. It is important that Indian schools be willing to share their materials with other schools that have Indian students. If all schools did this it would greatly lessen the number of schools that are not making any attempt to adapt their curriculum to the needs of their culturally different students. In a large district the curriculum coordinator or the instructional media office may be able to handle distribution to teachers and also to other school district. Otherwise some copies can be supplied to an organization such as the Council for Indian Education that is willing to distribute copies at cost. The important thing is that if good curriculum is developed, it be made available to improve the instruction of the local children and other Indian students as well. Storybooks should be distributed to parents and excess material should be stored in the school library.

7. In-Service and followup

A great deal of followup is needed to see that the curriculum is put to use. Too much curriculum is developed, distributed, and shelved. Without in-service training in their use, there is likely to be very little effective use of the curriculum development. In-service should be part of the original development plan, and it should be thorough and complete.

There should also be followup to aid the teachers in integration of the new curriculum into the curriculum already in use in their classrooms. Someone should be responsible for monitoring its use regularly. Any problems in use of the curriculum should be dealt with promptly. Any planned evaluation procedures should be followed exactly as planned. The findings should then be analyzed thoroughly and additional modifications should be made if needed.

FIFTEEN STEPS IN PLANNING A UNIT OF STUDY (with Social Studies examples)

1. Determine the general unit plan

One of the first duties of a curriculum planning committee is to agree on a general unit outline which will be used for the organization of a unit of study. It is helpful if one general plan of organization can be agreed upon, to be used as a general guide for all the curriculum that is developed for the school. The curriculum unit outline in Appendix A can be used or adapted, or the committee may wish to develop their own. The outline agreed upon should be considered a useful guide, not used rigidly, as adaptations may be needed to fit different subject areas and topics.

2. Examine and define concepts, goals, and objectives

The first part of any unit to be decided upon is the Major Concepts you want the students to gain from your unit of study. State these in one or two brief sentences that will make sense to the students and that are on their level of understanding, so that when you begin to teach the unit you can write them on the chalk board and present them to the students as important ideas to be remembered. These will also act as your guide throughout the unit. Are you getting these ideas across and reinforcing them?

Next, you need to establish your major Goals. Whether developing classroom or district wide curriculum, you need to know your instructional objectives. What do you want the students to do or know when the study is completed? State them in terms of the students' behavior or knowledge, not teacher action.

Stated objectives guide you in development. They help again when you are teaching to know where you are going. They help the student to know what he is expected to do. They give you a basis for evaluation. If you have not written out your goals, you have no definite basis for selection of content or materials.

You should develop objectives specific to the particular unit of study. It is also useful to have overall cultural objectives for the school or district. Appendix B and C are examples of objectives developed for Northern Cheyenne schools.

Some teachers separate their goals from their objectives. They list only two or three over-all goals - things to be kept in mind throughout the unit. They may not be measurable or specific because they contain words like believe, know, enjoy, appreciate, and understand which cannot be measured but express best the real goals of teaching. Then they list a larger number of behavioral objectives within the content, perhaps one or two for each day the unit will taught. These are student-based objectives which state who will do what, how, to what extent, and when. These objectives should be specific. Use words like identify, compare, describe, name, list, arrange, write, construct, draw, demonstrate, perform, and solve. These are specific and measurable. Words like appreciate and understand are not.

If you use only one list of objectives, these should be specific and measurable so they can be used as the basis for evaluation, and the list should be short enough to be kept in mind while teaching.

3. Use a stimulating descriptive title and a motivating introduction.

Try to find a title that will pique the curiosity of the students and arouse interest when you announce the topic of the unit you are about to study.

In your unit plan, be sure that the Introduction of Content includes ideas for introducing the unit in a way that will make the students really interested in reading about the subject. It should also thoroughly introduce the main concepts they are about to learn, so they know where they are going.

A unit can be introduced in many ways: playing a game, watching a good film and discussing new insights from it, film strips, slides, tape recordings, handouts, interviews, displays, music, art, activities, or using anything else that interests and actively involves the students in the subject to be studied.

An activity many teachers like to include in the introduction of their unit on Indian culture is reading aloud something that will stimulate discussion. For a unit on Indian history, this might be the first half of the "Fable for Americans" (Gilliland 1981). As the students discover for themselves that the story is not about a future Chinese invasion, as it purports to be, but about the history of the European invasion of Indian lands, they usually are motivated to make comparisons. By reading the rest of the story together and discussing it, students, especially the non-Indians, usually develop a new perspective on Indian history, and are ready to express their ideas and feelings. This can lead to good pupil-teacher planning sessions.

4. Provide for student input.

Following the introduction is an ideal time for cooperative pupil-teacher planning. You have developed some interest and given the students some basic information. Now is the time to get their input - to let them express their ideas, their interests - to let them help you plan. So be sure to allow for this pupil-teacher planning in your unit outline.

There is a tremendous difference between the interest and motivation of students who are simply told what is to be covered in a unit and assigned a subject to be researched, and those who know that it was their idea that they study certain areas and that they have chosen their topics for research.

In my introduction I make sure that I have given the students enough information so that they can make intelligent suggestions. Then in my planning session I ask them what they would like to know about this topic. We list these on the chalkboard. It has been my experience that they are not only enthusiastic, but they improve my plans for the unit by coming up with new and helpful ideas.

I find that at any level, the students will come up with most of the questions I wanted them to look into. If my elementary class is to study a particular group of people, their suggestions will include nearly all the things, such as games, housing, food, clothing, and tools, that I would have assigned. If there is something missing that I think is important I can, as a member of the group, make my suggestions too.

If there are a lot of suggestions, we group them under several main headings, then we begin the selection of committees to work on each of these main areas. I try to see that I get students of different abilities on each committee.

The topics under each of the main headings will be guides to the committee researching that subject. These are the things the class would like to know. It is up to the committee to bring back that information. Knowing that the other students are counting on them to get the information is added incentive to do a good job of research.

What if one of the topics I added is not chosen because no one thinks it is important? Maybe it isn't. But if I think it is, is there any reason that I shouldn't be assigned that topic? Isn't that better than having one or two disgruntled students who are the only ones researching topics they didn't want?

When I talk about pupil-teacher planning, I mean real pupil-teacher planning in which pupils express their ideas, we plan together, and the students have a real voice in the decisions, which may or may not be similar to what I intended. I have conducted a great many pupil-teacher planning sessions and have observed a lot more. Many of the planning sessions I have observed have not been cooperative planning. They have been guessing games to see if the students could guess what the teacher already had in mind. The teacher has already decided exactly what the students are going to do and is only coercing the students into his or her plan. It only takes two or three of these sessions to make the students lose interest in trying to plan and to make future planning sessions ineffective, either for planning or for motivation. The pupils should know that they actually have a choice; that whether it turns out good or bad, they had made a decision and should be willing to live with it. Learning to make good decisions is as important as any of the content we are teaching.

Pupil-teacher planning does not save planning time. It may add. As the teacher I want to have more ideas than the students can use, so they will actually have a choice. And I have to do a lot of thinking about how I will motivate and conduct the planning session, how I will assign topics, how I will organize the work to keep everyone profitably occupied, and how I will develop a balance between study and activity as the unit progresses. But in the long run it cuts my effort a great deal because, as we all know, it is much easier to teach a highly motivated group than one that has to be forced.

5. Integrate as many subject areas as possible.

Regardless of the topic or the subject area of the curriculum unit you are developing, you should try to integrate into it as many subject areas as possible, especially at the elementary school level. This may be harder to do at the secondary level unless the entire staff has agreed to begin the school year with an emphasis on the local culture and the building of pride and self-esteem.

To show how one integrated unit can add spice and zip to every subject and each subject can add to the effectiveness of the unit, let us take as an example a social studies unit on the local Indian culture.

The most obvious subject to be integrated with the social studies is reading. Not all of the reading period can be devoted to reading about Indian life because there are reading skills to be taught. But at least during the 20 minutes or more each day in which all students are reading silently, the material they read can all be related to the unit if you can locate enough material at the students' reading levels. Also, most skills can be practiced as easily through Indian related materials as through the stories in the basic reader. And students can read aloud to each other from Indian poetry, oratory, and fiction.

Students can get much practice in the language arts by recording oral history and editing it for use in the classroom reading program and for permanent storage in the school library. They can keep their own daily journals which should include their progress in the unit. They can write letters to ask for information. If you don't have other sources to which they can write letters for free information, try writing to publishers to ask for listings of books related to the unit. During the unit on Indian culture is a good time to conduct that part of your science program related to nature, wildlife, and conservation. There may be older members of the community who can help teach your students about animal lifestyles, tracks, useful plants, and medicines used by the local Indians and can help build that feeling of the close relationship between man and nature that is so important in Indian culture. Local Indian names for animals, plants, and other objects can become a part of the vocabulary used in your classroom.

As part of your teaching of health and nutrition, students can research the foods eaten in the community both now and long ago. Parent volunteers may be able to help the students cook a variety of foods to be used in your culmination activity.

Native American games and recreational activities will, of course, occupy both recess and the physical education period. The children can make all of the objects needed for these from materials they can gather near the school and from the hides and bones from their parents' hunting without purchasing any materials. If the children gain an understanding of the importance in the Indian culture of fair play and sportsmanship, of doing their best without complaining and the need for adult supervision, this can benefit all your classroom activities. Students should understand the importance of the active life style of the past to health and physical well being.

There are many good art activities that will naturally become a major part of the overall program. Basket weaving, pottery making, tanning hides and making moccasins and other objects, beadwork, jewelry making, and the making of clothing all aid in understanding the traditional lifestyle. Your major emphasis will naturally be on the local arts and crafts.

Because most teachers, even music teachers, have very little background in Indian music and dance, it is often completely omitted from the school curriculum. It may be necessary to find local Indian people who can help you teach the music during your study of Indian culture. In addition to the music used in your Native culture unit, the children should learn at least one dance song and one honoring song that they can use throughout the year. Indian dancing can become a part of the program in both music and physical education.

The use of maps is important to the understanding of any social studies unit. Maps will be needed to understand the location of tribes and major cultural groups as well as the relationship of these groups to each other. I like to develop an understanding of maps by having the children draw scale maps of their classroom and their school neighborhood before they go on to the use of commercial maps of the community, state, and nation. I also have them make relief maps, using paper mache for a large class map and salt and flour for mountains on individual maps. I find that it greatly increases their understanding of the geography of the areas they are studying.

Alene Beck, a teacher at Lockwood School in Billings, Montana, has a room size map of North America on the floor of her fifth grade classroom. With the chairs pushed against the walls, different children can take the part of different tribes and groups of settlers as they study U.S. history and see how people are pushed around as more people move in. She says, "The real feelings of crowdedness and displacement, of being 'squished' together and made to move, give the students empathy for and understanding of actual historical events. We always have a very lively discussion afterwards. Some of the students have said they felt real anger at the invasion of their territory."

It is difficult to build enthusiasm for five different units in five different subjects at the same time. However, if one unit can be emphasized and from time to time each of the other subject areas is used to supplement that subject, that unit will enliven the learning in all the subject areas it is used to supplement. That unit can enliven the learning in all the subject areas. This is true regardless of the grade level or topic of the unit.

6. Research all possible resources.

An important step in developing a curriculum unit is identifying resources. Be sure to include the community resources. Some Indian people should be involved in the curriculum development from the very beginning. They can help with identifying others to put on your resource list. These will include Indian community members who can be brought into the classroom to work with students and tell about their lives, ideas, and work. Community members can also review curriculum materials for validity and see that it meets their standards. The community has the experts on the culture. The school has the experts on putting that culture into the classroom.

Some of the potential sources of information to include in the resources for your unit include:

a. You!
b. Parents
c. Local tribal leaders, local story tellers
d. Libraries - school, city, tribal, state
e. Books, magazines, newspapers
f. Taped oral histories
g. Historical societies - local, state, national
h. Loaned collections - from colleges, libraries, museums
i. Art galleries, museums
j. Craft centers, trading posts
k. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
l. Tribal offices
m. College Native American Studies programs
n. State and federal offices of Indian education
o. Films, filmstrips, slides, records
p. Indian historical societies, tribal historians
q. Urban Indian centers
r. Indian organizations - local, state, national
s. Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC)
t. Smithsonian Institution
7. Make content planning thorough but flexible.

The unit content should be thoroughly planned but flexible so that you can make use of student input and student interests, and so that you can adapt to individual differences and make use of new or unexpected ideas or opportunities.

In the suggested outline for a curriculum unit in Appendix A, I have listed separately: introduction of content, content, application, and personalization. Actually, these are all part of the content and the teaching of that content. They could have all come under the "content" heading. But I have found that unless we list them separately, planning for introducing the unit may not be thorough and ways of getting students personally and actively involved may be slighted. These are too important to be neglected, so I find that it pays to have them listed separately in the outline.

Outline all of the important information to be taught to the students. This should include a list of the topics to be covered and the concepts to be remembered along with methods of presenting these to the students.

Be sure that you include the methods to be used in presenting the information to the students, such as:

a. Texts, library books, and locally developed reading materials
b. Handouts
c. Interviews
d. Films, filmstrips, slides, tape recordings
e. Displays
f. Lectures
It is important that in your outlining of the content to be taught you include enough ideas to allow some flexibility in teaching. There should be more information than can be adapted to meet student needs and interests. It should be made clear that the outline is not to be followed rigidly and that it is not necessary to cover every detail. Details of the content can be varied to meet pupil needs and to make use of new or unexpected ideas or opportunities.

In a study of Indian life, do not over-emphasize history. History can be useful in understanding modern times if it is brought up to date, but if not, it gives a false impression of who an Indian is. Because the people being studied are not like the students and their people now, the students do not see them as being relevant to their lives. The study needs to include present day Indians, both prominent people and common people in the local community.

Be sure in studying the local community that you include both the traditional activities such as pow-wows, giveaways, salmon bakes, or sun-dances, and also the daily lives and work of the people today, whether in a business, tribal police force, or lumber camp.

Avoid stereotypes of the traditional Indian that make him seem unreal and other than ordinary. As LaRoque (1979) says,

Neither noble red man nor the savage Indian myth says much about Indians as human beings, people who are capable of the good, the bad, and the ugly. People who can laugh, cry, hate, and love. People who have dreams, aspirations, and hopes. People like the rest of humanity, who are facing and adapting to change. Cultural information presented should be the most accurate and true to life available, but don't think that your information is incorrect because one person in the culture did a thing differently. Not everyone tans a hide, beads a dress, breaks a horse, or tells a story in exactly the same way. Explain this to the students, but be sure that the knowledgeable people in your community do not feel that your version is incorrect.

8. Integrate all subjects into the unit on Native Americans.

All subject areas should be integrated into any unit on Native American culture so that the students see that math, language arts, science, and so forth are all important in their own lives and their community. See that they have opportunities to use skills they have learned in the various subjects and apply them to local problems. This means that teachers of all subject areas should be involved in the writing of the Native American Studies curriculum. All teachers need to feel that this is their curriculum.

9. Apply the culture to other subjects.

Just as skills from other subjects can be used in studying Native culture, various aspects of the culture can be brought into discussions and applied when studying other subjects. Local people can be a real help in planning ways to do this. If they can be involved in the curriculum development, they can suggest various aspects of the culture that are applicable in particular areas of the curriculum.

Teachers should not feel that they cannot integrate the Native culture until they become cultural experts. The Experts are in the community, and they are available. Teachers can begin to use characteristics of the culture as they learn them. Both community members and teachers who have more experience with Indian people can provide inservice and demonstrate concrete examples of the use of the culture.

Butterfield (1985, pps. 23-31) suggests that one way of integrating the culture into all areas is the use of cultural themes. She has excellent suggestions on how the entire school, at all grade levels in all subjects, can study the reservation, a pow-wow, and buffalo. Another way of getting ideas for this is to hold an inservice meeting at which you brainstorm all the ways the selected cultural topic could be brought into every classroom.

10. Plan for getting the students personally involved.

The Curriculum plan must include specific suggestions to the teacher on several ways of getting students personally involved. It should emphasize the necessity of helping every student to feel that what the group is studying affects his or her own life and is important to him or her personally.

An example of a project that developed this kind of personal involvement is one carried on in a ninth grade history class. Each student was to try to learn the origin of his name and also tell about something interesting that one of his parents, ancestors, or another relative had done. John Wooden Legs, Jr. reported that his great-grandfather had fought in the Battle of the Little Big Horn and that he had been given the name Wooden Legs because he could walk all day without tiring. His legs were solid like wood; they did not wear out like other people's. He also reported that his first name, John, was a Biblical name, and said that John the Baptist was an athletic outdoorsman like himself. Dolores Gaye Gilley, a non-Indian in the same class, reported that her great-grandfather was a Pony Express rider and that Gilley was the Irish word for hunting and fishing guide. The class laughed with her about the contrast between her first and middle names - Dolores, the Spanish word for sad, and Gaye meaning happy. Each person in this class of varied cultural backgrounds was able to develop pride in his or her own background and personal identity.

Over activities which might help to get students personally involved could include:

a. Comparing historical events studied to something in the students' own lives or experience
b. Clarifying a concept through creating a poem, story, drawing, craft, or drama.
c. Students putting themselves in the place of a historical or fictional character and imagining how they might have faced a situation, what their feelings would have been, what they would have done.
d. Students taking two sides on a question, then each defending their side through debate or panel discussion.
e. Having students describe a characteristics or trait of their own that relates to a concepts.
f. Explaining their feelings about a current situation or event.
g. Discussing how something in a presentation affected their feeling or their thinking.
h. Recalling a personal experience that relates to what is being studied.
i. Assignments in which they involve their families or friends in discussing ideas or finding information.
The pupil-teacher planning sessions discussed earlier are one way of beginning to involve the students. As students choose their own topics and hunt information, they become more involved in them.

Recognize and make use of local cultural activities whenever they occur. Whether it is during a study of Indian history and culture or any other time, pow-wows, historical events, and other cultural activities should be recognized, studied, and discussed. This applies whether the activities represent the Indian or any other cultural group in the community. Students should be encouraged to attend and learn, then come back to class ready to discuss what they did and learned. And be sure you, the teacher, participate. The students could hardly be expected to think an activity was important or discuss the event seriously if the teacher did not make a real effort to attend and take part.

A pow-wow provides an opportunity for study of many related subjects: the customs and history of the pow-wow, the traditions and locations of other tribes and groups that attend, the various parts of the costumes, and the activities such as give-aways, namings, or songs.

If your plan for the presentation of cultural information includes activities which get each student personally involved mentally, physically, and emotionally, then it should also promote interest, arouse curiosity, stimulate discussion, and promote the expression and understanding of different points of view.

11. Promote active participation.

Participation is essential to the learning of Native American students. It may not be included in the teaching if specific suggestions are not included in the curriculum guide.

Having students just sit and read a textbook is an ineffective way of teaching social studies or any other subject to any students, but particularly to Native American students. Information that is simply read, without active involvement of the students is usually forgotten quickly if comprehended at all.

Interest, understanding, and learning that will be remembered permanently are all promoted by carrying out an activity which relates to the concept. These activities should be at the students' developmental level and designed to clarify the concepts being studied. They should include sharing of materials and information and cooperative effort.

The activities should totally involve the students in exploring the concepts you want them to remember. But don't make your planning so detailed that it becomes rigid and inflexible. Rather, as you list activities in your curriculum outline, list more activities than you can use, then when you are teaching the unit you will feel free to let the students help you decide which ones to use and give them the motivation of doing what they themselves decided upon. Together, you can select those activities that are the most appropriate to the individual students in the class and that you feel are most likely to achieve the goals and objectives for a particular group of students.

Being prepared to permit this freedom to choose requires time and resources, but that is why you are planning your curriculum in advance.

Remember that students are more inclined to become personally involved and work harder on group projects than on individual assignments, so consider this as you list possible activities. By getting both high and low ability students on each committee, the students can be a big help to each other and will help you adapt the assignments to individual differences.

Plan a variety of activities through which students can "play around with" the concepts, become personally involved, and clarify their ideas. These activities may include:

a. Class discussions
b. Research: library, texts, local people
c. Writing stories, poems, paragraphs, reports
d. Drawings and illustrations
e. Arts and crafts
f. Indian music
g. Indian dancing
h. Debate
i. Field trips
j. Show and tell
k. Committee work
l. Planning the culmination activity and preparing for it.
At the lower elementary levels, topics to be researched can be broad and simple: types of housing, food, implements, and the reasons for each. Reports from each committee can lead to other projects that will get the students more completely involved. Reports on housing could lead to building scale models of various kinds of Indian homes, a trip to a nearby clay bank for clay to build a model pueblo, or setting up a family teepee in the schoolyard.

At the upper elementary levels, topics can require more analysis. The topics might be similar, but the study of them would include making comparisons between groups who use different kinds of housing for example and comparison with the same items in modern society and why they have changed. Or the students may choose topics that require more difficult research: home life of the family, religion, values, or the many uses of the buffalo. Again, comparison of each of these with the present day and their own lives makes the study more immediately meaningful and improves the understanding of varied present-day cultures. It also prevents the feeling that Indian people are no longer with us.

At this level student research can lead to active participation of many kinds, such as writing and producing a play, making authentic costumes and models of homes, tool making, basket weaving, pottery making, drying and preserving foods, cooking, tanning hides, drawing pictures of an object or event or cartoons to express a viewpoint, singing, and dancing. Reports on weaving could lead to weaving baskets, or each child could build his own loom and learn blanket weaving.

Historical events as well as present day situations can be made much more real to the students and produce more serious, effective thinking if students role-play the parts.

Secondary students can delve much more deeply into any of these same subjects. They may be interested in investigating the influence of one culture on another. They may take a subject, such as conservation of natural resources or a social issue, and see how it relates to anthropology, political science, psychology, history, geography, and economics. Or they may relate it to local environmental problems and get involved in community activities, reporting back to the class information obtained from local study groups or organizations, then sharing with those groups the results of their research.

A Cherokee class investigated all the things the Europeans learned from the Indians when they first arrived on this continent. A Blackfeet class formed groups to analyze the history, tribal economy, customs, handicrafts, treaties and treaty rights, festivals and celebrations, and the type of democracy developed by their own people. A Navajo class studies the influence of the Navajo Code Talkers on the progress of the Second World War. An Eskimo class investigated the part played by American Indians and Alaskan and Canadian Natives in the geographic explorations of the continent.

Students who work together in committees will need to sit together so they can discuss and help each other. Some teachers move desks so that those on the same topic have their desks together during the unit. Others set up interest centers around the room which, during the unit, follow the assigned topics so that whenever the students have time to work on the unit they go to their interest center to work.

The members of a group may divide their topic into parts and let each person in the group report back to the class on one part of the topic. They would all, of course, help each other find material and the whole group should feel responsible for each member's success. Or they may all work on one report which will be presented to the class by one member. In either case it is important the the entire group stands together while any one member gives his oral report.

I like to have each of the research committees be responsible for recommending to the class at least one activity that they would like to carry out, then the class as a whole can choose which ones they will try. Some of those chosen will be entire class activities. Others will involve only the students who suggested the project, or only those particularly interested in that activity. Some projects may be carried out by pairs of students or by individuals, but the emphasis should be on group activities.

Activities should be of varied types so that they include tactile/kinesthetic and experimental learning, so that activities will be varied enough to maintain high interest and fit the varied best learning modes of the different students. Some teachers have asked me how I can find time for all these activities and still get all the material covered and the textbook read. There are three answers to that question. First, in the elementary school, if we are including social studies, art, music, physical education, reading, and creative writing within one unit, we are expanding our available time because not all of the work has to be done during one subject matter period. Second, if the students develop enough interest - if they are really excited about the subject, they will carry out a lot of research and activity on their own, outside of class time. Third, it is a matter of priority. What we are interested in is not just covering a lot of soon-to-be-forgotten pages of the text, but lasting memory of the important concepts. If students only sit and read, they may not remember any of the material five years from now. But if they do things that get them really involved they will be able to tell you most of the details of the activity they carried out, their feelings about them, and the concepts that were taught.

12. Plan lessons that develop responsibility.

The curriculum unit does not need to contain detailed lesson plans for each day's instruction. It should, however, contain lesson plans which can be used for the introduction of the unit and for perhaps the first two or three days. The instruction on certain days is crucial to the success of the unit and should therefore be planned in advance. Plan the instruction for those times when the bulk of the work on the unit is being explained, the scheduling and organization are being laid out, and the teacher is attempting to give all the students a feeling of their responsibilities and their importance to the successful and enjoyable progress of the unit.

The introduction that you will later add to the unit can explain that these are tentative lesson plans, intended to be helpful; that the teacher may need to revise them according to the needs and abilities of the students in a particular class.

13. Determine methods of evaluating progress.

Evaluation of the progress of the students should be based upon the stated objectives of the unit. Part of that evaluation will consist of observation of the students at work, the things they do, the materials they make, as well as their written work and oral reports. You may wish to supplement this with some sort of objective testing. Tests will probably have to be developed strictly for this unit. It is therefore a good idea to keep the evaluation in mind as the unit is written so that as you write each part of the unit you can also write some questions or other ideas for evaluation of that portion of the unit. This way you can have most of your evaluation instrument completed when you finish writing the content.

If you plan to use a test over the entire unit, it should be written and included in the unit plan so that it can be used as both pre-test and post-test. A test used only once, at the end of the unit, tells very little about progress as there is no way of knowing how much information the students gained from the unit of study and what was previous knowledge.

If you use any parts of standardized tests or tests that accompany basic texts, it is important that you study them thoroughly to estimate the validity of those tests for your students. Are they biased or based on assumed experiential background different from that of your students? Few standardized tests are valid for Native American students. The Council for Indian Education publishes some diagnostic reading tests developed for, and standardized on, Northern Plains Indians, and some tests have been developed for use with Navajos. You may find portions of other standardized tests that are suitable for use with your students.

Of course we must all recognize that attitudes, feelings, motivation, self concept - the most important objectives - are not measurable with a multiple choice test.

14. Conclude with an important culminating activity

A big event which summarizes the unit of study is important. It provides an opportunity for the students to use the knowledge gained, to see that their effort was worthwhile, and to feel that they have finished this study and are ready to jump wholeheartedly into a new area of study. Among the culminating activities which my elementary students have chosen to conclude their study of their Indian heritage are the production of a play they themselves wrote and a day in which we went to a nearby forested area and acted out a day in an Indian village of the past. Other possible culmination activities could be producing a hallway mural or bulletin board or a program for parents, another class, or the entire school.

A class of Crow Indian students held a Clan Day in which Clan uncles and aunts were invited by the students to a feast and give-away.

In 1987 the Lame Deer school on the Northern Cheyenne reservation decided to combine the culmination of the study of the local culture in all the classrooms, the usual end of school picnic, and the eighth grade graduation ceremony. These all became part of one big pow-wow which started in the morning with races and active non-competitive (no losers) games. Graduation was included with the feast, give-away, and Indian dancing in the evening.

15. Provide guidelines for the teacher

Usually the last part of a curriculum guide to be written is the introduction. It should be a guide for the teacher, explaining how the unit is to be used. It may refer to the parts of the unit which are most important and should therefore be stressed during instruction, as well as to supplementary or optional items. In writing this guide, try to anticipate and answer every question the teacher might want to ask you about to use the unit.


Robin A. Butterfield. "The Development and Use of Culturally Appropriate Curriculum for American Indian Students," Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 61, Fall 1983, pp. 49-66.

Robin A. Butterfield. A Monograph for Using and Developing Culturally Appropriate Curriculum for American Indian Students. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 1985.

Rita M. Deyoe and Juan D. Solis "Curriculum Development". In Leonard Valverde (Ed.), Bilingual Education for Latinos. Washington, DC: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1978.

Hap Gilliland. "Fable for Americans", Chant of the Red Man. Council for Indian Education, 1981. (ERIC Document, ED 232808)

Emma LaRoque. Defeathering the Indian. The Book Society of Canada Ltd., 1975.

Ruth Lundy and Faye Morrison, "Curriculum is Back, An Approach at the Elementary Level", Thrust, Vol. 10, March 1981, pp 23-25.

Francis Wardle, "Curriculum Development, The Process Approach," Day Care and Early Education, Vol. 13, Winter 1985, pp. 26-29.


1. TITLE: Short, Conveys major idea of unit of study

2. INTRODUCTION: A teacher's Guide, giving the teacher an overview, and suggestions for use of the curriculum guide.

3. CONCEPTS: The major idea or ideas of the unit or lesson.

4. GOALS AND OBJECTIVES: General and specific.

5. RESOURCES: Utilize a variety.

6. INTRODUCTION OF CONTENT: Introduction that stimulates interest; thoroughly introduces concepts students are about to learn.

7. CONTENT: Outline of all the information to be taught to the students; thoroughly planned but flexible.


Activities through which students are active participants.
Include sharing of materials and information, cooperative living, integrating and applying the local culture.

9. PERSONALIZATION: Special activities which cause the students to become personally involved in the concept.

a. Class discussions
b. Research: Library, texts, local people
c. Writing stories, poems, paragraphs, reports.
d. Drawing and illustrations
e. Arts and crafts
f. Debate
g. Field trips
h. "Show and tell"
i. Thinking
j. Committee work on one of the items listed below under culminating activity

10. DETAILED LESSON PLANS: Use organization plan similar to that of unit plan. Go to sample lesson plan format

11. EVALUATION: How will the students work be evaluated? How will the success of the unit be evaluated?


a. Help the students summarize and review what they have learned.
b. Help the teacher assess the effectiveness of the instruction.
c. Be a creative learning activity
d. Relate to earlier activities but in a broader manner.

Developed cooperatively by community members and teachers of three schools on the Northern Cheyenne reservation.
  1. The student will be exposed to his tribe's heritage to help him develop a more positive self image which should enable him to cope with the demands of day to day living without resorting to escape mechanisms.
  2. The child will be able to know the roles of each family member within the family structure of both traditional Indian and non-Indian families to better adjust to his present family and to provide a better life for his future family.
  3. The child will treat all other individuals with respect regardless of race, color, or creed.
  4. The child will use his knowledge of both traditional Indian and non-Indian "passage rites" or landmarks of life so that he may more comfortably move through them and to be empathic with other people who are passing through these stages.
  5. The student should be able to explain the traditional relationship of the individual to the whole tribal society so that he can see himself as having a role in the betterment of the tribe and the larger society today.
  6. The child will use his knowledge of both traditional Indian and non-Indian social controls in order to help him work more freely under present socially sanctioned systems of both Indian and non-Indian social orders.
  7. The student should have knowledge of basic laws of traditional Indian life. Through this he can see that all societies need rules and that laws exist for some group purpose. As a result of this study the student should be more willing to obey and respect law or work constructively to change laws.
  8. The student should be able to speak to important leaders of the past and the qualities expected of Indian leadership so that he may be better able to recognize good leaders and be a leader himself in certain areas.
  9. The student should be able to explain the importance of religious experience and belief to the traditional Indian and see how religion gave significance to life and explained the mysterious.
  10. The student will learn the traditional Indian attitude toward the land and nature as the source of all life, and through this will develop a love of the land and will actively work to preserve it.
  1. To aid as far as possible, the development of the child's spiritual attitudes and spiritual potential.
  2. To aid in the development of the moral character of the child and thus enable him to realize his moral responsibilities to himself, to his fellowman, his country and to acquire the self discipline necessary to accomplish this goal.
  3. To take each child at his present level of maturity and to encourage him to develop to the fullest possible in the time he is here, his mental and physical capabilities.
  4. To help each child, as far as possible, develop emotional security and stability.
  5. To improve, as far as possible, the sociability level of each child and to attempt to build his self image.
  6. To help the child realize the necessity of work in developing himself and improving his economic situation.
  7. To help the child appreciate the value of his cultural background and his changing culture; to enable him to live with the problems of his changing culture in modern day society.
  8. To educate in such a way that when faced with the problems of life the child, as an adult, will have a mature attitude and a critical sense of making judgments and decisions.
  9. To help the child achieve a good self image and develop the realization that each has a contribution to make to society.

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