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Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

The First North Americans

Related Posts:

First Nations map

First Nations map

Indigenous People of The Americas

Explorer’s Route Map

Recommended Books:

  • Usborne Starting Point History: Who Were The First North Americans? by Philippa Wingate & Struan Reid
  • More Than Moccasins: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life by Laurie Carlson
  • The Discovery of The Americas by Betsy Maestro
  • Exploration and Conquest: The Americas After Columbus by Betsy Maestro
  • North American Indian Sign Language by Karen Liptak

Target Vocabulary: chief, feathers, group, igloo, Indian, indigenous, land, land bridge, migration, moccasins, region, sign language, teepee, theory, tribe, village

Lesson Ideas:

Indians or Native Americans? ~ Explain how Native Americans came to be erroneously called Indians: It is said that when Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean in 1492, he believed he had arrived in the West Indies of Asia (his target location for the voyage). When he saw the local natives of the island (Bahamas), he called them Indians thinking he was in the West Indies. Upon returning to Spain, he spoke of these Indians and that was the term used to refer to the natives. Since there were so many different groups of natives, Europeans referred to all the natives as Indians because it was easier for them than learning all the different tribal names. Although Indian is widely accepted as a proper term, the most accurate term is Native American because Indian is a reference to a person from sub-continent of India. Another way to adequately refer to the Native Americans is Indigenous People of the Americas. Indigenous means original to a place.

Land Bridge Migration ~ Discuss the Beringia (Land Bridge) Migration Theory to explain what is believed to be the migration route taken by early people from Asia into the Americas. This map from Mr. Gray History is a great tool to visually follow the possible migration routes accepted within the theory.

Groups by Region ~ Use a map of the early Native American Cultures by region to discuss the different locations within North America: North American Indian Culture By Region Map and Map of Native American Tribes Prior to European Contact. Explain how people who lived within these regions shared a similar way of life (type of home, food they ate, customs. clothing, etc.). Discuss a tribe from each region to offer a detailed overview of each: name of tribe, type of home, type of clothing, what of food/natural resource within their region, were they stationary or mobile, did they hunt or fish or farm, did they make baskets, jewelry or pottery, etc.

Sign Language ~ Sign language (or Plains Sign Language) was used by the Plains tribes as a way to communicate with tribes from other regions who spoke a different native language. It was also used a form of story telling within their folklore. Native American sign language uses the body to communicate (not just hands). When the Europeans made contact with the natives, sign language became a way for the two people to communicate until they learned each other’s languages. Once natives learned the “white man’s tongue,” they became translators and guides for the Europeans and sign language was not as necessary. The Plains Sign Language is one of the earliest known forms of sign language in North America. Before you teach some basic actions/signs, it would be helpful to discuss the finger names: thumb, pointer, middle, ring, and small or pinky. This Native American Sign Language printable offers some basic words and their signs.


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