Law Study – Ojibwe clans

The Ojibwe people lived in familial groups, made up of several extended families.  The groups had between 300 and 400 people in them, living together in summer camps but splitting into smaller camps of one or two families for the rest of the year.  As well as being part of  a family of blood relatives, the Ojibwe also belonged to dodems or clans.  The children studied seven of the first clans, although there are now many more.  The seven we looked at were marten, loon, crane, bear, sturgeon, hoof and bird clans.  Members of each dodem were said to share the same ancestor, which was the spirit of the animal for which their dodem was named.


We used the following resources to learn more about each dodem:


This Clan system was given to the people by their creator as a system of government to create strength and order and was known as O-do-i-daym-i-wan.  Each clan was given a function to serve for the people.  The children studied the hierarchy of the clans and, using the white board, drew one up themselves, writing what they understood to be the roles of each clan in relation to the others:

Discussing where everything goes
Discussing where everything goes
Carrying out the work together
Carrying out the work together
The final hierachy
The final hierarchy
Close up of some of the details
Close up of some of the details

We have looked at a few forms of government in our history studies and I have to say that one of the great things about studying history as we do is the comparisons we can make between cultures and times.  We had already looked at:

Feudalism and made a diorama to display its hierarchy:


Autocracy, where one man rules an entire kingdom:


Democracy, where the kingdom is ruled by the people, via a system of voting:


We’ve studied Hammurabi’s stele, a set of rules drawn up by Hammurabi and followed by all men as quite possibly the earliest legal system to be seen:


and we have studied the Magna Carta, a set of rules made up to contain the autocratic rule of King John and one of the first moves towards a devolution of regal power in our country:

Our very own set of rules for our home.

We revised these legal systems and I asked the children to explain which system the Ojibwe clan most closely aligned with and why.

The children felt it was a democratic system because the rule was for the people, by the people.  And they were right!

The children then took two clans each and made up a fictional story based on the animal and the characteristic linked to it, which they read out loud.  This I hoped would consolidate the main characteristics and responsibilities each clan was to have.  They made a poster of the clans to represent all they had learnt.  It also contained each of their stories:

They made it into a poster which they would present to my mum at the end of the week
They made it into a poster which they would present to my mum at the end of the week


T's essay about the bear clan
T’s essay about the bear clan, showing its roll in leadership
L's essay about the deer clan
L’s essay about the deer clan known for their love and gentleness
C's essay
C’s essay about the Marten clan illustrating the competitiveness and warrior like quality of the Marten

Following this we did a picture study on the picture shown at the top of the poist and the following painting, both of which are called ‘The Gathering of the Clans’:

meeting of the clans

And I will be posting on that sometime soon.


  1. The pictures are so very bright and fun, I can’t wait to hear about your picture study of them.
    We’re just getting into feudalism and I’ve been thinking about your feudalism posts from earlier. I want to throw them in there for some fun learning about that.

  2. I was just thinking about how you study each of the aspects of what you are studying and make wonderful comparisons, and then there is this post, which talks about just that! You have laid a great foundation for in-depth writing. It is wonderful to see.

    1. Sometimes I think we shouldn’t be studying so much history but then I see that by studying history we are learning so much more than just history – if that makes sense?

  3. I really like the review of all your previous government studies, too – thanks! Good to see your oldest three working brilliantly as a team, still.

    1. It is good. I always try to include teamwork activities to build their relationships which since the hormones have arrived seems more important than before!!

  4. Its so much fun how you incorporate creative writing into learning about history , culture and politics. I can’t to read about the picture study (heading there next) – I just love this form of artwork, and have some postcard prints framed in our house.

  5. That’s cool that you studied about Hammurabi: I’m currently taking a class in Akkadian, which is the language he wrote the Code in. Was cutting out flashcards for the cuneiform symbols this morning! – Sarah Carter.

    1. Hello Sarah! How lovely of you to visit! I had seen on Gary’s facebook that you were studying Akkadian. What an unusual language to study! Are you finding it easy?

      1. Ha no, definitely not easy, but enjoyable, it’s good to have my brain stretched a little, even if I can’t make much sense of what I’m learning! I choose it because I was looking at evening classes at Birkbeck Uni, & that was a class they had on a day I was available, so I thought I’d give it a go! I hadn’t intended doing a language class, but this caught my interest, & it’s been great.

  6. It is nice to see your children working together so well. Their essays are just fine. It seems you find so many things to do on just one topic. I think you must be an ace at planning and preparing. It was fun looking back over some of your previous studies. Hammurabi is a favorite.

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