Native American Unit Study


Remember the Little House on the Prairie summer we had last year?  The one where we made our own little house, painting, decorating and making furniture, whilst learning all sorts of skills along the way?

aaa little house on the prairie old fashioned photo

I had been pondering a Native American unit in the same vein, but it seemed such a vast topic, I didn’t really know where to begin or in deed how to do it justice.  That was, until I happened upon these books:


They have been pitched as the Laura Ingalls alternative to Native American history, and I began wondering if we could somehow use them as the basis of a unit study.  After flicking through, I realised they were based upon the Ojibwe Tribe of Northern American and Canada.  I liked the idea of focusing on one tribe, rather than lumping all Native Americans as one people, which I imagine is a bit like saying all Europeans are culturally similar.  I thought, maybe if we focused on one tribe we could dig a bit deeper and really discover the essence of what it meant and means to be a part of the Ojibwe tribe of Native Americans.  As I researched I found many resources based solely on the Ojibwe tribe (I will share these over the next few weeks).  Slowly I began to collect them and make my plans.

This would be a unit which would take us from September up until Christmas and would include all five children, as did our Little House study.  However, it would not be based around a wigwam which we would build outside.  This time we decided to make a dolls Wigwam using our Non-American-American Girl Dolls!  Argos sells dolls of a similar ilk and size to the American Girl Doll for only £20.  We will use these dolls to tell the story of the Ojibwe tribe as portrayed in the Birch Bark House series.  The hope is to create a skills based learning program as we did last summer but this time on a much smaller scale.

We plan on making our own doll sized Birch Bark wigwam; making traditional clothes for our dolls; cooking traditional food and using skill based learning to furnish the wigwam.  The children will also make their own dressing up clothes, study Ojibwe art as well as the legends passed down over the generations and much, much more.  I will probably make this study a little more academic, expecting some research and writing from the older children.  This will be our version of project based work come unit study as per my post yesterday.

We are all excited to be away from the middle ages for a while, after all a change is as good as a rest.  We intend to return to the renaissance after Christmas.  But until then this blog is going to be inundated with Native American posts.  Enjoy!


  1. We just finished up learning about the Navaho and Nez Perce Tribes. My children love everything Native American and they have been quite broken hearted over the fate of these people. I used to go to Pow-wows when I lived in Oklahoma and enjoy buffalo chilli and fry bread. Most of the Native American recipes are not very tasty…but the fry bread is good.

      1. I actually found a recipe a while ago! I haven’t tried it yet…
        Ingredients for baked fry bread (4 servings): 1 cup of white flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp powdered milk, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup water
        Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix together the dry ingredients. Add water and mix ( do not over mix ). Form a ball. Divide into 4 sections and flatten into rounds (like when making pita bread). It may help to sprinkle a little flour on top if they are a bit sticky. Set the dough rounds in a greased baking pan and bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Turn the oven off after 10 minutes (but make sure the center of each isn’t doughy).

        I still think it will taste better fried…I’ve enjoyed the bread with both buffalo chili and with regular taco filling type foods.

  2. That’s funny, as I was reading the comment from storyad – I was thinking – “what about fry bread!?!” It is quite good 🙂 We’ve done a couple of mini wigwam projects – but it sounds like yours will be more authentic than ours…looking forward to seeing it!

  3. This sounds fascinating. I have a new sister-in-law, from the Ho-Chunk tribe. I’ve been pondering focusing on her tribe somehow, since they are kin now. I will be watching with interest to see what you guys do. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. I hope we do it justice. I’ve built up a good supply of resources on the Ojibwa people. It is all so different to what we are used to here and it is incredibly interesting.

    1. We’re about 3/4 the way through the Birch Bark tree but I believe the three following books are just as good. I’ll let you know when we get there!

  4. I don’t know anything about Native Americans so will wait eagerly for your project to unfold. It sounds like this will be another one of your interesting projects. 🙂

  5. Very interesting topic!
    I did some (private) studies in native american medicine, medicine wheel, minerals and herbs. It was amazing! Especially the book “Die Apotheke Manitous”, Heinz J. Stammel, is still in use.
    Wish you much fun and many ideas for your study!

  6. Claire,
    Interesting that you should settle on the Ojibway tribe. My three granddaughters (that I homeschool) have Ojibway ancestry in their background.
    Myra, from Winnipeg, Canada where we have had chilly temps for the past three days. Brrr.

    1. Forgot to mention that the “correct” way to speak about the native peoples in Canada, is to call the Aboriginal or First Nations (never Indian). Also, wigwams were only one type of dwelling for the Ojibway and it depended on where they lived. If it is the woodlands, they used the wigwam. If is was on the prairies/plains, it was the tipi (made of bison hide – not called a buffalo). Just a few notes that you might find interesting.
      Myra, from Winnipeg, Canada

  7. Sounds like another interesting study. Faith is interested in Native Americans so I know she will be keeping a close watch to see what you all are doing.

    I still love your Little House summer. It is so fun to go back and look at the pictures. I still want to come spend the night in the little house.

    Have a lovely evening, Claire. We are at 89 degrees. Brrrr. HA!

    1. I am literally laughing out loud at your idea of chilly! Our temperatures at their highest rarely rise greater than 30ish Celsius (86 F). Anything over that is declared a heat wave!
      I’m glad Faith will be electronically joining us – the more the merrier!

  8. Sigh, my computer keeps not posting comments to your site, so I come back days later to try again. Let’s see if today works.

    Looks like a great plan for your unit. My kids tried building a small wig-wam and it was a lot of fun, but difficult to figure out how.

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