Native American Unit Week 2- The Birchbark House: Dagwaging (Fall)


The Birchbark House is book one of a four series set of books about a young, Ojibwe girl called Omakayas:


This first book is separated into four sections – the four seasons of the year.  Each chapter we read we find much to talk about and learn about.  In addition there are many parts of the story we are able to attempt to replicate.  This post will cover all the activities we did from the second section of the book:

Making some Ojibwe Sage Tobacco

At the beginning of the Autumn chapters Deydey is smoking with his friends.  We had heard about sage tobacco being smoked during meetings and also used as offerings before crossing lakes or for bumper rice crops.  So we decided to make some of our own:

Ribbet collageAutumn2

Once this is dried we will be crushing it and making a tobacco pouch to put it in, as well as trying our hand at pipe making!

Playing a Game of White Man’s Chess

White man’s chess is mentioned a couple of times and as the guys play quite a bit of chess I thought I would capture it and call it Ojibwe work!


Drying Berries and Corn for Storage

This is where things got fun for all of us.  This scene was seen frequently this week with the children doing all sorts of projects in the kitchen:

DSC_0280AutumnThe first was preparing food for storage over the winter months.  One way they did this was to dry the food.  Drying both berries and corn was specifically described.  The corn was dried in a pot over a low fire with constant stirring.  The berries were placed in the sun until dried.  We had no sun so we popped the berries in the oven on a low heat.  The corn we did stir.  And stir.  And stir.  We all took turns and we all got bored.  So we all copped out and popped that in the oven with the berries:

Ribbet collagedried corn

Ribbet collagedriedcorn


One observant child happen to mention that both berries and corn looked incinerated rather than simply dried and on further inspection she was right.  Obviously if we had to survive in winter on all our food prepared and dried for storage we wouldn’t fare well for long.

Making some Parfleches for Food Storage

Frankly?  These were superfluous to requirement as our dried food was inedible.  That said it was for our Ojibwe doll family and they were made of plastic so I doubted they would notice.  So we went ahead with our plans.  Parfleches are containers for storing the dried food.  We made some leather ones and also some birch bark cones for the maple sugar.  The ones below are the leather ones:

Ribbet collageAutumn6

Ribbet collageAutumn7

Ribbet collageAutumn8

Making Bannock bread (Ojibwe fried bread) with Berry Dip

I had been looking forward to making Ojibwe fried bread since the moment I had seen a mouth-watering pin with a picture of it on.  We decided to put the berries that had escaped incineration to good use and we made a berry dip.

I can’t even begin to tell you just how good both the bread and the dip were.  Think fresh doughnuts, so fresh they are still hot.  Oh, it was gastronomical heaven!

Ribbet collageAutumn1

Ribbet collageAutumn3

Ribbet collageAutumn4Maple Sugar in Cones

And finally we made maple sugar.  This was quick, simple and again tasted divine.  T boiled up a whole bottle of pure maple syrup, whilst the rest of us made cones from birch bark printed paper:

Ribbet collagemaplesugar

Ribbet collagemaplesugar2

Ribbet collagemaplesugar3


You see that whole bowl of maple sugar?  Yes, well somehow over the afternoon it all disappeared.  Now I’m not saying I was entirely innocent but those five ‘who lil’ ol’ me?’ faces which peered up at me when I asked where it gone also were not quite as innocent as they would have me believe.  I did not eat a whole bowl of maple sugar all by myself.  I didn’t.  Honest.  So they must have.  And that’s all I’m saying on the matter.

Nokomis’ Blessing on the Food

Nokomis recites a blessing on their stores of food which I had the children copy:DSC_0346nokomis blessing

Posts relating to the Native American study we have done this week:

Next week I will be posting about our curriculum choices for after Christmas, to allow us time to finish some Ojibwe projects we are in the middle of.  I hope you all have a lovely weekend, filled with lots of love and lots of laughter!

Linking up appreciatively here


    1. I guess with five children taking part it probably looks more than it is. Writing wise I am making a huge effort to get them writing every day so T can gradually get stronger in anticipation of his exam next year.

  1. I like your studies and your children have done great again! For me the kitchen is the best place to be creative, most of my ideas occur there. Have a nice and peaceful weekend!

  2. Wow! I agree with Phyllis. It would end up taking us a month to do all that you guys do in a week!! I would blame it on my kids being a couple of years younger, but I think we’re just slow paced….Love the look of the bannock bread. That looks like quite a treat!

  3. I seriously LOVE the way you educate your children so much Claire! They do such fun, engaging, hands on things that they will never forget. I love the Parfleches. They turned out gorgeously!! Happy weekend.

  4. Of course it wasn’t you who nibbled the maple sugar just like it wasn’t me who ate all the cake off cuts on Friday when I made his Minecraft birthday cake. Tee hee.
    This is a fascinating post on a fascinating subject. Did you strip the birch yourselves to make the birch bark parchment? I’m curious as our local ranger told Theo about birch bark and I’m wondering if we could make our own. Please let me know;)
    I always look forward to reading your posts – inspiring stuff.

  5. Shall I just continue gushing about how much fun this unit is! And I’m not even participating – but oh so wish I was. I giggled at the incinerated food 🙂 and my mouth salivated at the bread, dip, and my favorite: maple candy. Do the Ojibwe practice smudging with the smoke from burning dried sage leaves? The Mi’kmaq First Nations do as a purification/blessing over people and in spaces.

      1. Oh yes, maple candy is oh so good – as is maple sugar, oh, and maple butter, gooey maple taffy… I could never get enough of the stuff. Luckily it’s too pricey for me to indulge to the degree that I crave!

  6. Looks like it was a very yummy study this past week! The doll clothes and parfleches are awesome as is pretty much everything you all do! I included your blog in my list of favorite homeschooling blogs posting tomorrow!

  7. Ok, so I don’t even enjoy studying the Native Americans, yet I want to join your school. We can’t even begin to get that much in each week. How do you manage up it, plus daily exercise? I seriously need to try the fry bread though. Yumm. Btw, my daughter is thrilled that I read your blog and use some of your methods now.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.