Native American Unit Week 4- The Birchbark House: Zeegwun (Spring)

DSC_0081pinnable2The Birchbark House is book one of a four series set of books about a young, Ojibwe girl called Omakayas:

DSC_0081louiseThis 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 forth section of the book (spring).

Maple Syrup:

Maple Sugar Moon-

We had spent a lot of time learning about the Ojibwe thirteen moon calander and how each moon was linked to a particular event or activity in their year.  During the Maple Sugar moon the maple sap gets boiled into syrup and some is further boiled down to sugar.  Just for fun, and to experience some of what Omakayas did in the Birch Bark House book, we poured some boiled maple syrup onto some ice I had made just for this purpose.  It formed a type of maple toffee and was scrum yum!


Collecting Maple Syrup-

T wrote a quick report on how to make maple syrup:


Making the syrup into maple sugar-

T had already made some maple sugar during the fall round up.  See here for how he did it.

Ribbet collagemaplesugar3

Wild Rice and Maple Syrup Porridge-

This is made from wild rice, cream and maple syrup with a berry sauce on top:

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Learning the White Man’s Letters

Angeline starts learning to read and write at the missions school.  Nokomis compares the letters which have ‘meaning and sound’ to the pictographs.  The purpose of the Ojibwe people learning to read was so indians would not be cheated out of land from white men.

We learnt about the Ojibwe pictographs that Nokomis mentions.  One way the Ojibwe people wrote down meaningful stories was to draw their pictographs on birchbark scrolls.  There are also many areas where the Ojibwe nation in the past have left behind pictographs, petroforms and petroglyphs.  We made our own Petroforms and petroglyphs:

Ribbet collageweek4plus

Venison Jerky

Try as I might, I was unable to source venison jerky, a type of dried deer meat.  The best I could come up with is some dried salami from the delicatessen.  As the children had never tasted dried meat before I cut them some to snack on throughout the day:

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Dried meat was a means of preserving essential protein to be eaten throughout what Nokomis describes as the ‘Lean Moon’, that is the time of the year when it is difficult to source any fresh food.

Healing Herbs

In the book, Omakayas’ brother Pinch burns himself badly on some boiling maple syrup.  Nokomis is not there to help so Omakayas, herself, treats Pinch.  She uses the sparse amount of medicine she had in the sugaring house which was a bag of herbal remedies.

Treatment of burns

I had all three children look up the treatment of burns and then run through some role play together to demonstrate what they had learnt.

Herbal Remedies

I had bought a book, primarily for T, who is interested in all sorts of herbs, on Ojibwe herbal Medicine.  I think he read the book from cover to cover!


Bear Clan

In the book the bear Clan is mentioned as a clan for whom healing is their strength.  We had already looked into the clans in a previous study, here and here.

Bear claw necklace

We finally got round to making our bear claw necklace from the claws we had made out of clay.  We added some feathers and beads also:

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Life Purpose

Omakayas had gone for a walk to contemplate the death of her little brother Neewo.  Whilst she was there the plants and trees began to talk to her and she was able to hear.  On returning to the camp, Omakayas shared with Nokomis all she had experienced.  It was here she learns that this was because her purpose in life was to be a healer, using all the secrets the plants unveiled about themselves.

We had a chat about purposes and how everyone has a different purpose in life.  C wrote an essay, imagining herself as Omakayas walking through the woods:


Other work we have been doing this week:

Ojibwe Picture Book Resources

I posted on Monday about the picture books we have used throughout our study:

Ribbet collageojibwe books1

Ojibwe Calender

We have learnt all about the Thirteen Moons on the Turtles back and the importance of the moons with regard to the seasonal activities the Ojibwe must do:


Ojibwe Pictographs

Our main study this week has been all about the Ojibwe pictographs.  We have done an extensive study on Ojibwe prehistoric rock art and made our own cave pictographs:



Other Reading

The children have also been reading the next three books in the Birchbark House series:


I have a few more posts to come and then I will collect all the Native American posts in one big round up post (a request from Ticia).


  1. Wow. I know I have said this before many time, but you never cease to amaze me in regards to both the depth and breadth of your studies. Both together are hard to accomplish. I find often I sacrifice one for the other. You blend them both beautifully.

    1. The book was good. T’s only beef was that it was full of American plants rather than English. That said, he still has it in his room and is rereading it!

  2. I can’t wait for that round up post it’s going to be awesome! Of course this was awesome too.

    Now, you’ve got me wanting to study this soooooo much. Stay focused Ticia, stay focused.

    If I repeat that often enough will I listen?

  3. You do keep your selves busy, don’t you? Lovely activities, I especially like all the food. But then again I would wouldn’t I…

  4. So many great activities – I’m with Ticia, this has been such an interesting study for me, I have to remind myself that it’s tricky enough finding time to focus on West Africa without adding a new theme of activities – as much as I want to just do everything you’ve done (and you’ve made it so easy for me, with all these great posts..) must focus!

    1. Will you be finishing Africa at the end of the year or will you continue through the new year? I’m really looking forward to studying Africa, one of these days.

      1. I think it’ll go through into February – with holidays over and Winter in full tilt, we seem to have more available weekend time in January & February to catch up!

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