For years before the European explorers came upon American shores, the native nations prospered around the areas of the Southeastern areas known today as North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana. Discover traditional crafts of these tribes (Catawba, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole) –nations of people who lived in a region stretching from the Mississippi River and the mountains of Appalachia to the sandy coasts along the Atlantic.
Men often wore a single feather and each tribe had its own type and color. Eagle feathers symbolized peace and were worn by the most honored warriors. A whippoorwill feather was said to bring dreams and a good sleep. Hawk feathers symbolized power and strength. Here is a craft for the boys in your class (even girls can make one if they choose). The feather can be attached to the child’s head with a simple bobby pin (hair grip).
- Prepare a feather template on cardboard. Invite the students to trace around the template onto sheets of light foam (found in craft stores). Have the kids cut out their feather.
- Make dark lines with a sharpie marker to highlight the feather.
- Punch two holes at the bottom end of the feather (one on top of the other).
- Cut a 10-inch length of yarn and thread it through the holes and knot. Take plastic beads, threading a couple at each end and knot.
A Seminole Doll
Native American girls played with dolls made for them by their mothers and grandmothers. The dolls were created out of available materials, such as sticks, corncobs, and clay. The dolls were decorated with human hair, beads, feathers, and wrapped in cloth. In class, make this doll replica with art materials.
- Teachers can make circles for the dresses by drawing them on white paper. Make one around 6-inches in diameter and another one at 5-inches. A woman’s head and shoulder piece can also be drawn on the paper. Duplicate this sheet and give one to each student.
- Ask the children to color the skirts with designs and colors that would symbolize the clothing of Seminole Indian women. After the coloring is finished, cut out the pieces. You will also need to cut out the center of each skirt, around 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
- Give each child an empty cardboard toilet paper tube. Cover these with red construction paper. Glue or tape the paper in place.
- Slip the larger skirt on the tube first. Next comes the smaller skirt. A few creases in the skirt will help it to form on the tube.
- Glue or tape on the woman’s upper body to complete this doll.
Native Americans used pouches to carry things since there were no pockets in their clothing. The pouch held necessary items such as pipes, body paint, and even flint to start a fire. These pouches were usually made from animal skins. Other tribes used this pouch to carry charms – such as a stone or crystal, which they believed would bring good luck. These pouches were decorated with paint, beadwork, or fine needlework (embroidery). Here is a simple pouch to make in class.
- Draw and cut a pouch shape on the fold line of craft foam or felt.
- Fold the pouch in half and punch holes around the purse shape.
- Use yarn, twine, or string and sew a whipstitch in and out the holes leaving the top open. You will need about a 3-4 foot length of string. Tie the ends together at the top as the handle
- The students can place a special stone or even a lucky penny inside and wear the pouch around their necks as a necklace.
Use books to help find activities and Native American crafts for kids. Here are a few to read:
More Than Moccasins: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life by Laurie Carlson
Explore Native American Cultures! With 25 Great Projects by Anita Yasuda
American Indian Crafts Kids Can Do! By Carol Gnojewski
Native Crafts: Inspired by North American’s First Peoples by Kids Can Press
Check out Bright Hub Education for lesson plans and activities that follow this theme:
Personal experience in the classroom making crafts
Copycat Magazine, Native Americans, Nov/Dec 2000
The Kids’ Multicultural Art Book by Alexandra M. Terzian (Book)
Photos courtesy of Tania Cowling, all rights reserved