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"Don't Know Much about Native Americans"
That phrase could probably sum up my knowledge of Native American culture before my daughter was born. I was born and educated in the Soviet Union, and my knowledge of Native Americans was more or less limited to two sources,
- The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. I read this book as a teenager and I remember crying over the fate of Uncas quite a bit.
- Soviet propaganda stories about all modern Native Americans (we called them Indians, because in Russian American Indians and Indian Indians are not the same word, so there is no confusion) gathered in reservations which I imagined being something just a step up over a concentration camp.
When I came over to the United States, I lived in New York City, where I learned the story of how the Manhattan island was bought from local native tribes for ridiculously low amount of money (about $24), but East Coast Indians are long gone, victims of disease and forced removals. So, mostly I learned about Native Americans together with my daughter, because California public schools are big on Native American history.
Learning About Ohlone Indians
hands-on history exploration by going on a field trip to the local "Indian Country" and meeting living members of Ohlone tribe.
Native American Games
During their study of Ohlone tribe in the third grade and Shasta tribe in the fourth grade, kids learned to play several Native American Games which would now be considered board games:
Ohlone Staves Game
When Smarty learned about this game in school, it was named staves game. I've seen different names for it in my own research on Native American games for this post, but it looks like different versions of the same game were common across various tribes. The playing pieces are essentially two-sided dice with one side colored (or, in some versions, rounded) and another side left without color or flat. Scoring also seems to differ significantly between versions as well as the number of playing pieces, but the game is easy to set up with craft sticks when only one side is decorated and another left bare. According to the history of the games, even though it looks like a game of chance, experienced players could consistently throw their sticks to land in a certain way, so in the past it was a game of skill, and not a game of chance.
Plum Stone Game
A Guessing Game
Smarty also really enjoyed a simple "mind reading" guessing game that is played with two marbles or stones of a different color. The lead person passes one marble to the next person and that person has to guess a color of the marble in his or her hand. If he/she chooses correctly, he gets both marbles and challenges the next person in line. If a guesser chooses incorrectly, she is out. Smarty was very pleased when she was one of the best "mind readers" when her class played that game. Perhaps she could be a spirit person if she were born a Native American in the times long past.
More Native American Games
Did you learn a lot about Native Americans when you went to school?
More Activities for Native American History Month
- Native American Small World from Stir the Wonder
- DIY Native American Corn Meal from Mom Explores The Smokies
Follow my History Pinterest board