Studying Native Americans

Studying Native Americans

Greenbriar West second-graders step back in time.

Marianna Atrash, 7, learned that the Plains Indians made weapons, clothing and teepees out of the buffalo. And she thought they were "really cool" because, "in minutes, they could move their teepees and go somewhere else."

She was among students in second-grade classes at Greenbriar West Elementary studying Native Americans. Teachers Gayle Peterson, Cathy Munsterman, Suzie Hosey and Sara Schweigert led them through a nine-week unit about the Woodland, Plains and Southwestern Pueblo Indians.

THE CHILDREN studied the Powhatan, Sioux and Hopi tribes. They also made vests out of paper bags and painted Indian symbols on them, Indian headdresses out of construction paper and necklaces out of clay beads they'd strung, themselves.

They even put on a show for their parents, singing songs about Native Americans, dancing and playing musical instruments. Former GBW music teacher Gail Cope wrote much of the music, and current music teachers Laurie Barber and Benee Dodd directed the program.

Along the way, students learned a lot about Native Americans. Marianna also liked the long houses of the Woodland Indians. And, she said, "I want one because it's long — then all my relatives could come and live in one house."

Lucas Kinsey, 8, said Woodland Indians had more trees where they lived than the Plains tribes did. He also learned that "the Woodland Indians farmed in Virginia and the Plains Indians of Texas and Oklahoma always followed the buffalo so they never stayed in one place."

"The Woodland Indians made clay pots," said Brian Kim, 8. "And they made tools, canoes and cradles for their babies out of wood." He said they ate deer, corn, beans and squash, while the Plains Indians ate buffalo and "made weapons like axes and arrows out of buffalo bones. They got horses from the Spanish to ride and to do work for them."

Brian enjoyed studying about them, as well as making "paper masks that the Woodland people wore for scaring away dark spirits and sickness."

Kylie McLatchy, 8, thought "it was cool how they hunted and how all the girls made the clothing and the boys used buffalo bones for arrows. They were really smart. And they bartered with other people for food and weapons."

She said it would have been difficult living back then, however, "because they had to do everything for themselves, or they wouldn't have survived." In class, Kylie colored pictures of buffaloes and made a teepee out of brown construction paper for a mural of the Plains Indians in the second-grade hallway.

JOSEF JAMISON, also 8, said Woodland Indians also used deer for many things, "like toys from their bones" and food. But he's glad he lives in modern times because "the only thing I would have liked back then would be hunting and fishing."

Seven-year-old Colton Godfrey learned that, among Woodland Indians, "the mother made the teepees and the father made the weapons and hunted for deer and buffalo." And Colton thought it would have been neat living in those times because he wants to learn how to ride horses and hunt.

As for Sophia Lam, 7, she learned that Woodland Indians "ate corn, built wigwams out of bark and farmed, hunted and fished." During the program, she said, "The best hunters and victorious warriors were often honored with eagle feathers." And, she added, "I wore a dress with Indian symbols on it and danced the Hopi Butterfly dance."

Christine Reed, almost 8, learned that the Hopi tribe "used ladders to get into their houses and the front door was on the roof. Their houses were made out of adobe — a mixture of hardened mud and straw. So they could be more safe, they'd take the ladder inside so enemies couldn't get in. Also for protection, they lived on top of a mesa so it was harder for their enemies to reach them."

Kayla Bui, 7, learned about the Hopi and Sioux and played the drums and sang during the program. If she'd lived then, she said, "I would make some moccasins." Kelly Schubert, almost 8, said the Iroquois "didn't tell children that if they touched the fire they'd get burned, so the children learned not to do it."

Joshua Lee, 7 1/2, said only men were allowed to hunt, while women "did all the stuff in the house." But he wouldn't have liked living then because "they didn't have video games."

Eight-year-old Jeff Tolbert learned that Woodland Indians "could make a raft out of bark that was light enough for them to carry because, sometimes, they'd have to go across the water to catch an animal they were hunting, and sometimes they'd go fishing." He said the Plains people made their homes out of buffalo hide. However, he acknowledged, "They'd have to catch a lot of buffalo to do that."

George Triebsch, 8, said Plains Indians "drew pictures on their teepees to make a story. They used crushed berries and rocks to make the paints." If he'd been an Indian, said George, "I would be the greatest hunter because I'd kill the biggest buffalo."

Maddie Karwowski, 8, learned that "Woodland Indians lived in wigwams and long houses. Different families lived in them together; sometimes, they were related, and sometimes they weren't." In addition, she said, "When girls were 8, they had to work all day with their parents, helping farm and making clothes and clay pots. And sometimes, when boys were 8 or 10, they helped their fathers hunt."

In the program, Maddie danced with other girls in her class. She was also the last person to speak to the audience. Said Maddie: "I said, 'Thank you for coming.'"