An elderly Native American (Chippewa) woman and "local leader" instructs a young woman "in the ancient tribal craft" of quillwork as the two sit on a blanket at the agency in Minnesota.
Credit: Image courtesy of Photographs from the Collection of the Denver Public Library.
This lesson provides information and activities about one American Indian Nation, the Anishinabe, called Ojibwe in Canada and Chippewa in the U.S., and engages students in research on its history, location, and past and present culture. By focusing on one Native American tribe, students will acquire a differentiated and accurate understanding of one of the many diverse peoples and cultures living throughout the lands that are now referred to as North and South America, in addition to recognizing elements of a common history of conquest and displacement by Europeans that affected all Native American peoples.
Students will be introduced to the past and present cultures of the Anishinabe/Ojibwe people, the tribe's original and contemporary locations, and the meanings and history of their different names. The class will then research together the topic of historical migration of the Anishinabe/Ojibwe, and the lesson culminates with group research projects focusing on different aspects of the culture and traditions of this tribe.
While this lesson focuses on the history and culture of the Anishinabe/Ojibwe people, you can adapt the activities to a Native American tribe that has played an historical or contemporary role in your school's region or community. A related EDSITEment lesson for grades 3-5 is Not "Indians", Many Tribes: Native American Diversity, which studies the interaction between environment and culture for the Abenaki, Hopi, and Kwakiutl Nations.
Who are the Anishinabe people, what was their life like in the past, and how do they live today? What historical events led to changes in location, traditions, and culture?
To introduce the Anishinabe/Ojibwe/Chippewa Nation and its past and present culture to students, obtain and display pictures of traditional and contemporary elements of Anishinabe culture, and, if possible, bring in samples of actual items used in Anishinabe daily life. Examples might be: pieces of birch bark or model birch bark canoes; traditional clothing items such as moccasins or breechcloth; food staples such as wild rice, maple sugar, or maple syrup; stories, legends, and books about Ojibwe culture (some suggested fiction and non-fiction books are listed below); music CDs with traditional or contemporary music made by Ojibwe artists.
Several pictures and explanatory information about clothing, footwear, and everyday items used by the Anishinabe/Ojibwe can be viewed online or downloaded and printed out for class viewing from the following NativeTech (a link on the EDSITEment-reviewed NativeWeb site) pages:
Discuss the items and pictures with students, pointing out which objects were used in the past and which continue to be of use today. Can they identify what the objects are and what they are used for? Which of the objects have they used in their own lives? What similar objects make up part of their daily lives, or their family or community traditions?
Tell students that, after an introduction to the Anishinabe/Ojibwe people and culture, the class will first conduct a research project together on the origins and historical movement of the tribe, and will then divide into groups to research different aspects of the Anishinabe's history and past and present ways of life.
Explain to the class why this tribe has different names, the context in which these different names are used, and their meanings. The Ojibwe History page of the Ojibwe Culture & Language Links, available through the EDSITEment-reviewed resource NativeWeb, explains the derivations of the various names by which the tribe is known, providing the following information: "Called 'Chippewa' in the United States and 'Ojibwe/Ojibway' in Canada, they call themselves Anishinabe meaning 'first men.' They accept the name 'Ojibwe' (even though they prefer Anishinabe), but intensely dislike the name 'Chippewa.' 'Ojibwe/Ojibway' is an Algonquin word that refers to a unique puckered seam on the moccasins of the Anishinabe. 'Chippewa' is considered to be an attempt by the French explorers to say 'Ojibwe.'"
You can show students a picture of the moccasin for which the Ojibwe are named, which actually looks "puckered up," at the Overview of Footwear: Moccasins, available through NativeTech, a resource from the EDSITEment-reviewed NativeWeb. This site contains good graphics and thorough descriptions of different types and designs of moccasins. Clicking on the map brings into focus the varieties of moccasins made and worn in specific areas.
Other information about the tribe's name, from the Ojibwe History website, available through the EDSITEment-reviewed resource NativeWeb:
(Please note that this lesson plan uses both "Anishinabe" and "Ojibwe" as the preferred terms for this group. While "Chippewa" is used in the U.S., it is not approved of by the Anishinabe people themselves. The lesson plan also alternates among the three terms, "Native American," "American Indian," and "Indian people" so as not to privilege one designation over the others. For more information about Native American naming issues, please see "Teaching Young Children about Native Americans" by Debbie Reese.
The class as a whole can conduct research on the tribe's origins and historical migration. In the following lesson, students can divide into groups, and each group will develop a research project to present to the class and write up individually on one aspect of the history and culture of the Anishinabe.
Introduce students to the concept and process of a research paper. Summarize for your students the following steps: explore the subject; find a topic; locate relevant information; analyze the issues; organize your arguments; and finally, write the paper.
Explain to students that, like all communities, the Anishinabe/Ojibwe were influenced in their ways of life - clothing, food, lodging, transportation, etc. -- by their geographic location and environment. The Anishinabe were originally a woodland people living in the general area of the Great Lakes that spans what are now Michigan in the United States and Ontario, Canada. Situate the Anishinabe people within their region of the United States by having the class locate the tribe on a map and indicate the historical migration patterns of the group to point out where the people originally lived and where they live today.
Describe how climate changes, trade with Europeans beginning in the 17th century, war with other tribes, and displacement through treaties made during the 19th century that signed away land to the U.S. government, contributed to the relocation of the Ashinabe/Ojibwe people. These factors influenced the movement of most Native peoples throughout North and South America, and during the 1800s, many American Indians were forced by the U.S. government to move onto reservations that continue to exist today.
To use the Internet to do collaborative research on this topic, you can display a computer-projected image to the entire class or assign individuals or small groups to look up specific Web pages on individual computers, or print out the Web pages and distribute copies to the students. You can use the following sources of information as well as other resources for the class research. Please note that some of the Web sites contain material written at a fairly advanced reading level; for purposes of the class research project, you may want to lead the students through the resources to show them how to select information that is appropriate to the topic and also to their reading and comprehension levels.
Useful maps and information written at a fairly high reading level about several contemporary Ojibwe/Chippewa reservations in Wisconsin are located at the Great Lakes Intertribal Council Website, available through NativeWeb. Reference this site for a list of tribes with links to locations and current cultural events for specific Ojibwe/Chippewa bands, scroll down to the bottom of each page for the link to the tribal band website. Tribal bands include: Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Sokaogon Chippewa Tribe (Mole Lake); and St. Croix Chippewa Tribe.
Using these and other resources, you can have students take turns writing notes on the board for the entire class. Have each student supply the main ideas and details for the topic of migration and changing culture. Then, allow the class to dictate sentences and write up a short essay based on the information acquired through the collaborative research process. You can also create a Works Cited list to demonstrate the format for bibliographic citations. This essay can serve as a model for the small group research projects in Activity 3.
Divide students into groups and assign each group a separate element of Anishinabe life to research, write about, and report to the class. Topics could include:
Students can use the following Web resources, among others, to conduct research and gather information about their topic. (Note: Unless otherwise noted, the resources listed below are linked from the EDSITEment-reviewed resource NativeWeb.
General Information about the Anishinabe/Ojibwe
Culture -- Food, Housing, Clothing
Natural Environment of the Great Lakes
Obtaining and Preparing Food
Clothing and Dwellings
Tools and Crafts
Stories and Legends
Historical Relations with Europeans and Other Native Groups
Have students write the information they have gathered on note cards, which they can use to create individual essays on their topic. As a group, they can then use the note cards to present their topic orally to the class. An alternative would be to have student groups produce online slideshows and powerpoint demonstrations of their topics, for classes that have access to the necessary technology.
Students can accompany their essays with hands-on projects such as a diorama of an Anishinabe village; drawings created to portray scenes of everyday life; a construction of a model wigwam or canoe.
Suggested books to use in introducing Anishinabe/Ojibwe culture to the class:
3 class periods