Traditions and Languages of Three Native Cultures: Tlingit, Lakota, & Cherokee

Long before the Europeans settled in North America, the natives living there had established a diversity of rich cultures and spoke over 2,000 language dialects. (Of these, about 300 are known today.) As the newcomers moved in, the Native Americans were gradually pushed off their lands into reservations and forced to assimilate into European cultures. In recent years, attitudes have changed, and Native Americans are now encouraged to maintain aspects of their own cultures and languages. In this lesson, students will learn about three distinct tribes and discover the importance of preserving their legacies.

Activity 1 will introduce the concept of traditions. In the second activity, students will learn about the environment and lifestyle of the Tlingit of the Pacific Northwest. They will hear a story based upon Tlingit folklore and make a list of words closely related to Tlingit culture. Then, by accessing an online dictionary, they will learn how to say the words in the language of the Tlingit. In the third activity, students will learn about the Lakota of the Great Plains and hear a story about this native culture. They will access an online dictionary of Lakota words and find the translations of a list of key English words, which they will record on a chart. They will then work together to make up their own sentences in Lakota.

The fourth activity focuses upon the Cherokee of the Southeast Woodlands. After learning about this culture and hearing a story relating to it, the students will access an online dictionary of Cherokee words. They will add the Cherokee equivalents of the English and Lakota words to their charts. They will then learn about Sequoyia, the inventer of the Cherokee alphabet. In the final activity, the students will compare the three native cultures they have studied and discuss why it is important to maintain their traditions and languages.

For a related EDSITEment lesson on American Indians for grades K-2, see Native American Cultures Across the U.S.

Guiding Questions

What are some of the traditions of the Lakota, Tlingit, and Cherokee?

How is a people's language tied to its traditions?

Why is it important to preserve the traditions and languages of native cultures?

Learning Objectives

After completing the activities in this lesson plan, students will:

Understand the meaning of a tradition and know how it is maintained

Have a general knowledge of the environment, history and culture of the Tlingit, Lakota, and Cherokee

Be able to say a few words in the languages of these three tribes

Be aware of differences and similarities between the three tribal cultures

Understand the importance of maintaining the traditions and languages of native cultures