When the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1620, they came ashore on land inhabited by Native Americans. It was a rough winter, and the Pilgrims were in poor condition, living in crude shelters and suffering from a critical shortage of food that killed and sickened many of them.
Squanto, an English-speaking Native American, agreed to stay with the Pilgrims for several months to teach them how to survive. He brought them deer meat and beaver skins, and taught them to cultivate corn and other vegetables, and build Indian-style homes. Squanto was a valuable teacher of skills needed for the Pilgrims' survival.
After much hard work, the Pilgrims, led by Captain Miles Standish, decided to have a feast of thanksgiving in celebration of their plentiful crops and the colony's progress. For three days the Pilgrims shared food with the Native Americans. It was a special time of friendship between these two very different groups of people. There would not have been survival without the aid and teachings of the Native Americans.
Children can learn about and appreciate Native American culture through craft and cooking projects that bring the spirit and creativity of these people home. Try some of these ideas with your little ones this November!
Native American Crafts
Corn Napkin Rings
Thank goodness the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn! The importance of corn to the Pilgrims makes this fun and easy project especially fitting for Thanksgiving—and an attractive addition to your holiday table.
You will need:
Cardboard toilet paper tubes
Yellow and orange poster paints
New pencil with an eraser top
Scissors or craft knife
Cut the toilet paper tubes into two-and-a-half inch sections using scissors or a craft knife (under adult supervision). You will need one section for each napkin ring that you will make. Pour a small amount of different color paints—yellow, red, orange, white, and black work well—onto a paper plate. Show your child how to dip the pencil eraser into some paint and practice stamping corn kernel shapes onto paper. Once she has mastered this printing technique, have your child hold the bottom of the ring and print rows of kernels all around the tube. Mix the colors as you wish. Set the tube rings out to dry. Place cloth or paper napkins through the rings and use them to decorate your Thanksgiving table!
Kachina (pronounced kah-CHEE-nuh) dolls are traditional hand-carved, wooden dolls made by the Hopi Indians in Southwestern United States. Each Kachina doll represents a spirit in life. Typical spirits include the chief, the corn maiden, the ceremonial dancer, the singer, the buffalo, the badger, the crow, the hawk, clouds, the sun, and the rainbow. This project is a flat pictorial version of this special doll (see photo above).
You will need:
Dark sheet of poster board
Construction paper, scrapbook paper or wallpaper samples
Cut geometric shapes from the colored or printed papers. Glue these onto the poster board using a stick figure design. Add a face and either paper or real feathers for a headdress.