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Often when we study a group of people, particularly Native Americans, we find ourselves studying how they were in the past. While it is interesting and important to learn about the history of people, we too often forget to think about who and where they are in the present. In this unit we will focus on the cultural aspects that have endured throughout the centuries of tribal life along the Columbia River.
When we think about different cultures around the world, one of the first things that comes to mind is the variety of cuisines for which each region is famous. The foods that are naturally available in each climate and terrain have become staples in the diets of the people who live there, and thus a valuable part of their way of life.
The native peoples who Lewis and Clark met along the Columbia River were experts at utilizing the gifts of the river and the land to nourish themselves. Naturally, each tribe's diet varied according to the location of their home and the season of the year. The people of the lower Columbia, in addition to the foods of the river, had access to the ocean and the wide array of foods that it brought. Those along the rapids, cascades and falls between the great mountains, particularly near Celilo Falls, had the best access to salmon. Farther upriver, on the Columbia Plateau, in addition to river foods, tribes also enjoyed a healthy supply of game. All of these people enjoyed a variety of roots and berries when they became available at the right time of year.
Through the following exercise, we offer students a chance to learn first hand from the native people of the Columbia about the variety of foods that are fundamental to their cultures. We also provide the opportunity to study foods from a seasonal perspective so that students can reflect on the fact that the foods that we see every day in the grocery store are often not those that are available to us naturally. We hope that by participating in this activity, students will consider the value of learning about people's traditional foods to understanding that group of people.
- What is important to know about a group of people in order to understand their culture?
- What aspects of tribal cultures have endured throughout the years, and which have changed?
- How does the geographic location in which a group of people live and the seasons that are experienced there affect the foods that they eat (both in the past and today)?
- Students will investigate the traditional foods of native cultures of the Columbia basin.
- Students will compare the differences between traditionally available foods in three sub regions within the Columbia basin.
- Students will examine how these foods compare to what is locally grown today.
EALRS, Washington State:
||2.1.3a, 2.2.3a, 2.2.3c
In this activity students will view and listen to online resources in order to learn about seasonal foods throughout the Columbia basin. The activity culminates with students creating their own artistic seasonal rounds which they will then present to the class.
- Make the online activity page available to students in the way that works best for you. Either a computer lab or a whole class display such as a LCD projector or a smart board would be appropriate, although a computer lab will allow for more individual interaction with the material.
- Print out the Seasonal Round Template so each student has one.
- Prepare sheets of drawing paper larger than 11"X18" for each student.
- Have available a large chalkboard circle compass or some template to aid in drawing large circles.
- Set up the art media of your choice.
Instructions for Teachers:
- Begin with a class discussion about what is important in studying different groups of people. What things do you think help define the culture that you consider your own? Which of these things remain constant throughout time and which change?
- Tell students that they will be learning about the native people of the Columbia River through studying the foods that they eat. Ask students what they know about the foods that are naturally produced in your area. What times of year are these foods available? Encourage them to think about the foods that are available in the grocery store and which of those would have been available to the Indians there in the early 1800s. What did you eat for lunch today? Could you have eaten that at this time of year in this spot in 1805?
- Divide the class into three groups- one will represent the lower Columbia River tribes, one those Along the Rapids and Falls and one the Columbia Plateau. Pass out a copy of the Seasonal Round Template to each student.
- Each group will be responsible for using the web pages related to their area to discover the foods that people there ate as well as the times of year that they ate those foods. Direct students to watch the video clips from People of the River and to read Lewis and Clark's notes from In Their Words in order to obtain the information they need. The additional websites listed under "Materials"will be useful as well. They should keep notes on their seasonal round as they go.
- Students may also be required to research clothing worn by their tribes, the kinds of houses they built, rituals and traditions and anything else that they are able to find. A great deal of this kind of information can be found on these web pages.
- As students finish gathering information about native foods of their region and other characteristics of the tribes that live there, direct them to compile what they have learned as a group. They will then use the media to create their own artistic rendition of the seasonal round (you may require one per student or one per group). They may wish to use concentric rings in order to include traditions or other items according to when they occurred seasonally.
- When completed, students will present their seasonal rounds to the class.
- Follow the activity with a reflection period for journal-writing. Ask students to discuss what they have learned in particular about their area and the foods naturally available there.
- Have a "Native Foods Day" when students bring in foods that would have been available in your region at that time of year even when the supermarkets were not. Another variation on this theme would be to have a "Cultural Foods" day when students bring in foods that are important to their cultures.
- Take a field trip to the supermarket, or better yet, a store that specializes in organic foods. Talk to students about "eating with the seasons" and how we can reduce our impact on the environment by eating what is naturally available to us.
- Invite a local native person to speak to your class about the foods that are important to his/her tribe. Discuss how the production of these foods has changed throughout time and the effects this has had on the environment and people's health.