Storytelling as an Historical Source

Students are introduced to stories as historical sources, and learn about the importance of oral tradition to Native American history and culture. They read and annotate a nonfiction text about traditional stories before viewing a video of a specific story.


Folktale Investigation

Students read Native American folktales in order to analyze how folktales reflect the environment and culture. They read and examine a folktale from a Native American cultural area, then share their stories with classmates and compare and contrast findings.


Timelines and Storytelling

Students investigate the Winter Count tradition, a form of artwork that serves as a visual timeline, a record of history, and a tool for storytelling. Often painted on animal hide, these timelines of symbols represent the most important events of the year (usually selected each winter) and keep the history of a tribe. Students learn about the importance of storytelling for the Sioux, the role of the keeper in tracking history and in telling the stories, and the ways that primary and secondary sources can help us understand history.


Timelines and Storytelling (Digging Deeper)

Use this extension to connect learning to students’ personal lived experiences and to build classroom community. Students are challenged to use storytelling to document and share an important event or personal story, creating a visual timeline and then using that timeline as a tool to share their stories with classmates. They make connections to the winter count tradition and reflect upon the use of stories to transmit history and culture.


Reflecting on Stories (Checkpoint Assessment)

Through this Essential Question, students have investigated the importance of stories as an historical source. This final lesson may be used as a checkpoint assessment of cumulative learning. Here, students draw conclusions about the importance of stories in transmitting history and culture. They read passages from Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story by S.D. Nelson, analyzing how the book's quotes, historical photos, timeline, and first-person account help paint a vivid picture of life among the Hidatsa tribe of the American Plains.


Native America

Image by Markus Spiske

Essential Question

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What can stories teach us about people and cultures?

Students explore and analyze a variety of Native American stories to identify and collect evidence about people, places, and the past. They draw conclusions about the importance of storytelling as a way to transmit history and culture.