Bonnie Bernstein & Leigh Blair in their book Native American Crafts
Workshop said that “Native Americans lived in harmony with their
environment, treating with care and respect the plants, animals, and
natural resources… they considered all things as sacred gifts, however
ordinary or plentiful… preserving the balance of nature was a way of living
well on the earth.” “Children can learn a lot about Native American
cultures which shared this deep gratitude for the earth and its generous
provisions… by making Native American crafts the experience of finding
materials and making them into useful items helps to expand children’s
awareness of the gifts of nature.”
Infants: Ceremonial Drum – Native Americans believed their ceremonial drums had magical powers. They used these drums to accompany songs and dances. Have the caregiver cover a coffee can with a plastic lid in colored construction paper and decorate it with magic markers using Native American symbols such as a sun, clouds, rain, a rainbow etc. Give infants a wooden spoon and encourage them to hit the top of the drum.
Toddlers: Finger Masks – The Eskimos held dances for religious festivals and for social gatherings – especially during the long winter months. In these dances they acted out the important aspects of their lives. Masks of animals and bird spirits were very common. These finger masks can be made of a toilet paper roll core cut in half. Cut two finger holes in the back and have the toddlers decorate the front with two eyes, a nose, and a smiley mouth. Have them glue feathers, ribbons or yarn as hair. As they dance to music the feathers, ribbons or yarn on their fingers will wave with the swaying of their bodies.
Preschoolers: Ghost Shirt – Native Americans believed that these shirts had magic powers to protect them. They became the symbolic costume worn by men and women
in a ritual called the Ghost Dance. They believe that the ghosts of their
ancestors would return and reteach them their ancient ways. Give each
child a large brown paper bag. Have them cut out a hole in the bottom of
the bag for their head and a hole on each side for their arms to stick
out. Decorate the front and back with Native American symbols. Black represents night, male, and west. – Blue represents sky, female, and north. White represents winter, snow, and south. – Red represents lighting, sunset, and east. Green represents plants, rain and summer. – Yellow represents day, sunshine, and dawn. Organize Native American celebrations around some important time, a holiday, or an event like Thanksgiving. (For the record, Native American Day is the fourth Friday in September.) If possible, write or talk to Native Americans who live nearby or go to the local library to learn more about particular Native American songs or dances.
Behold my brothers, the spring has come; the earth has received the
embraces of the sun and we shall soon see the results of that love!
Every seed is awakened and so has all the animal life. It is through
this mysterious power that we too, have our being, and we therefore
yield to our neighbors, even our animal neighbors, the same right as
ourselves, to inhabit the land.
(Sitting Bull 1877)