The Idea of Place for Native Peoples

Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman
Editor: Stephanie Nardei

Time: 4 classes
2 hours to read supporting materials and lesson plan

Handout 1: The Art of Shan Goshorn 
Hand out 2: “The Land,” Our Voices, Our Land  Words by the Indian Peoples of the Southwest
Handout 3: “Into the Sun,” Ancestral Voice : Conversations with N. Scott Momaday by Charles L. Woodard

Handout 4: “A Sense of Place,”  Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence by Gregory Cajete

Students will view/read four selections on information about Native American view of how people are connected to their land.  The students will:

  • Take notes
  • Identify the main ideas in each piece
  • Generate clarifying questions for the new ideas they are encountering

Then they will create a Venn diagram showing similar ideas from three of the four selections as a graphic organizer summarizing important ideas of the texts.

Purpose – This is the explore lesson.  Students will read and take notes on new ideas on how Native Americans see their relationship to their lands.

Students will be able to:

  1. Identify the main ideas in a text
  2. Make comparisons between texts to find similar ideas and points of view
  3. Generate clarifying questions to understand complex and/or new ideas in the texts
  4. Write a series of coherent and connected sentences summarizing similar ideas in a variety of texts by creating a Venn diagram

Standard #1

            Students read a wide range of print and nonprint text to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world, to acquire new information, to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace, and for personal fulfillment.  Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

Standard #2

            Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

Arizona State Standards


Strand 1: Concept 6: Comprehension Strategies
            PO 2.  Generate clarifying questions in order to comprehend text.
            PO 3.  Use graphic organizers in order to clarify the meaning of the text.
            PO 4.  Connect information and events in text to experience and to related text and

Strand 3: Concept 1: Expository Text
            PO 4.  Compare readings on the same topic, by examining how authors reach the same
or different conclusions based upon differences in evidence, reasoning,
assumptions, purposes, beliefs, or biases.

Teacher Background
Know how to make a Venn diagram: http://bourbon.usc.edu:8001/tgif/faq/venn.html
Venn Diagrams on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venn_diagram

Resource Websites
Slide Show of Our Voices, Our Land (Northland) http://www.takegreatpictures.com/Articles/Details/params/object/5012/default.aspx
Stephen Trimble on Our Voices, Our Land http://www.stephentrimble.net/Books/this_book.asp?book=46
National Museum of the American Indian
The Art of Shan Goshorn
Art Links: Native American http://www.agora-gallery.com/Links/ThemeDetails-Theme-Native%20American-DLPPageID-4.aspx
Royce Myers Art Ltd Presents Shan Goshorn


Day 1

1. The students will look at several exhibits of Native American art and read several texts containing essential insights of Native Peoples (of any area in the world actually) look at their connection to the land.

2. Begin the class by presenting the exhibition of Shan Goshorn’s work on the website: http://www.amitmay.com/Art%20Gallery/Previous%20Exhibitions/Native%20American/Goshorn%20Exhibit.htm

Shan Goshorn’s work is both very visually accessible (as it is highly representative) and also strongly infused with deeply held Native beliefs about inexorable connection between human beings and the land.  The caption for the first image contains very important information for students and they should be given a copy of the following paragraph:
"This body of work, Earth Renewal Series, illustrates the traditional yet ongoing belief of Indian people that we still honor our roles as caregivers to our mother, the earth. The main focus of many of our ceremonies and dances is renewal, of the earth and therefore ourselves. The images are blurred and indistinct just as our responsibilities as earth's children and caretakers are constantly changing. Our commitment to this responsibility is manifested in the joyous but sometimes exhausting physical, mental and spiritual sacrifice; her gift in return is the grounding force that is reflected in our daily lives and gives us the warrior strength to continue our modern battles."

3. After viewing the entire exhibit of Shan Goshorn’s work, they should take detailed notes from the above paragraph about how Native Peoples see themselves in relation to their land.  Having seen multiple images of people visibly a part of the landscape, sometimes totally indistinct from it, the students will easily understand ideas in the paragraph on how Native Peoples are both the children of and caretakers of the land.  It is a relationship, described in terms of family, not in terms of ownership.  After taking notes, they will review ideas together so to begin this lesson looking for target themes.

4. The next presentation is the PDF from the book entitled Our Voices, Our Land, (words by the Indian Peoples of the Southwest).  See Handout#2.  Students take notes on this presentation showing a continuation of the themes presented by Shan Goshorn such as:

    • “The land, the hills, and the mountain has a life in it.  The ground which we stand on has a life in it.”
    • “The old people told us to respect the land, they tell you to take care of it, take care of it and in turn it will take care of you.”
    • “The land means a lot to us.  It means home.  … I belong to this place.”

Hopefully students will not only see the connection between Our Voices, Our Land and Shan Goshorn’s work but with their own feelings about their special place, the one about which they made a personal map.  This line especially should resonate with them: “The land means a lot to us.  It means home.  … I belong to this place.”  After students take notes hold one more brief class discussion looking for questions and making sure students have a good feel for the viewpoint of Native Peoples. 

5. The next two handouts (#3 and #4) are longer texts with exploration of more complex nuances of ideas encountered in the first two presentations.  Students need to read both handouts, taking detailed notes to be used in the creation of the Venn diagram.

6. After students have taken notes they need to use information gathered from all four sources to create a Venn diagram.  Most should know what a Venn diagram is but it is always good to give an example.  Many people are familiar with the three circles intersecting as used in math lessons. 

7. There are four readings in this lesson.  Some students may even wish to do a Venn diagram with all four readings.  There is a lot of flexibility in this lesson.  Give students an appropriate amount of class time to read, take notes and use the Venn diagram as an organizational tool to visually show how the same central thoughts appear in all four readings.  Some students may have to finish up for homework so the final day of this lesson may be devoted to creation of a Venn diagram of ideas on all four selections.  At the end of this class students should hand in their individual diagrams for assessment or you may wish to do a quick check of them before the class discussion begins.

The ideas encountered in this lesson are those of Native Peoples of the Americas.  However, they are those of all Native Peoples.  If you go back into the culture of any ethnic group of people you will hear the same ideas, though expressed in different words sometimes.  In the music of all ethnic groups who came to the Americas there is a longing for “home” that is back across the waters.  Many settlements and cities in the United States are named “new” something in an attempt to recreate the place where people came from.   When we move from the land of our origin we sometimes numb ourselves to the loss of that connection with the land.  For Native Peoples of the Americas that connection is not just a memory, a nostalgic longing, or a political choice, it is a current state of being.

If the Venn diagram is not completed before the last day of class it needs to be finished up for homework so students can fully participate in the last day’s activity.

Embedded Assessment
Class participation for the first and last days’ activities is one assessment of student learning.  The written work done for the Venn diagram is another way to gauge student level involvement and depth of understanding gained from the activities.




PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: March 8, 2007
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