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Children of the Earth: Native American Identity, Sacred Places and Ties to the Landscape

For centuries, Native Americans have experienced an immediate relationship with the landscape. Connecting both physically and spiritually with their natural world, Native people have shaped and continuously defined their identities, their cultures and their unique histories. As related by Duane Champagne in Native American Voices, “Native American history is not just for Indians, it is for all Americans by virtue of our common national identity and our shared connection to our homeland.”

Despite this truism, Native American history is given little attention in the current curriculum of our nation’s elementary, middle and high schools. Students are presented with a Eurocentric view of North American history and the history of our true predecessors is oftentimes tainted or completely removed from study. Thus, when students encounter issues of contemporary Native peoples, they are unable to draw on the prior knowledge necessary to develop a deep understanding of what it means to be Native American and the historical intricacies surrounding the marginalized tribes today.

This unit will provide a means for teaching about Native American culture, specifically in relation to sacred places, in a meaningful way for students, presenting the lesser-known history of our country, as well as providing context for many of the contemporary issues surrounding sacred places. In exploring relevant themes of culture, identity, and place in both primary and secondary texts, students will interact meaningfully with the texts and be prompted to respond to these externalities as a means of comparing their own lives and values to those of Native American cultures.  Additionally, students will engage with a variety of texts, both fiction and nonfiction, to develop a more well rounded sense of the issue of Native American sacred places and its complexities, as well as its relevance in today’s society.

Erin Bloom
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