Grade school students are typically dependent on commonly available research resources anyway --- dictionaries, encyclopedias, magazines. The Internet has changed that in both positive and negative ways. The Internet is a pervasive supplier of information and it is accessible almost everywhere. Great! Unfortunately, it is also leading many to believe that text sources are passe or useless. Not great! We are quickly developing an Internet culture that subscribes to the maxim that "if it doesn't exist on the Internet, it doesn't exist at all." For California Indian studies this is disastrous. You simply will not find that much on the Internet. Dictionaries and encyclopedias have even less specific information. Most of the information is available in books and in journal articles. Unless the student lives in an urban area with good libraries, these are hard to find. So, if you are a 4th grade teacher, I hope that you'll check out what resources your students actually have available to them before you ask them to write a report --- e.g., on the Wappo.
With this much as background, I would like to use this page as a discussion of reports that can work.
Here are some tribes for which rich resources exist.
(Inclusion of the Northern Paiutes and the Washo is a subjective choice. Both had traditional territories well within the boundaries of California; however, the Smithsonian studies includes them in the Great Basin (volume 11) region rather than the California region.)
While this is a small list compared to the large number of tribes and tribelets located in California, the teacher can generate a larger number of report topics (to cover all the students in class) by dividing up the studies. For each of the tribes, above, someone can report on the physical geography and history, someone on the material (food, clothing, and shelter) culture, and someone on the social (marriage, family, spiritualism, and politics) culture. There are also very interesting stories (some of them "creation stories"), ritual celebrations, and arts. Basketry styles were quite varied around California and are worth several different reports.
One should also keep in mind that California was divided up into a largish number of ecologically distinctive regions, creating strong differences between food sources and housing. The Yurok and Chumash were both coastal people so they both ate a wide variety of ocean foods. However, their approaches to the sea were quite different and they make an interesting contrast. The Yana, Pomo, Ohlone, Yokuts, and Tongva possessed similar "inland" habits and represent the classic "acorn culture" of California; yet each one presents different traits because of its precise location. The Maidu and Sierra Miwok are very similar because of their common habitat in the higher Sierra foothill areas; yet there are interesting differences between Northern and Southern California. The Great Basin lifeways continued to follow a system of "annual rounds" (migrations after food) so the Washo and Northern Paiute people have very interesting stories to tell. The Cahuilla were desert dwellers who developed extremely interesting social and ritual systems in order to deal with the precariousness of food supplies. All in all, this small number of tribes presents huge opportunities for comparison and contrasts, and all Native Californians teach us a lot about living within means and understanding ourselves within a natural world --- all urgent lessons in the contemporary world.
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