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  • Trickle Down Culture: Native American Traditions

    Cherokee stone carver Freeman Owle, Cherokee potter Amanda Swimmer, and Driver Pheasant, a storyteller, explain how prehistoric cultures taught their art and stories to the next generation, passing down cultural traditions so they will survive in the absence of written language.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Why do some Cherokee people carve objects out of stone?

    2. Trace the development of Cherokee pottery from its origins and purposes to modern times.

    3. Why is it important for the Cherokee to pass on skills like pottery and carving from generation to generation?

    Expansion

    1. Because this segment illustrates the timeless way culture has always been passed from generation to generation, discuss how Native American culture has been kept alive and what factors would account for it changing.

    2. Construct a traditional Cherokee village in diorama form. You should use as many natural materials as possible. Include their housing, dress, cooking facilities, farming, etc., to tell as much about their daily life as possible.

    Vocabulary

    specialization: the concentration on a particular activity, product, branch of a profession, or field of study; adaptation or limitation to a specific purpose, use, or function
    stereotype: a conventional image of a certain person, group, issue, etc. usually held in common by some group within society
    functional: designed for or adapted to a particular use

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Why do some Cherokee people carve objects out of stone?
    They say they feel close to nature and connected to the earth when they carve from stone that comes from their land.

    2. Trace the development of Cherokee pottery from its origins and purposes to modern times.
    The Cherokee for functional reasons invented pottery. It gave them a way to cook food. The oldest pottery in America was found near Savannah. At the beginning, there was no need to decorate it, because they would be traveling and would just throw it away. As they began to settle down and stay in one place longer, they began to decorate their utensils, especially the pottery, using elaborate designs. They found that they could preserve food and grains in the pottery as well as cook in it. Some kinds of pottery were used only by the chief, which set him apart from the other Cherokee people. Pottery also began the age of specialization in which a person would learn to do one thing well. The Cherokee and other Indian nations would use the decorated pottery to trade for other items they needed that they could not make or grow themselves.

    3. Why is it important for the Cherokee to pass on skills like pottery and carving from generation to generation?
    Unlike today's world of specialization, the Cherokee people had to make all of the things they needed and wanted. Also, staying close to the family and learning to pass on the lore and history of their people helps the Cherokee preserve their culture. It tells them who they are and were and where they came from. In this way, they learn they are unique and have value to the world about them. It also connects them to this world in a unique way.

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