in Lone Pine, Inyo
County, fourth grade students are breaking the popular
statewide tradition of doing “mission
reports.” Many Lo-Inyo fourth graders in this
rural district close to tribal communities are
writing about California Natives instead.
fourth-grade teacher, Dorothy Branson, is
responsible for the children’s new look at
of assigning them each a mission, Branson gives
her young students the choice of researching any
Native topic from 1769 through 1850, the period
missions were built.
Many of Branson’s fourth graders opt to
write about the lives of native people, a task
with which Branson helps the children by working
closely with local tribes to share resources.
fourth grader, Gregory, reproduced this Paiute
jewelry for his Lo-Inyo Elementary Indian Tribes
the years, locating historically accurate
information on California Natives for fourth-grade
students has been a challenge for Branson.
Luckily she has discovered the enthusiastic
team at the Lone Pine Indian Education Center (LPIEC).
LPIEC staff has worked closely with Branson
to cull materials on California Natives. Mary
Jefferson, longtime LPIEC secretary who serves as
the LPIEC librarian, has loaned Branson many of
Lone Pine’s Native books and will have more for
her this coming year.
Branson has also enjoyed the support of the
Center, and Lo Lyness, the science technology
coordinator of the Inyo County Department of
has long used dated films (Mission Life 
and Had You Lived Then: Life in a California
Mission  among others) to illustrate myths
of the California Native experience during the
mission period. In one film a young Indian boy is making
bricks while the voice-over says how much Jose
enjoys making adobe bricks.
In another film, the narrator explains that
the Spanish padres took the land from the Indians
because the Indians were not taking care of the
land, and that the padres would give the land back
when the Indians learned how to take care of it.
Letting the students come to their own
conclusions about the films, Branson observes how
her students discover that Jose wasn’t enjoying
making bricks, that the Indians knew how to take
care of the land, and that the Indians, not the
iconic Father Serra, built the missions.
Donnelly, executive director of the LPIEC, says he
is “proud to be director of a program that works
with a school district that has
teachers…[who] bring these types of
projects to the next level and educate students on
all historical and cultural issues.”
Donnelly credits Branson for helping the
Lone Pine Indian education program “expand
resource materials at the school sites [so
that] students of all ages learn about California
Indians and…grow up with [out] myths.”
Donnelly also credits LPIEC librarian Mary
Jefferson for the years she has devoted to
acquiring material on California Natives to
provide correct information about California
Natives to the local schools.
fourth-grade students’ reports have evolved into
Lo-Inyo Elementary’s California
Indian Project, a website
that showcases both the scholastic temerity of the
youngsters as well as the untold stories of
Branson and Lyness developed the website to provide
California Indian information to a wider audience.
Each student contributes at least one part
of the project’s web content: location, way of life, villages, culture,
legacies the tribe left the state; and comparisons with
student researches a tribe - where they lived,
what they ate, what shelter they built, their
religious ceremonies, their travel, who they
traded with, and their work divisions. The Chumash
tribe is very popular with Lo-Inyo’s
fourth-graders, and Chumash canoes are a popular
with students for their mandatory art pieces.
part of Branson’s innovative approach, tribal
members often are guest speakers in her class.
The mother and grandmother of one of
Branson’s students, Gregory, spoke to students
writing about the Paiute.
“The Paiutes walked until horses came to Inyo
County. They would walk to the other side of the
Sierra Nevada,” the mother and grandmother told the children.
As part of his report about the Paiutes, Gregory made a Paiute necklace and
also brought Paiute jewelry tools to class
to share as part of his group’s report.
more information about Lo-Inyo Elementary’s California
Indian Project please contact Dorothy
223 East Locust St., Lone Pine, CA 93545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
more information about the California State
Library’s efforts in
California’s tribal communities please contact Susan
Hanks, tribal and rural library programs
consultant, California State Library at 916-653-0661
or email email@example.com.
Few Resources for
Time of Resistance: California
Indians During the
An Integrated Thematic Unit, (1997), Sarah
“This unit tells one of many stories of
Native Americans in what is now called
during the time known as the mission period.
It differs from most accounts of this era
because it does not take the point of view of the
Spanish missionaries, nor of the Mexican and
Euro-American settlers who followed them.
It speaks in small measure of those Indian
peoples whose voices are not often heard.
This is a history of how the Native Peoples
of southern and central
resisted and survived.”
Guides & Curricula
Indian History. California
Native American Heritage Commission
– Cognitive Cultural Studies.
(Francis Steen; revised 8 October 2005)
has never been enough credit given to these early
Americans who took such good care of our country
when it was still in their care.
The time has come to realize tribal
contributions to our society today and to give
Native Americans not only the credit, but the
respect due them.” (Mary Null Boule',
Native American Tribes:
Miwok Tribe. c1992.)