Tribes of California:
project created by the students of the Lo-Inyo fourth grade class
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
that most California
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.
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 Owens
Center, and Lo Lyness, the science technology coordinator of the Inyo County
Department of Education.
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 California
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 California Natives. 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 other California
tribes. Each 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
. They would walk to the other side of the
,” the mother and grandmother told the children.
As part of his report about the Paiutes, Gregory made a Paiute necklace
and bracelet. He 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 Branson, Lo-Inyo
Elementary School, 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
Period 1769-1848: An Integrated
Thematic Unit, (1997), Sarah Supahan.
“This unit tells one of many stories of Native Americans in what is now
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 California
resisted and survived.”
School District: Indian Education Program
Oyate: Teaching Guides & Curricula
Overview of California
Indian History. California
Native American Heritage Commission
History: Southern California
before 1900. University
California, Los Angeles
– 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: Coast Miwok