The Cherokee tribe is one of the most well-known Native American tribes with a rich, tragic and proud history. Teaching your kids about the Cherokee people increases their awareness about different cultures -- and introduces them to the subject of Native American history in America. Engage your children in kid-friendly, age-appropriate activities so they can learn about this strong, thriving Native American nation.
Books on the Cherokee Nation
Read books with your children about the Cherokees. For children ages 4 and older, "The Cherokee Indians," by Bill Lund, provides a basic introduction as to who the Cherokee Indians were in the past and where they are today as a nation. For kids ages 5 and older, "Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story," by Geri Keams, retells an old Cherokee folk tale about how Grandmother Spider brought the sun to the dark half of the world where the animals lived. For children ages 8 and older, "Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears," by Cornelia Cornelissen, tells the tragic true story of the Cherokee Indians being forcibly removed from their land, through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl.
The Cherokees were known for their beautiful clay pots that they made by hand. You can make homemade, non-toxic modeling clay with your child that she can shape into decorative clay pots and cooking tools with which she can play. Combine 2 cups of baking soda with 1 cup of cornstarch and 1 1/2 cups of water in a pot on the stove. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate to cool, but keep it covered with a damp towel. Once cool, your child can shape the clay into small pots, then use non-toxic acrylic paints to decorate them. Let the paint and the clay dry completely before allowing your child to play with the clay pots. The Cherokee people traditionally lived in homes made of mud and clay. Show your child pictures and help her create miniature Cherokee homes out of the clay as well.
Fry bread is popular among several Native American tribes although they all make slightly differently. To make the Cherokee version of fry bread, combine 1 cup of flour with 3/4 cup of milk, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and a dash of salt. Let your child flour and knead the dough gently, but don't overwork it. Roll the dough out to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Divide the dough into 4-inch flat discs and fry in hot oil for about 2 minutes on each side, until it is golden brown. Enjoy as is, sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, or top it with meat like you would a taco and enjoy. To make Cherokee bean balls, combine 2 cups of brown beans with 4 cups of corn meal, 1/2 cup of flour and a dash of baking soda. Have your child roll the mixture into 2 or 3-inch balls. Drop the balls into slow boiling water to cook for about 30 minutes.
Play modified versions of some of the traditional games Cherokee children used to play. For one game, children must try to throw a dart throw a rolling plastic hoop. As real darts can be dangerous for children, make pipe cleaner darts for the kids to try to throw through a hoop. The Native American game known as "chunkey" involved rolling a round stone on smooth ground, while two players threw spears, trying to get their spears closest to the stone. To play a modified, kid-friendly version, have the kids roll a smooth stone across the driveway or sidewalk, and then throw small sticks as far as they can after it while it's still rolling.
- The Cherokee Indians; Bill Lund
- Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story; Geri Keams
- Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears; Cornelia Cornelissen
- Jerome Pollos/Getty Images News/Getty Images