A Gathering of Cultures: First Peoples in Tennessee

A Gathering of Cultures: First Peoples in Tennessee
Rachel Jackson: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two to three class periods.

Standards Compliance
NCSS Strand 1
NCSS Strand 2
Time, Continuity, and Change
NCSS Strand 3
People, Places, and Environments
NCSS Strand 5
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
NCTE Standard 1
Students read fiction, nonfiction, classic, and contemporary works to acquire information for various purposes.
NCTE Standard 4
Students adjust the use of spoken, written, and visual language to communicate with different audiences and purposes.
NCTE Standard 8
Students use a variety of technology and information resources to gather, synthesize, and communicate knowledge.
ISTE Standard 5
Technology research tools


Rachel Jackson had intimate knowledge of the Native American tribes in Tennessee, having been part of early settlement efforts in that territory.  In the meantime, Native American populations were trying to figure out how to deal with this hoard of white people who were steadily taking over their lands.  One of the great losses to American society has been the loss of the knowledge, stories, and understandings that Native Americans possessed (and still, to some extent, possess).


In this lesson, students in teams select a Native American tribe from Tennessee to represent at a great Powwow, and research the location and history of that tribe, as well as some of the things that make that tribe unique, for presentation to the whole group. The teams are: the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Koasati, the  Quapaw, the Shawnee, and the Yuchi.

Materials Required:

Art supplies.  Decide what art materials are necessary based upon the ability level of your class.  Access to the Internet.  Word processor (or paper and writing utensil).  Research tools (books, videos, photos, and magazines).  Printer (to print resources and papers).


1.      Divide students into teams with four to five students in each.
2.      Provide materials for teams of students to perform research on a Native American tribe of their choice.  An introductory video can be useful to introduce the lesson, if available at the school library.
3.      Teams are encouraged to craft the dress and replicate representative cultural features.  (For younger students, you may decide to teach a lesson on one tribe and do the activity as an entire class).
4.      Develop the Powwow as much or as little as you desire—foods, costume, location, etc.   Students are expected to explain general features, as researched, of each tribe.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson may be expanded by opening the presentation to the entire school, and/or expanding the activity across the curriculum.

Sources & Resources:

Lewis, Thomas McDowall Nelson, and Kneberg, Madeline. Tribes That Slumber: Indians of the Tennessee Region. 1986.
Satz, Ronald N. Tennessee’s Indian Peoples: From White Contact to Removal, 1540 to 1840. 1979.


   Tribes and Bands of Tennessee

   The First Peoples of Tennessee

   American Indians in Tennessee


This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.