History: Living Books, and When We’re Lucky Actually Living People, Too!

Also living plants (if I can manage to keep them alive)! I don’t want to forget those. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

This year we’ve learned from The Story of the World: Volume 3. This book is subtitled “Early Modern Times. From Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners.” And that is exactly what it was. And I liked it a lot.

BUT, as I’ve mentioned before, these history books were never meant to be the FULL history curriculum for the year. For example, we spent 6 or 7 weeks on the American Revolutionary War, which comprised maybe 6 or 7 pages in the book. The chapters in these books are more like starting points, where you gain a little knowledge, develop a little curiosity, and are given a little direction. And then you get up and GO!

From Lewis and Clark through the Trail of Tears we have also conducted our own little side study of Native Americans. I think I’ve mentioned this before too. We went to the library and looked up every Native American group named in our history book and compiled all our data. Anyway, to be concise, which I rarely am, here is the final product of all our research!DSC03841

I am pretty impressed with us.

But history is so much more than just data. I may be going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing most historians didn’t choose their field because they like to crunch numbers and compile massive charts and tables. That is certainly not why I minored in history in college. History has everything to do with people and culture and decisions. Every story out there is made up of people, just like us – and actually sometimes very, very different than us in many ways – who feel and think and love and sorrow and experience life in ways we can never imagine. But we try anyway. And sometimes we are successful in little ways that open our eyes to the bigger picture. That makes us human. We want to understand people and we want to relate. (You can tell I majored in the College of Humanities at my university!)

So putting aside our living books, we called a real live living person to teach us about some of these people. My friend Rebecca was adopted into the Iroquois nation. Her father was a cultural anthropologist at a university and spent a lot of time up at the Iroquois reservation in Ontario, Canada. Because she lived with the people for seasons of her life she has a unique perspective on their culture and nature. And she was so gracious to come to our house and share with us some of the things she knows and the beautiful pieces of art she has.DSC03845

She explained to us about hadoii masks (I think they were my second favorite part!) and told us the story of hadoii gowa (Broken Nose) and his contest with The Creator. She told us about The Creator and the instructions he gave the people on how to live. They also believe in Deganaweda, who is the Bringer of Great Peace and came to the people on a stone canoe. We learned about Chief Handsome Lake and the Gaihwiio – or Good Word – which was brought to him by three angels. This Good Word taught the people to forsake witchcraft, materialism, alcohol, and preached peace. We saw real cornhusk dolls with traditional clothing from deer skin. Also moccasins with beautiful beadwork, a cradle board, various rattles – one made out of an actual turtle, a beautiful woven basket, and also a Kachina doll and piece of pottery from the Hopi (I suppose I haven’t mentioned yet she spent time with the Hopi as well).

But my absolute favorite part was when she sang us the spring planting songs. The Iroquois women used to sing these songs and dance while they planted their crops. Each individual woman would have her own unique song as well. For me, after listening to these songs the history really became alive and I could see and imagine better what it would be like to live in a Mohawk or Seneca village. For now I’ll put just one song in, but if I have more time later I will plug in the other.

I think I also really enjoyed these songs because I can use them in tending our own Three Sisters Garden. Almost every single book we read about Native Americans talked about corn, bean, and squash. And they grew them in a specific way. So I found an online resource to help us plant our own corn,beans, and squash garden. And just for fun I kind of feel like singing these songs to my little seedlings.


Grow, little guys, grow!