Growing Our Understanding of Indigenous Peoples

Jean DeWitt and Sharon Lee, Fourth Grade West Teachers
Live Oak's fourth graders researched California's history and the various tribal groups that call the area home.
Fourth graders study California history and its connection to the present all year long. In November, students began their exploration of California’s Native Peoples by visiting the Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont to get a glimpse into how the Ohlone people lived and thrived in the Bay Area before European colonizers arrived. Students learned that the Ohlone are still among us, holding onto their traditions, and are a vital part of California today.

After our field trip, the fourth grade students dived into developing a more complete narrative of the Native American experience, beginning with exploring the terminology we encounter when we read books or listen to videos about and referring to California’s First Peoples: American Native, Indian, Native American, Indigenous, and Native. As part of their exploration, students found that different individuals used different terms and learned how the term ”Indian” was connected to colonialism. They learned that many of California’s Indigenous People use various terms and prefer to be called by their specific tribal affiliation.

This month, students researched the historical identities of different tribal groups (Shasta, Tongva, Esselen, Miwok, Yokut, Mojave) while identifying the effect of the Spanish colonizers and the impact of the treaties and policies of the United States on Native Peoples. Students used the following guiding questions to grow their essential  understanding of the Indigenous Peoples of California:
  1. Who were the people who lived and thrived in California before Europeans arrived?
  2. What is the relationship between the environment and the people? How has that relationship affected California’s past and present?
  3. How did the Indigenous People of California adapt and change over time?
  4. How did different times in history affect Native Indian People?
Next week students will present their research projects on the rich history of California’s Indigenous Peoples and share ways they are taking the lead in identifying ways to create action plans for modern problems such as climate change and protecting their sovereignty.


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