When it comes to Thanksgiving crafts, some of them can lean a bit racist. But not these! These Native American Thanksgiving crafts provide a real hands-on look at the culture of Native Americans in North America without cultural appropriation or broad sweeping cultural assumptions.
These crafts are perfect for studying Native American culture during Thanksgiving or any other time of year!
Native American Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids
These Native American Thanksgiving crafts for kids will help children explore the history and culture of the people who were here long before the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock.
North America, Central America, and Canada are all home to Native American tribes that were systemically oppressed or wiped out by colonists.
That’s why today many schools are trying to recover some of the lost history and culture of Native Americans. While there are a lot of “Native American” crafts that aren’t really historical or accurate, the Native American Thanksgiving crafts for kids on this list will help children learn about the real people that once lived all across America.
Thanksgiving Facts About Native Americans for Kids
Discuss these history facts when doing your Native American Thanksgiving crafts!
Native Americans were not all alike. Their culture was diverse as any other continent’s.
Native American culture was influenced by what region the people lived in, the weather, what foods could grow there, and the personalities and culture of specific societies.
“The antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history, but honest and inclusive history.”—James W. Loewen, Plagues & Pilgrims: The Truth about the First Thanksgiving
During the colonization period of America, because there were no vaccines or antibiotics at the time, when the European people visited, they often brought diseases with them that the Native American people were weak against. In fact, about 90% of Native people died from illness outside of any war between white and native people.
It was the Native American people who created the idea of Thanksgiving in America. The Wampanoag tribe had many feasts similar to Thanksgiving throughout the year with games, food, and fun.
While the Puritans also had Thanksgiving periods, at the time, they were more likely to be fasting periods rather than periods of feasting.
The first Thanksgiving between Native Americans and Puritans in 1621 was a strategic and temporary bond of coincidental necessity.
Because so many of the Wampanoag people had died of illness, they were unable to defend themselves against a warring tribe, the Narragansett. So they made an agreement with the Pilgrims to give them food and show them how to farm in America (who were starving at the time) in exchange for guns to fight off the people attacking them.
The Thanksgiving in 1621 was a celebration of the Pilgrims for making it through that first year alive and a celebration of the Wampanoag people for being able to defend themselves from attack.
How to Find the Native Americans from Your Area
If you want to learn which Native American tribes lived where you live today, there is a way to do that!
All you have to do is run a search with a term like “What Native American tribes lived near ___” and fill in the blank with the name of your city or state.
In Texas, where I live, it was considered a “mixed buffer zone” and wasn’t claimed by any one tribe. However, the tribes of Wichita, Comanche, Caddo, Cherokee, and others passed through the area and many towns and landmarks are named for the tribes who resided or passed through the area.
Culturally Appropriate Native American Thanksgiving Crafts
Try these Native American crafts that celebrate Native culture in a respectful, and accurate way.
Most Native American tribes were skilled in the art of weaving. This weaving craft offers a hands-on crafting look into the art of weaving.
Some Native American tribes used Wampum (a type of shell) as currency and for other things. The tribes most noted for using this currency were the Iroquois Confederacy- which included the Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, and Tuscarora peoples. This Wampum belt craft captures some of the beadwork that many Native people added to their belts.
Most Native American tribes used music for communication, storytelling, and just for fun. Many of their instruments included drums and rattles. Here’s how you can make a musical rattle in the style of Native Americans.
Some Native tribes living in dry regions used rainsticks during religious ceremonies to pray for rain. This rainstick craft is somewhat authentic and fun for kids to make.
The Ojibwe tribe is credited with the creation of the dream catcher. The Ojibwes had a woman called Asibaikaashi who was respnsible for the safety of all Ojibwe babies. As the tribe grew and spread, she couldn’t keep everyone safe so she began weaving dream catchers to hang above the bed of babies to keep harm from the children. Here’s how you can make your own dream catcher!
The Hopi, Zuni, Hopi-Tewa, and many Pueblo tribes of New Mexico would make Kachina dolls. This doll is a representation of ancestral spirits and were used to teach children about Native American religious beliefs.
Another activity that tribes living on the plains did was decorate buffalo hides. The Native tribes believed that in certain cases, spiritual energy could be put into a buffalo hide, giving the wearer protection or special healing. In this craft, kids can paint their own faux buffalo hides.
Many plains Indigenous people who were nomadic used tipi tents as temporary housing because they were durable and easy to set up and take down. The the seven sub-tribes of the Sioux, Otoe, Pawnee, Blackfeet, Crow, Assiniboines, Arapaho, and Plains Cree were all tribes who used tipis. Make a mini Native American Tipi. using these directions.