Exploring Native American Folkways through Artifacts

As a culminating activity, students will sort artifact cards according to their cultural origin (Southwest, Great Plains, Eastern Woodland, and Northwest Coastal).

Lesson Objective

Students will demonstrate an understanding of geographical influence on culture by performing an artifact sort.



  1. Divide students into pairs or into groups of 3. Tell students that the objective of this activity is to do a close read of the objects in front of them.
  2. Explain how students should use what they know about each of the four Native American groups and the classroom map (with areas labeled and delineated) to discuss geography. The discussion should emphasize that the products made by each Native American group could have been influenced by where they lived.
  3. Ask students to look at the purpose and the design of the artifact to determine which artifacts might go together. For each area (Great Plains, Southwest, Eastern Woodland and Northwest Coastal) there are 5 artifacts.
  4. After giving the students time to discuss in their groups how the artifacts go together, have students commit to their choices by gluing a smaller version of the sort into the graphic organizer. For each sort they should come up with 2 or 3 unifying words that explain why they put their artifacts into the group they did (for instance, fishing, water, buffalo, horses, shapes (design) hunting, water, tradition, tools, materials, climate).
  5. Once all the children have completed the graphic organizers, begin doing a group sort . Place the 4 labeled chart paper sheets in 4 discreet locations in the room. Have the student groups take turns selecting a card and placing it in one of the areas, giving justification for the cards’ placement. For instance “Northwest Coastal because salmon live there.”
  6. When the group sort is complete but before giving the answers, give students time to argue. In the end, give the answers and have students compare their responses with the correct responses.


Have students complete an exit card asking the question, “How does the location of a group of American Indians affect its culture?”


The National Museum of American Indian. http://nmai.si.edu/home/