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The Natchez Indians lesson plan

OVERVIEW

The American Indian influence in Mississippi can best be understood through a study of the three "modern" tribes: the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez. In this lesson, students will gain an understanding of the Natchez Indians. They will explore the origin, location, culture, and demise of this noble band of American Indians. While investigating customs and lifestyles that are unique to the Natchez, students will develop an appreciation for many of their practices and will recognize the imprint of the Natchez culture on Mississippi today. Important questions to consider:

How, when, and where did the Natchez Indians locate in Mississippi?

Even if you cannot agree with all the rituals and practices of the Natchez culture, can you formulate reasons why they were important to the tribe?

Why was the coming of the Europeans so disastrous for the Natchez?

What influences of the Natchez are present in Mississippi today?

CONNECTION TO STANDARDS

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, and 4; Objectives 05, 07, 10.

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

Mississippi History Now essay, "The Natchez Indians"

Various Mississippi History/Studies texts

Unlined paper for map and acrostic (optional)

Art supplies for project

Additional information obtained from the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians/Mississippi Department of Archives and History

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

describe the lifestyle and culture of the Natchez Indians.

locate on a Mississippi map significant sites in the history of the Natchez Indians.

analyze the changing relationship between the Natchez and Europeans in the Mississippi area.

determine the lasting influence of the Natchez on the landscape and culture of Mississippi.

OPENING THE LESSON

The teacher will ask students to "sketch" on a piece of paper their impression of a American Indian village in the Mississippi area during the time of the explorers. (Teacher should not clarify instructions further.) Students will then compare their sketches to either a textbook picture or to this following description of a Natchez house.

"They used poles for the house foundation and covered the sides with a mixture of clay and Spanish moss. The roofs were round and covered with prairie grass. Inside there were platforms along the wall for sleeping. These were covered with woven mats. There were wooden pillows and skins for covers. There were shelves where they kept woven mats to use for sitting around the fire. The fire was built in the middle of the hut. There was no hole for the smoke to escape. Rising into the thatched roof, the smoke would kill mosquitoes and other insects, and drift throughout the thatch."
(Description taken from information compiled by Patricia Pressgrove, Trinity Episcopal Day School, October 1995.)

Many students may have sketched teepees. Discuss possible misconceptions about American Indians who lived in this area as students continue to share what they "think" they know. Tell students that the lesson on the Natchez Indians will help to either verify or clarify their perceptions and will help them realize the role played by American Indians in the history of the state.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1.

Students will read the Mississippi History Now essay on the Natchez Indians along with information in their texts or in additional resources provided by the teacher.

2.

As they read, students will collect basic information and will outline the data in a web diagram (cluster or bubble map). The center of the web will be titled NATCHEZ INDIANS. The second branch (or tier) should include these headings: POPULATION, LOCATION, ORIGIN, ECONOMY, RELIGION, GOVERNMENT, SOCIAL CLASSES, RITUALS/BELIEFS.

3.

In small groups, students will compare their webs, adding additional information as the group discussion suggests.

4.

Teacher will administer either an oral or written assessment, allowing the students to use their webs. (If possible, quickly grade and return for correction and clarification as students work on next step.)

5.

Students will free-hand a map of Mississippi and will locate the villages of the Natchez Indians and other significant sites. They should include: St. Catherine Creek, Grand Village and other villages (Tioux, White Apple, Grigra, Jenzenaque, etc.), Emerald Mound, Fort Rosalie, and Natchez, Mississippi. Have students make their maps colorful with icons related to the Natchez culture and history. On the back of their maps, students will explain the significance of each site located on their map.

6.

To explain the deteriorating relationship between the Natchez and the Europeans, particularly the French, students will assume the role of either a French settler or a Natchez Indian, both of whom survived the Natchez/French conflict. Using a creative format (poetry, journal entries, letter), each student will "tell" how events led to war and what their lives might be like in the future.

7.

To further understand the Natchez culture, students will work in groups on one of the following projects:

 

a mobile showing the months of the Natchez calendar (article included);

 

a reenactment of the Green Corn Ceremony (article included);

 

a mural depicting the Grand Village;

 

a picture display of art and architecture of the Natchez.

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

1.

Students will share the information (in a method designated by the teacher) they have learned from the lesson.

2.

In a class discussion, students will relate specific examples of Natchez influence on the state of Mississippi.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1.

Web diagram

2.

Formative evaluation based on web

3.

Map

4.

Creative writing exercise (may use rubric)

5.

Project (may use rubric)

6.

Observation of group and class participation

7.

As a summative assessment, teacher will distribute (or display) a list of important terms associated with the objectives. The students will construct a NATCHEZ INDIAN acrostic, using the terms to complete the assignment. (An example is provided.) Students will then write either a question or definition/description of each term they've used in the acrostic.

G

r

a

N

d

 

V

i

l

l

a

g

e

 

 

 

A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Z

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.

Teacher may want to ask students to write a brief report explaining if and why their perceptions of Mississippi's early American Indians have changed as a result of the study.

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1.

Students may wish to do indepth research on any aspect of Natchez life – hunting techniques, medicinal uses of herbs, moundbuilding, food and recipes, entertainment, human sacrifice.

2.

A field trip to the Emerald Mound and to the Grand Village would complement the lesson.

3.

Invite a guest from the Department of Archives and History to speak to the class.

THE NATCHEZ CALENDAR (excerpted from a primary source: Antoine Simon Le Page du Pratz, a French planter; taken from The History of Louisiana, Claitor's Publishing Division, Baton Rouge, 1972.)

"The first moon is called that of the Deer, and begins their new year, which is celebrated by them with universal joy...The second moon, which answers to our April, is called the Strawberry moon, as that fruit abounds then in great quantities. The third moon is that of the Little Corn. This moon is often impatiently looked for, their crop of large corn never sufficing to nourish them from one harvest to another. The fourth is that of Watermelons, and answers to our June. The fifth moon is that of the Fishes: in this month also they gather grapes, if the birds have suffered them to ripen. The sixth moon, which answers to our August, is that of the Mulberries. At this feast they likewise carry fowls to the Great Sun. The seventh moon is that of the Maize or Great Corn. This feast is beyond dispute the most solemn of all...The eighth moon is that of the Turkies, and answers to our October. The ninth moon is that of the Buffalo and it is then they go to hunt that animal...The tenth moon is that of Bears...The eleventh moon answers to our January, is named as Coldmeal Moon. The twelfth is that of Chestnuts. That fruit has been gathered long before, nevertheless it gives its name to this moon. Lastly, the thirteenth month is that of Walnuts, and it is added to complete the year. It is then that they break the nuts to make bread of them by mixing with them the flour of Maize."

THE GREEN CORN CEREMONY (taken from information provided by the Alabama Museum of Natural History, Moundville Archaeological Park, Moundville, Alabama.)

"The ceremony in the temple is part of what was called the Green Corn Ceremony, or Busk (from a word meaning 'to fast'). The Green Corn Ceremony was an annual thanksgiving and purification ritual held during the middle of the summer celebrating the new corn crop...

The chief or Great Sun decided which day would be the day to begin the ceremony which lasted from four to eight days, falling between the last of July and the first of September. The whole town began preparations for the ceremony, and it was forbidden to eat any of the new corn.

Great efforts were made to repair and clean the houses, to cast off broken pottery and old clothes, and to get ready for the new season. It is thought that it was on this occasion that the mound builders added to the mounds and replaced their public buildings.

The men in the village fasted and drank medicine; during the fast, they stayed separate from the women. All serious crimes were settled and the criminals were pardoned (except in the case of murderers). On the final day, all the old fires were extinguished, including the fire in the temple. The priest made a new fire which was distributed to each home. Then the cooking of the new corn and preparations for the feasting began...

The ceremony ended with feasting, dancing, and a ball game."

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