Exploring Native American and Hispanic Culture

Native American and Hispanic cultures are steeped rich in history and diversity. However, they are distinctly different by traditions and nations. Those differences are often what makes teaching these cultures difficult. The following resource list is full of lesson plans and/or activities for teaching these unique cultures:

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Native American Culture

It is thought, though still debated, that early Americans came across Eurasia to North America across a land bridge called Beringia, which connected the two continents across what is now the Bering Strait, about 12,000 years ago. Early Paleoamerican peoples then split into tribes spreading throughout North America. Each tribe has a unique history and oral tradition. There are differences in art, music, foods, and symbols, so much so, that it is impossible to list them all. 

Art

Native American art is both beautiful and unique to each tribe. There is a vast array of colors and techniques used to make intricate design work and patterns. There is bead work, quill work, basket weaving, metal work, blankets, and a plethora of other beautiful crafts that Native Americans used to make life more comfortable in the past, but today brighten the lives of all who own some of these treasured forms of art.

Music

Native American music may sound harsh to some ears, but is actually very structured. It is a way to tell their history to the tribe. Each song is started with five basic beats that play throughout the entire piece, with song and dance added to tell a story. Musical instruments are vital to Native American music with some being made for one specific purpose and never used again once that purpose is fulfilled. 

Food

Native American food is nutritious and simple. The three sisters are corn, beans, and squash, which are grown together. First the corn is planted, and then the beans, so the vines can grow up the stalk, and then the squash which keeps out the weeds. Native Americans in the past relied on buffalo as their meat, and greens, berries, and fruit that grew wherever they were. This all changed with the European Invasion.

Symbols

Symbols were a very real and large part of Native American life that still holds true today. Symbolism represented many aspects of their beliefs in an afterlife, and how those who passed were still with the tribe. Symbols showed the respect tribes have for the wonders of the world around them.

Celebrations

Native American celebrations were based on harvests, summer and winter solstices. There were also celebrations for weddings, births, and more somber ceremonies for death. The famous sun dance was celebrated for 28 days with the most important being the last four to eight days. Celebrations took the form of dancing, singing, praying, meditations, the partaking of visions, and even in cases of manhood, self torture.

Famous People

There some very famous Native American throughout history such as Sitting Bull, who fought the rise of the white man, Sacajawea who helped Lewis and Clark on their expedition, Pocahontas, who helped bring food to the sick people of Jamestown. In modern times there is Billy Mills, the famous athlete, Will Rogers, the actor, and Maria Tallchief, the ballerina.

Folktales/Legends

There are literally thousands of legends and folktales in Native American culture. They usually tell a story or give an explanation on how something works or began. There is even one for how tears began that is an Inuit traditional song.

Hispanic Culture

Hispanic is a term that was created by the US government in the early 1970’s to provide a commonality for a large and diverse population that spoke the Spanish language and had Spanish cultural connections. They share a close knit family connection and it goes beyond the nuclear family to include extended family with a moral obligation to provide for each other in a time of need. 

Art

Hispanic art can range from the deeply religious icons such as the Virgin Mary to the festive and colorful siestas. In ancient times, art was deeply religious, and had a purpose for their religion. Today art is a reflection of the artist.

Music

Hispanic music differs greatly depending on the country and the genre. There is Mexican catala or rock, Latin music, and even polka.

Food

Hispanic food is simple and tasty. Masa is a staple, which makes tortillas and other bread foods. Potatoes are also a very important part of Hispanic cuisine. Hispanic food mainly consists of rice and vegetables seasoned with a base called sofrito, with rich sauces and cheese.

Symbols

Symbols in Hispanic culture are either religious in nature or a source of Hispanic pride. Each has a unique meaning, and varies from nation to nation. Most are dated back to the time of the Aztecs or a major event in Hispanic history.

Celebrations

Hispanic celebrations are called siestas. There are many of them. Since 90 percent of the Hispanic population is Catholic, Christmas and Easter are celebrated. Then there are celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo, Dia de las Muertas, the Day of the Dead, and Dia de Todos Santos, All Saints Day.

Famous People

Some famous Hispanic people are; Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic female astronaut, Sammy Sosa, a famous baseball player, Lou Diamond Philips a famous actor, and Carlos Santana a famous musician. There are many more famous Hispanics.

Folktales/Legends

Hispanic legends and folktales are numerous and colorful. Most are based on tradition and religion. Some are based on Myth, like the Chupacabra. Most recently there have been many folktales of aliens in the Mexico region. 

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