I hope to see the students discover the narrative of American Indians in a way that stirs up empathy and understanding. The lesson in the narrative of American Indians will expand their knowledge of our country’s history and the current state of Indians in various states around the US, as well as expand their familiarity with Indian art. There will also be a more developed sense of cultural identity as a theme in itself.
The students will understand that their art can and will say something, and can speak for the humanity of different people groups or for justice where they find injustice, or for any message they want to spread. Their awareness of the public space as a place for art will grow, and creates the possibility of a journey in public art.
The goal of the artwork itself is for the students to more clearly understand American Indian Culture, and more clearly understand their personal culture specifically and how it pertains to their daily visual experiences. If common threads are found whether in similarities by virtue of being human, or similarities due to cultural experiences, that will be a powerful message for the artist and the viewers.
The goal of such studies of American Indian narratives and expressions of cultural identity is for wider understanding and the possibility of using art to give this history a voice. Through this lesson series students will form a stronger sense of their own cultural identity, identify commonalities that all in America have, and portray the humanness of cultures they choose to express. By expressing identity and humanness of any people group, the students speak against injustice that fails to stand for that humanness by creating empathy in the viewer. Lastly, the art is a cultural study and comparison of two people groups who share homeland. The “common ground” becomes the path for empathy and justice.
The older and/or more advanced students will be expected to think conceptually. There will be encouragement to look at similarities beyond concrete objects. Students will be prompted with questions like the following: Are there any injustices to which you relate? Are there any cultural issues that you feel you have in common? Are there any moments Sherman Alexie described that you can relate to in your own life at home or at school? With these concepts their anchor pieces are allowed to be conceptual and portray a feeling or a scene, either by using a cartoon, action imagery and especially symbols. The goal will be to draw similarities in their differences to portray the common threads in humanity as a whole.
The younger and/or less advanced students will be looking at things in a more concrete way and will be offered examples to chose from as a starting point. Examples can include templates for moccasins and sneakers, teepees and houses etc. Another option given to the younger students will be to take the teepee drawings by Jaune Quick-To-See-Smith. Her illustration depicts a row of teepees labeled Beauty Shoppe, Day Care etc. to display the modern and stereotypical, outdated views of Native American daily life. Students will be asked to make a comparable drawing of their own neighborhood and the places they visit (barber shop, corner store, grandma’s house etc.) and draw attention to how viewers might stereo type their view of the city, and how their city appears to them.