Introduction to Lakota/Dakota Oral Histories & Storytelling

by Jen Mellette


ND H.3-5.3, & ND H.3-5.9 Describe North Dakota Native American Essential Understandings. Describe how individuals and groups contributed to North Dakota.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.5.3 Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.


 45-60 minutes


Computer with internet connection

πŸ“ƒ Summary

Students read a Lakota story on the end of the world. The teacher gives a short presentation on oral history as used by the Lakota/Dakota. Students play a game with stories from Dakota or Lakota culture. Students present their own examples of oral history in writing or orally. Assessment is in oral or written presentation and via data reports on answers in Making Camp Lakota or Dakota.

πŸ“š Lesson

Read the Story

Read or have a student read the Lakota story of the end of the world . The English translation can be found on the Akta Lakota Museum site here or you can copy it as a Google doc into your own classroom.


This short (5 minute) Google slide presentation explains what oral history is and how it was used by the Lakota/Dakota.

Play a Game

Have students play either Making Camp Lakota or Making Camp Dakota. From the earn page, select the LIFE tab. Select any 3 activities on the page to watch and answer the questions. If students have not played the game before, this should take 10-15 minutes from logging in, introduction, and the three choices.

LIFE pages from Making Camp Dakota.

The lessons featured in the Life tab are perfect examples of traditional oral history passed down by both Lakota/Dakota tribes. 

Share Oral Histories

Once students have played the game, ask students to think of and share orally a story told to them or if they are not comfortable with public speaking, have them write down in a notebook entry to be turned in for grading. 


The assessment value is based on what is written down in the notebook or what is shared orally with the rest of the class. Some students will not share or write anything down due to lack of knowledge, so those will be case by case and one on one with the student in question. Based on stories shared and notebook entries, adjustments to class series can be made to target how much time we can spend on a second lesson and third lesson with oral histories. 

Students completion of Life activities and their correct/ incorrect answers are recorded and data on student task completion and performance are available from the teacher reports.

RELATED Lessons You May Wish to Use

A Dakota boyhood is a lesson that also includes a story of Dakota life and teaches ELA at the fifth-grade level. This lesson also uses the Life section from the game Making Camp Lakota.

Breaking Down Division with Remainders – is a great addition for a cross-curricular unit. Making Camp Dakota follows a family at a pow-wow as the children learn about Dakota culture through stories from their elders and apply their long division skills along the way. This division lesson includes Making Camp Dakota game play, a video and Google slides presentation on division with remainders.

This lesson plan was originally developed as part of a series on returning culture and knowledge back to our youth as a part of the youth social skills night activities for the Native American Development Center in Bismarck, ND. It is part of a lesson plan series created by Jen Mellette, Youth and Community Coordinator. 

Geometry and Ledger Art

by Avis Prentice and AnnMaria De Mars

πŸ“– Standards

Draw (freehand, with ruler and protractor, and with technology) geometric shapes with given conditions. Focus on constructing triangles from three measures of angles or sides, noticing when the conditions determine a unique triangle, more than one triangle, or no triangle.

⏰ Time

90-120 minutes, including time students spend on creating shapes, measurement and creating winter count artwork

πŸ“² Technology Required

A computer with project/ smart board for viewing as a class or computer or mobile device for viewing videos at home is required. Art project can be done on Google Slides or PowerPoint or with markers and paper or construction paper, glue and scissors. Paper bags (optionally) can be used to simulate a hide background.

πŸ“ƒ Summary

Students begin by watching two videos that appear to be unrelated – on Native American ledger art and using a protractor to measure angles. These are explained in the presentation, that art can take many forms. Vocabulary and basic facts regarding angles are introduced. Students use an online app to create angles with different lengths of lines. After measuring lengths and angles of their shapes, students create artwork for their own event and a classroom ‘winter count’. Use of angles in computer animated art is explained. The session ends with assessment of students’ knowledge of measurement of angles.

πŸ“š Lesson

Watch video on Native American Ledger Art

Watch to 5:07

Students will watch the video to the point of 5:07 , where the curator says to think of an event you really want to remember.

Watch video on using a protractor

Explain basic concepts and vocabulary of measuring angles

This 31-slide deck explains degrees as a measure of rotation, defines acute, obtuse and right angles and obtuse, acute and right triangles. Instructions are given for students creating their own ledger art. Available as Google slides here or as a PowerPoint Presentation here.

Students use an online app to create triangles from different lengths of lines.

Example from the GeoGebra app

In this exploratory activity, students should learn that a triangle cannot be created from any three lines. They will also get practice creating different angles and seeing the shapes of triangles with different angles. This activity is recommended but can be skipped if students do not have access to devices. Alternatively, the teacher or a student can create angles with result shown on a smart board/ projector.

Students create and measure shapes

As instructed in the presentation, students create lines, triangle and circles. They measure the diameter or radius of circles, length of lines and angles of triangles. Students write a description of their shapes using mathematical terms.

Students create their own artwork to commemorate an event

Students will use the shapes created in the previous activity to create original work. They will present their artwork to the class and explain its meaning.

Students watch a video on winter count

Emil Her Many Horses explains the creation and meaning of the winter count

Students combine their events to form a classroom record

Individual student events can be combined on poster board, included in a single Slides or PowerPoint document. Dr. Vivian Young recommends using large brown paper bags to simulate hides, crumpling and tearing around the edges to give more of a hide appearance.

End with presentation

Finish the slide presentation by informing students that their measurements are the first step a software developer would take in turning their artwork into computer animation for a game or website. They have been programming and did not even know it!


An assessment of students’ knowledge of measurement of angles and types of triangles is included here as :

Google doc file for assessment

PDF version of assessment


Travois, multiplication and 2-step problems

By Irish Pepito


CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.OA.D.8 Solve two-step word problems using the four operations. Represent these problems using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity. Assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies including rounding.


30-45 minutes


In this lesson, the students will develop an understanding of the meanings of the four operations of whole numbers through activities and problems involving real life scenarios from Indigenous history. Students use properties of operations to calculate products of whole numbers, using increasingly sophisticated strategies based on these properties to solve using the four operations problems involving single-digit factors. It includes educational videos, games and video presentations that can be used for reviews and daily practice.


Computer or mobile device


First, watch a video for 100 second

Learn how to solve problems by breaking them down into easier problems (time 1:40)

Second, play a game

Menu with 4 choices, number, random, life , words
Choices screen: Instruct students to select NUMBERS

Let the students log in to Making Camp Premium to access the game. (Game links can be found under the GAMES tab.) The choices screen is shown above. Students are instructed to select NUMBERS from the screen above.

Menu for videos with six boxes

Students are tasked to play for 20 minutes. Students will demonstrate mastery in solving word problems like the one shown below and to be able to earn points within the game. For some students who aren’t able to master the standard will be given individualized instruction to master the concept.

Example of word problem following a video

Reinforce and assess what they have learned with a presentation

This Google slides presentation, Travois and Multiplication, gives a little background on how the travois was used by Indigenous people of North American. Within the context of building and using a travois, students learn to analyze a word problem and use appropriate operations in getting the correct answer.

Final video – See travois in action

Watch this short (46 second) video on how Lakotas used the travois


To monitor the progress of the students, there is data analysis that can be viewed on the Making Camp Premium data report. There are also four problems included in the Google slides presentation that students can complete in-class or as a work-from-home activity