Children were an important part of the Native American society. They carried the traditions of their ancestors forward. The distinction between the activities of boys and girls was made at an early age. They mostly received a different set of education, although some of their activities were similar.
The boys of a tribe were expected to follow in the footsteps of the men of the tribe. They were expected to be physically strong and brave. The boys were educated in skills such as horse riding and hunting. They would accompany the elder men on hunting trips to get a more hands-on experience. Most of the training and education was outdoors and practical.
Vision quest was a quest Native American boys undertook when they reached near the age of 14. They would leave their tribe and go into the wilderness. For many days, they would sleep, eat or drink very little.
They did this to commune with the spirits and find their guardian spirit. At the end of the fast, they would return home with a purpose in life. When they returned from the vision quest, they were accepted back into the tribe as adults.
Girls in the Native American society received their education from their mothers. Like boys, their training was hands-on and practical.
The mothers would teach the girls to take care of the household, cook food and perform other chores. The girls would also help elder women in gathering firewood and performing many other outdoor tasks.
Storytelling was an important part of the children’s education. The children would sit around a tribal elderly and listen to different stories.
The elderly would tell stories which carried moral purposes. The stories were also used to teach the children about the culture, history and traditions of a tribe. This was one of the activities which were common in the education of boys and girls.
The naming of Native American children was an important task. They were often named after some quality, such as black eyes or dark hair. Some children were also named after their ancestors.
The boys took on new nicknames as they achieved notable exploits. For instance, a young boy who hunted a strong animal would get a nickname that highlighted this achievement.
Sometimes, the names of the children also reflected the events that took place near the time of their birth. Most of the times, the Native Americans didn’t call a child by his or her name. It was considered impolite. Instead, they used their relations to the child, such as ‘my son’ or ‘my uncle’s son’ to call them.
The children in Native American tribes received a very different form of punishment. If they did something wrong, their elders would scold them or ridicule them in front of other members of the tribe.
In worst cases, they may have some water thrown in their face. So instead of physically beating their children, the elders used shame in the eyes of the tribe to correct the behavior of the children. This also taught the children about the importance of having a good reputation in the tribe.
Hands-on History! Native Americans: Find Out About the World of North American Indians, with 400 Exciting Pictures and 15 Step-by-step Projects
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Interesting Native American Children Links