Teacher's Resources - Living in the Present
In the time period directly following the conquest of the Americas by the Spaniards, beginning in 1519, the indigenous populations were drastically reduced by disease, violence and forced relocation and labour. As many as 85% of the indigenous peoples may have died from these and related causes. Not only was there a human toll, but also a radical, imposed change in traditional ways of life, which had immeasurable ramifications for native cultures. For example, the Spanish conquerors viewed the religious practices of the indigenous societies as ungodly and burned many of their records, including the Inka quipus and the Maya and Aztec books made of fig bark, known as codices.
Today, the descendants of the people who built the sophisticated, complex civilizations of the ancient Americas live and work in their homelands, like the weavers pictured (right) from the southern highland village of Aacha Alta in Peru. They communicate with the world over the Internet yet also live in direct contact with the beliefs and understanding of the world that guided the lives of their ancestors.
Classroom Activities and Projects (recommended ages are in italics and are approximate)
1. 9 -14: Make a textile in the traditional indigenous American style with a backstrap belt loom: In Mexico, Central and South America, children learn to weave on these narrow looms, which work on the same principle as the backstrap looms that have been used for making textiles since ancient times. Instructions below.
2. 6 -12: Make a vessel in the traditional indigenous American style: following the descriptions in the Learn How section of CLOTH & CLAY, students can try building a pot by coiling and hand forming, and decorating it by incising, scraping and attaching pieces with slip. .If an air-drying material such as paperclay is used the dry vessels can then be painted.
3. 8 - 12: Combine CLOTH & CLAY in one piece: students can make clay beads, paint them when they are dry, and thread them on string, yarn or braid to make a CLOTH & CLAY necklace. Other ways to mix the two materials in one artifact: 1) roll clay out into a tile form and press different textured cloths (burlap, damask) on top to leave impressions; 2) make small figures and "dress" them by attaching pieces of clay with slip.
4. 10 - 16: Imagine you are living somewhere in the Americas in the present day and a group of people (where are they from?) appear and begin to take over your culture. They claim to come from a society that is superior to yours and therefore intend to transform your society to one just like theirs. You are suspicious though; they seem to place a high value on certain of your possessions and natural resources and ignore others that you believe to be valuable. Write a story based on this scenario, basing it on research into European colonization of the Americas.
CLASSROOM ACTIVITY INSTRUCTIONS - Make a Backstrap Loom
1. 10 -16: Make a textile in the traditional indigenous American style with a backstrap belt loom: In Mexico, Central and South America, children learn to weave on these narrow looms, which work on the same principle as the backstrap looms that have been used for making textiles since ancient times.
- #3 crochet cotton in 3 colours for warp
- a 1.82 m (2m) boot lace cut in 2 pieces, 1.5 & 0.5 m
- #8 crochet cotton for weft
- a craft stick or tongue depressor
- a piece of thick string
Make the warp: Wind the yarns around pegs that are approx. 1 metre apart. Set up 2 stakes in the ground or 2 wooden chairs with upright backs, or use a board with wooden dowels.
Wind in a consistent figure-8 movement so each warp is separated from the next; this is called the cross or lease.
Start and stop your yarns at the same end.
Wind one colour in complete figure of 8 two times and then another colour in complete figure of 8, one time, then another colour, one time, then back and forth for six times, finally returning to original coloured yarn and wind a complete figure of 8 again two times. (see drawing).
Slip the piece of string into the figure-8 of the cross and tie loosely so you preserve the order of the warps. Slip the warp carefully from the stakes, put the .5 m boot lace into the end with the loose ends (tie them together) and tie the lace to a chair leg, a tree or a fence post. Put the larger boot lace in the loop of the other end and tie it around your waist.
Make the heddle:
Slip the tongue depressor or craft stick into the side of the cross nearest you. To help you order the yarns, lean back to put the warp threads into tension (a taut warp thread is a happy warp thread). Using 1 m. #8 yarn, make loops around your finger and the warp threads on top of the craft stick so when you pull your finger up, the threads come up. The loops need to be at least 3 cm. high. The drawing shows a heddle rod but we are using just the thread for such a narrow warp. When you have looped around all the warps above the craft stick, wind the ends of the #8 yarn around the bundle and tie it into a little handle.
Remove the craft stick, untie the original cross string and retie it just in the opposite cross to the one you just looped with the heddle. This is the shed loop, as in the drawing
Weave: Wind #8 yarn around the craft stick several times and use it as weft. There are 2 sheds, or openings to make: pull up on the heddle bundle to make one and insert the end of the weft. Beat it down with the craft stick or your finger. Then open the opposite shed by pulling up on the thick string behind the heddle, easing the warps up past the heddle. Insert the weft and beat. Continue until you have a narrow band of weaving.
When you are comfortable with plain weave, try patterning.