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Indigenous Arts Project

Lapwai School District #341

Lapwai Middle-High School’s Native American Arts/Culture Program is funded through grant opportunities. This program is a vital Native American cultural program we offer in our school, whose demographics include approximately 90% Native American students. It is our goal to serve as many students as possible while instilling cultural values and arts knowledge in the hope of preserving/reviving vital Native American Arts and Crafts knowledge and skills. We focused on the local Nez Perce Seasonal Round cycle for incorporating natural resources and traditional cultural knowledge into traditional and/or modern works of Native American Arts/Crafts projects. Our objectives included teaching, enhancing preservation, integration, and advancement of the Seasonal Round cycle as it corresponds to Native American Arts, Crafts, cultural values, and knowledge so our students can preserve this knowledge and these skills for years to come in our school, local, Tribal, communities.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Students will be able to explain/demonstrate the processing of dogbane from beginning to ending art project to others.

Students were able to explain the processing of dogbane from beginning to end to other students, family, and community members. Students were also able to demonstrate the processes at different stages and demonstrate how to weave the traditional woven bag from the dogbane twine. They met our goal which was that the students learn dogbane processing and then enhance their knowledge and weaving skills so that they can pass on that crucial, nearly lost, traditional NA art and cultural form to others.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

9-12.VA.1.1.3 Compare and contrast the historical, social, and environmental contexts that influence artistic expression.
9-12.VA.2.1.1 Develop and present basic analyses of works of visual art from structural, historical, and cultural perspectives.
9-12.VA.2.2.5 Show respect for personal work and work of others.
All three Common Core Standards for Fine Arts were used in context of weaving the traditional woven bag while incorporating learning about, identifying, gathering, and processing of Indigenous natural materials/dogbane. The project taught students the process of weaving the traditional woven bag from the very beginning starting with processing the weaving materials to the end/finished product. Students understood the importance of preserving and sustaining traditional Indigenous natural materials, their uses, and value in producing important art projects. Students worked diligently to revive then preserve this Native American traditional weaving skill and demonstrated the ability to pass the skill and knowledge onto others. Student interpersonal/intrapersonal social skills demonstrated ensuring utmost dedication and respect to the knowledge and skills they were learning and towards others.


Students were able to produce beautiful traditional woven bags from the traditional native plant, dogbane. By the end of the project, students were helping each other and sharing the new knowledge they had learned and assisting each other during difficult phases. The kindness, humor, and respect they demonstrated to each other was one of the favorite outcomes of the project.


The project overall was very successful. Students were able to share knowledge with others outside of the project setting and took their projects very seriously while exhibiting strong respect for the importance of a nearly lost art and the preservation of a highly important native plant species that has been nearly eradicated state-wide. Recommendations for others would be to utilize Native American elders or others who understand the process of weaving and preserving dogbane or other native plants and who understand/live Native American culture. If allowed, having more/longer time to work with this group of students would be something we would do differently