Lakota Signs & Symbols
Curriculum Areas: Art, Native American Art
Recommended Levels: 9-12
Time Frame: Three 45-minute class periods
Tribal Affiliation: Lakota “Cheyenne River Sioux”
Geographic Location: Northern High Plains (So. Dakota)
Developed by: Judith Newton
Email addresses of developers: Judith Newton
Date lesson was developed: July 25, 2001
American Indian Standards:
Standard 1; level 4; understanding and applying media, techniques and processes in
relation to American Indian/Tribal art
Standard 2 ; level 4; using knowledge of structures and functions in relation to American
Goal: To have students discuss and identify the signs and symbols associated with
traditional objects of the past and to be aware of their deeper meaning in a cultural
Recount the basic history of Lakota art symbolism
Identify signs or symbols
Define the meanings of the signs or symbols
Reproduce through mixed media the students’ symbols of choice
Prior Knowledge Needed:
Knowledge of individual designs
Basic use of art materials
Materials and Resources Needed:
Video on Traditional Native American Art
Drawings and photos of examples of Native American symbolic art
Lesson Summary and Performance Tasks:
1. The students will begin by watching the video clips of Traditional Native
2. The class will view and comment on the use and selection of design on shields
and pottery, beadwork and quillwork items. The teacher will present the
representation and explanation of the sacred animals and symbols.
3. Students will select a design and reproduce it in two-dimensional art. A typed
explanation will be attached to the artwork. Detail and exactness are important.
4. Tribal Art was used as self-identification (on dress fabric to show tribe, social
standing and location), within Ceremony and Tribal records (winter count), and to
identify things found in Nature within a locality.
Assessment: Rubric scoring based on accuracy of reproduction of traditional signs and
symbols used in Native American Art written explanation of the symbols depicted. The
teacher will compare with original design.
Culture Content and Strategies:
History and development of the use of signs and symbols and Lakota items
The relationship between signs/symbols and personal power
Technology Integration: TV and VCR
Enrichment/Remediation: Students will use at least 3 references and research two
examples of symbolic Lakota art of their choice. This information will be presented to
the art class with accompanying visuals.
Teacher Reflections: This activity will take three 45-minute class periods in order to
complete the historical information and art project. Additional research is encouraged.