Lesson Plans:
Art as National Literature:
The Cherokee Wampum Belt

Subject(s)/Grade(s): 11th Grade English III – World Literature
Related Subject(s): Government/Economics, History, Art

Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will explore the Craft Revival web site craftrevival.wcu.edu, in consideration of how cultural arts and crafts reach beyond the esthetic to interact in diplomacy, economics, trade, and negotiation
  2. Students will recognize non-written documents as literature
  3. Students will recognize colors as agents of symbolism
  4. Students will create a wampum belt based on the lesson plan
  5. Students will collaborate to defend artwork as communication device

Teacher Planning

  • Time required for lesson: Approximately 1.5 hours. Varies depending of how many activities are done.


  • Plastic straws, cut into quarter-inch pieces
  • Purple pony beads
  • Cardboard, cut into 8"x 2" rectangles
  • White glue
  • Bowls and blue brushes
  • Strips of felt to wrap around students' waists
  • Velcro adhesive dots
  • OR crayons and white paper
  • Power Point capabilities
  • Internet Access



  1. The NY Times Lesson plan Roy G. Biv Has Feelings Too: Investigating the Connection between Color and Mood is a great introduction to the concepts found in this lesson. It can be downloaded at: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/02/06/roy-g-biv-has-feelings-too/.
  2. Students should review definition of symbolism
  3. For homework the night before, students should read: "Stories and Worldview" from Barbara Duncan's Living Stories of the Cherokee (pgs. 24-27). They should come to class with 2 written questions and 2 written comments about the reading.
  4. Vocabulary: Understand these terms: Symbolism, Wampum, Treaty, Negotiation. Diplomacy

(Note: Several activities are listed. Feel free to pick and choose those that meet specific goals or refine them to fit time constraints)

  1. Class discussion: Ask students to share (and turn in) their homework questions and comments from reading. Ask class to recall definition of symbolism. Project image of Wampum Belt. Discuss the colors involved in the image and ask students to make predictions about what those colors might represent.
  2. Class notes: Students will be presented notes on the history of the Wampum Belt.
  3. In pairs, students are asked to make an agreement between each other. They will write it down and turn it in to the teacher. They are then given beads, etc. or crayons and paper and are asked to create their own wampum belts based on these agreements. Statements should be concise. Belts will be presented to class for oral review by classmates. Teachers may want to place guidelines on these reviews depending on class composition.
  4. How To Make a Wampum Belt with Beads
    • Lay cardboard on a flat surface
    • Paint one side of the cardboard with a thick coat of white glue. Wait until glue becomes tacky.
    • Using the cut straws and the purple pony beads create a design on the cardboard by placing the pieces on the glue
    • Explain to students that the bead design must dry overnight. For additional support, brush over the finished design with glue and dry completely.
    • When designs are completed pass out felt strips long enough to wrap around each student's waist and overlap about two to three inches. Fold the felt in half and mark the halfway point. Glue the cardboard wampum design to the center of the belt and dry overnight.
    • Attach Velcro dots on both ends of the belt to fit each student's waist.
  5. Student web search: Students will be given time to browse craft revival website individually or in groups and select a craft genre that they believe could most easily be adapted for rhetoric purposes. Teacher can introduce this sight by explaining how selling/trading one culture's crafts/arts to another culture is its own form of diplomacy. While searching, students should consider: readability across cultures, materials used, transferability of product for diplomacy, symbolism of color and design. (Teacher should write these on the board)
  6. Student debate presentations: In groups determined by craft genre choice, students will prepare for a mini debate in defense of their choice (approx. 10 min). Teacher will moderate the debate. Students will be scored according to their consideration of: readability across cultures, materials used, transferability of product for diplomacy, symbolism of color and design
  7. As an exit ticket exercise or for homework, student should respond to the following Guiding Questions:
    • What is/are the benefit(s) of composing treaties in art rather than in a written language?
    • What does rhetorical art say about the commonalities between cultures?
    • Should we use this type of communication more when negotiating with other nations? Why or Why not?
    • Discuss how selling arts/crafts from one culture to another is a form or communication. What do you think is being communicated?


  1. Homework questions and comments from Duncan reading
  2. Notebook check by teacher for notes
  3. Students will present their wampum belts for peer reviews
  4. Student debate scoring
  5. Exit ticket answers for guiding questions


This plan can be adapted to focus on government, economic systems, or artistic genres. All exercises and assessments are not necessary depending on time constraints and curriculum goals.

North Carolina Curriculum Alignment

English Language Arts (2004)
Grade 11 - English III


  • Duncan, Barbara. Living Stories of the Cherokee. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
  • Mooney, James. Cherokee History, Myths and Sacred Formulas. Cherokee, NC: Cherokee Publications, 2006.
  • Perdue, Theda. Cherokee Women. Lincoln, NE: The University of Nebraska Press, 1998.
  • Strickland, Rennard. Fire and the Spirits: Cherokee Law from Clan to Court. Norman, OK: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.
  • See Wampum Belt Power Point notes for activities #1 & #2


– Submitted by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, Swain County High School, Bryson City, North Carolina.