There’s a world of skills for elementary students to get their hands on in order to learn more about Native American life and culture. Considering the restrictions of the indoor school environment, students can create projects from pinch and coil pots to natural plant dyed bracelets and medicine bags. In this article, I’ll show you the steps to create a medicine bag or accoutrements pouch carried or worn for the purpose of holding miscellaneous materials for a particular activity. This craft is designed for students second grade and above and can be completed in limited time impressing themselves and others with their ability to learn a new skill and showcase a finished project in limited time constraints of the school curriculum.
The materials used for this project include burlap cloth, safety pins, large sewing needles, raffia and string.
1. Cut the burlap cloth 8 x 16 inches.
2. Draw a line at both points where the bag will be folded.
3. The bottom flap is then folded upward as shown in the pictures below.
4. Safety pins are placed on both sides to help hold the bag in place. This step helps make the sewing easier for the dexterity level of the students. The sides can also be glued together as an ability level adaptation (this might work better with a different chosen cloth material).
5. The thread is pushed through the eye of the needle and tied off in a knot on the end of the needle. A stopper knot (multiple knots) is also placed at the end of the line to prevent the end of the raffia from being pulled through the bag material.
6. Begin sewing the bag from the bottom left or right corner of the bag moving upward.
7. When you get to the top make sure to add a few stitches for strength to prevent the side of the bag from opening after use.
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 on the other side.
9. Now place a long string or yarn across the top flap as shown to become the carry strap. Sew a small piece of raffia across the string left, right and center to secure it in place.
10. Fold the cover flap over the carry string on the bag. You are now finished. To add detail consider removing strands of burlap to create a fringed appearance on the top flap or sewing a 2″ stick as a button to secure the top flap.
Finally, instruct students to find a meaningful item to include in their bag. You may want to ask them to explain why they chose their item to the group. What would a Lenape or Native American from your area of study hold of importance? Would items change based on the region? Items may include seashells, stones , bones, arrowheads, birch bark, a tinder bundle or any other natural item that is found or worked into a tool and might have been held by Native Americans.