Simulated Native American Artifact Excavation Activity


If you ask kids today how we know what we know about a subject they often will answer “google” or the “internet”. Try it.

To get students to think of themselves as seekers of knowledge, I’m always trying to create lessons that allow them to comprehend information through their own discoveries. This makes lessons more personal, meaningful and memorable.

To help elementary age students learn about the Lenape or Delaware Native Americans I create a simulated artifact excavation activity. I’ll bury animal bones (mostly deer and bear), pottery shards, arrowheads, shells and stones. The students become archaeologists making exciting discoveries as they excavate, clean, record and organize findings.

When ready we circle around the findings and one at a time discuss what we think an item is, what it was used for and what the modern equivalent might be.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Can You Dig It!

Uncover and analyze artifacts in an

attempt to reconstruct aspects of 

New Jersey Indian Life and Culture.



Participants approach excavation site to uncover artifacts of the Lenape people in a simulated archaeological dig.

    • Job 1 Digging: This team works to take layer by layer the soil including artifacts from the site to provide to the sifters.
    • Job 2 Sifting: at this station material from the dig is sorted through to remove the artifacts.  The team works together to find everything they can.  Encourage the group to be meticulous in the sorting process, small objects may be harder to find.
    • Job 3 Sorting: This team is responsible for sorting the objects in similar piles.  This can be done in containers of different sizes.
    • Job 4 Recording: Using the grid view data sheet recorders document what quadrant and depth level items were discovered.


  • Arrowhead Necklace: Allow participants to search in a simulated archeological dig to find arrowheads. The arrowheads can be tied up with cord to make a necklace.  Explain that in a real dig the archaeologists would never take anything because they would go to a museum for everyone to study and enjoy.
  • Ask participants to make a mystery box of artifacts from their life. Allow teams to try and reconstruct the persons life from the items brought in to share.

Moccasin Making with Youths


As part of a week-long wilderness skills themed Nature Explorers Summer Camp we make moccasins using canvas or felt cloth.  The activity has been done as a follow-up to the medicine bag craft where the students gained some initial confidence in their ability to sew.  The idea is to make the skills more accessible to the participants by starting them on age-appropriate projects. The camp was facilitated with

Canvas Moccasin Making

Canvas Moccasin Making

Step 1: Place your foot over a piece of canvas to gain a measurement. Draw an outline beyond the perimeter of your foot to trace an outline that will be the fabric used within the shoe.

Step 2: Cut out on the drawn line and place aside the outside scrap for another use.

Step 3 : Use a safety pin or a quick stitch to hold the cloth in place.  Begin at the toe and sew upward using a whip stitch.

Step 4: Begin to sew up the back of the moccasin.  Periodically check and adjust for comfort and fit before completing the row of stitching.

Step 5: For padding, you may wish to find a few soft leaves like that from mullein, lamb’s ear, leather-leaf viburnum or whatever else might be available, like dry moss or grass.

We try to focus on introducing and practicing the skills of stitching and creating their very own moccasins in limited time availability. Participants are encouraged to continue progressing  in the development of their skills.

The Lenape-Delaware Indians would likely use deer hide to make their moccasins and sew them up with sinew and an ulna or thorn awl.

Construction of An Eastern Woodland Indian Wigwam


To build a wigwam requires approximately (20) three inch diameter trees flexible enough to bend into a framework that can be covered with grasses, bark and or some animal skins.  For the Eastern Woodland Indians, animal skins from deer and bear would be hard to completely use as a covering because you would need a very large number of them compared to the approximately 21 larger buffalo skins that would have been used by plains Indians to cover a tepee. The tepee would requires about (15) twenty foot long poles that would be covered with the hide and could be put up and down to be moved from location to location.

This Wigwam was built by my friend Mike Dennis of Traditional Earth Skills.

Mike presents about Native American Life while wearing traditional period clothing and allowing students to interact with the stick, stone and bone tools of the time.  I highly recommended booking a memorable program with him.

To find out more about the wigwam building process check out my article in Self Reliance Illustrated magazine issue #16 – Click Here to Download  You can subscribe at  


%d bloggers like this: