Ojibwe Unit: A Year-Long Study (Part 4-Clan Systems and Tribal Government)

This lesson explores the seven original Clans and what they represent to past and present Ojibwe communities. Clans represent the organization of families and society, but we will also discuss the ways that Ojibwe tribal governments are organized and the role of tribal leaders today. The role of the US government is also talked about, concerning ideas of sovereignty and the laws implemented outside tribal laws.

Materials Needed


Art Materials

Activity Process


We based our clan categories on the knowledge of Eddy Benton Benai, an Ojibwe Elder and author of The Mishomis Book. The clans are based on animal traits of the region and are known to provide certain roles in Ojibwe society and leadership. There are generally 4 categories of clan animals; birds, four-legged, crawlers, and swimmers. The crane/loon, catfish, bear, martin, deer and wolf are the principal families. From these original families, come subcategories of 15-20 additional animals.(merman, pike, lynx, eagle, rattlesnake, moose, duck, goose, sucker, sturgeon, white fish, beaver, gull, hawk).


Watch Wassa-inaabidaa Episode Two, Gwayakocchigewin: "Making Decisions the Right Way" and talk students through various perspective and questions based on video content:What role did clans play in traditional leadership and how did Ojibwe history since European contact create conflict for the roles of clans?What is the traditional and modern role of the Elders in Ojibwe decision-making? And how are Ojibwe tribal governments organized today? What is the role of a tribal leader


  1. Read The Good Path Chapter 4: Honor Elder Brothers and Clans
  2. Ask students: What are the seven original Clans? What do they represent?
  3. Read about Clans in the Ojibwe Workbook on Clans from the Nahgachiwanong CDRom
  4. Discuss the clans of our students' families
  5. Begin talking about sovereignty and removal of Ojibwe and other American Indian tribes, after European contact. Explain that sovereignty and removal were steps taken based on European law, not the law of clans or tribal leaders.
  6. After introducing and explaining the concepts of sovereignty and removal (Use the Nahgachiwanong CD to do this) give students the opportunity to re-enact ideas of removal within the context of a simulation.
  7. In small groups students will create a clay animation iMovie to demonstrate learning.
  8. As a group, students will brainstorm and decide their topic.
  9. Using poster paper they create a storyboard which illustrates the topic of their iMovie and a description of each scene.
  10. Next they meet with teacher to discuss ideas and needs for the project.
  11. They then begin creating clay characters and background by gathering materials needed for each scene.
  12. Meet with teacher to discuss final plans; begin taping with teacher and small group. Edit/add sound/titles/transitions.


Show all completed projects to entire class. Make copies of each on DVD or video tape for students to bring home and share. We also had a school viewing of the claymation in the library for other classrooms to see. The class narrated their videos and explained the ideas of sovereignty to the classes.


Students used a self-assessment check-off sheet as they created, shot and viewed their movies.

Vocabulary Words

Grade Levels

Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts



Social Studies