4-6, Unit Three, Activity 3: "What's in a Name?"

Students will learn tribal names, as well as the scientific names (genus and species) for plants occurring in and near W-GIPP.

Grades: 4 – 6
Time: Variable
Subjects: Language arts, foreign language, social studies, visual arts

Teacher Background:
Tribal members that have participated in the development of this program have expressed a strong desire to use bilingual teaching. Culture is difficult to understand, share, disseminate, and preserve without knowledge of native languages. Each tribe may have several words that indicate the same plant at different times of the year or when used for different purposes. There are dialect differences in pronunciations even within the same bands of each tribe. To make matters even more difficult, some sounds in native languages are not readily reproducible with phonetic symbols.

Local dialect and proper pronunciations can only be provided by elders and language enthusiasts in your area. This activity is designed to bring tribal elders into the classroom for language appreciation and study. Pronunciation and accompanying hand signs can only be communicated orally and visually. The presence of elders in a capacity to teach specific terms will stimulate language side trips and other enrichment.


  • Marking pens
  • Note cards
  • Dictionary Of Word Roots And Combining Forms by Donald J. Borror

1. Ask a Native language speaking elder or tribal member to come to the classroom and work with the students on pronunciation and meaning of native terms for commonly used plants. A partial list is provided in the reference appendix (contact the local tribal cultural committee for suggestions for speakers).
2. Concentrate on the common name, genus, and species and native term for your tribal area; but encourage the students to become familiar with other tribal languages as well as their own.
3. Demonstrate the use of the Greek and Latin root and suffix guide: Dictionary Of Word Roots And Combining Forms. Have students look up meanings of the scientific names for each plant.
4. Hand out markers and note cards, pick study pairs or teams, and have the students make their own flash cards to study as they would any other language flash cards.
5. Provide a forum to demonstrate or apply their vocabulary. For instance; labeled drawings could be displayed as part of an open house. A

List of Names for a Few Familiar Plants (Note: The exact pronunciation of Native American words can only be demonstrated by someone familiar with the language. We strongly encourage you to contact each Tribal Office for resource people who can help you.)

Serviceberry (sarvisberry, Saskatoonberry): Amelanchier alnifolia
Blackfeet: ok-kun-okin
Kootenai: squmu
Salish: s saq Black

Tree lichen: Alectoria fremontii
Blackfeet: e-simatch-sis
Kootenai: a a
Salish: sawtamqan

Blue Camas: Camassia quamash
Blackfeet: miss-issia
Kootenai: xapi
Salish: ltxwe?

Biscuit-root (coos-root): Lomatium cous
Blackfeet: koos
Kootenai: Naptnuquku
Salish: pcLu

Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana
Blackfeet: pukkeep
Kootenai: A ki'lmak
Salish: txwLo

Bitterroot: Lewisia rediviva
Blackfeet: eks-ix-ix
Kootenai: Naqam¢u
Salish: spe> am

Lodgepole pine: Pinus contorta
Blackfeet: manistami
Kootenai: I ti t'
Salish: qwqwLi?t

Western red cedar: Thuja plicata
Blackfeet: sixinikok
Kootenai: I¢'nat'
Salish: astqw

Huckleberry: Vaccinium globulare
Blackfeet: apa-oapspi
Kootenai: awiya
Salish: stsa

Yampa (wild carrot): Perideridia gairdneri
Blackfeet: nitzi-katasi
Kootenai: Ni'¢na
Salish: s>ukwam

Have students compete in a “pronunciation bee”, using the native names of plants you have studied.

Last updated: November 8, 2017

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