Lesson Plan

Anishinaabek Basket Weaving

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
State Standards:
7 – H1.2.1
7 – W2.1.1
7 – W4.1.3
Thinking Skills:
Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations.

Essential Question

How can learning about the art of basket weaving help us understand and have a better appreciation for the Anishinaabe culture?


To educate students on Anishinaabe culture through their basket weaving.
Students will list trees and resources used in the process of basket weaving.
Students will be able to reflect on social and cultural significance of basket weaving.


-Review powerpoint and program outline
-Teachers collect own materials for activity or use office supplies already in classroom
-Give out activity template

Basket Weaving Video


Activity Instructions:
Template or paper plates.
Yarn (variety of colors) or natural materials like dry grasses, thin stripped sticks, or straw. Scissors.
If using natural materials berries or coffee grounds to eventually dye weaved baskets.
Step 1: Print out the template on cardstock or a paper of your choosing. You can also use paper plates as a template.
Step 2: Cut the lines where indicated to create flaps. Don’t cut to far into the center.
Step 3: Choose yarn colors or weaving materials.
Step 4: Start weaving materials through the flaps created from the cutting. If more flaps are cut there will be more intricate designs.


This is a template for the basket weaving activity. alt text: A small gray circle inside a large gray circle. There are 7 equally spaced triangles between the two circles.

Download Basket Weaving Template


Program Outline:*If the program is created in powerpoint using “notes” or is a video or other medium please include all necessary information below but use judgement if a traditional program outline is needed.

Introduction: Introduction to the National Park Service and the presenter. The arrowhead talk of the different elements of the National Park Service Arrowhead. Some information about Sleeping Bear Dunes and a map of other NPS sites.

Transition: Native Tribes to Michigan are part of the Anishinaabe show map of the three fires in Michigan. Native to Sleeping Bear Dunes area are the Ottawa or Odawa. An important tool and part of the Anishinaabe culture is basket weaving using native Michigan trees and other natural materials. They use the resources that are available and make an essential tool for survival. This tool also became significant to their society and culture and gained new meanings throughout its use.

Lesson: Powerpoint (Slide descriptions and notes, add photo descriptions for slides) Slide 1: National Park Service Arrowhead. Filled with elements of natural resources that the National Park Service protects. Arrowhead for tradition, history and culture. A sequoia tree represents protected plant life. A bison represents protected wildlife. A lake represents protected waterways (rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and oceans). A mountain represents protected landforms.
Slide 2: A map of the United States showing all 423 National Park Service sites across the country.
Slide 3: A map of Michigan showing the Sleeping Bear Dunes park territory in the upper left shoreline of the state. 35 miles of shoreline including the islands.
Slide 4: A map showing the three fires of the Anishinaabe in the state of Michigan. The Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi. The Odawa is in the upper left side of the state where the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore resides.
Slide 5: Anishinaabe Basket Weaving.
Slide 6: Anishinaabe use natural resources found in the northern Michigan and Great Lakes Regions.
Slide 7: Trees are teachers. Cedar roots (sewing thread), Black spruce roots (sewing thread), Birch bark (basket walls), Dogwood (basket rims), Black Ash (weaving strips), Quills (weaving strips, Sweetgrass (weaving strips).

Slide 9: Tree Video
Slide 10: Black Ash basket. Split wood from a Black Ash Tree. The picture shows a basket weaved from split wood harvested from the inside of a Black Ash Tree. The colors are light tan and brown. It is used as a hamper made in 1978 by John Nahgahgwon from the Saginaw Chippewa tribe. The size is approximately 15 inches by 28 inches.
Slide 11: Sweet Grass Basket. Made from harvested and dried sweet grass. The date and artist are unknown. The basket has a mix of sweet grass, glass beads, felt, and thread. It is 4.5 inches by 4 inches.
Slide 12: Birch Bark baskets. Made from birch bark pieces harvested from the outside of the tree. A mix of bark and cedar roots thread or thread from other materials. Used for maple sugaring by collecting sap or for collecting water.
Slide 13: Floral Quill Box. Made in 1988 by Lahy Bailey from the Saginaw Chippewa tribe. Made from porcupine quills, birch bark, sweetgrass, and thread. It is 4.5 inches by 2 inches.
Slide 14: The weaving process consists of
•Harvesting Materials
•Processing Materials and preparing for Weaving
•Softening materials by soaking in hot water
Peeling and stripping to create thread or weaving strips
•Smoothing or twisting with hands
•Weaving with strips or constructing with bark pieces and sewing with threads.
The picture shows a black ash tree trunk being split into weaving strips for a basket. It shows how the pounding of ash results in the wood separating at each tree ring along the trunk. There are pieces of wood splitting off of the trunk in thin smooth strips.

Slide 15: These baskets made by the Anishinaabe are revered as beautiful art pieces and placed in museums to be displayed for people to look at. However, the Anishinaabe do not have a word for art in their native Anishinaabemowin language, these baskets are seen as a survival tool and have cultural meanings that are important to the Anishinaabe people.  Different uses for the baskets include: Birch bark baskets for collecting sap and water Black Ash baskets for storage, hampers, artesian goods and trading, Weaved reed baskets for holding fish while fishing, Wild Rice harvesting. A means to provide and support financially.
Slide 16: Social and Cultural ties:
•Artistic expression and Cultural Beliefs
•Honoring Ancestors and other tribal members
•Sharing Culture, tradition, and hand crafting techniques/arts through trading and teaching future generations.
•Passing down stories and tradition to next generations and teaching life skills for survival and useful tools.
•Natural resources (trees) as teachers teaching patience, when to build, when to give
Slide 17: Present Day Baskets Support modern ideas and movements. They help pass along past traditions. They connect people to the past, the resource, and their ancestors. They provide a feeling of independence in the bush. Gives a feeling of belonging and identity for modern day Anishinaabe people. The pictures are of Kelly Church, and the black ash baskets made by her and her daughter. From a Michigan radio article interviewing Kelly about her art in basket making.
Slide 18: Activity- make your own basket! Can add a video to teach teachers and students how to make it!

Transition: Present day basket weaving and activity to make your own baskets.

Conclusion: A tool that gives life has deeper meanings than its initial use. To the Anishinaabe making baskets helps pass down traditions and culture. It now looks like art and present-day artists using basket weaving as a way to connect to their culture and ancestors, but it was originally a tool helping people survive. Tradition and culture is passed down through experience, crafting, and storytelling, they do not keep information in written records, that is why these traditions continuing is so important to the culture and why basket weaving has so many deeper meanings than just a tool.


Assessment Materials

Post Lesson: Reflection Questions

Will you keep your basket or did you make it for someone?
Did this impact its look?
What will this basket be used for?
How can you relate your basket and its use/look to the Anishinaabe baskets?
What did you like about the lesson?
What did you learn about the Anishinaabe?
Is there a tool or tradition from your culture that was used for survival and now has cultural significance? 

Related Lessons or Education Materials

Artisans of Michigan: Anishinaabe black ash baskets | Michigan Radio
Anishinabe Art: The Olga Denison Collection | Central Michigan University (cmich.edu)
Basket Weaving for Beginners | Activity | Education.com
The power of a tree: why birch and its bark are so important to Anishinaabe culture | Wiigwaasabak - YouTube

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Last updated: October 5, 2021