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Turtle Island - Day 2 - The Plains and the Dene

These activities can be done alone, but work best with one or more friends on a video chat like Skype, Zoom, Facetime, etc.

Grades K-3

Mindfulness Activity

Trivia Question:

True of False: The Great Plains are in both Canada and the United States.

Mindfulness Activity:

  • Put your palms together at chest height.
  • Push your hands against each other as hard as you can.
  • Which muscle gets tired first?

Ojibwe Animal Memory


  • Two pieces of blank paper
  • Markers

Have your child fold the paper in half three times to make six squares on each page.

Choose 6 animals from the list below. Draw one animal in each of the six squares on one piece of paper. Draw the same animals on the second piece of paper. Write the Ojibwe name for the animal underneath. Cut along the fold lines of both pieces of paper to create 12 cards.

Arrange all of the cards upside down on a table. Mix them up so you don’t know which cards they are. Flip two cards over – if they are the same, you can set them aside. If they are different, flip them upside down and try to find the matching cards. Play until you have found all the matches.


  • Amik – Beaver
  • Gaag – Porcupine
  • Makwa – Bear
  • Misaabooz – Jackrabbit
  • Mooz – Moose
  • Omashkooz – Elk
  • Waagosh – Fox
  • Waawaashkeshi – Deer
  • Zhigaag - Skunk

Finger Pull Game

Denendeh is in the Northwest Territories and means “the land of the people”. The Dene game called Finger Pull is a test of finger strength.

Have your child sit face to face with someone you live with. Each person puts their left hand on the other person’s left shoulder. Make a fist with your right hands (fingers facing up) and link middle fingers together. One person pulls on the other’s finger until they give up. Switch turns.

Learn more about Northern and Dene games on the Aboriginal Sports Circle of the Northwest Territories website.

Create Your Own Shirt


  • T-shirt
  • Scissors
  • Fabric paint

The Cree people live throughout central Canada. The Cree traditionally make their clothing using animal hides such as buffalo, moose or elk. The jacket pictured is an artifact belonging to the Cree. It has beautiful bead work and designs on the sleeves.

Help your child create their own decorative piece of clothing.

  • Make a sketch of your design before you start.
  • Get inspired from your family’s traditional clothing and colors.
  • Cut the fabric in different ways and add your own patterns with fabric paint.

Photo from:

Review Questions

Ask your child:

  • How does being in wide open spaces, like the Great Plains, make you feel? (Feel)
  • What kinds of shelter do you think you would make if you lived on the Great Plains? (Think)
  • Calgary is on the edge of the Great Plains. What can you do to be connected to the land? (Act)

Mindfulness Trivia Answer

Answer: True!

Grades 4-6

Mindfulness Activity

Trivia Question: What does “Dene” Mean?

Mindfulness Activity:

  • Sit so you are comfortable.
  • Close your eyes or keep them open.
  • Notice how it feels when you say these sentences to yourself: I am safe. I have everything that I need. I am surrounded by people who love me.

The Buffalo


  • Paper
  • Construction paper
  • Coffee grounds
  • Paintbrush
  • Watercolour paint
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • Glue

The buffalo is the largest living animal native to western Canada, weighing up to 1000 kilograms. The buffalo was the main source of food and clothing for the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains. They used every part of the animal for food, clothing and tools. Hunting the buffalo was a major community effort.

Have your child draw a buffalo on plain paper. You can look at a picture on the internet for the shape. Use wet coffee grounds to paint the buffalo shape. Let it dry, then cut it out.

Tear small pieces of construction paper to create the landscape. You can use blue for the sky and yellow or green for the ground. Create a snow-covered mountain range by painting white dots on the blue paper and using another piece of paper to scrape the paint.

Glue your landscape to a piece of paper and add the buffalo shape.

Hand Games


  • 1 large tarp or blanket
  • A smaller cloth or towel
  • Small objects to hide in your hands
  • A large number of sticks for counting
  • Two or more people

Hand games are popular at Dene social gatherings.

  • Divide the people in your house into two teams.
  • The first team will cover their hands with the small cloth or towel and hide small objects in one hand. They show both closed hands to the other team.
  • The other team will try to guess which hand the objects are in. They use hand signals like pointing to the left or right, placing the palm up for “inside” or placing the palm down for “outside”.
  • For each correct guess, you win one counting stick from the hiding team. For each wrong guess, you have to give one counting stick to the hiding team.
  • Switch roles until one team has all of the counting sticks.

Expressing Through Art


  • An old clothing item (preferably white or light colour)
  • Markers
  • Watercolour paint or food colouring
  • Paintbrushes

The Dene artistically express themselves through objects like clothing and utensils. Their art is often practical and functional.

Have your child draw a visual picture of who they are. Think about your history, personality, favourite things and what makes you unique and special.

Use a black marker to transfer your design onto a piece of clothing. Use watercolour and/or food colouring to colour it in. Let it dry and wear it proudly!

Review Questions

Ask your child:

  • How do you feel about expressing yourself through art? (Feel)
  • Do you think everyone expresses themselves differently? (Think)
  • What can you do in the future to express yourself in a different way? (Act)

Mindfulness Trivia Answer

Answer: It means “The people.”

Grades 7+

Mindfulness Activity

Trivia Question: What colour is a buffalo tongue? See Answer below

Mindfulness Activity:

  • Sit down so you’re comfortable.
  • Take a moment to notice 1 thing you taste.
  • Now notice 2 things you smell.
  • Now notice 3 things you feel (inside or outside your body).
  • Now notice 4 things you hear.
  • Now notice 5 things you see.

Stick Pull


  • A stick or pole (about 12 inches long and 1 inch wide)
  • Paper towel
  • Oil
  • Two or more people

Stick Pull is a Dene game that strengthens the hands and wrists for the fishing season.

  • Play “rock, paper, scissors”, to see who gets to pick if you will use your left hand or right hand.
  • Grease the stick with oil.
  • Both people will grip one end of the stick and hold it at about waist height.
  • Say “Ready-pull” and both people will try to pull the stick out of their opponent’s hand.
  • Whoever wins two out of three games, wins.

UNDRIP Pictionary


  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Cup
  • Two or more people

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 September 2007. It recognizes the collective human rights of Indigenous peoples and the individual human rights of Indigenous women, men and children.

Write the UNDRIP rights below on slips of paper. Fold them and put them in a cup.

Take turns picking slips of paper and drawing out the rights. Set a timer for other players to guess which right it is.

Switch roles every time and see who can get the most rights.

UNDRIP rights:

  • The right to self-determination
  • The right to cultural identity
  • The right to free, prior and informed consent Free,
  • The right to be free from discrimination
  • Protection from discrimination
  • Right to life, liberty and security  
  • Belonging to an indigenous community or nation
  • Forceful removal and relocation
  • Right to culture
  • Right to spiritual and religious traditions and customs
  • Right to know and use language, histories and oral traditions
  • Establishment of education systems and access to culturally sensitive education
  • Accurate reflection of indigenous culture in education
  • Right to media
  • Right to employment

Back Slapping Race


  • Outdoor space
  • Tape, pylons or items
  • Scarf (one per player)
  • Two people

To the Dene people, the combination of speed and endurance allows hunters to run long distances. The Back Slapping Race tests endurance, speed and agility skills.

Due to social distancing, this game has been modified.

  • Mark a square on the floor so the corners are a few metres apart.
  • Have each person tuck in a scarf along the waist. This could be through a belt loop, in a waist band or out of a pocket.
  • Each person stands on opposite corners outside the marked space.
  • The objective of the game is to catch and grab the scarf from your opponent without going inside the square. The first runner to grab the scarf is the winner.
  • Traditionally, the markers outlining the perimeter would be placed further away to challenge the runners. If you could have many runners, the course could be the size of a gymnasium.

Review Questions

  • Which United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stood out to you and why? (Feel)
  • Why do you think it’s important to learn other cultural games? (Think)
  • What are ways you can share the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with your friends and family? (Act)

Mindfulness Trivia Answer

Answer: Black!