A Mile In My Moccasins

6, 7, 8

We build empathy and respect for people and giving traditions by listening to stories and traditions of present-day Native Americans. Participants practice listening and taking notes to capture key ideas. 

PrintOne 50-Minute Session
  • reflect on examples of Native American philanthropy.
  • a pair of children's moccasins or a projected image of a child's moccasins, see handout 
  • projected image of The Talking Circle handout
  • a feather or stick (one per group of seven) to pass to indicate who is talking (may be actual or picture) 
  • 3-6 copies of the Native American Scenarios on heavy paper, 3-7 copies of Symbols handout
  • copies of Symbols and Recording Sheet
  • copies of handout Vocabulary List from Lesson One
  • pre-select Native American music to play
Teacher Preparation 

Prepare in advance several decks of cards. Copy and cut out the Native American Scenarios on heavy paper. Glue the corresponding Symbol on the backs (name-symbol matches listed below). The cards may be laminated. (Make one set of prepared cards for every seven students.)

Thorpe - heart in hands
Massey - bag/pouch
Harris - shirt (explain the well-known phrase "the shirt off my back")
Hill - grave
Mankiller - interconnected rings
Williams - key
Coyhis - deer


Wells, Ronald Austin. The Honor of Giving. Bloomington: Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, 1998.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Play a recording of Native American music. Display a small pair of moccasins or a picture of moccasins. Say, "We are going to walk a mile in a Native American child's moccasins." Talk about empathy and the meaning of walking in someone's shoes. Tell students to make up small stories of the person who wore these moccasins and tell a little about the acts of kindness that person shared and received in his or her journey.

  2. Tell the participants that we will use the rules of a Talking Circle to tell the stories of the real people on the scenario cards. Display the Talking Circle rules and discuss. Explain that the scenarios used in this activity are the authentic words of current-day Native American people. 

  3. Meeting in groups of seven who are sitting in a circle, each person has one card of the deck of Scenario Cards that they will read aloud to their group. Each person has a copy of the Recording Sheet on which they will write some key words about each person as they listen to the speaker tell about their person's giving traditions. They need pencils and one feather or stick to indicate whose turn it is to talk.

  4. Allow them 2-3 minutes to read their cards silently, get to know their person, and get ready to tell about their person. 

  5. In each group, the speakers take turns reading or telling about their person. They give their name and Indian group, then share their giving beliefs or traditions. The others take notes, including why the symbol is appropriate for that person. The talking circle continues until all members have had a chance to share. Note: Ideas for recording sheets and their correlation to graphics:

    • Thorpe (heart in hand) This graphic is used because the message is that people give unconditional love, giving from the heart with no expectation of return.
    • Massey (bag/pouch) This graphic is used to represent a collection of little things which are given to any visitors. The collection represents your appreciation of the visit.
    • Harris (shirt) This graphic is used to represent the idea that no material item is too sacred to give to someone else. Harris explains that any item admired by another should be given to that person. This exemplifies the cliché "shirt off your back."
    • Hill (grave) This graphic is used to represent the idea of the spirit. Hill explains that people are known or remembered for what they give and that giving is generosity of the spirit.
    • Mankiller (interconnected rings) This graphic is used to represent the strong connection the Native people have to their tribes.
    • Williams (key) This graphic is used to represent William's idea that respect is the key element in teaching philanthropy.
    • Coyhis (deer) This graphic is used to represent the Native tradition of "sharing the deer." "Sharing the deer" is the idea that everything you have is shared with your community, as in a hunt when the game is shared among all members of the group.
  6. Once all have finished, conclude with a whole-group discussion of observations about the Native American giving traditions - similarities and differences between Indian groups. Have participants refer to the vocabulary sheet from lesson one. Discuss any terms that seem relevant to the scenarios from today. 

Cross Curriculum 

None for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.