Law Study – Ojibwe clans

The Ojibwe people lived in familial groups, made up of several extended families.  The groups had between 300 and 400 people in them, living together in summer camps but splitting into smaller camps of one or two families for the rest of the year.  As well as being part of  a family of blood relatives, the Ojibwe also belonged to dodems or clans.  The children studied seven of the first clans, although there are now many more.  The seven we looked at were marten, loon, crane, bear, sturgeon, hoof and bird clans.  Members of each dodem were said to share the same ancestor, which was the spirit of the animal for which their dodem was named.


We used the following resources to learn more about each dodem:


This Clan system was given to the people by their creator as a system of government to create strength and order and was known as O-do-i-daym-i-wan.  Each clan was given a function to serve for the people.  The children studied the hierarchy of the clans and, using the white board, drew one up themselves, writing what they understood to be the roles of each clan in relation to the others:

Discussing where everything goes
Discussing where everything goes
Carrying out the work together
Carrying out the work together
The final hierachy
The final hierarchy
Close up of some of the details
Close up of some of the details

We have looked at a few forms of government in our history studies and I have to say that one of the great things about studying history as we do is the comparisons we can make between cultures and times.  We had already looked at:

Feudalism and made a diorama to display its hierarchy:


Autocracy, where one man rules an entire kingdom:


Democracy, where the kingdom is ruled by the people, via a system of voting:


We’ve studied Hammurabi’s stele, a set of rules drawn up by Hammurabi and followed by all men as quite possibly the earliest legal system to be seen:


and we have studied the Magna Carta, a set of rules made up to contain the autocratic rule of King John and one of the first moves towards a devolution of regal power in our country:

Our very own set of rules for our home.

We revised these legal systems and I asked the children to explain which system the Ojibwe clan most closely aligned with and why.

The children felt it was a democratic system because the rule was for the people, by the people.  And they were right!

The children then took two clans each and made up a fictional story based on the animal and the characteristic linked to it, which they read out loud.  This I hoped would consolidate the main characteristics and responsibilities each clan was to have.  They made a poster of the clans to represent all they had learnt.  It also contained each of their stories:

They made it into a poster which they would present to my mum at the end of the week
They made it into a poster which they would present to my mum at the end of the week


T's essay about the bear clan
T’s essay about the bear clan, showing its roll in leadership
L's essay about the deer clan
L’s essay about the deer clan known for their love and gentleness
C's essay
C’s essay about the Marten clan illustrating the competitiveness and warrior like quality of the Marten

Following this we did a picture study on the picture shown at the top of the poist and the following painting, both of which are called ‘The Gathering of the Clans’:

meeting of the clans

And I will be posting on that sometime soon.