Lesson Plan



Lesson Preparation


Teacher Reading

You'll definitely want to use The Cahuillas by Lowell John Bean and Lisa Bourgeault. You may find some helpful information in Sunshine, Citrus and Science. Students will get a real picture of Indian life in this valley from Tomo of Kukumonga Village. Bibliography




Materials Needed

If you want to do some pottery, you'll want red clay.

To build a kish (home) you'll need eight to ten strong, limber branches. Fruitless mulberry branches work very well. You'll need manila twine and lots of palm fronds.

If you want to grind corn or acorns, you can get a mano and metate at a Mexican store, like La Esperanza in San Bernardino.

Pictographs can be done with brown paper (paper-sacks) and blueberries or other fruits.






  • Check the San Bernardino County Superintendent of School Media Library. They have a very poor VHS copy of an old film about the Cahuilla. The content is excellent, but the copy is terrible. Still worth watching.
  • Get all the posters you can from the Department of Forestry. They have posters about "The Animals of the San Bernardino Mountains," Edible Plants, Reptiles, Fish, Insects and lots more. Contact your local Ranger Station
  • Get a poster from the San Bernardino County Museum gift store that shows and tells about Cahuilla and Serrano baskets, weapons, tools and more. It is beautiful and shows a lot about Native lifestyles.


  • The Houghton-Mifflin Social Studies textbook for third grade has several chapters on Native Americans, but hardly anything that describes the lifestyle of our local natives.
  • I suggest you order a class set or more of Tomo of Kukumonga Village. This is our literature connection for this part of our local history. It concerns Indians in Kukumonga, who had virtually identical customs and lifestyle with the Cahuillas who lived in the Loma Linda area. Literature Connection




1. Habitat: Spend some time working on the local habitat, including plants and animals that existed before European contact.

2. Food: Discuss how the Cahuilla gathered plant food and hunted for small game. This can be connected with a field trip to the San Bernardino County Museum. The book The Cahuilla has excellent pictures and detail on food sources.

3. Housing: Show pictures of homes called "kish". These homes were similar all over Southern and Central California. A strong frame of branches was covered with woven reeds, palm fronds, or other plant thatch. Tomo describes how easily the Santa Ana winds destroyed the homes.

4. Social Structure: Good detail is found in The Cahuilla. Discuss marriage customs, healers, chiefs, elders, child-raising.

5. Art and Tools: Discuss pottery and basketmaking. The County Museum has excellent examples of both. Show pictures or examples of arrowheads, mano and metate, spears, bows and arrows.

6. Footprints: Discuss how little impact the Cahuilla had on the environment. They went to the resources that nature provided, and used them sparingly. Few remnants of their presence remain today.

7. Demise: As you head into the Mission Era, discuss how the Europeans introduced smallpox and cholera. Talk about how the Natives were forced into virtual slavery and kept from their ancient lifestyles. You will also want to work on the United States policies which took most of the Indian land away and forced Natives onto horribly small reservations. You may want to contact a local tribe for a guest speaker who may be able to give an Indian perspective on the past.

Projects and Activities

1. Students can make pottery bowls using red clay. Local pottery was made by the "coil" method. Long coils were wrapped around a flat base and smoothed by hand and with wooden scrapers. Pots can be fired and decorated with paint or berry juice.

2. Build a kish as a class project, using the materials described above. You can look at Tomo of Kukumonga Village or The Cahuilla to see how the home is built.

  • Hints: Keeping the framework stuck in the ground is difficult. It's easier to hammer foot-long pieces of branches into the ground, and then tie the framework branch to it with manila twine. Get a big roll of heavy manila twine from a hardware store. It looks a lot like the fiber rope that the Cahuilla would have used to lace branches and thatching together. Our Kish took about three hours to finish. Unfortunately the Santa Ana winds flattened it while we were off-track. This was a good lesson in how little permanent effect Cahuilla building had on the environment.


Worksheet - Prehistory


The worksheets may be used as either a lesson guide and written in as you go along, or as a test. Feel free to make up your own to fit your approach to the curriculum




1. Definitely schedule a trip to the San Bernardino County Museum. The education department of the Museum can give excellent presentations, followed by exploring the history section of the Museum. I created a Museum Field Trip workbook for students to write in during a prehistory field trip. You may have a copy if you e-mail me.

2. You may want to set off for the Malki Museum in Banning. (See Links)

3. The Asistencia on Barton Road in Redlands has nice displays of Indian life as it was after the Europeans came along. That makes a nice addition to a County Museum trip. Plan ahead and make arrangements for a guided tour.