A Turtle Effigy in West Lethbridge

Download: PPT BKFT Ed Conf Turtle Effigy 2021 10-07 (PDF format 3 mb)

BFCC Lesson Plan Turtle Effigy (PDF format 105 kb)

The Founding College of the University of Toronto
Acknowledgement of Traditional Land

*Remember, begin planning your lesson with the end in mind, knowing in advance exactly what you want your learners to grasp by the end of the lesson.

Grade level(s): Grade 6


  • To explore effigies and their significance to Blackfoot language and culture
  • To understand the importance of turtles in the Blackfoot language and culture

What exactly do you want your learners to be able to do by the end of the lesson?  This should be clearly communicated to your learners orally at the very beginning of the lesson.

General Outcome(s):


Application [A-1]:

Students will use and apply Blackfoot in various situations at home, in school and in the
community for different purposes. (Pookaiksi aakohtaomia’nistayissitapiiyaawa
niitsi’powahssini.) Language Competence [LC-1]: Students will be effective, competent and comfortable as Blackfoot speakers. (Pookaiksi aakaisokai’tsi’poyiiyaawa.)

Community Membership [CM-1]:

Students will live peacefully with Mother Earth, others and themselves, guided by the Creator. (Pookaiksi aakayaahsopaatomoyiiyaawa ksaahkommiitapi ki noohkiitsimmiksi.)


Students will know and use various strategies to maximize the effectiveness of learning and communication. (Maanistaakohkottsokiitsi’poihpi pookaiksi aakaissksinima’tsoohsiiyaawa.)

Specific Outcomes(s):


Share information – share factual information [A-1.1]:

  • provide information on several aspects of a topic

Attend to the form of the language – phonology [LC-1.1]:

  • try to enunciate unfamiliar words independently and confidently

Mother Earth – knowledge of past and present [CM-1.2]:

  • identify and describe basic, key facts about some Blackfoot geographical regions or communities

Language learning – interactive, interpretive, productive [S-2.1]:

  • identify and use a variety of interactive, interpretive and productive strategies to enhance language use

Key Words (English & Blackfoot):

Prepare your learners for success by pre-teaching key vocabulary words that are essential to understanding the concept or text you will introduce to them.

  • Earth – ksaahkomm
  • Rock – oohkotok
  • Coulees – kaawahkoistsi
  • Rivers – niitahtaa
  • Oldman River –
  • Lethbridge – Sikoohkotok
  • South – aamskaapoohtsi
  • West – aami’tooktsi
  • North – apatohsoohtsi
  • East – pinaapoohtsi
  • Turtle- sspopii
  • Lizard – naamsskii
  • Frog – matsiyikkpisaa
  • Fish – mamii
  • Blackfoot people – Siksitaitsitapi
  • Beaver Bundle – Ksisskstakimopistaan
  • Head –o’tokaan
  • Legs – ohkatsisstsi
  • Tail – ohsoyis
  • Body – oistom


What will you need to teach this lesson?

  • Map of site
  • Map of Blackfoot Territory as known by Blackfoot people
  • Video of Turtle Effigy site tour and story/history
  • Map of Turtle in original form
  • Site maps in different seasons (if available)

This includes student supplies as well as your own.  Don’t forget about technology, hand-on approach/manipulatives. i.e Books/articles, Videos/websites, Elders


Pre-Instructional Assessment:

Teacher will check for student’s prior knowledge. Large group brainstorming learner responses, 5W’s.

  • What do you know about effigies?
  • What do you know about the West Lethbridge Turtle Effigy?
  • Who created the turtle effigy?
  • When was this created?
  • Why was it created?
  • Does the size of the effigy matter? If so, then why?
  • What importance is the location and landscape to the turtle effigy?
  • The Blackfoot language used in video will be translated to English.

Instructional Strategies:

Teacher/elder will talk about the topic of the lesson.
The lesson is based on a site tour perhaps, using a map to locate site.
Explaining about the topic and how it is significance to the Piikani people.

Discussing Pre-contact, and/or post-contact history.

  • Elder/Traditional person – Joanne Yellow Horn
  • Site was in West Lethbridge along the bank of the Oldman River near Paradise Canyon Golf Resort in The Canyons Suburb
  • Video is approximately 18 minutes
  • Information provided is on the turtle effigy and its significance to Blackfoot culture and language (not story)
  • Information is delivered both in Blackfoot and English
  • Ask students to notice (in the video)
    • the distance of the effigy from the river valley
    • what types of rocks are in the immediate area ie. color, texture, size etc.
    • what is the distance to rock supplies?
    • What is the landscape and vegetation in the immediate area?
  • Compare the size of this turtle effigy to other turtle effigies
  • Has it always (historically) been like this?
  • Why would this turtle effigy be built here?
  • Did the location determine the size of the turtle effigy?
  • Why is this turtle effigy not well-known?

Using manipulatives/hands-on material to demonstrate further.
Demonstration: create a model of an effigy using pebbles in a dirt/sand box, or possibly go onto a landsite and create a duplicate of the effigy, identifying:

  • body parts,
  • direction extremities are pointing, and dimensions of the figure.


This is where you “wrap it up.” It’s a quick synopsis of the lesson.
You may want to ask students to pair share or to share out something they learned that period, or to provide an example of the concept taught. Keep it short and sweet.

  • What is the difference in categorizing between western/Eurocentric and First Nations’ worldview
    • Rocks
    • Turtle/lizard
  • Categories: four legged, winged, water beings, two legged,

Post-Instructional Assessment:

For each lesson, consider which assessment type best measures the learning outcome.  For example, a quiz, drawing/sketch, recreating a mini hands-on project, or writing a rough draft.

  • Create a model of an effigy using pebbles Tell history of the turtle effigy using Blackfoot words:
  • This could be used for aa number of classes – gradually increase the number of words in the story. Students should be able to recognize the Blackfoot words used in the information provided (in the lesson).
  • Provide students with a map of the Turtle Effigy and ask them to translate the geographical areas into Blackfoot. Students visit the site after this lesson and be able to use language to describe and identify i.e. directions, rocks, vegetation, ecosystem, environment and know the worldview difference in categorizing.
  • Using the video and oral language and research information will help students to acquire language recognition and use.

Prepared by: The Blackfoot Confederacy Nations of Alberta in association with Arrow Archaeology Limited

Dustin Wolfe surveying the coulees in West Lethbridge near the West Lethbridge Turtle Effigy (Photo Cropped)

Chinook Trail Crossing Historical Resources Overview (pdf)

Results 17
Plate 2 View of portion of the Turtle Effigy at DjPf 128; facing south

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