What’s On Your Mind?

Lesson Plan


Students will examine the artistic characteristics of Trade Canoe for Don Quixote and describe large-scale and smaller-scale issues that are of concern to them. Then they will create a short essay or brochure describing an issue that concerns them along with solutions for improving the situation.

Intended Age Group

Elementary (grades K-5)

Length of Lesson

One 50 minute lesson

Standards Area

Language Arts


Students will be able to:

  • examine the artistic characteristics of Trade Canoe for Don Quixote;
  • locate Montana, Massachusetts, and New Mexico on a map of the United States;
  • identify large-scale and smaller-scale issues that concern them and develop solutions for improving those situations; and
  • create a short essay or brochure describing a situation which concerns them along with several solutions for improving the situation


  1. Warm-up: Display or pass out copies of Trade Canoe for Don Quixote and invite students to look carefully and share what they observe. What do they notice? What kind of a boat is featured in this painting? What objects do students recognize in the canoe? What colors appear in the painting? How do the students think the artist made the painting look like it is dripping? What adjectives would they use to describe the painting?
  2. Share with students that the painting was created by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith in 2004. Smith was born in Montana on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Reservation in 1940. She studied art education in Massachusetts and received her Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of New Mexico. Have the students locate Montana, Massachusetts, and New Mexico on a large map of the United States.
  3. Explain to students that Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s hope for her work is that “a viewer sees something about the human condition, that might cause them to pause a moment and consider something like war.” In addition to including symbols that remind the viewer of the wars in the Middle East, Smith incorporates symbols about other issues that concern her, such as the prevalence of processed foods and a culture of consumerism. Refer to the About the Art section for more information.
  4. Ask the students to share some of the issues about which they are concerned. What bothers them? Encourage students to think about a range of topics including large-scale and smaller-scale issues. For example, students might be concerned about war just like Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, graffiti in their neighborhoods, or a lack of playground space in their local school. Record the students’ ideas on a large piece of chart paper or (interactive) whiteboard.
  5. Invite the students to select one of the concerns that bother them and spend time brainstorming solutions to improve that situation. For example, students who are concerned about littering in their communities might offer ideas about organizing a community clean-up day, creating and distributing posters encouraging people to properly dispose of their trash, or saying “Thank you” to fellow citizens who make use of trash cans in parks and other public areas. Students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups for this activity.
  6. Have students write a short essay or create a brochure describing the problem they are concerned about and their solutions for improving the situation.
  7. When students are finished, invite them to share their ideas and display their creations in the classroom.


  • Lined paper and a pen or pencil, or unlined paper and colored markers for each student
  • Large piece of chart paper and colored markers or (interactive) whiteboard for recording students’ ideas
  • Map of the United States, visible to all students in the classroom
  • Copies of About the Art section on Trade Canoe for Don Quixote (included with the lesson plan) or student access to this part of Creativity Resource online
  • One color copy of the painting for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Social Studies
    • History
      • Become familiar with Colorado historical eras, groups, individuals and themes
      • Understand chronological order of events
      • Ask questions, share information and discuss ideas about the past and present
      • Analyze historical sources using tools of a historian
      • Become familiar with United States historical eras, groups, individuals, ideas and themes
    • Geography
      • Use geographic tools to research, gather data and ask questions with geography
      • Become familiar with United States geography
      • Recognize similarities and differences about regions and people using geographic tools
      • Understand people and their relationship with geography and their environment
  • Visual Arts
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
    • Envision and Critique to Reflect
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening
    • Research and Reasoning
    • Writing and Composition
    • Reading for All Purposes

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Trade Canoe for Don Quixote

Trade Canoe for Don Quixote


Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, United States

Who Made It?

Artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith says, “My work is about enlightening the larger community about Indian affairs today. I can’t do anything about the past, but I can do something about the present and future.” Smith was born in Montana on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Reservation in 1940. She studied art education in Massachusetts and received her Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of New Mexico. Smith uses painting, collage, and images from popular culture and from other artists to create her works. She has been described as “a bridge builder” between cultures. She says, “My art, my life experience, and my tribal ties are totally enmeshed. I go from one community with messages to the other, and I try to enlighten people.” Inspired by artists like Pablo Picasso as well as traditional American Indian art, Smith’s work tends to address myths of American Indians in the context of current issues.

What Inspired It?

“My best hope is that a viewer sees something about the human condition, that might cause them to pause a moment and consider something like war,” says Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Trade Canoe for Don Quixote focuses on a canoe, a traditional form of transportation among some American Indian tribes. Europeans and Americans eventually adopted canoes and used them to bring U.S. government policies into Indian country. According to Smith, this painting “moves the trade canoe to a more massive war canoe such as the ocean going canoes on the Pacific Rim. Besides the wars in the Middle East, perpetrated by the U.S., there are other issues that are fought politically in a war-like way. These issues might be as varied as a woman’s right to choose for her own body; healthy natural foods versus unhealthy processed foods that are controlled by massive corporate campaigns; the consumer culture issues which are controlled by international corporations versus living in a sustainable way …” In this painting, Smith has filled the trade canoe with war images from throughout history that, for her, represent some of these issues. She goes on to say, “Can we trade all this for peace, respect, kindness, friendship, sustainability, and a caring for our planet and all its inhabitants.”

Smith is strongly influenced by other artists and often references images from art history in her paintings. In Trade Canoe, Smith’s skeletons are rendered in a similar style to those of Mexican painter Jose Guadalupe Posada in his work Calavera de Don Quijote. Like Smith’s work, Posada’s artwork protested his government’s policies. Smith also painted images of faces and heads that are similar to those painted by Pablo Picasso in his famous painting Guernica, another piece filled with political commentary. She says, “I think that Picasso’s Guernica is one of the greatest pictures of war showing the suffering of humans and animals.”



The canoe in this painting resembles a birch bark canoe. Birch bark was the most popular type of bark used to make canoes.

Paint Drips
Paint Drips

This painting is constructed of four separate canvases that have been put together to form one horizontal rectangle. Smith would apply paint to one piece of canvas and then rotate it while the paint was still wet, creating thick streaks of paint that move across the canvas in all directions. “I felt that it conveyed a desert mirage of water,” she says.


“In making a picture about the trashing of war, the beetles seemed appropriate in the spoilage,” says Smith.


The devil is an image that is depicted in paintings throughout history, and particularly in religious paintings. “Most wars are fought over religious differences, particularly our recent wars,” Smith says. “I drew from all periods of art history and from various religions in depicting the ruins of war.”

Pepsi Can
Pepsi Can

This is a reference to a Pepsi factory that was built in Iraq during President Bush’s administration in hopes of helping the economy there. Smith feels that there are both pros and cons to this.

Mickey Mouse Hand
Mickey Mouse Hand

For Smith, the Mickey Mouse hand represents the American icons—like Pepsi or McDonald’s—that are forced upon other countries when Americans occupy them.


Smith took the image of a dragon, which appears in religious paintings throughout art history, and changed it into a lizard to reference the lizards found in the Iraqi desert.


The colors in this painting aren’t the typical blues that would indicate the canoe is in water. Instead, Smith uses pinks, oranges, and greens to reference the colors of a desert storm.

Skeleton Riding a Skeleton Horse
Skeleton Riding a Skeleton Horse

Smith’s skeletons (specifically the skeleton with a hat riding a skeleton horse, as well as the smaller one hurling itself out of the canoe) are similar to José Guadalupe Posada’s skeletons in his print Calavera de Don Quijote y Sancho Panza (made around the turn of the century). The title Trade Canoe for Don Quixote also references the title of Posada’s image. You can see the image at the Library of Congress' online illustrated guide here (click on the image’s title to view the print at a larger size).

Guernica Reference
Guernica Reference

Smith references images of faces and heads from Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica (1937). Picasso’s painting shows faces twisting upward in anguish. Picasso painted this piece as a statement against fascism after Adolf Hitler used the Spanish village of Guernica for bombing practice. You can see information and illustrations of Guernica here.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.