Lesson 4: The Plains Native Americans


Activity 1: The Buffalo

Materials: scissors
Tell your child that when the Plains people killed a buffalo, they used every part of it and wasted nothing. They used the hide for tipi coverings, bedding, clothes, moccasins, and robes. The buffalo hair was used for rope and halters. The hoofs were used for rattles. The horns were used to make dishes, spoons, and ladles. From various parts, they made whips, saddle pads, glue, toys, drums, belts, stirrups, shields, knife cases, boats, thread, and, of course, food.

On the page "The Buffalo," your child can list all the ways the Plains tribes were dependent on the buffalo. When she has finished filling in the uses of the buffalo, she can cut the squares apart and sort them into the following groups: food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, tools, and other.
Student Activity Page

Activity 2: The Life of a Nomad

Materials: journal
Review the different uses the Plains tribes had for the buffalo. Tell your child that most Plains tribes were nomadic. Explain that a nomad is someone who moves from place to place, rather than living in the same place year-round. Ask your child to think of some reasons why these Native Americans were nomads.

Tell your child that because they were so dependent on the buffalo, the Plains tribes had to follow the buffalo herds wherever they went. Nomads need portable shelter, so the Plains people had tipis that were lightweight and easy to move. Pottery is heavy and easily broken, so they did not use much pottery. They used leather and baskets for containers. They used packs on dogs and travois to carry their things. A travois is a wooden frame made of two poles that would be put across the body of a dog or horse. Supplies would be set on the frame and pulled by the animal.

Ask your child to make a list of possible positives and negatives of a nomadic lifestyle in her journal. She can fold a piece of paper in half and use one column to write the advantages and one column to record the disadvantages of this lifestyle. Ask your child if she thinks she would enjoy being a nomad. Why or why not?

Activity 3: A Model Tipi

Materials: 8 small sticks for poles for the tipi, 8 small sticks for poles for the tipi, 12-14" long, cardboard, fabric hole or screw punch, manila folder, paint, paintbrush, scissors, string or yarn, white or off-white fabric
This activity will help your child to create a model of a tipi, following the directions on the page "A Model Tipi." Let your child paint markings on the tipi that were symbols of the Plains people.
Student Activity Page