Lesson 4: The Plains Native Americans

Day 2

Activity 4: Sitting Bull and Quanah Parker

Ask your child if she would describe the Native Americans as peaceful and passive or evil and wild. Discuss that, while some Native Americans did terrible things to European settlers, many settlers did terrible things to the native people. Ask your child why the Native Americans and the settlers had so many wars. Explain that they fought over rights to the land. The settlers wanted to live on the land they had discovered, but the native people were not going to give up their land and way of life.

However, there were many settlers and colonists who lived peacefully with the Native Americans. When the first settlers came to North America, they were dependent on the native people to show them how to survive in their new environment.
Read aloud the accounts of people's interaction with the Sioux Chief Sitting Bull. They are included in the segment that follows called "In Memory." After you read the section, ask your child the questions that follow.
In Memory
by Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner

Mrs. Fanny Kelly was taken captive in July 1864 by a war party of Hunkpapa Sioux in Wyoming. During most of the five months she was held prisoner, Mrs. Kelly stayed in the lodgings of Sitting Bull, the famous leader "as a guest," of his family, "and I was treated as a guest," she wrote.

"He was uniformly gentle, and kind to his wife and children and courteous and considerate in his [interactions] with others. During my stay with them food was scarce more than once, and both Sitting Bull and his wife often suffered with hunger to supply me with food. They both have a very warm place in my heart." This surprising warm friendship with a woman who had every reason to hate and fear him, characterized Sitting Bull's interactions with whites. A teacher and missionary among Sitting Bull's people, Catherine Weldon, once described him,

"As a friend...sincere and true, as a patriot devoted and incorruptible. As a husband and father, affectionate and considerate. As a host, courteous and hospitable to the last degree."

The Ashcroft family, white settlers who lived nearby, valued Sitting Bull as "one of their oldest friends." They often told the story of how, on one of his frequent trips to buy produce and chickens from Grandmother, he stopped for potatoes.

"Grandfather was busy and did not want to take the time to dig them, so his daughter Ethel, ten years old, slipped away and dug a half-sack of potatoes and dragged them up to the house for Sitting Bull. He was so pleased that he promised her a pony, and soon a little bay horse was delivered to her. He was named 'Two-John' and she had him until she was married to Jack Jacobs in 1896."
  • How would you describe Sitting Bull's relationships with other people?
  • How do these accounts differ from your impressions of Native Americans based on movies you have seen?
  • Why do you think the Native Americans have a reputation for being evil murderers?
Now tell your child about Quanah Parker, who was one of the most famous Native Americans who ever lived. He was the last Chief of the Comanche, and he never lost a battle with a European settler. Something very interesting about Quanah is that his mother was European. She was kidnapped as a girl and lived among the Comanche Indians for 24 years. She became one of them and chose not to return to her family.
Quanah refused to accept an agreement, or treaty, created to confine the Plains Indians to a reservation. Explain that a reservation is a designated area that the U.S. Government set up where Native Amercicans could live, and they were not allowed to leave the area. He continued to lead his army to fight against the European settlers.

Eventually Quanah did surrender, but he never stopped fighting for the Native-American way of life and never stopped leading his people. He became a reservation judge and lobbied the government to plead the cause of the Comanche nation.

Activity 5: The Horse

Explain to your child that when explorers and settlers came to North America, they introduced Native Americans to many new ideas. One of the most important things they brought to North America was the horse. The horse changed the lives of many Native American tribes. Ask your child to list examples of this change on the sheet "The Horse." Two examples of life before the horse are provided, and your child can write three more. Then, she can write how life would have been different after the horse.
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Activity 6: Songs and Prayers

Materials: journal
On the page "Songs and Prayers," your child will find examples of Plains Indians songs and prayers. Let her read through each one and discuss the meanings. Then, encourage her to write her own song in her journal, pretending she is a member of the Sioux or Comanche tribe living in the Great Plains. Discuss the important role of nature in the songs and prayers of the Native Americans. Before she begins, tell her to select a theme for the song or prayer.
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