Goals, Rationale, and Background Information
Hunting is one area of Native American culture that changed as a result of the Plains Indians introduction to the horse. Before the horse the Plains Indians had to be creative in the way they hunted the buffalo. For Instance, one way the Plains Indians would attempt to kill the buffalo would be to try and chase the buffalo off cliffs. Another way Plains Indians attempted to capture the buffalo would be when the men would dress like a baby buffalo and act like it was lost, as the buffalo would attempt to reclaim its baby the others would circle around it and use spears and arrows to kill the animal.
The Horse made hunting more efficient. With the acquisition of the horse the Indians were able to hunt animals with much greater skill and within a much greater area. In order to obtain a buffalo a warrior would ride his horse side by side with a buffalo in such a position that he could pierce the animal with a weapon, taking its life. Next the hunter would gather several hundred pounds of the buffalo and bring it back to his village (Masich 1997).
No part of the buffalo was wasted. Buffalo hide was by far the most important material available. It was used for such things as bedding, bags, tipi covers, winter robes, breech louts, and moccasin tops. The hair was mostly used for saddle pads, pillows, tope, halters and medicine balls. The rail provided the Plains Indians with whips, decorations, and fly brushes. The hooves and feet were used for glue and rattles. The horns made cups, spoons, ladles, and toys. The rawhide had the most uses. It was valuable in making drums, belts, saddles, stirrups, cinches, shields, bull boats, and knife cases. No part of the buffalo meat was wasted. Every part was eaten or dried and made into jerky or pemmican. Pemmican was made by pounding dried meat into powder and mixing it with melted fat and berries (Malls 1990).
Plains Indians hunters also brought in deer, elk, moose, mountain sheep, beavers, antelopes, mountain lions, coyotes, badgers, ermine, muskrats, and even rabbits. Elk and deer skins were mainly used for clothing, a whole skin serving for the dress of a small girl, two skins for the dress of a woman, and two skins for a man's shirt. The leftover scraps of elk and deer skin were sometimes used for soft moccasin uppers, while other scraps were cut for fringes or made into small bags. Even old dried pieces of skin were softened and used again and again. Hides of the furry animals were tanned with the fur on and used for bedding. Hides of medium-sized animals like the mountain lion and coyote were sometimes used whole for bags or quivers. Soft fur like that of rabbits was used in strips for the decoration of clothing and medicine objects.
The Pains Indians also used the buffalo for one other important material. They used what was called sinew thread to sew with. The process was not done easily, and took a skilled worker to complete the task. Sinew was obtained from buffalo, elk, moose and other animals. There was usually an ample supply in camp after the hunts, since every part of the animal was preserved for its special use. The prime sinew for sewing was taken from the large tendon which lies along both sides of the buffalo's backbone, beginning just behind the neck joint and extending in length for about three feet. It was removed as intact as possible to obtain the greatest length. The short piece of tendon found under the shoulder blade of the buffalo cow provided an especially thick cord of sinew, several lengths of which were sometimes twisted together for use as a bowstring. To prepare the string the moist tendon was cleaned by scraping it thoroughly with a piece of flint or bone. Before it was too dry, rubbing it together between the hands, after which the fibers of sinew could be stripped off with piece of flint, softened it. If the tendon was not prepared soon after it was taken from the body, or if the natural glue was not removed by immediate soaking in water, it became stiff and dry and had to be soaked until freed from the glue which clung to it. Then it was hammered and softened until the fibers could be stripped off readily. As the fibers were peeled off in lengths of from one to three feet, they were moistened with saliva and twisted by rubbing them against the knee with a quick motion until they acquired the proper degree of elasticity. The sinew was always carefully wrapped in a hide cover until it was to be used. Sinew could be kept indefinitely and even if it became too dry it could be soaked in warm water until its flexibility returned (Mails 1972).
The book People of the Buffalo will be used as motivation for this lesson. Students will be grouped together and asked to perform a task that will eventually lead into another group effort where students will understand why the Native Americans depicted buffalo in their expressive drawings and cave carvings.
Purpose and Objectives
Students will have the opportunity to apply what they have learned or observed from the literature regarding the importance of the buffalo. Working cooperatively and creatively in their groups they will create a web, or diagram showing their knowledge of the buffalo. Groups are responsible for recognizing the buffalo as a source of survival and must make use of every piece of the animal, not wasting anything. Each group will share their diagrams and will choose a valuable fact or idea to add to the class diagram. Together as a class we will review the diagram and each group will show their appreciation of the buffalo as they move towards the creative arts project.
Structure and Outline
People of the Buffalo
, chart paper, markers, scratch board, toothpicks, and interpersonal intelligence
Timing: 1hour 20 minutes
whole class shared reading experience, whole class discussion, group diagramming, group sharing, group presentation, group art project
listen to literature, engage in discussion, and work together present together
read, demonstrate, conduct learning, monitor groups, listen, and record, give instructions.
1. Introduce the literature to children. Title, author, and brief summary.
2. Read the story to the children. Let students generate conversation and reactions to the text.
3. Put students into groups and explain their task: using every part of the buffalo not wasting any part of the animal. Make sure groups understand that they must record their group ideas on chart paper in some sort of orderly fashion (web, list, picture of buffalo with lines telling how each part will be used...)
4. Each group will present to the class and choose their best ideas to put on the class diagram.
5. Explain to groups that they to must show their thanks and appreciation of the buffalo for providing the Plains Indians with things to survive with by carving a scene into the scratchboard.
Assessment and Monitoring
Look for students ability to work together and generate ideas as a group. Look for cooperation among group members and among the groups. Listen for respectful conversation and ability to share roles with in the groups. Target in on how other groups react to each other's ideas when sharing as a class. Listen to ideas about how the buffalo could be used towards the survival of the Plains Indians.
Reflections, Extensions, and Emergent Curriculum
Usually every student enjoys this activity. I am always amazed at how many ideas they have about what to do with the parts of the animal. This activity will lead me into a stream of other group activities with similar open endedness. I can pose situations and circumstances and have students solve the problems by using each others ideas and suggestions while they work in groups. Most of the time students are solving math problems and don't even realize it until closure time. This activity allows for kids to realize that there isn't always just one answer to everything.