The Plains Native Americans

and the Buffalo

by Sean L. Mabey

Book Title: Buffalo Woman

Author: Paul Goble

Publisher and Date: Bradbury Press, 1984

Summary: Buffalo Woman is a story about a young Native American brave who is an exceptional hunter, especially with buffalo. One morning the young man is at a stream, when he sees a buffalo. A moment later the buffalo is transformed into a beautiful woman. The young man falls in love with the woman, they marry, and have a baby boy. The young man's family rejects the woman and the son, so they leave the tribe to go back to the "Buffalo Nation." The young man follows his wife, and eventually he must pass several tests to prove his love for his wife and son.

Social Studies Relevance: Buffalo Woman is an excellent story that explains to students the culture of the Native Americans living in the Great Plains region. It could be used in the classroom to help students understand what a "folk tale" is and how they are passed down in both families and tribes. Buffalo Woman also describes the cooperating relationship that the Native Americans had towards all living creatures, particularly the buffalo. By using this book teachers are provided with a wide array of possible social studies lesson topics and skills including, prediction, map skills, inter-relationships, and decision making.

Grade Level Focus: 1st and 2nd Grade

Relationship to Social Studies State Core:

* Show ways in which families provide the basic needs of love, shelter, companionship, clothing, and protection to their members.

* Identify resources that are used to make the things we need or want.

* Identify cultural traits and values that are inherited and acquired (i.e. family, religious, cultural traditions, and physical characteristics).

* Identify different environments in which groups live.

* Illustrate ways groups use natural resources in the environment to meet their basic needs.

* Identify map symbols which represent real things.

Lesson Plan #1

Title of Lesson: Picture This

Subject Area: Native Americans on the Great Plains


Given a variety of historical pictures depicting the Great Plains, Native Americans, buffalo, and tepees, students will write descriptions of landforms, clothing, food, vegetation, etc...

Given a map of the United States, students will color in the Great Plains region.

Materials Needed:

1 Inquiry Observation Sheet for each group

1 map of the United States for each student

A variety of pictures, photographs, or postcards of the Great Plains, Plains Native Americans (Osage, Sioux, Pawnee, Cherokee, and Cheyenne), buffalo, and tepees. (An excellent resource for pictures are Native Peoples magazine and Art of the West magazine.)


1. In the front of the classroom have a map of the United States. Ask the students to point to the state that you live in. Ask students to describe some parts of your state. Are there mountains, deserts, hills, lakes, or rivers?

2. Separate the students into groups of 4-6. This can be done in cooperative learning groups or by numbering off.

3. Give each group of students 1 "Inquiry Observation Sheet" (see Appendix). Some examples of possible topics include, landforms, clothing, transportation, climate, food, housing, or wildlife.

4. Give each group of students an envelope containing 2-3 pictures of the Great Plains region, the Plains Native Americans, buffalo, or tepees. Instruct the students not to show their pictures to any of the other groups. Describe to the students the terms,(for example, landforms, clothing, food, housing...) Have the students fill out the "Inquiry Observation Sheet" making predictions about the people and or places in the pictures.

5. After students have had time to fill in their "Inquiry Observation Sheets," put up an overhead of the sheet that the students have. Go around the room and have each group contribute a prediction that they have made about the photo's. Write their predictions on the overhead projector.

6. Place on the overhead projector the same map of the United States that the students have. Color in the Great Plains region. Explain to the students that as a class you will begin a unit on the Great Plains and the Plains Native Americans that lived there.


Each group will turn in the "Inquiry Observation Sheet" with the names of each student in their group. The teacher will also observe the students' contribution to the list made on the overhead projector. Also collect the maps of the United States which the students colored in the Great Plains region.


Lesson Plan #2

Title of Lesson: Native American and Buffalo Relationships

Subject Area: Native Americans on the Great Plains


Given the story, Buffalo Woman, students will write two facts explaining how the buffalo and the Native Americans interacted with one another.

Materials Needed:

Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble

Grocery Sack with food items

Variety of Native American books


1. On a table in front of the classroom, set a grocery sack full of food. Discuss with the class some of the foods that they like to eat. Discuss where we go when we want food. Ask the students, "Where did the Plains Native Americans go for food?"

2. Read the story. Direct the students' attention to the young man and the relationship he had with the buffalo. For example:

a. How did this relationship develop?

b. Why did the "Buffalo Nation" send the woman to the man?

c. Why did the young man's relatives not like the woman and her son?

d. Why did the young man follow after his wife and son?

3.Have the students predict what will happen when the young man meets the "Buffalo Nation."

4. Have the students brainstorm ideas on how the buffalo helped the Native Americans. Some examples could be clothes, tepees, food, etc... List these on the board. Read the "explanation" in the front of the book.

5. Have the students brainstorm ideas on how the Native Americans helped the buffalo. List these on the board. For example the Native Americans used all the parts of the buffalo (thus, not wasting any), they also burned the old grass so new grass could grow.

6. Separate the class into their cooperative learning groups (from Lesson Plan #1). Give each group 1 book that deals with the Plains Native Americans and their lifestyle. The following are excellent books to use for this lesson:

North American Indians: Eyewitness Books by David Murdoch

1877: Plains Indians Sketch Book by Thomas Curtin

The Indian and the Buffalo by Robert Hofsinde

Native Americans: The Nature Company Discoveries Library by Dr. David Hurst Thomas

What do we know about the Plains Indians? By Dr. Colin Taylor

Buffalo Hunt by Russell Freedman

Indians of the Plains by Ruth Thomson

7. The assignment is that each group writes two facts that they learned about the Plains Native Americans or how the Plains Native Americans hunted buffalo or were helped by the buffalo. Give each group 3-4 minutes for each book, then rotate the books so each group has a chance to see all of the books.

8. Provide the students with a model of what you are asking them to do. For example, talk about how the Native Americans would waterproof the buffalo skins by scraping off the fur, pouring water on the skin, then holding it over a fire.

9. When each of the groups have seen all of the books, bring them together to discuss what facts they learned. Write these facts up on the chalkboard.


Observe the contributions made by each of the students. Have the cooperative learning groups tell the class the two facts that they learned to ensure that they did the assignment.

Lesson Plan #3

Title of Lesson: Buffalo Woman Map

Subject Area: Native Americans on the Great Plains


Given the story, Buffalo Woman, students will be able to draw a map of the area where the story takes place in, and identify map symbols.

Materials Needed:

Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble


Markers, crayons, pencils


1. Remind the students of the "Picture This" lesson when they colored in the Great Plains region of the United States. Ask students, "Was that a large area covered on the map?" After the students have responded, tell them, "Today we are going to look at a smaller section of this area, where this tribe could have lived." Tell the students that today they are going to draw their own maps of the places they read about in Buffalo Woman.

2. Ask the students, "What were some of the places we read about in Buffalo Woman? Remind the students to try and remember the right order of the places. If they can not remember or get stuck, quickly review the book with them by showing the pictures. Some examples could be:

Where the tribe lived

The stream where he first saw the Buffalo Woman

Where his family lives

The rolling country

Where they spent the first night

Where they continued traveling

Where they spent the second night

The winding rivers

The Valley of the Buffalo Nation.

3. As a class brainstorm some possible map symbols that could represent the list you created.

4. Ask the students if they know what a story map is. If none of the students know, tell them that a story map is what an area would look like to a bird (see Appendix). If students are still confused you could draw a map of your classroom. If the students unsderstand this concept, give each student a blank piece of paper, and have them draw a story map of Buffalo Woman, using examples from the chalkboard or symbols that they made up on their own.


Collect each map and evaluate whether the story line of the book matches that of the map drawn by the student.


Lesson Plan #4 (Culmination Activity)

Title of Lesson: Going on a class Buffalo Hunt.

Subject Area: Native Americans on the Great Plains


After having been read, Buffalo Woman, students will use their creativity by drawing their "Plains Native American event" on buffalo hides made out of paper sacks.

Materials Needed:

Large paper bags (1 bag for 2 students)



Beef Jerky


1. Bring into the class a buffalo skin that the students can feel. If a buffalo skin is not available, show the students a buffalo skin drawing that is similar to the one that the students will be making.

2. Ask the students what ways do we keep track of our history? Some possible ways include writing in a journal, the newspapers give written stories, historians write down what has happened. Ask the students, "How did the Plains Native Americans keep track of their history?" Guide the students to discuss how the Plains Native Americans would paint pictures, using symbols, on buffalo, deer, and other animal hides.

3. Ask, "What kinds of event would the Plains Native Americans want to remember?" Possible responses could include wars, hunts, disease, death, an eclipse, or a harsh winter.

4. As a class brainstorm some possible symbols to represent events or things that the Plains Native Americans would use in their stories. Possible examples could include, a buffalo, deer, hills, rain, fighting, the white man, etc... Draw these symbols and their meaning on the chalkboard.

5. Have the students pair up with another student, and give each group one paper sack. Demonstrate to the class how to cut the sack into two equal sections. On the chalk board, draw an outline of a buffalo skin. Have the students draw their own outline and then cut it out with scissors.

6. Have each of the students select an event that a Plains Native American would want to remember. The students are to draw on their buffalo hide a picture story telling about their pretend event.

7. When the students are finished gather them together according to their cooperative learning groups. Have each student "explain" their pictograph drawing to the rest of the students in their group. While they are doing this give each student a piece of beef jerky.


Observe how the students did by the kinds of stories they tell in their cooperative learning groups. The teacher could also collect the buffalo hides and make a bulletin board titled, "The Plains Native Americans and their Stories."