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FNSS Curriculum Integration Project Click here to download this lesson.
Marguerite Piper (MS-Word format.)

Grade: 4
Lesson 1: The Plains Indians - Buffalo Hunt
Time: 4 x 45 minutes

Topic: The Plains Indians' culture was almost entirely dependent upon the buffalo. This hunt lends itself well to a dramatic representation. This activity should help the children to internalize the hunt.

Rationale: The buffalo pound was one efficient way the Plains Indians hunted the buffalo. It is important for the students to understand how survival depended on group cooperation.

The students will be actively engaged in dramatization, interpretation, reading, writing, and discussion, activities that cater to different learning styles.

Materials and Resources
Activity 1:

  • Worksheet showing diagram of buffalo hunt
  • Paper, markers for drawing
  • Vocabulary list of key terms
  • Native People and Explorers of Canada, Daniel C.G. Conner and Doreen Bethune-Johnson, Prentice-Hall,1984
  • Materials for dramatization - pylons, rope, cloths, and blankets.

Activity 2:

  • large outline of buffalo with vocabulary
  • Smaller outline of buffalo with vocabulary
  • Index cards
  • Senior dictionaries

Activity 1:

  • Chute
  • Herd
  • Trapped
  • Fence
  • Surround
  • Pound
  • Shout
  • Whoop
  • Wave
  • Stampede
  • Crouch
  • Arrows
  • Tribe
  • Camouflage
  • Creep
  • Signal

Activity 2:

  • Hair
  • Horns
  • Teeth
  • Sinew
  • Hoof
  • Ribs
  • Bones
  • Bladder
  • Tail
  • Rawhide

Main Concept
The students will form an understanding through discussion of the efficient way in which the Plains Indians hunted and used the buffalo.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Social Studies: Describe how people's basic needs were met in a different culture.
  • Economy and Technology: Describe traditional technology used by Aboriginal people.
  • Drama: Demonstrate co-operative effort in dramatic work.

Planned Learning Activities
Activity 1:

  1. Students are each given a list of vocabulary words applicable to the buffalo pound hunt, as well as a diagram of the hunt in progress. They then use their inference skills to determine what the event was and how it took place. Students write down notes and try to individually complete their legend in the diagram in pencil.
  2. Discuss in small groups and share ideas.
  3. Each group presents their view to the class.
  4. Individually read pp. 172-3 of Native People and Explorers of Canada.
  5. Make changes to their diagram to correct and complete the legend.
  6. Dramatic representation of the buffalo hunt. Each part is written ahead of time on a card and students draw from a hat. (The materials could include: rope circle on the floor depicting enclosure and chute, pylons representing the stone cairns that the women hide behind, hunters wearing light blankets over themselves to depict the wolves, women and children behind cairns waving cloths, hunters gathered around the perimeter of the pound pretending to fire arrows, buffalo)
  7. Students will write their description of the hunt to accompany their diagram. They will have access to the vocabulary list, but not the textbook. They should also be aware of the marking criteria (see attached rubric).

Activity 2:

  1. Show the children a large outline of a buffalo and discuss. The diagram includes labels for the hair, horns, teeth, sinew, hooves, ribs, bones, bladder, tail, and rawhide.
  2. Hand out a smaller copy of the same buffalo outline to groups of four. Without using their textbooks, the children brainstorm what the Plains Indians could have used the parts for. Under each part named, children are to write down or draw what they think the part may have been used for. They then write them on small index cards.Groups, in turn, come up and place their cards where they think they belong on the large buffalo outline and explain their choices.
  3. Individually read pp. 176-181 of Native People and Explorers of Canada.
  4. Students regroup and compare the chart on p. 180 of their textbook with their group chart.

Assessment / Evaluation
Activity 1:

  • Observation: Was the student involved in the discussion, group activities, and individual activities? What knowledge did the student demonstrate about the technology used in the hunt? Can the student explain how the people worked together to kill the buffalo? Did the student realize the importance of the buffalo, in terms of both a food source and the basis of the Plains Indians cultures?
    *It is important to assess the student's understanding through conversation with him/her, eavesdropping on group conversation, and seeing how the child performs in the drama.
  • Worksheets: The worksheet will be assessed on a four-point scale. The rubric is provided.
    *Grade 4 students need practice writing simple descriptive paragraphs. This assignment would only be given after they have learned how to construct a paragraph and have had some practice writing them.
  • Effort: Was the student engaged in the activities? Did the student participate co-operatively in the dramatic reenactment?

Activity 2:

  • Observation: How well did the students cooperate with others in the group?
    Did the student participate in class discussions?
    Did the student participate in the buffalo diagram activity?
  • Worksheet: The worksheet will be assessed on a four-point scale. The rubric is provided.
  • Effort: Was the student engaged in the activities? Did the student participate co-operatively in the dramatic representation?


  • The textbook, Native People and Explorers of Canada has such a list of buffalo parts and their uses, and an even more detailed list is in Tom Mall's book, The Mystic Warriors of the Plains, 1972.
  • Students investigate other methods of hunting buffalo (i.e. buffalo jump, on snowshoes in winter, on horseback).
  • Teacher reads the first-hand account of a buffalo hunt written by Black Elk, a Holy man among the Oglala Sioux tribe, in Becoming Brave: The Path to Native American Manhood by Laine Thom.

Integration Opportunities

  • draw buffalo pound hunt in progress.
  • create models with paper mache or plasticene


  • Find out how what buffalo ate and how they processed their food
  • Find out how the buffalo were able to survive harsh winters

Language Arts:

  • Read and/or listen to legends of the Plains Indians about the importance of the buffalo

Resources and Supplementary Material

  1. Native Peoples, Robert Livesey and A.G. Smith, Stoddard, 1994 (Contains descriptions of other methods of hunting buffalo at a grade 4 reading level)
  2. Becoming Brave: The Path to Native American Manhood, Laine Thom, Raincoast Books, 1992 (Contains a first-hand account of a bison hunt and large, colour photographs of artifacts and old photographs of hunters)
  3. Plains Indians and Mountain Man: Arts and Crafts, Charles W. Overstreet, Eagle View, 1993. (Contains directions for making Plains Indian crafts)

Summative Criteria

Criteria Ratings Comments
Understands the process of the hunt, giving details of roles.