Native Americans had a culture rich in art, story and song long before Europeans came to North American. They created elaborate bead work, paintings and decorated their clothing and homes. As the Europeans changed North America, Plains Indians retained many of their own skills, and borrowed materials and ideas from the Europeans. The result is a rich artistic culture, with many opportunities for student art efforts. Models might have to be adapted to available materials.
Native American artists who lived in the Plains area originally painted their work on buffalo hides, teepees and similar surfaces. But as the buffalo disappeared and the natives were restricted to certain areas, they used a readily available material to continue making art: old ledger books. Purchase or reproduce ledger pages for your child to use. Provide a book of Native American symbols, such as "Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies" by Robert Lake-Thom. Ask your child to draw a story using the symbols. Provide colored pencils and water color to color the pictures.
Beadwork was an important part of most plains tribes' dress and art. It was also sometimes used as a medium of exchange or barter. The beads were made of stone, shells, bone and even clay. When the Europeans arrived, the Native Americans traded for glass beads. They were strung on single strands of thread or gut or were embroidered onto surfaces in elaborate designs. Beads were even woven into a sort of fabric. Show your child how to draw a design on a piece of fabric, and then how to stitch beads onto it to create a picture design.
Blankets and Robes
Winters are cold on the Plains. Blankets and robes were important. When buffalo were plentiful, Native Americans used buffalo hides to make blankets. They also used rabbit skins sewn together to make soft robes. They learned the craft of quilting from the settlers, and made it into their own, creating beautiful star patterns. View pictures of quilts with your child. Cut diamond shapes from construction paper, and fit them together to create a "quilt" star design. Glue down the shapes to create a picture design.
Before the Spaniards came to the new world, the natives who lived on the Plains in the United States traveled on foot and carried their goods or used dogs to haul them. Acquiring horses from the Spaniards opened up a new world for them. They were able to move a larger amount of goods, and could construct large teepees that used long poles. Although the teepees belonged to the women of the tribe, the men spent many hours painting them with battle stories or other important events. Create a teepee model using dowel rods or craft sticks to form the base. Teepees used six to eight poles. Help your child set up the teepee starting with a simple tripod, then adding the other poles. Cover the poles with construction paper or cloth. Decorate the outside with Native American symbols or let your child paint his own story on it.
- USCD: Plains Indian Ledger Art Exhibit Has Library Ties
- Plains Indian Ledger Art
- Cherokee Basketry; M. Anna Fariello
- Thinkquest: Plains Indians Crafts
- Indians of Oklahoma; Donald B. Ricky
- Prairie Fire Newspaper: The History and Artistry of Plains Indian Beadwork
- A Guide to Contemporary Plains Indians; Michal Strutin
- Plains Indian and Mountain Man Arts and Crafts; Charles W. Overstreet
- Youtube: Beadwork of the Plains Indians
- Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies; Robert Lake-Thom
- Three Feathers Quilt Shop
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images