Native Americans
Native Americans: The Plains Area (Grades 4 to 6)

Native Americans: The Plains Area (Grades 4 to 6)
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.16

     challenging words:    dog-drawn, earthen, nomadic, shinny, solidarity, tepee, ritual, shaggy, dome-shaped, entertainment, therefore, originally, traditional, sacred, social, sedentary
     content words:    Plains Area, North America, Mississippi River, Rocky Mountains, Native Americans, Grass Dance, Native American, Sun Dance, Plains Indians

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Native Americans: The Plains Area
By Jennifer Kenny

1     The Plains area (or region) of North America stretches from the Canadian border to Texas. Its grasslands are located between the Mississippi River and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This region is 2,000 miles long and 500 miles wide. It covers over a half-million square miles. In 1800, there were 150,000 people and 60 million buffalo in the Plains.
2     A small portion of the Native Americans there were sedentary tribes. They settled along river valleys and became farmers. They lived in permanent villages of dome-shaped earth lodges surrounded by earthen walls. The earth lodges protected the people from the intense summer heat and the bitter winter cold. These tribes raised corn, squash, and beans. Women cooked food around a fire in the lodge.
3     Most of the Native Americans in this area, however, were constantly on the move. They were the nomadic tribes. They traveled about with a dog-drawn travois. A travois is a frame of two long spruce poles covered with rawhide and fixed to a saddle on an animal. It carried the tribe's household goods. The men walked ahead in small groups with their weapons always ready. The mothers carried the babies on their backs. The holy woman, a religious leader, performed rituals, which the Native Americans believed would bring success to the hunters.
4     The nomadic tribes lived their lives following the buffalo (or bison). A bison had a huge, shaggy head, a thick shoulder hump, and short legs. It was big and brown. It could be as much as six feet tall. It weighed ten times more than the average man. It grazed on grass peacefully, but it was known to stampede suddenly as well.
5     The men would hunt the buffalo several ways. Alone, a hunter might disguise himself as a wolf and get close enough to shoot it with a bow and arrow. When several hunters were together, though, they would force large numbers of them into enclosures or round them up by setting fires. They also stampeded hundreds of buffalo off cliffs. When the Spanish introduced the horse to this area in the 18th century, it really improved the hunting of the buffalo.
6     After the hunt, the tribe enjoyed some fresh meat. Then the women dried some of the meat for later, when the fresh meat was gone. They also cleaned the hides, scraped the horns, and used the buffalo hair to weave.
7     The Native Americans in the Plains region carried portable tepees for their living quarters. A tepee was made from a cone of long poles (up to 20 of them) covered with buffalo hides sewn together. It took two women one hour to put up. It was 15 feet in diameter. It housed a family, their bedding, and their belongings. It was painted with traditional designs. A smoke flap could be adjusted to keep heat in or air out. It was, therefore, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The tepee door faced east because east was believed to be the source of light and knowledge.
8     When they weren't hunting or moving, families liked to play together. One special game was shinny. There were two teams. Each carried sticks. The idea was to get the ball past the other team's goalposts. The players could bat or kick but they could not touch the ball with their hands.
9     Another form of entertainment was dancing. The Grass Dance, for example, was a dance that spread throughout the Plains tribes in the 1800s. It was originally an Omaha ritual that recalled men's war courage. It later became a social dance complete with songs and costumes. The Grass Dance remains a symbol of Native American solidarity.

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