Native Americans in the Plains cultural group used a leather pouch called a “parfleche” to carry things. If you’re doing lessons on Native Americans generally, explain that the parfleche was used by some Native Americans, but not all. Generally, this was a great solution for Plains tribes, since it was made from leather and used on horses. Cultures that didn’t have those resources used other solutions.
- Students will learn where Plains Indians lived. We’re using the Osage as our example, but you might choose a group that lived in your area, or about whom you’ve been reading.
- Students will compare their own ways of meeting basic needs for transportation and food with those of the Plains Indians.
- Students will practice cutting, folding, lacing, and following directions.
- construction paper; various art supplies
- lengths of yarn
- dried foods (for example: raisins, jerky, coconut, dried squid from Asian markets, dehydrated vegetables for camping, astronaut ice cream)
- Cut parfleche shape for each student, or allow students to cut out the shape, from construction or Kraft paper. (Click on the word to find the pdf pattern.)
- Punch holes where holes are indicated
- Allow students to decorate their parfleches as they desire. Usually geometric designs were used. Study about the art of the Plains Indians with books like Sioux Quill and Beadwork or Native American Design. You may also find examples in area museums, as we did.
- Have students fold along lines as shown.
- Thread yarn through holes across the parfleche. Tie two bows to hold it closed.
- Show students that they can put things into the parfleche and carry them around that way, just as they carry things in their backpacks or lunch bags.
- Give background information on the cultural group you plan to study. We live in Missouri and Arkansas, so our example is the Osage. Explain that the Osage lived in Missouri and hunted in Arkansas many years ago. They didn’t live in Arkansas, but they came to hunt, just as your students do not live at the school, but they come to the school to learn. Ask students how they travel to school, and list answers. Ask students how they think the Osage might have traveled while they were in Arkansas. Accept answers like “on foot” or “on horses.”Just as the students need something to carry their lunches or their papers, the Osage needed something to carry their food and tools. They made parfleches from deer skin to carry their things.
- The word “parfleche” sounds like the English words “par” and “flesh” put together. Help the students practice saying the word.
- Ask the students about what they bring for their lunches. Explain that the Osage didn’t go home every night. They stayed in their hunting grounds for a long time. Some students may have gone hunting or camping. When the Osage stayed here to hunt, they didn’t build houses; it was more like camping. They did not grow fresh food, and they could not buy food at a store or restaurant, because there weren’t any. They also needed to carry the meat they caught a long way back to the villages where they lived. One way they made sure their food stayed good to eat was to dry the food.
- Place dried foods in separate dishes along the center of a table. Allow students to sample the foods and choose a few to put into their parfleches. This can be a good time to talk about sharing, and making sure to take just a little so everyone can have some, or you may choose to set rules allowing each student to take a certain number of pieces of each food
- Ask the students which foods they liked most, and chart the results.
- Once the students have eaten their foods, you can use the parfleche to hold writing practices. Let the students write letters on cutouts and put them into the parfleche. “O” for “Osage” would be a good choice, or they might figure out the starting letter of their favorite food and use that. Some students may be ready to use words rather than letters.
- Adapt the lesson for older students by having them write paragraphs on the satisfaction of basic needs in various cultures, on resourcefulness, or on safe food storage.