Buffalo were an important food source for Native American tribes living on the Great Plains. The hides were tanned for use as warm robes or other clothing. One way for children to simulate buffalo hide is to open the seams of brown paper bags, crumple and soak for about five minutes. Then wring out the bags, flatten and dry to make a variety of crafts.
Native Americans, such as the Arapaho, lived in tall, buffalo-hide houses called tipis. Children can make a Native American encampment of many decorated tipis from just brown paper bags and twigs. The tipi frame is made from four straight twigs about a foot long bound together near one end with yarn, string or a rubber band. Use one side of the twigs to create a template for the tipi walls on scrap paper. Cut out and lay the template on the brown paper bag. Trace the template four times with long edges touching then cut out around the outside. Cut a rounded door on the bottom of one triangle. Fold along pencil lines and cut off the top. Open up and decorate the other side. Lay twigs on tipi with bound ends protruding past the top. Tape three twigs on the fold lines. Wrap tipi around final twig and tape.
Buffalo hides were tanned with either the warm outer fur intact or removed by scraping. Children can replicate scraped and drying buffalo hides and add them to their Native American encampment. Help them lightly outline the hide on the paper bag with pencil. Tear out around the outline, flip over and decorate with a Native American design. Gather two twigs slightly longer than the hide. Glue the "arms" of the hide to the twigs and let dry. Children can lean the hides against their tipis.
You can use a decorated buffalo to teach children about various ways that Native Americans used buffalo hide. Children can draw, cut out and decorate a simple buffalo drawing with cutouts of other items that Native Americans made from buffalo, such as drums and tipis. Have them color a prairie scene on construction paper and glue on the buffalo or use the buffalo with their Native American encampment. Just add a cardboard wedge like those used with picture frames to make the buffalo stand up.
Indulge your child's love of noise-making with a Native American style drum. Simply drape the wet brown paper bag over the cut-off bottom of an empty, round oatmeal container. Gently tear the bag so it hangs over the bottom of the container by about 3 inches. Secure with a string or yarn wrapped tightly around the bag about 1 1/2 inches down. Let dry. Let your child decorate the paper bag drumhead. Try out different drumsticks, such as wooden spoons.
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