Tribal Shield

Tribal Shield lesson plan

How did the Plains Indians create and use their shields? Design a realistic replica of a Crow or Kiowa circular shield.

  • 1.

    What do you think about when you study North American Plains Indians? Is it bows and arrows? Shields were just as important to these Native Americans. Find pictures of these artifacts. Some shields were made from rawhide. This buckskin might have come from antelopes. They were more abundant than bison on the Plains at one time.

  • 2.

    Some shields were 3 feet (.9 m) in diameter. These big shields were placed side by side on the ground to form a protective barrier behind which Native American warriors could hide and fight.

  • 3.

    The Crow and Kiowa also created small circular shields. They were usually made of buffalo skins and painted with a design that the shield's creator dreamed. Warriors held ceremonies to make their shields. Shields were adorned with feathers, beads, bells, and dyed quills. Often shields were passed down through a family, because they were believed to protect people.

  • 4.

    Study what qualities specific animals have in Native American symbolism. Pick an animal that is important to you.

  • 5.

    Cover your art area with newspaper. Tear and crumple a circle of recycled brown paper grocery bag. Paint your shield with Crayola® Washable Multicultural Paint and a Paint Brush to make it look like tanned leather. Air dry flat.

  • 6.

    Spritz construction paper with water. Draw your protective animal with Crayola Washable Markers on the wet paper. Make the colors bold and strong. Air dry flat.

  • 7.

    Tear out your animal drawing around its edges if you like, or cut it with Crayola Scissors. Attach your animal to the shield with Crayola School Glue. Air dry flat.

  • 8.

    Punch holes in the shield. Tie on feathers, beads, and other decorative items with yarn.


  • Students examine the material culture of the Plains Indians.
  • Students learn about the role of shields for the Crow and Kiowa.
  • Students study animal symbolism as used by North America's indigenous people.
  • Students create a facsimile of a Plains Indian shield.


  • Identify the distinct tribes that are considered to be Plains Indians. Where did they originally live? How were they unique? Study the tribes' interrelationships before the arrival of the Europeans and how that changed after the Europeans' arrival.
  • Learn how skins are tanned to become leather. Compare the tanning processes used by the Plains Indians and the Europeans.
  • Find out where descendants of the Plains people live today. How are they trying to preserve their history and culture?