Buffalo-Hide Parfleche

Buffalo-Hide Parfleche lesson plan

Discover the timeless beauty of Native American designs. This parfleche is so contemporary!

  • 1.

    Find historic and contemporary information about the cultures of one or more of the Native American Plains Indians including the Sioux, Crow, and Blackfoot. Learn about their homes, foods, everyday life, transportation, and tribal governance. They used parfleches, or rawhide envelopes and boxes, to carry their belongings while following bison (often called buffalo) herds. What designs were common? Choose one or more of these distinctive patterns to duplicate on a replica of a parfleche.

  • 2.

    Cover your work area with newspaper. Carefully separate four large brown paper grocery bags where they are glued together. Measure and cut out four rectangles approximately 27 by 18 inches (69 by 46 cm) with Crayola® Scissors. Round the rectangle corners.

  • 3.

    Soak or spray the four sheets of paper with water. Gently crumple to squeeze out excess water. Use a Crayola Paint Brush or sponge to spread Crayola School Glue on each damp sheet. Layer one on top of the other, with print facing inward. Place heavy objects on top to flatten the bags. Dry.

  • 4.

    Fold the top of the layered bags down about 5 1/2 inches (14 cm). Fold the bottom up until it almost touches the top flap. Fold each side into the center to form two flaps. Place heavy objects on the parfleche to hold its shape.

  • 5.

    Decorate the outside of the parfleche with Crayola Crayons, using a colorful, authentic Plains Indian design.

  • 6.

    Punch holes on the top and bottom of each flap. Thread strings or ribbons through the holes to close the parfleche.


  • Students research information about the history and cultures of Plains Indians living in the United States, including how they transported their belongings as they roamed the Plains in search of bison.
  • Students identify distinctive Plains Indian geometric designs and patterns.
  • Students create a replica rawhide carrying pouch or parfleche using authentic designs.


  • The thunderbird allegory is also found in the mythology of Pacific Northwest and Northeastern tribes. Find out more about this powerful symbol, and its links to trickster folklore.
  • Parfleche combines two French words, parer (to deflect) and fleche (arrow). How do you think this traditional Plains Indian item came to have a French name?
  • Learn about the wide array of Native American symbols and designs and discover what they mean. How were they used on clothing, household items, and for rituals by various tribes and nations? Where have they been adopted for use today?