Lesson Plan

Circles in the Snow

Two tipis in the snow
The nomadic Plains Indians had a portable home. It was a


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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Sixth Grade
American Indian History and Culture, Geography, History, Military and Wartime History, Social Studies, Westward Expansion
30 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24
National/State Standards:
Oklahoma Social Studies PALS
Grade 4 United States Studies Regional Geography and History- Process and Literacy: Skills Stand 3


Two worlds collided on a harsh and cold November day in 1868 in western Oklahoma. In a moment, all was chaos as the charging troopers of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's 7th U.S. Cavalry came splashing across the frigid Washita River into the sleeping Cheyenne camp of Peace Chief Black Kettle.


- To be able to identify a tipi ring and explain what it means.

- To tell the story of what happened to two Cheyenne women in Black Kettle's camp during the November 27, 1868 attack.

- After reading the selected texts, students will be able to critically analyze and discuss why the soldier chose to disobey orders.


Before wooden pegs were used, Plains Indians would place stones around the bottom of their tipi cover to hold it down. These stones prevented blasts of the cold winter winds, sleet and snow from blowing inside. When it was time to break camp and before the tipi was taken down, these stones were rolled away from the bottom edge of the cover and a "tipi ring" or "tipi footprint" was left on the ground.

These nomadic Indians were hard to find in the harsh environment of the Great Plains. They were masters at leaving no trace upon the land. If you were an Army scout, it was challenging work tracking the Indians or to figure out where they had made camp. But, if you were very good and chanced upon a ring of stones on the ground, you would have known that -at one time- Indians had camped on that spot.

If you had happened upon the village of Peace Chief Black Kettle. a few days after November 27, 1868, you would have noticed charred tipi rings lying along the banks of the Washita River.

What story did these tipi rings tell? On November 27, 1868, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer attacked the sleeping Cheyenne village of Peace Chief Black Kettle. The camp was completely surprised and everyone ran for their lives, including two Cheyenne women, Moving Behind and her aunt Cornstalk Woman.

The soldiers' orders were very clear that terrible day- burn the camp and everything in it to the ground, take all the women and children captive and kill all the horses.




The teacher will be able to assess learning by listening to each student as they explain the reasons for what they wrote on the sticky note.

Park Connections

One of the more poignant stories to come out of the November 27, 1868 story of the Battle of the Washita is the one about Cornstalk Woman and her niece, Moving Behind.

Harvey Pratt's painting hangs in the park visitor center. It shows the moment when Moving Behind and her aunt are discovered by one of Custer's troopers on that fateful day. The story is also referred to at stop #13 on the park's self-guided interpretive trail.


Additional Resources

"Some Reminiscences of the Battle of the Washita" Theodore A. Ediger and Vinnie Hoffman. The Chronicles of Oklahoma. Summer 1995, Vol. 33, Number 2. pp. 137-141.

Goble, Paul. 2007. The Home of the Nomadic Buffalo Hunters. World Wisdom, Inc.



Enviroment, nomads, charred, lodge, tipi, court martial.

Last updated: February 24, 2015