Chapter 18: The Tall Indian

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Kimberly Anthony, 3rd grade teacher, Fong Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: In chapter 18 the wind begins to die out at last, but the feeling of autumn is arriving. The Indians have been traveling on the path frequently. One day, an Indian appears at the Ingalls' doorstep. He did not speak but was very kind and Pa shared some of his tobacco with the Indian. The Indian left thankful for Pa's kindness. The next day, another Indian was seen on a pony in the road, ready to shoot Jack for barking viciously in his path. On a different day when Pa was hunting, two greedy Indians barreled into the Ingalls' home and rummaged through the cupboards, taking whatever they pleased. They almost took the fur that Pa used for trading and the seeds for next years crops, but dropped them at the last minute. Pa was grateful that they left these things. That night he took out his fiddle and Ma sang a soft tune about an Indian woman. Laura awakens and listens to the music. She has important questions: "Why do the Indians all go west?" "Will the government make these Indians go west?" and most importantly "Won't the Indians be mad since this is Indian Territory?" Pa tells her to go to sleep.

Chapter Themes: Good and Bad Indians, Indian "Removal" (forcing the Indians further and further west), trading furs, playing the fiddle, Osage Indians

Chapter Activities
  • Language Arts
    • "Create an Osage Biopoem"
      • In Chapter 18, Ma sings a poem about an Indian girl as Pa plays the fiddle. There are lots of different kinds of poems. Teach students about the structure of a biopoem. Have students write a biopoem about the tall Indian. If they need more information, they can use the internet to search about Osage Indians. Students can publish their poems when they are finished.
        Use the website to teach students about the biopoem format:
        • Write responses to literature, drawing upon experiences.
        • Identify correct usage: verb tense, pronoun case, subject-verb agreement, irregular plurals, and comparative and
          superlative adjectives.
        • Use library resources, media, and technology to find information on a topic.
    • "Create a skit"
      • We learn about Osage Indians in chapter 18. Have students imagine that they are Laura and met the tall Indian again while outside one afternoon. What conversation might they have? What might Laura ask the Indian? What might she ask about the government? How might the Indian respond? Students should create a skit between Laura and the Indian with a partner to perform for the class.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Draw conclusions about text and support them with textual evidence
        • Use specific vocabulary, and apply standard English to communicate ideas.
        • Make inferences about setting, character traits; predict plot and verify.
  • Mathematics
    • "Off To the Market"
      • We learn about the furs that Pa has saved to use for trading. He has fur from wolves, foxes, muskrats, beavers, minks, and rabbit. Have students create hypothetical word problems about a trip to the market. They should create 10 word problems addressing different operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. When finished, they can trade papers with a partner and solve each others problems.
            • primary example: Pa went to town and sold 3 fox furs and 10 rabbit furs. How many furs did he sell in all?
            • intermediate example: Pa went to town and sold 3 fox furs for $5.25 apiece. how much money did Pa make?
      • Standards Addressed
        • Generate and solve two-step addition and subtraction problems and one-step multiplication problems based on practical situations.
        • Add and subtract decimals using money as a model.
        • Model addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a variety of ways.
        • Read, write, and use money notation.
        • Pose questions that can be used to guide data collection, organization, and representation,
    • "Take a Pet Poll"
      • Jack is a loyal pet. His life is put in danger when he becomes loose in the road. He is almost shot by an Indian. He is always trying to protect the Ingalls family. Have students take a poll and keep track using tally marks: What kinds of pets do you have at home? After the data is collected, have students figure out different ways to show that data using pictographs, bar graphs, line graphs, charts, etc. Have students compare their methods. Display the pictures to demonstrate that the information can be displayed in numerous ways. If time allows, have students create their own questions to pose to the class and use a different method this time to represent their data.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Use graphical representations, including number lines, frequency tables, and pictographs to represent data.
        • Pose questions that can be used to guide data collection, organization, and representation.
  • Social Studies
    • "Osage Chautauqua"
      • Students should research the Osage Indian tribe (in chapter 18, a kind Osage Indian came into the Ingalls home). What did they look like? What did they wear? Where did they live? What were they known best for? Students should plan a 5 minute Chautauqua presentation telling a story about their tribe. Students should plan to dress the part (to some degree) and use some Osage language. Students can prepare a script in advance. Use and other websites as a resource.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Identify some Native American cultures (Osage Indians)
        • Identify appropriate resources for historical information
        • Understand the importance of a primary source.
    • "Write an Alternative Ending"
      • Chapter 18 ends when Pa abruptly tells Laura to go to sleep. She has questions about the Indians. She wants to know if they will be mad that the government is making them move west when the land is 'Indian Territory'. Laura understands that the land belonged to the Indian's first. Find out how the Indians really felt about moving west. Write an alternative ending to the chapter in which Pa answers Laura's questions. Do you think Laura felt the way Pa did or do you think she felt sorry for the Indians? What else might Laura want to know?
      • Standards Addressed
        • Identify appropriate resources for historical information
        • Ask history related questions
  • Science
    • "Create an Instrument like Pa's Fiddle"
      • In chapter 18, Pa plays the fiddle as Ma sings about an Indian girl. Have students work in teams to create a musical instrument to use as they perform the song that Ma sang. Ideas students make chimes with a coat hook and keys, an xylophone with wine glasses and water, a guitar with a shoe box and rubber bands, a rain stick with cardboard and household items, kazoo with toilet paper tubes, and lots of other ideas at
      • Standards Addressed
        • Students will know the wave characteristics of sound
        • Students know vibrations (e.g., sounds) move at different speeds in different materials, have different wavelengths, and set up wave-like disturbances that spread away from the source uniformly.
    • "Good vs. Bad"
      • The Ingalls enounter four different Indians in this chapter. The first is very kind, the second tries to kill their dog, and the last two are greedy thieves. Have students choose two tribes (one that is known to be kind, and one that has a bad reputation). Create a compare and contrast chart. Discuss their physical characteristics. Discuss reasons why the tribes differ so much, especially their reputations.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Students know how to observe and describe variations among individuals within the human population.
        • Students know some behaviors are learned, not inherited.
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Theme: The Osage Indians (the "tall Indian")

The Osage Indians are mentioned in Chapter 18. They are a tribe from the United States. One Osage Indian appeared on the Ingalls' doorstep and was kind to the family as Mr. Ingall offered him some tobacco. The tribe is based out of Oklahoma, but are found all over the country.
Early settlers who encountered the tribe described them as the largest native people on the continent. An average Osage Indian was over 6 feet tall. This would explain the title of chapter 18. The men were so large that neighboring tribes feared them.
Most of the Osage tribe migrated and lived by the Missouri River as early as 1673. The tribe regularly hunted deer, rabbit, and other wild game. They grew corn, squash, and other vegetables. Also near their village they grew nuts and berries. This may be surprising to some because the Osage tribe does not resemble a typical Native American tribe.
The Osage Tribe established a good relationship with the French, opening the doors for fur trading even further. This may be where they received a kind reputation as displayed in Chapter 18.
In Lewis and Clark's Adventure, the pair encountered the Osage tribe which then had a population of about 5,000. By the early 1800s, the tribe began signing treaties with the US government and little by little lost most of their land. They were finally reduced to a reservation by 1870.
In later years, the tribe bought land from the US to make their own reservation which made them the only tribe ever to buy their own reservation. After purchasing the land, they stumbled upon a vast supply of oil in their reservation, allowing the tribe to prosper at last. Those who benefitted became the "richest people in the world". Unfortunately, others became rich off this land as well when the tribes' limited knowledge of this situation was taken advantage of.
Today, there are over 10,000 Osage Indians living in the United States. There is a museum in Oklahoma, which is the oldest tribal museum in the country, that tells the story of the Osage tribe.

Additional Resources


Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

You may consider preparing students for the skit by having a discussion and doing research on native tribes of the region. It's important that students gain both perspectives.

Consider expanding your pet poll to include individuals outside of the class. This will increase your numbers and you can bring in technology by using tools like Zoomerang ( - a free online tool) or InspireData ( - a tool made for just this purpose).

Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

Oops - I accidentally posted before finishing reading...

I LOVE that you have students research the natives throughout the chapter activities! Be careful, though, will the word "reputations."

When teaching about musical instruments, add in a lesson on sound waves. You can use Audacity ( so students actually see the waves, or you may have them play the one of the Magic School Bus software games on sound (