Flags: Symbols of People

Area 3: Native People in a Changing West 
Question: How did expanding westward affect tensions within different regions of the U.S.?

For a time in the 1920s a tipi painted with symbols served as a council house for the Arapaho Tribe at St. Michael’s Mission at Ethete, Wyo. Charles Sproul photo, Riverton Museum.

Lesson Plan Developed By 
Emily Petty, Arapahoe Elementary School

Grade Level 
Upper Elementary

Content Area(s) 
Social Studies 

Learning Objective(s)

  1. Students can describe symbols that represent different cultures.
  2. Students can compare and contrast the symbolism used for different cultures.

Click here to see a spreadsheet aligning Wyoming State Social Studies and Common Core Standards for this and other digital toolkits of Wyoming History.

One 45-minute class period

Materials Required 
2 sheets of Construction Paper 
Reading on Arapaho and U.S. flags 
Venn diagram 
Handout on Arapaho symbols and their meanings

Lesson Plan


Students will look at different sports team logos and mascots. Students will discuss: Why would the team have this as their mascot or logo?


  1. Students will be given the handout on flags. Students will read about the meaning of the Arapaho and U.S. flags.
  2. Students will use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the two flags. Students will discuss: What are the values represented in the flags? Why would these cultures want to represent these ideas and values in their flags? What values and ideas are important in our community? What values and ideas are important to you?
  3. Students will then be given instructions for the flag project. Students will choose two sheets of construction paper in the colors of their choice, cutting one of the sheets in half. Students will draw a symbol on one of the half sheets of construction paper, then cut out the design from that sheet and paste the cutout part onto half of the uncut sheet. Then they will paste the half-sheet from which the design has been cut out onto the other half of the uncut sheet. See example below.
  4. Students will write the symbolism of their flags on back.
  5. If time allows, students will share their symbolism of their flags with the class.


Exit Ticket: How can the flags represent different cultures?


Arapaho Flag

The Arapaho Flag was created in 1936 as a sign of respect and remembrance for the Arapaho war veterans. The three colors each have a different meaning and symbolism: Red is for the People. Black so the People will be strong and will not fear death. White represents knowledge to be passed on to the young. The seven stripes each represent one of the Seven Medicines of Life. The white triangle signifies the way one begins a prayer. "Hey-so-no-ne-hoe," which means, "Great Spirit, that's the way I want it." The circle in the exact center of the triangle is black on the bottom, because that's where the heart is. The top of the circle is red representing the human side, for our happiness, strength and sorrowful ways. The white line dividing the two spheres represents the Great Spirit so we will not forget who created us. The entire circle represents the world, the center of our lives. The Arapaho People approved and adopted the flag in 1956.

US Flag

The colors were deliberately chosen to represent a theme that our founding fathers felt was important to the building of our nation.

  • Red stands for courage, hardiness and bloodshed. Courage because our country is based on the courage of separating from what we once knew, courage of starting over, courage of fighting for our freedom. Hardiness because our founding fathers believed our country will outlast the land that we came from. Finally, blood shed to honor all those who lost their lives for our freedom and our country.
  • White stands for purity and vigilance: purity because our country is independent and is not corrupted by any other country. Vigilance because our country needs to be alert and careful in the choices we make.
  • Blue stands for justice and perseverance: justice because it is the basis of our country, and perseverance because although our nation is young, we will stand strong against all opposition.
  • The stripes represent the 13 colonies and the stars represent the 50 states.

Venn Diagram

Arapaho Symbols/Examples