The Story of the Seven Sisters

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

Lesson Plan Developed By 
Mike Redman, Arapaho language and culture teacher, St. Stephens Indian High School

Grade Level 
Grades 6-12

Content Area(s) 
Social Studies 
English Language Arts 

Learning Objective(s) 
1. Students will learn how to use the North Star to locate a directional path. 
2. Students will learn the Arapaho story of the seven sisters and how they escaped the bear.

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

One class period

Materials Required

Lesson Plan

This lesson allows students to discover how old technology works in a modern world, including finding north and therefore, how to make a compass. Students will learn the use of Arapaho words when constructing the drawing of the Big Dipper, and understand the role of the Big Dipper and other stars in stories, social songs, hand games and in other Native American uses.  

The Teacher should discuss how stories are intertwined into Arapaho culture. While learning  what the direction of North means to us Arapaho people, students will share knowledge of the Big Dipper. This allows them to feel and touch the “Big Dipper” and to get a closer look at the stars. Teachers will want to give background information of how the Seven Sisters story originated and, if possible, bring in a Tribal Elder at a later date to share his or her knowledge about how the star systems work in Arapaho lives.

Key Vocabulary

  • Big Dipper: Tebiiceso’o
  • Star(s): Ho3o’uu –
  • Little Dipper: Heecestebiiceso’o
  • Sky: Hono’
  • Night Sky: Tece’hono’
  • Story: Hoo3itoo
  • North Star: Nenowo3o’
  • Seasons: Heeneecxoooyei’oo
  • Fall: Ceenkoo’
  • Winter: Ceciini’
  • Spring: Beenii’owuuni’
  • Summer: Beniice’

Introduce students to the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper and the North Star.

Have students discuss what they already know about these constellations.

Have students read the Story of the Seven Sisters individually or in small groups. If it will help, read the story together in the whole class.

Reflect on how the “North Star” is used for navigation. Discussion could include landmarks and cairns—piles of rocks stacked up—tipi rings, natural land formations, rivers and creeks.  

Have students complete their drawings of the Big Dipper and the North Star by using some of the star symbols on Plate XXXVIII—pp. 160/186—of the handout on Arapaho symbols linked above.

Close by discussing any questions students might have. Have them turn in their drawings that map the stars.

For more discussion, have students read two more stories from the pdf of the book, Arapaho Songs and Prayers: the story of the Woman and the Porcupine, pp. 344-353, and the story of the Girl Who Becomes a Bear, pp. 376-381. How are they different from the Seven Sisters story? How are they similar?

Have students write, tell or draw the story of the Seven Sisters and its meaning.


The Story of the Seven Sisters

Long, long time ago when the Arapahos had the ability to speak to the four-legged animals, there were seven beautiful sisters who always gazed at the night skies, and stars. The sisters wondered how it would be if they were living amongst the stars. One day a bear was chasing the seven sisters and he wanted to marry one of them. But the sisters did not want a bear for a husband, they wanted a star for a husband! So, the bear became very angry, and  chased the seven sisters to the top of a mountain. The seven sisters ran away to the top of this mountain to get away from the mad bear. The bear became angrier because he could not climb the mountain, and so he scratched, and scratched his way up, but failed. (Hence the mountain is now called “Devil’s Tower”).

To this day you can still see the claw marks the mad bear left on the mountain. The seven sisters got stranded on the top of this mountain for a long time, and they turned into the stars and married the stars. To this day we can see the seven sisters up in the night sky which is now called the “Big Dipper.” The Seven Sisters now leave us with a safe guide to follow: Whenever we  get lost, the seven sisters will always show us the way home. Just look at the night sky.

Story by: Eileen Moss-Antelope

Resource 1
Handout on Arapaho symbols and their meanings

Resource 2
Selections from Arapaho Songs and Prayers, pdf.