Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this social studies lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 5-9, students will use BrainPOP resources (including a Cheyenne Odyssey online game) to explore how the lives of the Cheyenne American Indian tribe changed over time. Students will explore daily life before the reservation period and learn how violent conflict broke out between the Plains Indians and the U.S. government in the 1860s and 1870s. They will also explore the strategies that the Plains Indians used to survive and adapt to the expansion of the United States.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Learn the story of America and the ways Americans struggled to realize the ideals of liberty and equality.
  2. Understand the role of ordinary men and women—including young people—in history.
  3. Develop historical thinking skills that increase historical understanding and critical perception.
  4. Identify the buffalo era of Plains Indians as one era in Northern Cheyenne history, and understand that the tribe has adapted to new circumstances while maintaining its culture.
  5. Describe the transformations caused by US government policies and westward settlement on Plains Indians in the mid-19th century, and how the Northern Cheyenne fought to maintain their homelands and culture.


This lesson plan utilizes an online game from THIRTEEN called Mission US: A Cheyenne Odyssey. The game is part of a larger series of games  which immerses students in US history through interactive role-playing experiences. In “A Cheyenne Odyssey,” students take on the role of Little Fox, a Northern Cheyenne boy whose life is changed by the encroachment of white settlers, railroads, and military expeditions in the 1860s and 1870s. As buffalo diminish and the US expands westward, players experience the Cheyenne’s persistence through conflict and national transformation. During game play, students must regularly decide on various actions to take.

Gameplay data will be saved locally to your computer via cookies (without a login), so students will need to complete the game on the same computer on which they started. To play the full version of the game, which allows students to save their gameplay data online and continue playing anywhere, anytime, register for a free Mission US account to play “A Cheyenne Odyssey” on the Mission US website.

“A Cheyenne Odyssey” contains a significant amount of informational text and covers sensitive topics of Plains Indian-white settler conflict, so we strongly recommend that you play through the game to make sure that both the text and the content are appropriate for your students. Visit the Mission US: Cheyenne Odyssey Educator Guide webpage to learn more about the game and download related curriculum and activities. Portions of this lesson plan have been adapted from the educator guide.

It's also recommended that your students have some background knowledge about the Plains Indians and general information about how Native American life has changed over time. BrainPOP's American Indians movie can be a useful tool for this. We recommend using this lesson plan and the game in the middle of your unit or at the end as part of a culminating activity.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Play the Prologue at the beginning of the Mission US: “A Cheyenne Odyssey” Game to remind students of how the lives of the Cheyenne were changing in 1866, and lntroduce students to the characters and basic plot of the game. You may want to introduce the characters and let students see where to access this information later on as needed.
  2. Tell students that during game play, they will take on the role of Little Fox and help the tribe survive. Allow at least 20 minutes for students to complete Part 1 of the game, either independently or with a partner.
  3. Talk with students about what they learned and experienced during game play. What was daily life like for the Plains Indians before their confinement on reservations? You may want to have students keep a journal to help them reflect as they advance through the game. Encourage students to jot down any unfamiliar vocabulary and make connections to prior knowledge.
  4. Allow students to continue exploring the game over the course of several class periods (and/or at home) for a total of approximately 90 minutes. Encourage students to earn badges during game play in the two categories, Values and Skills. The Value Badges correspond to four qualities that are recognized in Cheyenne culture: Bravery, Crazy, Generosity, and Wisdom. Students can achieve up to level three in all of the badges. The Skill Badges reflect specific skills that were important for Cheyenne men during this time: Archery, Riflery, and Horse Sense. An English badge can also be earned for language learning during game play.
  5. As they complete each portion of the game, have students explore and reflect on essential questions such as: Why did violent conflict break out between the Plains Indians and European-Americans in the 1860s and 1870s? How did each side understand and respond to this conflict? What strategies did the Cheyenne and other Plains Indians use to survive and adapt to the expansion of the United States? How did Cheyenne children determine their future paths and roles in their communities? You may want to refer to the Educator's Guide to find activities that have been created specifically for each part of the game, including review questions, vocabulary activities, document-based activities, and writing prompts.
  6. As part of your assessment, you can have students play the Think Fast! About the Past portion of the game, which asks them questions about Cheyenne life, Plains Indian history, and westward expansion in a timed five-minute quiz.
  7. Students can use the Character and Scene Printables and Primary Source Collection to extend the game play experience. They can use the graphics and primary source documents to create a multi-media presentation (such as a digital poster or video) to re-enact an important principle or event that was referenced during game play, or to develop an extension activities that further examine topics introduced in the game.