Lorna Loy, Brenda Beyal
Literature, Elementary English Language Arts, History, Social Studies
Material Type:
Lesson, Lesson Plan
Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
  • Lesson Plan
  • Myth
  • Native American
  • Paiute
  • Slide Show
  • Sovereignty
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Interactive, Text/HTML, Video

    Education Standards

    Why the North Star Stands Still: A Paiute Tale

    Why the North Star Stands Still: A Paiute Tale


    In this lesson, students will learn about the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah through a slide show presentation that helps students learn more about traditional vs. current ways of living, learning and governing. Each of these short descriptions help students to better understand that the Paiute people continue to thrive in Utah.

    Students will also listen to a Paiute Tale which is part of the Native American Indian Literacy Project and be able to use the book as an English Language Arts comprehension activity. The extensions and additional resources help the teacher to be aware of other ways that students can engage.  


    • Time Frame: 1 class period, 45-60 minutes
    • Format: Whole group
    • Cultural Consultants on the writing of the book: Karma Grayman, Dorena Martineau, Arthur Richard, Eleanor Tom, and Rita Walker
    • Adapted by LeeAnn Parker
    • Illustrated by Molly Trainor
    • Authors: Original lesson by Margaret Olderog, modified by Brenda Beyal

    Goals and Outcomes

    Students will:

    • Explore cultural influences of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah.
    • Be able to tell the difference between 5 tribal groups and 8 sovereign nations.
    • Identify how cultural knowledge was passed down from generation to generation.
    • Read a Paiute tale and share their connection to the tale.
    • Summarize the Paiute tale. 



    Background Knowledge

    Background Knowledge

    Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah


    The teacher needs to be familiar with the Paiute tale "Why the North Star Stands Still," theme of the story, purpose of traditional Native American tales, and be able to explain to the students that traditional storytellers used these stories not only for entertainment, but also to teach lessons about life through the characters and the consequences of their choices. The resource titled, "Native American Storytelling" gives a summary of storytelling that teachers can use to pick main points that they feel are important to teach to their students. 

    The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah (PITU) is part of the general Paiute Tribal group. The group lived in what is now Northern Arizona, southeastern Nevada, southern Utah and southeastern California. Today they are divided into federally recognized tribes in these states. PITU is one of the two Paiute Tribes whose tribal lands are within Utah, the other being the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe in southeastern Utah. 

    PITU's history of federal recognition is one that shows resilence and determination. Their history can be read on their  Tribal website. Please take the time to learn more about their fight for recognition. 

    Student Background Knowledge

    It would be helpful for the students to know the difference between tribal groups and Sovereign Nations. There are five tribal groups within Utah but eight sovereign nations. A video on UEN's website is helpful in teaching about the eight sovereign nations. 


    Lesson Preparation

    Initial Preparation

    • Preview the slide show and become familiar with the story, the character's problems and solutions. Determine how the students in your class might relate the story to their own experiences.
    • Be prepared to share information about the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah.
    • Read the background information about storytelling and its importance in Indigenous cultures. 

    Materials Needed

    • Digital copy of the Paiute tale, "Why the North Star Stands Still." 
    • Note-taking book or paper for taking notes if you would like the students to record their learning. 
    • Slide presentation, "Why the North Star Stands Still."
    • Any materials that would be used for extensions. 

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    Allow students to move closer to the screen for a better view of the slide presentation. Wear a microphone so all students can hear. 


    Lesson Procedure

    Vocabulary: gallant, trudged, eternal, summit


    Use the slide presentation below to teach the lesson. 


    • Art project- create a night sky and have students create creatures, rivers, mountains and valleys to represent the paragraph: "Long ago, the night skies were the hunting grounds of all kinds of creatures. There were rivers and mountains and valleys in the sky. There were creatures of the ocean, like fish and lobsters. There were creatures of the air, like birds. There were insects, horses, deer, bears and buffalo. They left trails across the sky. To the Paiute people, these animals were known as pootseev', or stars." 
    • Use the book as a springboard to learn about observabel patterns in the sky SEEd Strand 4.4:1, and 4.4.2.
    • Contact a local storyteller and invite them to you class. Contact can be made through the tribe, your district's Title VI Indian Education program, connections within your school community or through the Utah Division of Arts and Museum Culturall presenter/Teaching artist roster. Give yourself plenty of time to arrange for a storyteller. 


    Eleanor Tom- Paiute Storyteller





    Hold a discussion with the students about what they learned or experienced. Questions may include:

    What surprised you about the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah?

    How many recognized Paiute Tribes are within Utah? What are their names?

    Describe the traditional and curent form of governement the tribe has.

    What is tribal sovereignty?

    Summarize the story, "Why the North Star Stands Still."


    Additional Resources

    • Wintertime Native American Tales for Thrive125 is a video produced by Utah Humanities. Listen to Eleanor Tom tell a story at 20:00 about the Lazy Coyote first in Paiute and then in English. The other storytellers are also a wonderful addition to this lesson. 
    • Paiute Federal Recognition and Sovereignty- This lesson was created by the BYU ARTS Partnership Native American Curriculum Initiative in partnership with the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah to help students learn about the journey toward sovereignty.
    • Wuzzie Comes to Camp is a book written by Nancy Raven, Pauite. It is about the survival arts of the Paiute people and how they were able to survive hard conditions.               6464561