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Naturally Educational » 5-6 (Kindergarten), 5-6 (Kindergarten), 6-8 (Early Elementary), 6-8 (Early Elementary), 9-11 (Elementary), 9-11 (Elementary), Featured, History and Culture » Native American Comanche Tribe-Inspired Hair Pipe Breastplate Kids Craft

Native American Comanche Tribe-Inspired Hair Pipe Breastplate Kids Craft

My son made this craft breastplate inspired by the hair pipe breastplates of the Plains Indians, originally introduced by the Comanche native tribe. Every year, the kindergartners at my kids’ primary school dress up as tribal peoples (Native Americans / American Indians) or pilgrims for their Thanksgiving party.

I look through some old photographs of native peoples in traditional dress with my kids and they decide what elements they want to recreate. My son was immediately interested in this breastplate (Photograph of Pablino Diaz, Kiowa, by Frank A. Rinehart, 1899). We learned that the hair pipe breastplate is not an ancient part of tribal dress, nor functional armor, but rather a symbol of wealth that the Comanche tribe made from the West Indian Conch shells brought to the plains through trade.

Before I dive into the kids’ craft version of the hair pipe breastplate, I want to acknowledge the need for sensitivity when making crafts from cultures that are not our own. I read a great piece about the ethical implications of cultural appropriation. My children and I always take care to do specific research and learn about the artifacts and objects. I make sure they know which tribal group or groups make or made this type of object and how it fit into their culture. We discuss how some objects (such as war bonnets) are particularly important in a ritual context and how the actual artisans would use different materials and techniques. At the children’s age level, I try to make sure they understand we are making a kids’ craft inspired by a part of a diverse, living culture.


  • dried ziti pasta noodles
  • beads
  • yarn
  • glue
  • scissors
  • feathers


1. Cut lengths of yarn long enough for the number of ziti noodles you are using (we used four) plus three additional inches.

2. Tie a bead at one end of the yarn, leaving at least an inch extra.

3. Add pasta and beads. Tie off at the end, again, leaving at least an inch.

4. Make as many strands as you desire, following the same pattern. Tie the ends of each together with another long strand of yarn. This will be the same yarn you use to tie the breastplate around the neck. You can also tie feathers to the bottom of the breastplate, if desired.

5. To provide more structure, glue the noodles to each other.

6. Tie around the neck and wear and share your new knowledge!

Educational Connections:

  • Science and Nature: What materials would native peoples have traditionally used to make their crafts?
  • History: The Comanche started using the hair pipe breastplate as a symbol of wealth during a time of economic trouble for the Plains Indians in the late 19th century.  Research the destruction of the plains buffalo and discuss how and why this negatively affected the native tribes.
  • Geography: On a map, locate the source of the West Indian Conch shells used to make the hair pipe beads, the port of New York, where the shells were shipped for ballast, and the location of the Comanche tribal lands in the late 19th century.
  • Culture: Learn more about the culture of the Plains Indian tribes, including the Comanche.
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Written by

Candace Lindemann, Yale, BA, Harvard Graduate School of Education, EdM, is an educational consultant and published writer. She enjoys new learning experiences with her children, ages 6 and 4 and 1.5.

Filed under: 5-6 (Kindergarten), 5-6 (Kindergarten), 6-8 (Early Elementary), 6-8 (Early Elementary), 9-11 (Elementary), 9-11 (Elementary), Featured, History and Culture · Tags: , ,

One Response to "Native American Comanche Tribe-Inspired Hair Pipe Breastplate Kids Craft"

  1. Elisha says:

    Thank you so much for your “thoughtfulness” when creating art inspired by indigenous people of the world. The project is delightful and I can’t wait to create it my elementary arts and humanities classes.

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