Great Plains Native Americans: Maria Tallchief Biography

Updated: 11/23/2020
Great Plains Native Americans: Maria Tallchief Biography
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Great Plains Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples of the Plains

Teacher Guide by Liane Hicks

The Great Plains and Canadian Prairies region is an extremely large region that stretches from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from Texas two thousand miles north through Canada. The region is mostly a flat and treeless grassland, and is temperate with warm summers and cold winters. One of the animals found in the plains is the bison, which is considered a sacred animal and very important to the peoples of the plains and greatly influenced the development of the rich culture and customs.

Indigenous Peoples of the Plains

Storyboard Description

Create a biography poster for a famous or influential Native American from the great plains region!

Storyboard Text

  • Maria Tallchief is considered one of the greatest dancers in the world. She holds many honors and awards, including the Kennedy Center Honors in 1996 for her lifelong contributions to American culture and the National Medal of Arts in 1999. She was given the name Wa-Xthe-Thomba by the Osage which means, "Woman of Two Worlds" and there is a statue of her, along with four other Native American ballerinas, in Tulsa, Oklahoma called the Five Moons. Maria Tallchief died on April 11, 2013, leaving a lasting legacy of creativity and resilience.
  • As a ballerina, Maria traveled all over the world. From 1947 to 1960, Maria was the first prima ballerina of the prestigious New York City Ballet. Tallchief was the first Native American to achieve this. She was also the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet. Tallchief danced in many famous productions such as Orpheus, Scotch Symphony, Miss Julie, Firebird and The Nutcracker. She was lauded for her grace, technical precision, musicality, and strength.After taking some time off for the birth of her daughter Elise in 1959, she returned to ballet and continued to dance until 1965, when she retired. Tallchief founded the Chicago City Ballet with her sister Marjorie in 1981.
  • Elizabeth Marie Tallchief was born on January 24, 1925, in Fairfax, Oklahoma. Her mother loved music and dance. Her father was Osage and had become wealthy from oil discovered on his land. From an early age, Maria excelled in the arts, inspired by the music and dancing of the Osage.At eight, her family moved to Los Angeles, California. Maria continued to study ballet and piano and at twelve, she chose to focus solely on dance. She began training at an elite ballet school under a famous Russian ballerina, Madame Nijinska. At 17, Maria moved to New York to pursue her dream of becoming a prima ballerina. She landed a role with the Russian ballet company, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, where she became a featured soloist.
  • 1925–2013-Elise Paschen,Maria Tallchief's daughter
  • “My mother was a ballet legend who was proud of her Osage heritage. Her dynamic presence lit up the room. I will miss her passion, commitment to her art and devotion to her family. She raised the bar high and strove for excellence in everything she did.”