Plains Indians


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The Plains Indians are the Indigenous peoples who live on the plains and rolling hills of the Great Plains of North America. Their equestrian culture and resistance to domination by Canada and the United States have made the Plains Indians an archetype in literature art for American Indians everywhere. Plains Indians are usually divided into two broad classifications which overlap to some degree. The first group became fully nomadic and dependent upon the horse during the 18th and 19th centuries, following the vast herds of buffalo, although some tribes occasionally engaged in agriculture; growing tobacco and corn primarily. These include the Blackfoot, Arapaho, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Lakota Sioux, Lipan, Plains Apache (or Kiowa Apache), Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwe, Sarsi, Nakoda (Stoney), and Tonkawa.

The second group of plains Indians includes the aboriginal peoples of the Great Plains, as well as the Prairie Indians who come from as far east as the Mississippi River. These tribes were semi-sedentary, and, in addition to hunting buffalo, they lived in villages, raised crops, and actively traded with other tribes. These include the Arikara, Hidatsa, Iowa, Kaw (or Kansa), Kitsai, Mandan, Missouria, Omaha, Osage, Otoe, Pawnee, Ponca, Quapaw, Wichita, and the Santee, Yanktonai and Yankton Sioux. (Wikipedia)

How the name “Plains Indians” was conceived

The Plains Indians got their name because they lived among the Great Plains of the United States. This vast expansion of land extended all the way from Mississippi to the mountains of Canada. In order to survive, the Plains Indians hunted buffalo as their main source of food. They would typically surround the buffalo on horse, until the group of Indians drove it to run off of a cliff. At that point, the buffalo would be dead and ready for consumption. Not only was hunting an integral part of Plains Indians’ life, religion was as well.

The worship of the Great Spirit was key to their beliefs. A dance performed called the Sun Dance was a way to show respect and love for their God. This dance would often take place over the span of four days; much of it spent staring up at the sun.  (

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