Plains Indians

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The Plains Indians were those tribes of Native Americans who lived on the Great Plains of North America. At the height of their cultures, their main source of food was the large herds of buffalo. Hunting was not only the main activity of Plains Indians but was a central part of their religion.Their thinking and culture was formed from the natural environment they lived in. Up to the 1500s, tribes lived on the edges of the Great Plains. They were farmers and hunter-gatherers. From autumn to spring they raised crops. During the summers they went out onto the great plains to hunt buffalo on foot.

Juan de Oñate and other conquistadores brought horses, which changed the way the plains indians hunted. They quickly adapted to hunting buffalo on horseback as nomadic hunters. It began with the Apache who stole horses from the Spaniards. Horses also escaped into the wild. The Comanche soon followed and both tribes based their wealth and power on the horse. Horses were traded to or captured by other tribes and by the mid 1700s most plains indians had one or more horses. The next advance came from the British who brought guns to North America. The British also pushed many of the Eastern Woodlands tribes onto the Great Plains. After the 1850s, the horse culture of the plains indians ended as tribes were moved to Indian reservations.

Tribes[change | change source]

Tribes of the Great Plains included:

  • The Arapaho
  • The Blackfoot
  • The Comanche
  • The Cheyenne
  • The Crow
  • The Kiowa
  • The Kitsai
  • The Missouria (or Niúachi)
  • The Mandan
  • The Omaha
  • The Osage
  • The Otoe
  • The Pawnee
  • The Saulteaux (or Plains Ojibwe)
  • The Plains Cree
  • The Plains Apache (also called the Kiowa Apache)
  • The Ponca
  • The Quapaw (or Arkansas and Ugahxpa)
  • The Sarcee
  • The Sioux (Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota)
  • The Tonkawa
  • The Wichita

Western movies[change | change source]

Buffalo Bill Cody featured plains indians in his Wild West shows beginning in the 1880s. When Hollywood began making movies, the western was a favorite topic. They introduced the plains indians as the stereotypical Native American indian to the entire world. When most people see a typical western, the indians they see are usually plains indians.


  • Great Plains American Indian Facts
  • Indians of the Great Plains; YouTube