The Plains Indians were a large group of Native Americans that occupied much of North America. There were several tribes that were part of the Plains Indians including the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians. The Plains Indians built their villages near lakes and rivers where water was not only easily accessible, but the land was most fertile. Prior to the Europeans arriving in North America, the Plains Indians had no horses and so traveled on foot.
The Plains Indians lived in log shelters and lean-tos and sometimes wigwams. Teepees were built when the tribe would go hunting, usually before the winter. Teepees were easy to erect and then take down, making excellent shelter for traveling. The Plains Indians believed in a Great Spirit responsible for all living things. They hunted small game, deer and antelope for food and ate fruit as they could find. Men were responsible for the hunting, while women performed much of the work done in the villages.
Depending largely on not just the food, but the bi-products of the buffalo, the Plains Indians made clothing, shelter, and many daily use items from the hide of buffalo. Deerskin was also used for clothing. The clothing of the Plains Indians was simple, but ornamental. Men and older boys wore breech clouts, or a flaps of hide held on with a belt. The men would wear high boots made of deerskin in the winter and wrapped hides around them like shawls to keep warm. Women and young girls wore straight, sleeved dresses also made from animal skin. Though young girls wore plain dresses, women often added beaded ornamentation to theirs.
The Plains Indians were a large part of the trading economy after the arrival of the white man. However, at the onset of the gold rush, many of the Plains Indians were pushed off their land until they were finally confined to reservations designated by the government.
Joseph Paige © 2006