The Shoshone in Wyoming had horses by about 1700 and the Blackfoot people, the most northerly of the large Plains tribes, acquired horses in the 1730s. By 1770, that Plains Indians culture was mature, consisting of mounted buffalo-hunting nomads from Saskatchewan and Alberta southward nearly to the Rio Grande.
What kind of Indians lived in the Great Plains?
The ancestors of living Native Americans arrived in what is now the United States at least 15,000 years ago, possibly much earlier, from Asia via Beringia. A vast variety of peoples, societies and cultures subsequently developed.
The Plains Wars were neither solely the product of U.S. encroachment on native lands nor the result of Native American aggression; rather, they were fueled in large measure by both sides’ understanding of military action as a legitimate means of securing policy goals.
Starting around A.D. 1200, tribes from the north, east, and southeast regions of what’s now the United States and the Canadian prairies moved to this area to hunt bison for food, shelter, tools, and clothing.
The Plains Indians lived in the area from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to Mexico. The most important tribes were the Sioux, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, and Comanche.
The word Indian came to be used because Christopher Columbus repeatedly expressed the mistaken belief that he had reached the shores of South Asia. Convinced he was correct, Columbus fostered the use of the term Indios (originally, “person from the Indus valley”) to refer to the peoples of the so-called New World.
A bloody end The Plains Indian Wars ended with the Wounded Knee massacre on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. On December 29, 1890, the U.S. Army slaughtered around three hundred Native Americans, two-thirds of them unarmed elderly, women, and children.
These include the Arapaho, Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Lakota, Lipan, Plains Apache (or Kiowa Apache), Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwe, Sarsi, Nakoda (Stoney), and Tonkawa.
There were more than 30 separate tribes, each with its own language, religious beliefs, customs, and way of life. They were as culturally varied as the European immigrants who settled the North American continent. Some of these tribes were mobile, ranging over a large region in pursuit of bison.
The Plains Indians who did travel constantly to find food hunted large animals such as bison (buffalo), deer and elk. They also gathered wild fruits, vegetables and grains on the prairie. They lived in tipis, and used horses for hunting, fighting and carrying their goods when they moved.
Thus the speakers of Algonquian languages included the Blackfoot, Arapaho, Atsina, Plains Cree, and Saulteaux (Plains Ojibwa), all in the northern Plains, while Cheyenne, also an Algonquian language, was spoken in the central Plains.
Sometime around the early 1700s, they migrated eastward across the Rocky Mountains to settle in the Black Hills. During this period, they acquired horses from trade with the Missouri tribes. With the increased mobility that horses granted, they adopted behavior typical of plains Indians.
The term “Plains Indians” refers to the many Native American tribes that lived on the plains and rolling hills of middle North America in the region between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to Mexico.