The Plains Indians
BY LARRY GOEBEL
The environment was good the rainfall was light, only 250 mm to 500 mm of rain fell per year. The summer temperature was only 16 degrees Celsius and in winter it was –18 to -7 degrees Celsius.
The Great Plains region is made up of the steep Rocky Mountains, foothills,
lush river valleys called canyons and dry semi-desert lands. Most
of the region is grassland. In the western part of the region, the
grass was short and spiky and in the eastern part, the grass was tall and
green. The Missouri River, with water coloured a dull yellow because
of the mud, provided waster for the region. In the Northern region
of the Great Plains, there were deserts, buttes and bluffs. This
area is called “badlands”. Nothing grows in this area because it
is hot and dry and most of the land in this area is rock. In the
Southwest region, the Plains meet the desert. The most common plants
that grow there are cactus, dry grass and sage bushes.
The Plains Indians ate meat such as buffalo, deer, foxes, beaver, porcupines, ermine and elk. The Plans Indians ate vegetables such as sweet corn, turnip, berries, pumpkin, beans, squash and herbs. They had plums, peppermint and strawberries. Every part of the animal was used. Let’s take the buffalo for instance, the meat was eaten, the hooves were used for glue and rattles. The tail was used for a medicine, whips and fly swatters. The hide was used for buckskin: clothes, bedding, belts, pipe bags, quivers, tepee covers and dolls. The rawhide was used to make parfleches, saddles, shields, buckets, shoes and ropes. The bones were used for knives, arrowheads, scrapers, clubs, shovels and ice skates. The horns were used to make cups, spoons, ladles, headdresses and toys. The hair was used for ropes, stuffing, padding, headdresses and medicine balls. They also made strips of meat, which were made by beating it with a stone. These strips of meat, made uncooked sausages. The meat was also dried, pounded into powder and then mixed with herbs, berries (usually chokecherries) and marrow fat (fat taken from inside bones) to make pemmican (also spelt pimiokan, which is the Cree word for it). Pemmican could be stored for years and never go bad. The meat was also used to make a meat flour. The meat was dried, pounded into power and mixed with “backfat”. The making of pemmican was usually a community affair. The pemmican would be stored in bags made with green hide. The hair would be left on the hide.
The Plains Indians lived in tepees, bark tepees, grass lodges and earth lodges. The tepee was made of buffalo hide and wood poles and had paintings on them. These paintings depicted actually events that happened to the warrior or family that lived inside. The grass lodges were made of dried grass and ropes. Bark tepees were made of bark and twigs. The earth lodges were made of a hill dirt and logs for the doorway. The tepee had a hole in the top for smoke.
In the winter, the men wore buckskin shirts and buckskin leggings, that had a belt to hold them up and in the summer, they wore loin clothes. In the summer, the women wore an apron or miniskirt and in the winter, they wore long dresses with leggings underneath. In winter, they wore snowshoes made of rawhide strips and twigs so they could walk on snow. Some Plains Indians wore moccasin and gloves made of deerskin.
The Plains Indians used a hammer to crush berries. It was made of a stick and a stone. The Plains Indians also had an arikaka hoe and an antler hoe. They had a bone scraper to scrape off fat from the buffalo hides. The Plains Indians had flint stone, which was good for stone arrowheads, and stone knives.
The Plans Indians had weapons such as: spears, bow and arrow, stone and bone knives and the Sioux had war clubs. The Sioux war club was made of a stick and a stone. The bow was made of wood and a piece of buffalo hair. The arrow was made of decorated wood, a flint stone for the arrowhead and feathers to mark ownership. The feathers were marked a certain way so there was no mistake on who made the kill. The bone knife was made out of animal bone sharpened and tied to a piece of wood.
One method of hunting, some tribes used to hunt, was to cover them selves in wolf skin and crouch low to the ground. Once they spotted their prey, they would aim and shot their arrows. Another method used was to ride their horses hard into a herd and shoot their arrows. One other method used was to dig a pit, hide inside, cover the pit with leaves and twigs and put a stuffed animal, usually a wolf, on top. Once a bird or animal came to investigate, the hunter would spear the prey or catch it with their bare hands.
The Plains Indians used two methods of transportation. The first was by foot. The second was by horse. Once the white man began to arrive, the Plains Indians began using horses. The wounded, ill and teepee parts would be pulled behind the horse, on a travois. The travois is a sled made of two long, wooden poles, with a hide tied between them. A harness would be attached, between the two poles, at the ends and slipped over the horses back. Dogs were also used, but only for small parcels of goods. Babies were usually put into a cradle, called a papoose, and carried on the mother’s back.
Tribes of the Great Plains Indians
2 Plains Cree 12 Yanktonai Sioux 22 Kansa
3 Blackfoot 13 Santee Sioux 23 Missouria
4 Gros Ventre 14 Cheyenne 24 Kiowa
5 Assiniboin 15 Ponca 25 Kiowa-Apache
6 Plains Ojibwa 16 Omaha 26 Osage
7 Crow 17 Yankton Sioux 27 Comanche
8 Teton Sioux 18 Iowa 28 Wichita
9 Hidatsa 19 Oto 29 Quapaw
10 Mandan 20 Pawnee 30 Lipan Apache
32 Sauk and Fox
Roles of Tribal Members
The men were responsible for hunting for food, protecting the tribe
from their enemies and for raiding their enemy’s encampments. The
men also belonged to ritual societies that helped one another at all times
and arranged hunting and raiding parties.
The women did the cooking and cleaning. They cared for the children and the sick. They were also responsible for taking care of the gardens and harvesting.
The children’s responsibility was to learn the values and traditions of the tribe.
The Elders were responsible for teaching the kids, holding council meetings and leading the tribe.
When a tribal member died, the whole tribe mourned. The body of the dead was wrapped in hides and placed on a platform with their most prized possessions, until their flesh rotted away. The bones were then buried in the sacred tribal burial grounds.
The ceremonies were bright and decorative. They usually marked special events like the changing of the seasons, the harvest, hunts and important stages in a person’s life, from birth to death. One particular ceremony brought tribes from all over the Great Plains, together. This ceremony is called the Sun Dance. This was a time when the tribes would give thanks to the gods and ask them for to keep providing for world and its people.
The Plains Indians skated and played shinny (ice hockey) in the winter.
In the summer they played lacrosse and a game played with a hoop and a
spear. They held shooting competitions, had horse races and gambled.
Pacific Platue Plains Iroquoian Inuit Tribes of the Mackenzie and Yukon Basins Algonkian Native Tribes of Canada: Name Meanings
I will lead you