Plains Indians: Culture, Transformation, and the Initial Trade and Diplomatic Encounters

I. The Trans-Mississippi West: Overview Map of linguistic/tribal areas Reservations today

The Land and People: Plains Environment | Plains River System |

(Caddos/Mandans)  Caddoan Barrier 1500s-1600s Sedentary Corn-growing riverine tribes living in Earthlodge/|Earthlodge with People

Better known Plains Indians are the tipi dwelling Buffalo-hunting nomads Siouian Speaking Linguistic Groups  and Territories: Teton (aka Lakota or Western) Sioux |The Seven Council Fires of the Lakota 

Additional Plains Maps and Images

Artists George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, and Alfred Jacob Miller tour west and create record of Plains culture at its peak in the 1830s

II. Agents of Change \

III. Florescence of the Plains Indian Culture, 1750-1840: Golden Age for Plains Tribes AFTER Horses and Metal Goods introduced
Before Lewis and Clark 1804 After 1806
A. Disease: smallpox pandemics 1780-81 ; 1801 and other diseases Smallpox epidemics 1837 1837 First hand account::Four Bears (Mandan) speaks

B. The Fur Trade: European technology/goods introduced

Diffusion of Horses onto Plains, exchanged for European Goods by middleman groups like the Mandan horses | horse culture|

Horses and Trade Goods: 1830s Indian view Fort Life on the Upper Missouri  |  Animals | Fort Scene | another | Traders | Transport |Alcohol |

Canadian Indians, ca 1860s with trade goods |

William Bent and So. Arapaho and So. Cheyenne friends, ca 1860s

Drunkenness (Paul Kane portrait, ca 1870s

C. White Settlement: pre-1806, "white" occupants are mainly fur trappers and traders White Settlement: Extent of white population 1820s |Example: Big Elk (Omaha chief) [Big Elk's Speech] ---Big Elk's tipi

D. Diplomacy:Lewis and Clark with the Indians  as portrayed by Charlie Russell

1790 "Carrying Flags Around Winter" (US and British compete for loyalties of Missouri River Tribes, 1790s-1812)


Indian Peace Medal from the Great Father Iroquois


A. Mobility, freedom, pageantry of Plains culture Movement of Kiowa  | Movement of Sioux Life style ; encampment at Fort Pierre (as represented by George Catlin)

militaristic ethos counting coup Four Bears/ competition for hunting ground and glory: warfare and raiding for horses and captives Heroic Exploits on Buffalo Robes 

B. Integrative Ceremonies of union and communion The pipes | Sundance Kiowa Artist
18th century robe drawing

aesthetic beauty of way of life: Silverheels drawing | |Courting among the Kiowa:| Russell's view | George Bent (Cheyenne mixed blood) recalls  Cheyenne Flat War  Club "Talking to" Cheyee women on Crooked Creek (1840)

C. Political Organization of buffalo hunters: band organization (Fools Crow

D. Learning Indian History Using Indian Sources