Plains Indians
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Plains Indians are usually divided into two broad classifications which overlap to some degree.[citation needed] The first group were fully nomadic, following the vast herds of bison. Some tribes occasionally engaged in agriculture;growing tobacco and corn primarily. These included the Blackfoot, Arapaho, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Lakota, Lipan, Plains Apache (or Kiowa Apache), Plains Cree, Sarsi, Sioux, Shoshone, and Tonkawa.

The second group of Plains Indians (sometimes referred to as Prairie Indians) were the semi-sedentary tribes who, in addition to hunting bison, lived in villages and raised crops. These included the Arikara, Hidatsa, Iowa, Kaw (or Kansa), Mandan, Omaha, Osage, Otoe, Pawnee, Ponca, and Wichita.

 Plains Indian

Also called BUFFALO INDIAN, member of any of the aboriginal North American peoples inhabiting the Great Plains area of the United States and Canada.

The Indians of the North American Great Plains are popularly regarded as the typical American Indians. They were essentially big-game hunters, the buffalo being a primary source of food and equally important as a source of materials for clothing, shelter, and tools. Until supplanted by the white man from the 16th century onward, they occupied the area between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, which includes portions of both the United States and Canada. It is a vast grassland stretching from northern Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada to the Rio Grande border of Texas.


  Plains Indians in Kansas

Although the Indians hunted other animals, such as elk or antelope, bison was the primary game food source. Before horses were introduced, hunting was a more complicated process. The Native Americans would surround the bison, and then try to herd them off cliffs or into places where they could be more easily killed.


The Indians in around Kansas and Wichita were basically out of the first group, hunters and gathers. 

War Bonnet
  Indian Wars in Kansas

Although hostilities between whites and Indians occurred throughout the West before the end of the Civil War, the Plains Indian Wars became of major concern to Kansans after 1865. Various Plains tribes associated with Kansas, such as the Cheyenne and Kiowa, clashed with white settlers who encroached upon their traditional hunting grounds during the years following the war. Thus, Kansans of all races experienced warfare of a different variety during the late 1860s and 1870s as white Americans sought to conquer the American West.

The last Indian raid in Kansas was the Cheyenne Raid in 1878 at a cattle camp south of Fort Dodge killing several white men and driving off some cattle. Upon learning there were indians in the area around Decatur county three small companies made up of local men to confront the Cheyennes. Only one of the companies came in contact with the indians with one indian killed. . All together, 17 white persons were killed in Decatur county. The Indians were finally overpowered and returned to the reservation. This was the last Indian raid of any consequence in Kansas. Hazelrigg's History of Kansas says: "Of the many Indian raids in Kansas, none was ever characterized with such brutal and ferocious crimes, and none ever excited such horror and indignation as the Cheyenne raid of 1878."

 The start of the trouble with the indians was prior to the Civil War. During the early years of settlement, while Kansas was a territory, but little trouble with the Indians was experienced. A few depredations were committed by some of the tribes, but none of them was of sufficient magnitude to cause serious alarm. Col. Sumner led an expedition into the Indian country in 1857 (see Cheyenne expedition), and in the spring of 1859 a battle was fought on Crooked creek, near the southwest corner of the present Ford county. The action was an incident of the Washita expedition, which was under command of Maj. Earl Van Dorn, who afterward became a general in the Confederate army. These two affairs were the most important events in connection with Indian warfare during the territorial period.

General Custer is well remembered in Kansas military lore with the Indian Wars. General Custer lived in Kansas from 1866 until 1871, while the U.S. Seventh Cavalry was headquartered at Fort Riley to protect settlers and railroad workers on the Western Plains.  The already tense atmosphere escalated as army troops engaged in violent campaigns against the Southern Cheyennes, Sioux, Comanches and other tribes.

General George Custer
  Distribution of North American Plains Indians

The climate is in general a continental one, with a wide seasonal range. Temperatures in winter may go below 0º F (-18º C) and in summer as high as 110º F (43º C). The plant cover varies with the amount of moisture, the tall grass of the prairies in the east giving way at about the 100th meridian to the shorter grass of the High Plains in the west. The area is drained principally by the Missouri-Mississippi river system.


The peoples of the Plains are designated by the languages they speak. It is permissible to call them "tribes" or "nations," bearing in mind, however, that in some cases, for example the Dakota (popularly known as Sioux), the designation covers several completely autonomous political divisions. The northern and southern divisions of the Cheyenne retained their unity as a tribe, while the Pawnee on the other hand comprised at least four independent groups. Many of the tribes of the Plains, such as the Cheyenne, migrated into them from the prairies and woodlands of the east. In addition, some of the tribes to the west of the area--the Ute and Jicarilla Apache, for instance--were influenced to a degree by the Plains culture and can be regarded as marginal to the area.


Six distinct language families or stocks were represented in the Plains area, although none of them was confined to it. The speakers of the several languages within a stock might or might not be geographically contiguous. Some of the languages, moreover, were more closely related to each other than to others within the same stock. Thus languages belonging to the Algonquian stock included the Blackfoot (Piegan-Blood-Northern Blackfoot), Arapaho-Atsina (Gros Ventre), Plains Cree, and Plains Ojibwa, all in the Northern Plains, while Cheyenne, also an Algonquian language, was in the central part of the area. The Siouan language stock embraced Mandan, Hidatsa, Crow, Dakota-Assiniboin, Omaha-Ponca-Osage-Kansa, and Iowa-Oto-Missouri. The Pawnee-Arikara and Wichita were Caddoan languages, whereas Wind River Shoshoni and Comanche were of the Uto-Aztecan stock. The Athabascan (Na-Dené) stock was represented by the Sarcee (Sarsi) in the northern part of the area and by the Kiowa-Apache in the southern. Finally the Kiowa-Tanoan stock was represented in the area by one language, Kiowa.

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