American Indians moved in and out of the region that is now Kansas for thousands of years. The historic period with written records begins just a few hundred years ago, but native people were settled in America long before that. The Arapahos were most likely from the northern plains or Great Lakes area originally. They had permanent villages that were agricultural based. However with the settlement of the east by Europeans, the Arapahos moved further south and west in the plains. There they followed the buffalo migrations, becoming adept hunters, and using horses to increase their mobility.
The Arapahos were of the Algonquin heritage. They eventually split into two tribes. They separated north and south, with the northerners settling near the Platte River, and the southerners settling near the Arkansas River. Within these two groups the Arapahos would live in small units, mostly consisting of family groups. However members were free to move between groups. Every year for eight days the tribe would come together so that members could intermingle and find mates.
The Arapahos relied on the tipi for their homes. Made of tall poles tied together at the top, the tipis were covered with the hides of buffalo. This created a highly mobile structure that could be moved quickly. They relied on dog- or horse-pulled travois to transport their belongings.
As more white settlers began pushing west, the Arapahos were squeezed farther and farther into the south and west. The tribe suffered as their main food source, the buffalo, was nearly eliminated, and the government kept moving their lands. Finally in 1867 the Medicine Lodge Treaty assigned the Northern Arapahos reservation land in Wyoming and the Southern Arapahos reservation land in Oklahoma.
Portions from The Kansas Journey.
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Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: February 2011
Date Modified: January 2013
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