Arapaho Indians Index
Tribal Origin: Algonquian Family
Native Name: Iñunaina, means ‘our people’
Home Territories: Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and Nebraska
Language: Arapaho Language
There are three major divisions in the Arapaho tribe: the Atsina, who were allied with the Blackfoot and who now live in Montana; the Southern Arapaho, now living with the Cheyenne in Oklahoma; and the Northern Arapaho living today on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.
The Northern Arapaho not only retain all of the sacred tribal stone articles but are also considered by tribal members to represent the parent group.
The Northern Arapaho migrated out of Minnesota onto the Plains in the 1600s.
Occupying Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming, the Arapaho were seasoned hunters, following buffalo, elk, and deer as their primary food sources.
Highly skilled with the bow and arrow, they used every part of the animal they killed for food, clothing, and to create their homes and tools.
To keep up with the herds, the Arapaho lived in teepees made of long poles and buffalo hides and used sleds, known as travois, to move their homes and belongings quickly.
They were constantly at war with other Indian tribes.
The Arapaho believed in a powerful spirit world. Many actions and objects had symbolic meaning for them, and they performed various rituals and religious ceremonies, most notably the sun dance.
With westward expansion came conflict with white settlers. When white settlers tried to take their land, the Arapaho attempted to fight them off, but in the 1860s the Arapaho entered into treaties with the U.S. government.
These agreements were not always kept and the tribe lost their land.
The Arapaho, along with the Cheyenne, were victims of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, in which U.S. troops murdered approximately 150 men, women, and children as they attempted to surrender.
The Arapaho and Cheyenne, allied with the Sioux, fought General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.
In 1878, the Northern Arapaho joined the Eastern Shoshone in the Wind River Valley. The enemy tribes agreed to this arrangement because the government assured them the Arapaho would be moved soon.
Fifty years later, the Arapaho were still there. The Shoshone and Arapaho made their peace and the government compensated the Shoshone for the loss of land.
Fort Washakie was the only military outpost established to protect, rather than fight, the Indians. The post operated until 1909 and many of the original buildings are still intact.
Ranching is the economic mainstay of the Wind River Reservation, where the Arapaho raise cattle. The Shoshone own a construction company and the tribes jointly own a bingo operation. Tourism also provides a small number of jobs for tribal members.
Despite the existence of these businesses, unemployment and poverty are both high on the reservation, with more than one in five Wind River residents living in poverty.
The Shoshone and Arapaho currently share the Wind River Reservation, the third largest reservation in the U.S., with more than 2.2 million acres in Wyoming’s Wind River Valley.
There are about 5,000 modern day Arapaho, most of whom live in Wyoming and Oklahoma.
Modern Day Arapaho Tribes
Arapahoe Tribe of the Wind River Reservation (Wyoming) (F)
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes (Oklahoma) (F)