The Arapaho Indians are a Plains tribe of the Algonquin family of Native Americans in the United States. The origin of the word Arapaho is not known, but they call themselves Iñunaina, which loosely translates to “our people.” Once a stationary tribe of agricultural people living in the Red River Valley of Minnesota, at some unknown time, the Arapaho Indians moved across the Missouri River and rested in what is modern day Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska.
Modern day Arapaho Indians live in Wyoming or Oklahoma. There is a division among the Arapaho Indians because of this geographic separation. After the 1867 Treaty of Medicine Lodge, a group of Arapaho Indians was assigned to a reservation in Oklahoma and the remainder of the group was assigned to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. This split created what is known today as the Northern Arapaho and the Southern Arapaho.
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As many groups of Native Americans from the Great Plains, the Arapaho were nomadic people who followed herds of large game animals to survive. The Arapaho Indians cooked bison, elk and deer in pits and dried the meat into jerky. Additionally, they gathered food such as fruit, root vegetables and chokecherries.
The Arapahos lived in teepees constructed of a wood frame with animal hides. Their nomadic lifestyle forced them to be able to construct and tear down their villages in record times, so they could move quickly. Women owned the homes and were responsible for carrying the large wooden frames during a move and rebuilding them.
Arapaho Indians wore a variety of traditional Native American clothing, such as skirts, buckskin dresses and loincloths. Shirts were not necessary in Arapaho culture, but women would wear furs during battle or on special occasions. Men and women both wore moccasins and robes to keep warm which were made from buffalo skin. Both men and women styled their hair in two long braids on each side of their head with the occasional addition of feathers. After the Arapahos traded with the neighboring Sioux Indians, some men chose to wear traditional feather headdresses.
In addition to trading with the Sioux, the Arapaho Indians traded with the Europeans and many other tribes. Most of their trading activity consisted of selling animal furs, when they weren’t fighting with enemy tribes. The Arapahos are revered for their ability to shoot arrows. Arapaho warriors used spears and protected themselves with shields made from animal hides.