Manataka American Indian Council




Arapaho History Brief

Handbook of American Indians (1906) ~ Frederick W. Hodge


An important Plains tribe of the great Algonquian family, closely associated with the Cheyenne for at least a century past. They call themselves Iņunaina, about equivalent to 'our people.' The name by which they are commonly known is of uncertain derivation, but it may possibly be, as Dunbar suggests, from the Pawnee tirapihu or larapihu, 'trader.' By the Sioux and Cheyenne they are called " Blue-sky men " or "Cloud men," the reason for which is unknown.

According to the tradition of the Arapaho they were once a sedentary, agricultural people, living far to the northeast of their more recent habitat, apparently about the Red River Valley of northern Minnesota. From this point they moved southwest across the Missouri, apparently about the same time that the Cheyenne (q. v.) moved out from Minnesota, although the date of the formation of the permanent alliance between the two tribes is uncertain.

The Atsina (q. v.), afterward associated with the Siksika, appear to have separated from the parent tribe and moved off toward the north after their emergence into the plains. 

The division into Northern and Southern Arapaho is largely geographic, originating within the last century, and made permanent by the placing of the two bands on different reservations. The Northern Arapaho, in Wyoming, are considered the nucleus or mother tribe and retain the sacred tribal articles, viz, a tubular pipe, one ear of corn, and a turtle figurine, all of stone.

Since they crossed the Missouri the drift of the Arapaho, as of the Cheyenne and Sioux, has been west and south, the Northern Arapaho making lodges on the edge of the mountains about the head of the North Platte, while the Southern Arapaho continued down toward the Arkansas. About the year 1840 they made peace with the Sioux, Kiowa, and Comanche, but were always at war with the Shoshoni, Ute, and Pawnee until they were confined upon reservations, while generally maintaining a friendly attitude toward the whites. By the treaty of Medicine Lodge  in 1867 the southern Arapaho, together with the Southern Cheyenne, were placed upon a reservation in Oklahoma, which was thrown open to white settlement in 1892, the Indians at the same time receiving allotments in severalty, with the rights of American citizenship. The Northern Arapaho were assigned to their present reservation on Wind River in Wyoming in 1876, after having made peace with their hereditary enemies, the Shoshoni, living upon the same reservation. The Atsina division, usually regarded as a distinct tribe, is associated with the Assiniboin on Ft Belknap reservation in Montana. They numbered, respectively, 889, 859, and 535 in 1904, a total of 2,283, as against a total of 2,038 ten years earlier.

As a people the Arapaho are brave, but kindly and accommodating, and much given to ceremonial observances. The annual sun dance is their greatest tribal ceremony, and they were active propagators of the ghost-dance religion (q. v.) a few years ago. In arts and home life, until within a few years past, they were a typical plains tribe. They bury their dead in the ground, unlike the Cheyenne and Sioux, who deposit them upon scaffolds or on the surface of the ground in boxes. They have the military organization common to most of the Plains tribes (see Military societies), and have no trace of the clan system.

Handbook of American Indians (1906) ~ Frederick W. Hodge
From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories

Arapaho Chiefs and Leaders



Little Raven
Little Raven (Hósa, 'Young Crow'). An Arapaho chief.He was first signer, for the Southern Arapaho, of the treaty of Fort Wise, Colorado., February 18, 1861.  At a later period he took part with the allied Arapaho and Cheyenne in the  war along the Kansas border, but joined in the treaty of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, in 1867, by which these tribes agreed to go on a reservation, after which treaty all his effort was consistently directed toward keeping his people at peace with the Government and leading then to civilization.


Through his influence the body of the Arapaho remained at peace with the whites when their allies, the Cheyenne and Kiowa, went on the warpath in 1874-75. Little Raven died at Cantonment, Okla., in the winter of 1889, after having maintained for 20 years a reputation as the leader of the progressive element. He was succeeded by Nawat, 'Left-hand'.

Nawat ('Left-hand' ) 

The principal chief of the Southern Arapaho since the death of Little Raven (q. v.) in 1889.

He was born about 1840, and because noted as a warrior and buffalo hunter, taking active part in the western border wars until the treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867, since which time his people, as a tribe, have remained at peace with the whites.  In 1890 he took the lead in signing the allotment agreement opening the reservation to white settlement, notwithstanding the Cheyenne, in open council, had threatened death to anyone who signed. He several times visited Washington in the interest of his tribe. Having become blind, he has recently resigned his authority to a younger man.

From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories.