What Were the Major Indian Tribes of the Old West?

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Cheyenne, Apache, Navajo, Comanche, Sioux and Blackfeet were some of the major Indian nations in the United States in Old West in the 19th century. All lived in the area known as the Great Plains of North America.

Cheyenne, Apache, Navajo, Comanche, Sioux and Blackfeet were some of the major Indian nations in the United States in Old West in the 19th century. All lived in the area known as the Great Plains of North America, a vast area that stretches from the Mississippi River to the west of the continent. "The people of the plains are designated according to the languages they spoke. A sign language provided practical ways, but limited, communication between tribes of different languages," says anthropologist Regina Flannery-Herzfeld, Catholic University of America, in Washington.

With the arrival of white men, the Plains Indians began to purchase items such as firearms and tissues, which led to the decline of traditions and native cultures. When they lived isolated from civilization, the tribes had the sole domestic animal the dog, which served mainly as pack animals, pulling a kind of wooden sled. The horses only spread among American Indians after contact with the first Spanish colonizers in the nineteenth 16.

Most nations were nomadic, living in temporary camps and moving in search of food. Such groups had as one of their main activities of hunting large animals such as antelope, elk and especially buffalo. "In the second half of the 19th century, tribes that were hostile to each other are united against outsiders or Europeans. Sometimes, the Indians were successful in attacks, but eventually were wiped out and moved to reservations," said Regina.

In the mid-19th century, six major tribes faced the invasion of white settlers


They lived in the region of the state of Montana, the northern United States. Nomads rode temporary villages with conical huts, known as tepees. For over 20 years, the Cheyenne engaged in a series of attacks on whites, and join with other tribes against the presence of settlers in their territory. In 1876, the Cheyenne allied with the old Sioux enemies to annihilate the Seventh Cavalry, the famous U.S. Army troops commanded by "General" Custer.


Also called Dakotas, spanned by the states of North Dakota and South Dakota (The Dakotas), in north-central United States. Were more aggressive against the whites had ceremonies and rituals that included torture as proof of bravery. In these rituals, shown in the film A Man Called Horse (1970), the Indian had skin pierced by wooden pins attached to ropes that were stretched out to lift the body to generate tears. The Sioux resisted the whites until 1890, when they were massacred.


The most populous group of Indians living in the U.S. region of New Mexico (south) and spoke a language similar to that of their cousins Apaches. They had a complex religion, ceremonies that included the creation of large paintings on the floor, made with flowers and colored sand. The Navajos were less aggressive, but they considered dangerous enough to justify sending a military expedition against them in 1863. About 8,000 Indians were arrested and remained so until 1868.


With many firearms and horses, "Blackfeet" habited the north-central United States and had one of the most powerful forces warriors of the Old West. They were famous for ripping off the scalps of defeated enemies, be they American soldiers or Indian rivals. Still in the early 19th century, much of the nation died of starvation after the extermination of the buffalo herds from their territories. Thereafter, the Blackfeet were concentrated in agriculture and cattle raising through a gradual process of mixing with other tribes.


Very skilled at using horses, the Apaches divided into autonomous bands that lived near the border with Mexico. Even without a centralized organization have had great leaders like Cochise and Geronimo, who led them to wage bloody wars against the Spaniards, Mexicans and Americans after the failure of peace agreements. Militarily inferior, were defeated once and for all in 1886 and taken as prisoners to Florida and other states.


Nomads in the 19th century, promoted the fearsome Comanche raids and occupied lands of other tribes, like the Apaches in the southern United States. It was a powerful nation, which depended heavily on the buffalo hunt that provided feed and raw materials for clothes and utensils. They were the first nations to adopt the horse, after contacts with Spaniards. The Comanche have signed several peace agreements with the U.S. government, which never stopped the tribal territories were invaded.


Virginia Grant
Posted on Jan 7, 2012
James R. Coffey
Posted on Mar 1, 2011