Plains Indians and Fort Laramie Treaty Ryan + luke

Pictured above is the Comanche Tribe, who lived around North Texas.

Painting depicting the Blackfoot tribe.

The Native Americans of the Great Plains were the last to be conquered in the U.S. The tribes of the Great Plains were each distinct, but still very similar. The biggest ones include: Sioux, Comanche, Pawnee, Crow, Cheyenne, and Blackfoot.


The many tribes of the Great Plains lived over a vast area.

The tribes of the Great Plains lived from the foothills of the Rockies into western Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, and Arkansas. They lived as far south as central Texas and as far north as southern Canada.


Sioux headdress worn by men

Some of their languages were similar. Different languages consisted of symbols, writing, and hand signals. The Algonquian languages were spoken by the Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and Plains Cree. The Sioun languages were spoken by the Crow, Hidatsa, and Sioux (Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota). Caddoan languages were spoken by the Wichita and Pawnee. Uto-Aztecan languages were spoken by the River Shoshone and Comanche.


Sioux clothing

Plains Indians wore ornate clothing and headwear filled with depictions of stories and war. Headdresses were worn by powerful men along with robe/dresses that were very colorful. Women, boys, and less powerful men traditionally wore plain clothes. Men hunted and led the tribe. Women took care of the family, cooked and chores. Men also took up roles such as chief and medicine man (Doctor). Life on the Great Plains was tough on a day-to-day basis. Horses were crucial for hunting and travel


Pawnee bundle

Traditional Native American spiritual beliefs of the Plains consisted of animals and ancestors. Visions and dreams were crucial and dream consisted of natural elements. Animals such as the bison, deer, wolves, and birds had spiritual power. They believed they could talk to their deceased ancestors through nature and dreams. The sun, moon, wind, and rain were also part of the religious rituals.


Earth Lodge v.s. Grass Lodge

Some Indians of the Great Plains followed the buffalo, so they would set up tepees or grass lodges. Grass lodges had a frame and were covered in grasses. Most tribes used earth lodges. Earth lodges were built out of dirt and stayed cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Both the grass and earth lodge housed multiple families. The tepee would only house about one family.


Painting of Sioux men hunting buffalo..

The diet of tribes such as the Pawnee consisted of buffalo and deer. Once the buffalo was slaughtered, the men would take the meat, the skin, and horns. The women used the skin to make clothes and the men would create weapons and cut the meat from the buffalo. Venison, buffalo, maize (only some tribes), berries, and more meat. Overall, their diet was mainly meat.


Present-day reservations in Montana

A reservation is a set of land set aside for Native American tribes to settle on. The problem with reservations for Indians on the Plains is most of them were either nomadic or moved every few years. So, this is a big adjustment for Native American tribes.



In 1851, treaties were signed with tribes throughout the Great Plains. The treaty was signed at Fort Laramie, in Wyoming. These treaties granted reservations for tribes. One tribe, the Crow, were granted 33 million acres throughout Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

  • The treaty in 1851 allowed surveyors and travelers to safely pass through reservations and tribal lands.
  • It also selected head chiefs to represent their tribe when dealing with the government.
  • The United States could also establish sparse roads and trading posts throughout the wilderness.
  • The Native Americans had to stop fighting settlers and other tribes. Settlers were not allowed to settle in certain areas.
  • The U.S. had to protect the Indians and their land.
  • This treaty was very complex and controversial on both sides. Settlers wanted more land to settle and Plains Indians did not want the railroads or posts.


Location of Fort Laramie, which is located at the foot of the Rockies.

In 1868, the Fort Laramie treaty was changed. Tribes and the government re-signed and the U.S. government took away land in the reservations. The Crow tribe, who received 33 million acres in 1851, lost land in the second Fort Laramie Treaty. The Crow tribe lost a lot and their reservation shrunk to 8 million acres. Similar things happened to other tribes. In general, the treaty was "revised" so the government could expand travel routes.


  1. Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, North and South Dakota are all named after tribes of the Great Plains.
  2. Mormon settlers in Utah thought that Indians of the Great Plains had originated from the Middle East.


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