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Plains Indians.

a generic term for members of the several tribes who inhabited the Great Plains and prairies and centered their religious and ceremonial life on the buffalo and sun worship. They were first described by members of the Coronado expedition of 1541, who noted how completely the buffalo ruled their diet, housing, clothing, and tools. The tribe they observed, the Apaches, were described as gentle, faithful friends who were skilled in the use of signs and carried on an active trade with the Pueblos. They lived in movable housing (tipis) and traveled to follow the buffalo, using dogs as pack animals. The introduction of horses, acquired from the Spaniards, increased their mobility and they perfected the skill of hunting from horseback. As life on the plains became more attractive, the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho from the east, and the Comanche and Kiowa from the west joined the plains dwellers.

The buffalo hunt was the crucial event of the year for the Plains Indian; the men hunted and the women cured the hides and dried the meat. They lived on this meat through the winter camp where the men worked on their weapons and horse equipment while the women tanned and decorated the hides and made clothing. In the spring they began their wandering over the prairies in small groups, killing the amount of game needed for day-to-day living. Young men went on raiding parties, mostly to obtain more horses. At intervals they met as a tribe to conduct tribal business or hold religious ceremonies, especially the sun dance. Some tribes adopted only parts of this pattern: the Caddo, the Osage and the Mandan hunted buffalo but lived in permanent agricultural settlements; the Wichita had woven grass houses supported on pole frames; and the Pawnee, Arikara, and Mandan lived in timber houses covered with earth. <IR> LEWIS </IR> and <IR> CLARK </IR> observed Plains Indians; <IR> COOPER </IR> described them in The Prairie; and they appear in the work of <IR> PARKMAN </IR> and <IR> NEIHARDT </IR> . A modern novel detailing their way of life is Fool's Crow by <IR> JAMES WELCH </IR> , a Native American writer. ( <IR> See NATIVE AMERICAN LITERATURE </IR> .)

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Publication:Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Plath, Sylvia (1932-1963).
Next Article:Plains (or Great Plains), The.

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