Arapaho Tribe

“People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.” ~Chief Niwot~ (referring to land in Boulder, Colorado)

Araphaho-Little Bird-photo- Indian Congress 1898

Arapaho Flag. Credit- Wikicommons.

Arapaho Flag. Credit- Wikicommons.

The Arapaho

The Arapaho


The Arapaho are a tribe of Native Americans historically living on the eastern plains of Colorado and Wyoming. They were close allies of the Cheyenne tribe and loosely aligned with the Sioux. Arapaho is an Algonquian language closely related to Gros Ventre, whose people are seen as an early offshoot of the Arapaho. Blackfoot and Cheyenne are the other Algonquian-speakers on the Plains, but their languages are quite different from Arapaho. By the 1850s, Arapaho bands had coalesced into two tribes: the Northern Arapaho and Southern Arapaho.

There is no direct historical or archaeological evidence to suggest how and when Arapaho bands entered the Great Plains. The Arapaho Indian tribe most likely lived in Minnesota and North Dakota before entering the Plains.

The Araphoe were considered to be buffalo hunters of the plains but also have traditions of a time when they lived in the east and planted corn. They  numbered about 1800, in all.

During November 1864, a small village of Cheyenne and Arapaho became the victims of a controversial attack by the Union Army, led by Colonel John Chivington.

This attack is now known as the the Chivington Massacre, or the Sand Creek Massacre,  during which 7oo soldiers attacked and  killed or mutilated approxiamtely 100 Indians, two thirds being women and children.  The location has been designated a National Historic Site and is administered by the National Park Service.

Upon arrival at Fort Lyon, Chief Left Hand and his followers were accused of violence by Colonel Chivington who lusted to be a war hero. It must have been a conspiracy because Chief Left Hand and his people got the message that only those Indians that reported to Fort Lyon would be considered peaceful and all others would be considered hostile and ordered killed. Confused, Chief Left Hand and his followers turned away and traveled a safe distance away from the Fort to camp. A traitor gave Colonel Chivington directions to the camp. He and his battalion stalked and attacked the camp early the next morning. Rather than heroic, Colonel Chivington’s efforts were considered a gross embarrassment to the Cavalry since he attacked peaceful elders, women and children. As a result of his war efforts, instead of the promotion he aspired for, he was relieved of his duties.


The Araphoe lived in tipis which the women made from bison hide. Before they were sent to reservations, they migrated often, chasing buffalo herds, so they had to design their tipis so that they could be transported easily. It is said that a whole village could pack up their homes and belongings and be ready to leave in only an hour.

They originally used dogs to pull travois with their belongings on them. When the Europeans came to North America, the Arapaho saw the Europeans’ horses and realized that they could travel quicker and further with horses instead of dogs. They raided other Indian tribes, primarily the Pawnee and Comanche, to get the horses they needed.

Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion

1. Who were the Arapahos close allies?

2. What two tribes did theArapaho bands form in the 1850s?

3. What (there are two names ) horrific event occurred in 1864?

4. Describe the type of tipis the tribe used.

5. Before they used horses, what animal did the Arapahos use to pull their *travois?


Arapaho Today

Children from the Arapaho Immersion Preschool pose with two of their teachers. Alvena Oldman (left) and Mary Ann Headley Credit Ron Feemster. Wyofile.

Children from the Arapaho Immersion Preschool pose with two of their teachers. Alvena Oldman (left) and Mary Ann Headley Credit Ron Feemster. Wyofile.

In July 2005, Arapahos won a contentious court battle with the State of Wyoming to get into the gaming or casino industry. The 10th Circuit Court ruled that the State of Wyoming was acting in bad faith when it would not negotiate with the Arapahos for gaming. Presently, the Arapaho Tribe owns and operates high-stakes Class III gaming at the Wind River Casino, Little Wind Casino and 789 Smoke Shop and Casino. They are regulated by a Gaming Commission composed of three Tribal members. The Northern Arapaho Tribe opened the first casinos in Wyoming. Meanwhile, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes operate three casinos: the Lucky Star Casino in Clinton, the Feather Warrior Casino in Watonga, and the Feather Warrior Casino in Canton.

Arapaho Youth

Arapaho Myth: The Magic Springs

An old man was living with his son, his daughter and her husband, who was a great hunter. The two brothers-in-law hunted every day one winter, but could not find any tracks.There was a great deal of snow, and the young husband made himself snowshoes. He passed through an unfrozen spring.

When he came home, his wife saw blood on his snowshoes. She said, “I am glad you have killed a moose.”

“‘I have not killed anything, I have merely stepped into a spring.”

The girl paid no attention to him, but told her father, “My husband has killed some game.” The young man was ashamed.

His father-in-law said, “Bring me the snowshoes, I want to look at them.”When he saw them, he was glad and said, “We’ll eat plenty of meat now.” He smelt the snowshoes.

The young man sat with bowed head, afraid to look up. Finally, he said, “All day I could not find any track or other sign of any game.” The girl’s relatives said, “You have killed something, for there is blood on your snowshoes.” He protested that he had merely passed through a red spring.

At last, the old man proposed to go to the spring with him. The next day the father-in-law stripped two trees of their bark and pushed one strip into either end of the spring. Then he told the people to get ready to shoot. He pushed in a stick and called on a moose to come out. A doe appeared and after running a short distance was shot.Then he cried, “Young moose, come out.” A young moose came out, and they shot it. Next he cried, “Big buck, come out.” A buck appeared, and was shot.

“I have seen many springs like this,” said the young man. His brother-in-law said, “Let us look for such springs every day.” They skinned the moose, roasted it and ate it.

Then they went to a bear spring. The old man looked at it and said, “There is a bear within.” He put in bark, and poked the ground. A big black bear appeared, and the young man killed it. They had plenty of fat. The old man said, “Every spring has some kind of game in it in the winter.” Now the young man went hunting for a spring every day, and they were no longer in want.


The Arapaho, By Ditchfield

Wikipedia: Arapaho

Arapaho Myth: Indian Mythology

Arapaho Flag Wikimedia Commons

Terms from the Reading:

Native Americans





Sioux. Arapaho

Algonquian language

Gros Ventre,

Northern Arapaho

Southern Arapaho.

Great Plains


North Dakota

Sand Creek Massacre









Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes