Want to learn more about Native American tribes? Click on the red stars below
and read interesting facts about eleven featured tribes.
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The Suquamish live in the Northwest area of the country on the western shores of Puget Sound. In the past, they lived off fish from rivers and the sound for food. Although they were widely dispersed throughout the summer months, in the winter they lived in long, narrow one room houses made from wood to protect them from the harsh conditions. Their most notable member was Chief Si-ahl (Seattle) who worked diplomatically with settlers to keep his tribe out of conflict. Because of his friendship with David Swinson “Doc” Maynard, the first Mayor of the current city of Seattle, the Suquamish maintained a peaceful presence and were not driven from their home (although much of their land was taken). Despite the Suquamish’s long and storied history, they are not federally recognized as a tribe, and are currently fighting to change that status. If you live in the Seattle area, you can visit their Longhouse & Cultural center to learn more about the tribe..
When Lewis and Clark met the Nimi’ipuu (Nez Perce) they were impressed by their beautiful horses, and Lewis noted that they had the largest horse herd on the continent. In 1877, the U.S. Government drove them from their lands and their horses were taken and dispersed through the West, with no effort made to preserve the breed. In the 1990s the tribe revived their horse breeding program, and is currently working to recreate the extinct Nez Perce Horse, by mating Appaloosas and a central Asian breed called Akhal-Teke.
The Ndeh (Apache) used to be nomadic, and their lives revolved around the buffalo. They ate buffalo, and used the hides to construct both their garments and their tents. In addition to buffalo, their diet also consisted of foraged berries and plants. Their most famous tribal member is known as “Geronimo,” is the name Mexican soldiers gave to Goyathlay, a fierce fighter. His skill was so great that many of his enemies believed his numerous raiding successes could only come from supernatural beings. Geronimo was the last leader of an American Indian fighting force to formally surrender to the United States. No longer nomadic, Apache tribes now live in Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico
The Newe (Shoshone) live on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, which is the only U.S. reservation land that was actually chosen by the tribe that lives there. The most famous member of the Shoshone is Sacajawea, who was sold (and then married) to a French steersman hired by Lewis and Clark. Her husband proved to be a rather incompetent steersman, but she was invaluable as a guide and interpreter for the explorers.
The Tsitsistas (Cheyenne) were once made of ten bands which spread all the way from southern Colorado to the Black Hills in South Dakota. These bands would gather to meet in formal council or to band together to fight enemies. Today, the Cheyenne are split into two groups – the Southern Cheyenne, in Oklahoma, and the Northern Cheyenne, in Montana. One notable tribe member is Walter Richard “Rick” West, Jr. who was the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. He has since retired from that position, but continues to work on serving the Native American community.
The Numunu (Comanche) were sometimes known by other tribes as the “Lords of the Plains,” as they controlled vast amounts of land, including eastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. They were fierce fighters and excellent horsemen. After acquiring horses from the Spaniards, they kept large herds and introduced the horse to neighboring tribes. The Comanche nation is now based in Oklahoma.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Ka’igwu (Kiowa) migrated down from Montana into the Rocky Mountains and finally into the Southern Plains, by the early 19th century. In 1867, the Kiowa moved to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma. One of the most notable tribe members is N. Scott Momaday, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his novel House Made of Dawn. The novel is largely based on his experience living in Jemez Pueblo, and is often credited as allowing other Native American literature to reach mainstream audiences.
The Chickasha (Chickasaw) believe in a supreme being, called Aba? Binni?li,? who was the creator of warmth, light and life. They worshipped him in smoke and cloud, believing him to reside above the clouds and in holy fire. For this reason, fire was very much respected. It was considered both unlawful and evil to smother even the cooking fire with water. The tribe opened the Chickasaw Cultural Center just four years ago. The center includes the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village, Honor Garden, Sky and Water pavilion, and several in-depth exhibits about their culture. If you live near Sulphur, Oklahoma, you should stop by and learn more about the Chickasha.
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In the past, the lives of the Kiwigapawa (Kickapoo) changed with the seasons. They were excellent farmers and lived in fixed villages of longhouses during the spring and summer. After the autumn harvest, they went on a communal buffalo hunt. When winter arrived, they separated to winter hunting camps. They originally called the Great Lakes their home, but today the three federally recognized Kickapoo tribes reside in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Traditionally, the Monacan people buried the remains of their dead in sacred earthen mounds. Some of the mounds found are more than a thousand years old. Historians believe that most early Monacan fled as white colonists moved in. Although the Monacan Indian Nation exists today, there is no conclusive evidence connecting the tribe to the historical Monacan tribe.
Traditionally, a single Alnobak (Abenaki) man would keep his hair long and loose. Once he found a girlfriend, he would tie his hair. As a symbol of commitment, a married man would shave all but the ponytail. Alnobak is a linguistic and geographic grouping; as there was never a strong central tribe, there are several tribes that share this heritage. Currently four tribes are recognized in the state of Vermont: the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki, the El Nu Abenaki Tribe, the Abenaki Nation at Missisquoi and the Koasek Traditional Band of the Koas Abenaki Nation.