Arikara Tribe

Arikara Tribe: Picture of Stan-au-pat (Chief Bloody Hand).

This article contains interesting facts, pictures and information about the life of the Arikara Native American Indian Tribe of the Great Plains.

The Arikara Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Arikara tribe of North Dakota were traditionally traders and farmers who lived in fortified villages of earth lodges on the Great Plains. The name of the most famous chief of the Arikara tribe included Stan-au-pat (Chief Bloody Hand) who led the tribe in the 1823 Arikara War along the upper Missouri River in Dakota Territory.

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Facts about the Arikara Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Arikara Native American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions like where did the Arikara tribe live, what clothes did they wear, what did they eat and who were the names of their most famous leaders? Discover what happened to the Arikara tribe with facts about their wars and history.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Arikara tribe?
Most of the Great Plains tribes gave up their permanent villages after they got horses, but this was not the case of the Arikara tribe. The Arikara lived in permanent villages of earthlodges near the Missouri River. The Arikara tribe were traders, hunters and farmers who cultivated their lands raising crops of corn, beans, sunflowers, squashes, and pumpkins. They supplemented their crops with food obtained by hunting. The name Arikara means "horn, in reference to the tribe’s former tradition of wearing the hair with two pieces of bone standing up like horns on each side of their heads.  Their fortified villages became commercial trading centers during the fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Arikara became closely associated with the Mandan and the Hidatsa people who collectively became known as the 'Three Tribes'.

Picture of an Arikara Chief
The picture of the Aricara Native Indian is of Stan-au-pat (Chief Bloody Hand). It was painted by George George Catlin, who wrote the following to accompany this picture:

“his face painted with red vermilion, scalping-knife in his hand,” and “wearing a beautiful dress.”

The Arikara Tribe took Scalps
The words of George Catlin make it very clear that the Arikara were extremely war-like and used war-paint to intimidate their enemies. They also practised the tradition of taking a scalp from their enemies. A scalp was cut and torn from the head of wounded or dead enemy during warfare. The scalp was then carefully cleaned and stretched on a hoop and was mounted on a stick for carrying as a sign of victory in battle - refer to practise of Taking Scalps in Indian Warfare.


Where did the Arikara tribe live?
The Arikara are people of the Great Plains Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map.  The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Arikara tribe.

  • The American Great Plains region mainly extended across states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota

  • Tribal Territories: North Dakota and South Dakota

  • Land: Grass covered prairies with some streams and rivers

  • Climate: Hot summers and cold winters

  • Animals: The  animals included the Bison (Buffalo), deer, elk, bear, porcupine, antelope, prairie dogs, eagles and wolves

  • Fish: Various fish including sturgeon, crayfish and mussels

  • Crops: The crops grown in the area were corn, beans, sunflower seeds, pumpkins and squash

Map showing Native American Indians Cultural Groups

Map showing location of the
Great Plains Native American Cultural Group


Arikara Tribe: Earth Lodge

What did the Arikara tribe live in?
The Arikara tribe lived in Earth lodges, which was a type of permanent home for Native American Indians who lived in harsh climates without large forests. They also used tepees as a form of temporary shelter when they went on buffalo hunts.

Earth Lodges
Earth lodges were semi-subterranean dwellings which were dug from the earth, with a wooden domed mound built over the top that was covered with earth or reeds. The Arikara built their earth lodges near their fields, usually on bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. Among the early Plains tribes that also lived in earth lodges were the Mandan, Hidatsa, Pawnee, Omaha and the Osage.


What transport did the Arikara Tribe use?
The main form of transport for the Arikara was the horse. However, the village tribes like the Arikara, who lived along the Missouri River, also used a bowl-shaped bullboat. They made the small boat by stretching a buffalo hide over a wooden frame. It was too clumsy for water travel, but it could be used to ferry people and produce across the river. The above picture shows Arikara Indians being ferried across the river. 


What clothes did the Arikara men wear?
The clothes worn by the Arikara men consisted of breechcloths, fringed buckskin tunics or shirts and leggings. Warm buffalo robes or cloaks were also worn to protect against the rain and the cold.

The Arikara men also wore beaded, straight-up feathered war bonnets in a halo style decorated with eagle feathers and beadwork as a symbol of courage and accomplishments. They wore moccasins as their shoes. Moccasins were a soft, light beige, slip-on shoe, consisting of a sole and sides made of one piece of leather.

Clothes worn by Arikara and Mandan Native Indians

Arikara Clothing
The women of the Arikara tribe were responsible for making the clothes worn by the people. Most garments were sewn from the soft, tanned skins of deer (buckskin) and buffalo hide. Clothes was often decorated with paint, porcupine quills or beadwork. Arikara clothing for both men and women were adorned with ornaments, especially necklaces and earrings.

What clothes did the Arikara women wear?
The type of clothes worn by the Arikara women were knee-length dresses and leggings. The women also wore the buffalo robes to keep warm and dry. The dresses of the Arikara women that were used for special ceremonies were intricately decorated with beads. Dresses were also painted with symbols that reflected their tribal identity and family values celebrating acts of courage by their men or sacrifices made for the well-being of the family and tribe. Arikara women wore their hair long worn in two, thick braids that were often decorated with beads.

What language did the Arikara tribe speak?
The Arikara tribe spoke in the Caddoan language.

The Arikara Star Charts
The Arikara, like the Skidi band of Pawnee Native Indians, believed that the stars signaled times to plant crops and revealed the timing of sacred ceremonies. They developed their mapping tradition by creating sky charts that  were used in rituals and to teach about the constellations. The Sky chart also told the story of the creation of the universe and of the Arikara people.

What did the Arikara tribe eat?
The food that the Arikara tribe ate included the crops they raised of corn, sunflower seeds, beans, pumpkins and squash. The food from their crops was supplemented by fish and meat, especially bison, that was acquired on the hunting trips. The meats also included deer, elk, bear and wild turkey. These foods were supplemented with roots and wild vegetables such as spinach, prairie turnips and potatoes together with berries and fruits such as melon. When food was scarce the Arikara tribe ate dried buffalo meat, called pemmican. The Arikara tribe were often called “corn-eaters,” and are represented in Native Indian sign language by imitating the shelling of corn, by holding the left hand still, the shelling being done with the right.

What weapons did the Arikara use?
The weapons used by the Arikara tribe included bows and arrows, stone ball clubs, hatchet axes, spears, lance and knives. Painted war shields were used on horseback as a means of defence.

Who were the most famous leaders and chiefs of the Arikara tribe?
The most famous leader and chief of the Arikara tribe was Stan-au-pat (Chief Bloody Hand). The Arikara tribe became allies of the Mandan and Hidatsa Native Indian Tribes. The tribe were enemies of the Lakota Sioux and the Assiniboine tribes.

Arikara History Timeline: What happened to the Arikara tribe?
The following history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks and battles fought by the Arikara Nation. The timeline explains exactly what happened to the Arikara tribe. The Arikara have originally formed a single tribe with the Gros Ventre.

Arikara History Timeline

  • 1400: The Arikara migrate to the Plains

  • 1541: Coronado encounters the Arikara at the Big Blue River and Mill Creek Valley in present day Kansas

  • 1600s: The Arikara became strongly associated with the Skidi, one of the tribes of the Pawnee confederacy and shared much of their culture and farming lifestyle living in fortified villages of earth lodges

  • 1650: The Arikara trade with the French at Elk Horn River (Present day Nebraska)

  • 1700's: The Arikara continue migrating north and built villages in the South Dakota area. They eventually established a trading center in South Dakota

  • 1738: Arikara recorded as having and trading horses

  • 1804: The Lewis and Clark expedition visited and established friendly relations with the Arikara tribe

  • 1800's: The Arikara tribe become hostile to the whites due to the aggressive behaviour of the traders

  • 1823: The Arikara War against the US, led by Chief Bloody Hand, erupted along the upper Missouri River in Dakota Territory following Arikara attacks on the boats of American traders

  • 1825: Treaty signed with the US

  • 1849: Cholera and smallpox epidemics led to the extermination of many Arikara and the destruction of their villages

  • 1850: The depleting number of Arikaras formed alliances with the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes

  • 1851: The Treaty at Fort Laramie made agreements to the territories of the Arikara, Mandan and Hidatsa tribes

  • 1866: The Three Tribes negotiate the Treaty of 1866 with the US and lose more lands on the northeast side of the Missouri River

  • 1870: The tribe was moved to their present reservation at Fort Berthold together with the Hidatsa and Mandan tribes

Arikara History Timeline

The Story of Arikara
For additional facts and information about legends refer to the Arikara Story of the Magic Windpipe.


  • Interesting Facts and information about the way the people lived
  • The clothes worn by men and women
  • Description of the homes and the type of food the Arikara would eat
  • Fast Facts and info about the Arikara
  • Names of famous chiefs and leaders
  • Interesting Homework resource for kids on the history of the Arikara Native American Indians

Pictures and Videos of Native American Indians and their Tribes
The Arikara Tribe was one of the most famous tribes of the Great Plains Native American Indians. Discover the vast selection of pictures on the subject of the tribes of Famous Native Americans such as the Arikara nation. The pictures show the clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes, such as the Arikara tribe, that can be used as a really useful educational resource for kids and children of all ages. We hope you enjoy watching the video - just click and play - a great social studies homework resource for kids .


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