Hidatsa Tribe

Hidatsa Tribe aka Minitari tribe: Native Indian

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

The Hidatsa Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Hidatsa, also known as the Minitari tribe, of North Dakota were traditionally traders, farmers and hunters who lived in fortified villages of earth lodges on the Great Plains. The Hidatsa are remembered as the tribe who captured Sacajawea the interpreter and guide on the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804 - 1806).

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Facts about the Hidatsa Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Hidatsa Native American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions like where did the Hidatsa 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 Hidatsa tribe with facts about their wars and history.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Hidatsa tribe?
Most of the Plains tribes gave up their permanent villages after they got horses, but this was not the case of the Hidatsa tribe. The Hidatsa tribe, aka the Minitari, lived in permanent villages of earthlodges overlooking the Missouri River. The fortified villages of the Hidatsa became commercial trading centers during the fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Hidatsa tribe were traders, hunters and farmers who cultivated their lands raising crops of beans, corn,  sunflowers, squashes, and pumpkins. They supplemented their crops with food obtained by hunting the buffalo and other animals. After following a buffalo herd until they had a good supply of meat and hides, the Hidatsa hunters would return to their permanent village. The Hidatsa tribe became closely associated with the Mandan and the Arikara people who were collectively known as the 'Three Tribes'.

The Hidatsa tribe and Sacajawea
The famous Sacajawea (c.17861812) was a Shoshone Native Indian who was captured by members of the Hidatsa tribe as a girl and sold into slavery. Sacajawea acted as an Indian guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition through the wilderness and across the Rockies from 1804 - 1806.


Where did the Hidatsa tribe live?
The Hidatsa 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 Hidatsa 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 Hidatsa tribe live in?
The Hidatsa tribe lived in Earthen houses, also called  earth lodges, which was a type of permanent home for Native American Indians who lived in harsh climates without large forests. The Hidatsa 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 Hidatsa 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, Arikara, Pawnee, Omaha and the Osage.

What transport did the Hidatsa Tribe use?
The main form of transport for the Hidatsa tribe was the horse. However, the village tribes like the Hidatsa who lived along the Missouri River used a small, bowl-shaped bullboat. They made the 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 Hidatsa Indians being ferried across the river. 

What was the religion of the Hidatsa?
The religion and beliefs of the Hidatsa tribe was based on Animism that encompassed the spiritual or religious idea that the universe and all natural objects animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains rocks etc have souls or spirits. The Great Plains tribes such as the Hidatsa believed in Manitou, the Great Spirit.

Rituals of the Hidatsa - The Dog Dance
The rituals and ceremonies of the Mandan tribe and many other Great Plains Native Indians, included the Sweat Lodge ceremony, the Vision Quest and the Sun Dance Ceremony. Their ceremonies also included the Dog Dance. The painting by Karl Bodmer is of an Hidatsa Indian called Pehriska-Ruhpa meaning "Two Ravens" who was a principal warrior and leader of the Hidatsa Dog Society. Two Ravens performing the traditional Dog Dance in full costume. A dog dancer was one of the bravest warriors in his tribe and would to fight to the death to protect their people. His dance imitated battle manoeuvres and was performed to bring success in battles. The Dog dancer's striking blue headdress is made of magpie and wild turkey feathers. He wears a long cloth cloak over his shoulder and holds a war whistle and a Dog society emblem of a rattle made of deer hooves or deer claws attached to a beaded stick. In in his other hand he holds a bow and arrows.

What clothes did the Hidatsa men wear?
The clothes worn by the Hidatsa men consisted of breechcloths during the hot summer and, in the winter, fringed buckskin tunics or shirts and leggings. Warm buffalo robes or cloaks were also worn to protect against the rain and the cold. The Hidatsa men also wore beaded, feathered war bonnets in a halo-style decorated with various feathers and beadwork as a symbol of courage and accomplishments. They went barefoot or wore moccasins on their feet a soft, light beige, slip-on shoe, consisting of a sole and sides made of one piece of leather.

Hidatsa Clothing
The women of the Hidatsa tribe were responsible for making the clothes worn by the people. Most clothes were sewn from the soft, tanned skins of deer (buckskin) and buffalo hide. The White Buffalo Society, which was restricted to Hidatsa women, would perform a special dance designed to lure the buffalo to the hunters. Clothes was often decorated with paint, porcupine quills or beadwork. Hidatsa clothing for both men and women were adorned with ornaments, especially necklaces and earrings.

What clothes did the Hidatsa women wear?
The type of clothes worn by the Hidatsa women were knee-length dresses and leggings. The women also wore the buffalo cloaks to keep warm and dry. The dresses of the Hidatsa women that were used for special ceremonies were intricately decorated with feathers and 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. Hidatsa women wore their hair long worn in two, thick braids that were often decorated with beads.

What language did the Hidatsa tribe speak?
The Hidatsa tribe spoke in the Caddoan and Siouan language.

What food did the Hidatsa tribe eat?
The food that the Hidatsa 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, 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 Hidatsa tribe ate dried buffalo meat, called pemmican.

What weapons did the Hidatsa use?
The weapons used by the Hidatsa 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 Hidatsa tribe?
The most famous leaders and chiefs of the Hidatsa tribe were Chief Crows Breast, Chief Black Moccasin, Little Wolf, Man Wolf Chief, Cherry-on-the-Bush, Flat Bear, Crow Flies High, Poor Wolf and Bobtail Bull. The Hidatsa tribe became allies of the Arikara and Hidatsa Native Indian Tribes. The tribe were enemies of the Lakota Sioux and the Assiniboine tribes.

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

Hidatsa History Timeline

  • 1450: The Hidatsa tribe migrate to the Plains

  • 1670: The Hidatsa make contact with English traders on the Hudson Bay obtaining metal axes and spear points

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

  • 1738: Hidatsa tribe recorded as having and trading horses

  • 1781: A Smallpox epidemic devastates three bands of Hidatsa

  • 1798: At about the age of 10 years old, Sacajawea was captured by a Hidatsa raiding party

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

  • 1800's: The Hidatsas become fur traders

  • 1806: Smallpox hits the Hidatsa villages

  • 1825: Treaty signed with the US represented by General Henry Atkinson and Major Benjamin O'Fallonare

  • 1836: Conflicts with the Sioux

  • 1837: Smallpox epidemic strikes the 'Three Tribes' (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara) villages

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

  • 1850: The depleting number of Hidatsas 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

  • 1864: The Hidatsa refuses to join the Sioux in their war against the Americans.

  • 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 Arikara and Mandan tribes

  • 1870: Chief Crow Flies High's Band move off the Reservation to near Ft. Union and maintained their culture and independence

Hidatsa History Timeline


  • 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 Hidatsa would eat
  • Fast Facts and info about the Hidatsa
  • Names of famous chiefs and leaders
  • Interesting Homework resource for kids on the history of this tribe of Native American Indians

Pictures and Videos of Native American Indians and their Tribes
The Hidatsa 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 Hidatsa nation. The pictures show the clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes, such as the Hidatsa 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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