Plateau Indians

Nez Perce Warrior

The climate, environment, land and natural resources that were available to the Indian tribes in this area resulted in the adoption of the culture shared by the Plateau Indians.

Learn about the life of the people of the Plateau Indians. Discover facts and information about the natural resources available, the languages, culture, clothing, their religion, beliefs and ceremonies. Pictures and images illustrating the Plateau Indians culture.

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The Culture of the Plateau Indians
The area covered eastern Washington, northern Idaho, western Montana, northeast and central Oregon, southeast British Columbia. The Plateau Indians lived in small villages alongside rivers. The animals and fish, including trout and salmon, and the Plants, and Crops provided their food, clothing and shelter. Their Houses, Shelters and Homes depended on the materials available to them and whether the home was permanent or temporary.

There are also facts and info about the Religion, Ceremonies and Beliefs of the Northwest Plateau Native Americans group. The Plateau tribes included the Klamath, Modoc, Nez Perce, Walla Walla and Yakima tribes who spoke the Penutian language and the Salish (Flathead) tribes who spoke the Salishan language. Their weapons, trading currencies, beliefs, ceremonies and religions were also important elements of their way of life. The Plateau Indians who lived on the borders of lands often reflected two types of lifestyles.

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Map showing location of
Plateau Indians Cultural Group


Plateau Indians - Lifestyle (Way of Living)
Plateau tribes included the Nez Perce, Flathead, Kutenai, Palus, Coeur D'Alene, Cayuse, and Kalispel, and these groups lived in the forests, woods and prairies and along the rivers. The climate, land and natural resources that were available to the Indian tribes resulted in the adoption of the Plateau Indians culture.

  • Name of Group: Plateau Indians
  • Languages: Siouan, Algonquian, Caddoan, Uto-Aztecan and Athabaskan
  • Geography of the State of Plateau Indians: Fast flowing rivers, lakes and forests. Warm summers and cold, snowy winters ,
  • Animals: Elk, deer, bear, mountain goat, groundhog, coyote, fox, raccoon, porcupine, weasel, beaver and hare
  • Fish: Salmon
  • Natural Resources: Berries, roots, and bulbs
  • Culture and Lifestyle adopted: Nomadic Hunter gatherers, Fishers
  • Food: Vegetables, fruits, meat and fish
  • Transport: Dugout canoes, Snowshoes
  • Types of housing, homes or shelters: Tule Mat Lodges and also lived in semi-subterranean Pit houses
  • Famous Tribes of Plateau Indians: Klamath, Modoc, Nez Perce, Salish (Interior Flathead), Walla Walla and Yakima
  • The Native Indians who lived on the borders of lands often reflected two different types of lifestyles. 

Plateau Indians - Languages
The languages of the Plateau Indians included Siouan, Algonquian, Caddoan, Uto-Aztecan and Athabaskan. Discover facts about each of these Plateau Indian Tribes.

Plateau Indians - Physical Characteristics
The physical characteristics of Plateau Indians are dark brown eyes, prominent cheek bones, straight black hair, and scantiness of beard. The skin color of Native Indians varies from very light in some tribes such as the Cheyenne, to almost black in others, such as the Caddo and a yellowish color in such as the Flatheads.

Plateau Indians - Geography and Environment
Varied environments ranging from semi-arid to lush mountain meadows. The Geography and Environment can be generally described as an area of lakes, rivers, and coniferous trees which dominated the landscape of the Plateau region. The great Fraser and Columbia Snake rivers provided many different types of salmon. Warm summers and cold, snowy winters.

Plateau Indians - Culture - Way of Life
Following the introduction of the horse by Europeans some Plateau Indians such as the Nez Perce travelled across the Rocky Mountains to hunt buffalo on the Great Plains. But they returned to their Plateau homeland in the winter to continue fishing in the great rivers. 

Plateau Indians - Animals
The animals were very important to the Plateau Indians. The uses of the animals were varied and included food, clothing, shelter and decorations. Plateau animals included the bear, mountain goat, coyote, fox, raccoon, porcupine, weasel, beaver and hare. The most important food to the survival of the Plateau people was the Pacific Salmon.


Plateau Indians - Plants and Trees
The Plants, Trees and Crops included berries, roots, and bulbs.

Plateau Indians - Tools and Weapons
The tools and weapons used by the Plateau people were made from bone (such as arrow heads), wood, nets for fishing, and stone (such as spears and cutting tools). Their weapons and tools were decorated with carvings, feathers, and beads.

Plateau Indians - Houses, Shelters and Homes
The different types of Houses, Shelters and Homes depended on the materials available and whether the home was permanent or temporary. The homes of the semi-nomadic Plateau Indians included tepees, tule mat lodges, lean-to's and pit houses. Winters were spent in larger, more permanent villages or winter camps which were sometimes fortified. In these villages people lived in underground shelters called pit houses.

Plateau Indians

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Plateau Indians - Religion, Ceremonies and Beliefs
The Religion, Ceremonies and Beliefs were based on
Animism. Animism was a commonly shared doctrine, or belief, of the indigenous people of North America and Canada including the Plateau Indian tribes. Animism is based on the spiritual or religious idea that the universe and all natural objects have souls or spirits. In this religion it is believed that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in animals, plants, trees, rocks etc. This belief is also extended to natural phenomena such as thunder storms and rain and geographic features such as mountains, caves or rivers also possess souls or spirits. They held the religious belief that an entity called 'Coyote' was responsible for bringing salmon up the river every spring and fall. They also practised vigils and Vision Quests and practised Smudging Rituals.

Plateau Indians - The Shaman
The Religion, Ceremonies and Beliefs of the Great Basin Indians were also dominated by Shamanism in which a religious leader, called a Shaman, acted as a medium between the visible and spirit worlds. The Shamans had special powers, medicine and magic to heal the sick, control the hunt, and predict the future.


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