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The traditional homeland of the Arikara includes present-day North Dakota alongside the Missouri River, close to the mouth of the Platte. Today their land is the Fort Berthold reservation.
Their original name was the “Arickaree,” but they were also known as the Sahnish. They are descended from the Caddoan and are closely related to the Pawnee and the Skidi band.
Their religion was based on medicine and magical powers. Their practice was called the “Shunuwanuh.” They had many medical ceremonies that were performed from midsummer until fall. Their most common dances were the “sun” dance mainly for agricultural purposes, and the “child” dance, which allowed the adoption of people into their tribe. They also believed in myths and legends. One Legend that stands out in particular is the Address to Mother Corn. The soul was called Sishu and it was responsible for everything that a person does during life. They believed this “soul” resided in the chest, and that it could actually be seen whenever a person spoke, moved, or even stretched their muscles. All animals were believed to have Sishu, only inanimate objects were not privileged enough to have Sishu.
The clothes were very ornate and mostly made of deerskin. The men wore moccasins, deerskin leggings, and buffalo robes as shirts. The women wore a one-piece dress that reached down to their ankles, made of two pieces of deerskin and fringed on the bottom. The Arikara claim to have an original basket weaving technique as well, but many Caddoan experts say it was a classic Caddoan weave.
Their housing was also very complex. A circular earthen lodge was their favorite dwelling. It was constructed of a series of complex columns and rafters made from timber and was covered with willow branches, sod and earth. These lodges had a circumference from forty to about seventy feet in diameter.