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Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Arikara Indian
tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students
and teachers to visit our main Arikara site
for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with
Arikara pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.
How do you pronounce the word "Arikara"? What does it mean?
Arikara is pronounced "uh-RIH-kuh-rah." This name may have come from a neighboring tribe's word for "horns" or "male deer."
In their own language, the Arikaras call themselves Sanish, which means "the people." In historical records they are often referred to
as the Arikaree or Ree Indians.
Where is the location of the Arikara tribe?
The Arikara Indians are original people of North
and South Dakota.
Most Arikara people are still living in North Dakota today.
How is the Arikara Indian nation organized?
The Arikaras share a single nation with the Mandan
and Hidatsa tribes. In the past, the Mandans, Hidatsas,
and Arikaras lived in separate villages, each with its own chief.
But after a large number of their people died of smallpox in the 1800's, the three allies merged.
Together, they are known as the Three Affiliated Tribes.
Today the Arikaras, Mandans, and Hidatsas live on a reservation, which is land that belongs to them
and is under their control. The Three Affiliated Tribes have their own government, laws,
police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Arikaras are also US citizens and must obey American law.
Here is a map showing the location of the Fort Berthold Reservation
in North Dakota, where most Arikaras live today.
What language do the Arikara Indians speak?
The Arikara people speak English today. Some Arikaras, mostly elders, also speak their native
Arikara language. If you'd like to know an easy Arikara word,
"nawáh" (pronounced nah-wah) is a friendly greeting.
You can read an Arikara picture glossary here.
Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara speakers cannot understand each other's languages, so the three languages started to decline
once the tribes merged. However, some Arikara people are working to keep their language alive.
What was Arikara culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation.
On their site you can find information about the Arikara people in the past and today.
How do Arikara Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house.
Many Arikara children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more
chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have
dolls, toys, and games to play.
Here is a picture of a hoop game
played by Plains Indian kids. Arikara girls and boys also enjoyed swimming.
An Arikara mother traditionally carried a young child in a
on her back--a custom which many American parents have
What were men and women's roles in the Arikara tribe?
Arikara men were hunters and traders, and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Arikara women were farmers
and also did most of the child care, cooking, and sewing.
Only men became Arikara chiefs, but both genders could take part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.
What were Arikara homes like in the past?
The early Arikara Indians lived in settled villages of round earthen lodges. Arikara lodges were made from wooden frames
covered with packed earth.
Here are some Native American lodge pictures like
the ones Arikara Indians used.
When Arikara men went on hunting trips, they often used a small buffalo-hide
tipi (or tepee) as temporary shelter, similar to a camping tent. Unlike other Plains Indian tribes, though,
the Arikaras were not migratory people, and did not use tall tepees for their regular houses.
Today, Native Americans only put up a teepee for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for housing.
Most Arikaras live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.
What was Arikara clothing like? Did the Arikaras wear feather headdresses and
Arikara women wore long deerskin dresses, particularly white ones.
Arikara men wore breechcloths with leather leggings
and buckskin shirts. The Arikaras wore moccasins
on their feet, and in cold weather, they wore long buffalo-hide robes.
An Arikara lady's dress or warrior's shirt was fringed and often decorated with porcupine quills, beadwork, elk's teeth, and seashells.
Later, Arikara people began to adapt European costume such as cloth dresses and colorful blanket robes.
Here is a site about the symbolism of Plains Indian war shirts,
and some photos and links
about Indian clothing in general.
Arikara men usually wore a few feathers in their hair, as in
this picture of the Arikara warrior Rushing Bear.
But some Arikara Indian men did wear the long warbonnets that Plains Indians
are famous for. Traditionally, Arikara people only cut their hair when they were in mourning.
Arikara men usually wore their hair in two braids. Sometimes they wrapped their braids in fur.
Arikara women wore their hair either loose or braided.
Here is a website with pictures of these Indian hair styles.
The Arikaras also painted their faces for special occasions.
They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.
Current-day Arikara people may still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they
wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths...
and they only wear tribal regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.
What was Arikara transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No, the Arikara Indians didn't use canoes. Instead, they built bowl-shaped rafts called
bull boats out of willow rods and buffalo hide.
Bull boats were harder to paddle than canoes and couldn't go as fast, but they could carry a lot of weight.
Over land, the Arikaras used dogs pulling travois (a type of drag sled) to
help them carry their belongings. Horses didn't exist in North America
until colonists brought them over from Europe.
What was Arikara food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Arikaras were farming people. Arikara women from different families worked together to raise crops of
corn, beans, squash, and sunflower seeds. Men hunted deer and small game and took part in seasonal bison hunts.
The Arikaras weren't migratory people, so they didn't hunt buffalo as often as other Plains Indian tribes, but
buffalo meat was still an important part of their diet because they acquired it in trade from other tribes. Here is a website with more information
about Native American agriculture.
What were Arikara weapons and tools like in the past?
Arikara hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Arikara men fired their bows or fought with
war clubs and spears.
What other Native Americans did the Arikara tribe interact with?
The Arikaras had a strong trading relationship with other tribes of the Great Plains and the Western Plateau. They especially liked to trade
corn to nomadic tribes like the Kiowa and
Lakota Sioux in exchange for receiving bison hides and meat. Since they had a good
reputation as traders, neighboring tribes often used the Arikaras as a middleman to trade with each other as well, making them a wealthy
and influential tribe. The Arikaras used the Indian Sign Language to communicate
with many of their trading partners.
The Arikaras also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than
European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties
rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included
counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him),
stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat.
So the Arikaras sometimes were enemies of neighbors like the
Hidatsa tribes, and other times they were allies.
The Europeans who first met them were surprised by how often the Arikara tribe fought with their neighbors,
yet how easily they made peace with each other when they were done fighting.
What are Arikara arts and crafts like?
Arikara artists were known for their pottery and
baskets. Later, the Arikaras became known for their glassworking
skill and supplied many tribes with Native American beads for their beadwork.
What is Arikara music like?
The two most important Arikara instruments are the drum and the
flute. Arikara drums were usually large and several men would play
them together at tribal festivals and celebrations. Flutes were carved from wood are were most often used to play love songs.
Here is a video of tribal drummers and dancers performing at the
Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara pow wow.
What kinds of stories do the Arikaras tell?
There are lots of traditional Arikara legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the
Arikara worldview. Here is one story about
how corn came to the Arikaras.
Here's a website where you can read more about Arikara Indian mythology.
What about Arikara religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Arikara life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today.
It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Arikara people care about them deeply.
You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about
Arikara rituals or this site about
Native American religion in general.
Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Myths and Traditions of the Arikara Indians,
which is an interesting collection of Arikara legends and historical stories. Older readers might be interested in
The Arikara War, which tells the story of the 1823
conflict between the Arikara and the US army. If you are interested in ancient history,
Storied Stone: Indian Rock Art of the Black Hills Country
is an interesting book displaying petroglyphs in the Black Hills area made by the Arikaras and neighboring tribes.
You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American literature in general.
Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links.
Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!
How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and
Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization
working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization
here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in
Thanks for your interest in the Arikara Indian people and their language!
Learn More About The Arikaras
Arikara Indian Tribe
An overview of the Arikara people, their language and history.
Arikara Language Resources
Arikara language samples, articles, and indexed links.
Arikara Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Arikara tribe past and present.
Arikara Indian vocabulary lists.
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