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Gros Ventre Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Gros Ventres for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Gros Ventre website for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Gros Ventre pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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Gros Ventre Tribe

How do you pronounce the name "Gros Ventre"? What does it mean?
Gros Ventre is pronounced "Grow Vaunt." That means "big belly" in French. Some people think they got this name because they enjoyed feasting. Others think the French saw a Gros Ventre rub his belly as a gesture from the Plains Indian sign language. Or they could have confused the Gros Ventres with another tribe, the Hidatsa, who the French also called "Gros Ventre." In their own language, the Gros Ventres call themselves Aane or A'aninin, which means "white clay people." They are also known as the Atsina, which is the Arapaho name for their tribe.

Where do the Gros Ventres live?
The Gros Ventres were far-ranging people, especially once they began riding horses. Gros Ventre communities have been located throughout the Great Lakes and Northern Plains, in both Canada and the United States. Today, the Gros Ventre tribe is located in Montana, though there are still Gros Ventre descendents living in Canada.

How is the Gros Ventre Indian nation organized?
The Gros Ventres share a reservation with the Assiniboine Indians. A reservation is land that belongs to an Indian tribe and is under their control. The Assiniboines and Gros Ventres have their own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, they are also US citizens and must obey American law.

Gros Ventre bands were traditionally led by chiefs. Today, since the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes share a government, they are ruled by an elected council which includes six members from each tribe.

What language do the Gros Ventres speak?
Gros Ventre people speak English today. Some elders also speak their native Gros Ventre language. If you'd like to learn a few easy Gros Ventre words, "wahey" (pronounced "wah-hay") is a greeting used among men, and "naneyha" (pronounced "nah-nay-hah") is a greeting used among women. You can see a bilingual Gros Ventre coloring book here.

Today Gros Ventre is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore. Because the Gros Ventre tribe was placed on a reservation with the Assiniboines, who didn't understand Gros Ventre, it was very difficult for them to preserve their traditional language. However, some Gros Ventre people are working to keep their language alive.

What was Gros Ventre culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of Gros Ventre writer Everall Fox (Wus-Woos). On his site you can find information about the Gros Ventre people in the past and today.

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How do Gros Ventre Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Gros Ventre children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Here is a picture of a hoop game popular among the Gros Ventre. Gros Ventre mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with cradle-board pictures.

What were Gros Ventre homes like in the past?
Gros Ventre people lived in tall buffalo-hide houses called tipis (or teepees). Here are more tepee pictures. Tipis were carefully designed to set up and break down quickly, like a modern tent. An entire Gros Ventre village could be packed up and ready to move on within an hour. Today, Native Americans only put up a tipi for fun or to connect with their heritage. Most Gros Ventres live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Gros Ventre clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Gros Ventre women wore split skirts, and the men wore breechclouts and leggings. Shirts were not necessary in the Gros Ventre culture, but women sometimes wore long buckskin dresses in cool weather. The Gros Ventres wore leather moccasins on their feet and buffalo-hide robes decorated with fancy quillwork. Gros Ventre men tied feathers to locks of their hair, and women wore two long braids. Both genders painted their faces with bright colors for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration. Later, Gros Ventre people adapted Sioux Indian styles such as fringed warshirts and feathered warbonnets. Here is a site about the symbolism of Plains Indian war shirts, and some photographs and links about traditional Indian dress in general.

Today, some Gros Ventre people still wear moccasins or a fringed shirt, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Gros Ventre transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Gros Ventre weren't coastal people, and when they traveled by river, they usually built rafts. Originally the Gros Ventres used dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry their belongings. Here is an article with pictures of Native American travois. Once Europeans introduced horses to North America, the Gros Ventres became known as expert riders and traveled greater distances. Horse riding is still popular in the Gros Ventre nation today, but like other Americans, Gros Ventres also use modern vehicles like cars now.

What was Gros Ventre food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Gros Ventres were originally farming people. Gros Ventre women used to harvest corn, squash, and beans while the men went on hunting trips. But once horses entered their culture, the Gros Ventre tribe became more dependent on the buffalo for sustenance. They became nomadic hunters, following the migrating buffalo herds across the plains instead of raising crops. Here is a website with more information about these different types of Indian food.

What were Gros Ventre weapons and tools like in the past?
Gros Ventre hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, spears, and hide shields. Here is a website with pictures and information about Native weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Gros Ventre tribe interact with?
The Gros Ventres traded regularly with all the tribes of the Great Plains, especially the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Cree. The Gros Ventres usually communicated with these tribes using the Plains Indian Sign Language.

The Gros Ventres 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 and almost never destroyed each other's villages. Instead, they preferred to count coup (touch an opponent in battle without harming him), steal an enemy's weapon or horse, or force the other tribe's warriors to retreat. So the Gros Ventres sometimes were enemies of neighboring tribes like the Crow and Blackfoot, and other times they were allies. The Europeans who first met them were surprised by how often the Plains Indian tribes fought with their neighbors, yet how easily they made peace with each other when they were done fighting.

What are Gros Ventre arts and crafts like?
Gros Ventre artists are known for their clothing and leatherwork, which they decorate with porcupine quills, beads, and colorful paint. Here's a website with photographs of a beaded Gros Ventre war shirt.

What kinds of stories do the Gros Ventres tell?
There are lots of traditional Gros Ventre legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Gros Ventre Indian culture. Here is a Gros Ventre story about the creation of the world. Here's a website where you can read more about Gros Ventre stories.

What about Gros Ventre religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Gros Ventre life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Gros Ventre people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Gros Ventre religious traditions or this site about indigenous religion in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Beauty, Honor and Tradition or Powwow, two beautiful artistic books put together by a Gros Ventre author to show traditional Plains Indian art forms. If you want to know more about Gros Ventre culture and history, one interesting source is Ethnology of the Gros Ventre. You can also browse through our American Indian book recommendation 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 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Gros Ventre Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Gros Ventres

Gros Ventre Indian Tribe
An overview of the Gros Ventre people, their language and history.

Gros Ventre Language Resources
Gros Ventre language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Gros Ventre Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Gros Ventre people past and present.

Gros Ventre Words
Gros Ventre Indian vocabulary lists.

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