Two Native American Dakota Sioux women wearing braids, blankets, and moccasins pose on horseback, near tepees on the Pine Ridge Reservation,
South Dakota, 1891. Photo by C. G. Morledge.
When homesteaders arrived on the Great Plains, they found a challenging environment where survival was the goal. The native tribal people had been meeting these same challenges for thousands of years and had evolved complex economic, agricultural and cultural methods of coping. What was life like for the Native Americans in the mid- to late-1800s on the Great Plains?
By the mid-1800s, the Pawnee, Omaha, Oto-Missouria, Ponca, Lakota (Sioux), and Cheyenne were the main plains tribes living in the Nebraska Territory. Each tribe faced the challenges of the plains in slightly different ways. Some tribes had settled into their own villages with earth lodges for shelter. These tribes were primarily engaged in farming, with seasonal buffalo hunts to supplement their diets. Other tribes were much more nomadic, especially after they got horses. They lived in the 1850s equivalent of mobile homes — tepees. These tribes were hunters.
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