The History of Arikara Tribe: It is fascinating to learn about the history of the Arikara Tribe. There are times when the Arikara are also called the Arikarees, or simply the Ree.
How is the Arikara pronunciation? This name is pronounced uh-RICK-uh-ruh. Arikara means “horns,” in reference to the ancient practice of wearing two upright bones in their hair, or perhaps “elk people” or “corn eaters.” In the course of their migration north, the Arikara split off from the Pawnee tribe and moved further north than the other Caddoan-speaking tribes.
They settled along the banks of the upper Missouri River in what is now the state of North Dakota near the border of South Dakota, to the south of two Siouan-speaking tribes, the HIDATSA and MANDAN, with whom they have had extensive contact over the course of their history. Like the Hidatsa and Mandan before them, the Arikara were farmers and villagers.
As a matter of fact, it is believed that they were also responsible for bringing agricultural skills to other tribes along the upper Missouri River. In addition to nine varieties of corn, they also grew beans, squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers. In contrast to their Caddoan counterparts to the south, the Arikara did not live in grass huts like their Caddoan kin.
Instead, they built earth lodges overlooking the river on bluffs. In the nearby fields, they planted crops. To supplement their diet, the Arikara hunted buffalo. With the acquisition of horses in the 1700s, they were able to pursue the great herds even further from their villages. Both eastern Montana and the Dakotas were their hunting grounds.
The hunters lived in Tipis while on hunting expeditions. As part of the Great Plains Culture Area (PLAINS INDIANS), the Arikara are considered Native Americans. However, they were less nomadic than other Plains tribes (PRAIRIE INDIANS). There are many cultural similarities between the Arikara and the Mandan, a tribe more thoroughly documented than the Arikara or the Hidatsa.
The customs of all three tribes were passed from one to the next. It has even been reported that customs are bought and sold in some cases. It was not uncommon for tribes to trade horses, tools, and ornaments in exchange for the right to perform certain dances. In addition to the hot dance, another Arikara dance spread to other tribes. A large fire would be built for the occasion, a kettle of boiling meat would be placed over it, and hot coals would be spread across the ground.
To prove their courage, young men would dance barefoot and naked on the coals, with their hands and feet painted red. They would then grab the meat with their hands, dip it in scalding water, and eat it. The Arikara villages, like those of the Mandan and Hidatsa, became important centers of commerce due to their location on the Missouri River.
In exchange for farm products, they traded buffalo meat, robes, and horses with other Plains peoples. Traders from France and England regularly exchanged guns and other European goods for fur. After the Louisiana Purchase by the United States in 1803, Lewis and Clark were commissioned by the federal government to explore the newly acquired American territories.
Between the Grand and Cannonball Rivers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark encountered the Arikara and wrote about them in their journals. Most Arikara tribal members hid out with the Pawnee in what is now Nebraska for two years after attacking an American trading party in 1823 and killing 13 people. Arikaras settled further north when they returned to upper Missouri.
Their villages extended as far north as the mouth of the Heart River by 1851. Their numbers were greatly reduced by disease spread by non-Indian traders. The neighboring Mandan were virtually wiped out by the great smallpox epidemic of 1837. Arikaras moved to Fort Berthold, North Dakota, in 1862.
Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan tribes still share a permanent reservation there, founded by the federal government in 1870. As a result of the construction of Garrison Dam in the 1950s, the Arikara homeland was flooded, and they were forced to relocate to the west side of the new Lake Sakakawae.
Visitors can explore upper-Missouri Indian history and culture at the museum of the Three Affiliated Tribes in New Town. Additionally, they operate a casino. During the summer, each tribal community hosts a powwow. There have been steps taken by the tribes to improve the health of their people.
There was a Wellness Center opened by the Fort Berthold Diabetes Program in 2004, and there was also the Challenge Walk in 2004, during which participants walked 25 miles on behalf of children and future generations.