Arapaho Indians

Possibly from the Pawnee tirapihu or larapihu, signifiying “trader.” Also called:

  • Ähyä’to, Kiowa name.
  • Ano’s-anyotskano, Kichai name.
  • Bĕtidĕĕ, Kiowa Apache name.
  • Detseka’yaa, Caddo name, signifying “dog eaters.”
  • Dog Eaters.
  • E-tah-leh, Hidatsa name, signifying “bison path Indians.”
  • Hitänwo’ǐv, Cheyenne name, signifying “cloud men” or “sky men.”
  • Inûna-ina, own name, signifying “our people.”
  • Ita-Iddi, Hidatsa name (Maximilian).
  • Kaninahoish, Chippewa name.
  • Komséka-Ki`ñahyup, former Kiowa name, signifying “men of the worn-out leggings.”
  • Kun na-nar-wesh or Gene des Vach[es], by Lewis and Clark (1804). Mahpíyato, Dakota name, signifying “blue cloud.”
  • Niă’rharǐ’s-kûrikiwa’ahûski, Wichita name.
  • Särĕtǐka, Comanche and Shoshoni name, signifying “dog eaters”; the Pawnee, Wichita, and Ute names were forms of this.

Arapaho Connections. Together with their near relatives, the Atsina, the Arapaho constitute the most aberrant group of the Algonquian linguistic stock.

Arapaho Location. The Arapaho have occupied a number of different regions in the historic period, but after they crossed the Missouri they became most closely identified with northeastern Wyoming, where the main or northern part of the tribe resided for a long period and where they were finally given a reservation. (See also Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota)

Arapaho Subdivisions

The Arapaho recognized five main divisions, which were evidently originally distinct tribes. Mooney (1928) calls these:

  1. Nákasinĕ’na, Báachinĕna, or Northern Arapaho.
  2. Náawunĕna, or Southern Arapaho.
  3. Aä’ninĕna, Hitúnĕna, Atsina, or Gros Ventres of the Prairie, today usually reckoned as a distinct tribe.
  4. Bäsawunĕna, principally with the Northern Arapaho.
  5. Hánahawunĕna, or Aanû’nhawă, later incorporated with the Northern Arapaho.

The corresponding names given by Kroeber (1902 b) are:

  1. Hinanaē’inan (Arapaho proper),
  2. Nānwaçinähä’änan (evidently Southern Arapaho),
  3. Hitōune’nan (Gros Ventres),
  4. Bääsanwūune’nan, and Hānanaxawūune’nan

Kroeber also states that four more divisions recognized in the tribe were evidently in reality divisions of the Hinanaē’inan. These are:

  1. Wānxuē’içi (“ugly people”), about Cantonment, Okla.
  2. Haxāançine’nan (“ridiculous men”), on the South Canadian, Okla.
  3. Bāantcïine’nan (“red-willow men”), in Wyoming
  4. and a fourth whose name has been forgotten.

The following are relatively modern local bands of the Arapaho:

Forks-of-the-River Men,

  • Bad Pipes
  • Greasy Faces
  • Wáquithi
  • Aqáthinĕ’na
  • Gawunĕna
  • Háqihana
  • Säsábäithi

of which the first three were among the Northern Arapaho.

Arapaho History

According to tradition, the Arapaho were once sedentary and seem to have lived in the Red River Valley, whence they moved southwest across the Missouri at some time prior to the passage of that stream by the Cheyenne. Sometime afterward the Atsina separated from the rest, possibly cut off from the main body by the Crow, and moved off to the north; and within the last century the rest of the tribe have slowly divided into a northern and a southern branch, the Northern Arapaho living along the edges of the mountains at the headwaters of the Platte, while the Southern Arapaho continued on toward the Arkansas. About 1840 they made peace with the Dakota, Kiowa, and Comanche but were at war with the Shoshoni, Ute, and Pawnee until they were confined to reservations. By the treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867 the Southern Arapaho were placed upon a reservation in Oklahoma along with the Southern Cheyenne; this was thrown open to white settlement and the Indian lands were allotted in severalty in 1892. The Northern Arapaho were assigned to a reservation on Wind River, Wyoming, after having made peace with the Shoshoni who occupied the same reserve. The Atsina were associated with the Assiniboin on Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana.

Arapaho Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that there were 3,000 Arapaho in 1780 and the same number of. Atsina. In 1894 there were 2,638 of the two tribes together; in 1904 there were 889 Northern Arapaho and 859 Southern Arapaho, a total of 1,748. The census of 1910 reported 1,419 Arapaho, while the United States Indian Office Report for 1923 gives 921 Arapaho in Wyoming and 833 in Oklahoma, a total of 1,754. The 1930 census reported 1,241, of whom 867 belonged to the northern division. In 1937 there were 1,164 Northern Arapaho and 2,836 Southern Arapaho and Cheyenne together.

Connections in which the Arapaho have become noted. The Arapaho were one of the famous raiding tribes of the Plains; their name appears frequently coupled with that of the Cheyenne. The name Arapahoe has been given to a county and a mountain in Colorado and to localities in Furnas County, Nebraska; Pamlico County, North Carolina; Cheyenne County, Colorado; and Fremont County, Wyoming; and the name Arapaho to the county seat of Custer County, Oklahoma.


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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