1780s-1820s - Tribal migrations

The horse culture of the southwest would meet the gun culture of the northeast at the Mandan Villages, on the upper Missouri river, in the mid 1700s. Acquiring the horse brought dramatic changes to once semi-sedentary tribes, like the Sioux and Cheyenne, who migrated out of the forests of the upper Mississippi River Valley and out onto the plains. Photo by Edward Curtis

       Tribes on the plains escaped for a time the denigrating influence of traders and missionaries…thus providing a startling contrast to the recent history of the eastern woodlands tribes, which had paid a price both in blood and in the loss of ancestral homelands, for their willingness to trust the treaty terms offered by Euro-Americans.

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        Left to themselves, the new nomadic citizens of the plains quickly extended their ethnic longevity and adapted to their environment, flourishing with the help of the horse and plentiful buffalo.  During this brief period, from the 1730s to the 1840s, the Comanche and Crow, Blackfeet, Mandan, Arikara, Hidatsa, Arapaho and Cheyenne, are said to have been among the freest people to have ever roamed the earth.