My Sioux ancestors were peaceful and well fed until the arrival of Negroes and White Trash who killed off bison to starve the native population to death and steal their land. US Army too weak and stupid to defeat Indians with bow and arrow so they resort to indirect means of war.
The earliest Spanish explorers in the 16th century did not find the Plains Indians especially warlike. The Wichita in Kansas and Oklahoma lived in dispersed settlements with no defensive works.
Three factors led to a growing importance of warfare in Plains Indian culture. First, was the Spanish colonization of New Mexico which stimulated raids and counter-raids by Spaniards and Indians for goods and slaves. Second, was the contact of the Indians with French fur traders which increased rivalry among Indian tribes to control trade and trade routes. Third, was the acquisition of the horse and the greater mobility it afforded the Plains Indians. What evolved among the Plains Indians from the 17th to the late 19th century was warfare as both a means of livelihood and a sport.
Due to their mobility, endurance, horsemanship, and knowledge of the vast plains that were their domain, the Plains Indians were often victors in their battles against the U.S. army in the American era from 1803 to about 1890.
However, although Indians won many battles, they could not undertake lengthy campaigns. Indian armies could only be assembled for brief periods of time as warriors also had to hunt for food for their families. The exception to that was raids into Mexico by the Comanche and their allies in which the raiders often subsisted for months off the riches of Mexican haciendas and settlements.
The basic weapon of the Indian warrior was the short, stout bow, designed for use on horseback and deadly, but only at short range. Guns were usually in short supply and ammunition scarce for Native warriors.
The people of the Great Plains have been found to be the tallest people in the world during the late 19th century, based on 21st century analysis of data. Anthropometric historians usually equate the height of populations with their overall health and standard of living.
The nomadic tribes historically survived on hunting and gathering, and the American Bison was one primary resource for items which people used for everyday life, including food, cups, decorations, crafting tools, knives, and clothing.
The tribes followed the seasonal grazing and migration of buffalo. The Plains Indians lived in tepees because they were easily disassembled and allowed the nomadic life of following game.
When horses were obtained, the Plains tribes rapidly integrated them into their daily lives. The southern Plains Indians acquired vast numbers of horses. By the 19th century, Comanche and Kiowa families owned an average of 35 horses and mules each – and only six or seven were necessary for transport and war. The horses extracted a toll on the environment as well as requiring labor to care for the herd. Formerly egalitarian societies became more divided by wealth with a negative impact on the role of women. The richest men would have several wives and captives who would help manage their possessions, especially horses.
On the northeastern Plains of Canada, the Indians were less favored, with families owning fewer horses, remaining more dependent upon dogs for transporting goods, and hunting bison on foot. The scarcity of horses in the north encouraged raiding and warfare in competition for the relatively small number of horses that survived the severe winters.
The Lakota or Teton Sioux enjoyed the happy medium between North and South and became the dominant Plains tribe by the mid 19th century. They had relatively small horse herds, thus having less impact on their ecosystem. At the same time, they occupied the heart of prime bison range which was also an excellent region for furs, which could be sold to French and American traders for goods such as guns. The Lakota became the most powerful of the Plains tribes and the greatest threat to American expansion.
Before their adoption of guns, the Plains Indians hunted with spears, bows, and various forms of clubs. The use of horses by the Plains Indians made hunting (and warfare) much easier. With horses, the Plains Indians had the means and speed to stampede or overtake the bison. The Plains Indians reduced the length of their bows to three feet to accommodate their use on horseback. They continued to use bows and arrows after the introduction of firearms, because guns took too long to reload and were too heavy.
here were U.S. government initiatives at the federal and local level to starve the population of the Plains Indians by killing off their main food source, the bison. Bison were hunted almost to extinction and were reduced to a few hundred by the early 1900s. They were slaughtered for their skins, with the rest of the animal left behind to decay on the ground.
As the great herds began to wane, proposals to protect the bison were discussed. Buffalo Bill Cody, among others, spoke in favor of protecting the bison because he saw that the pressure on the species was too great. But these were discouraged since it was recognized that the Plains Indians, often at war with the United States, depended on bison for their way of life. In 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant “pocket vetoed” a Federal bill to protect the dwindling bison herds, and in 1875 General Philip Sheridan pleaded to a joint session of Congress to slaughter the herds, to deprive the Plains Indians of their source of food.
Plains Indians depended upon agriculture for a large share of their livelihood, particularly those who lived in the eastern parts of the Great Plains which had more precipitation than the western side.
Corn was the dominant crop, followed by squash and beans. Tobacco, sunflower, plums and other wild plants were also cultivated or gathered in the wild. Among the wild crops gathered the most important were probably berries to flavor pemmican and the Prairie Turnip.
Plains farmers developed short-season and drought resistant varieties of food plants. They did not use irrigation but were adept at water harvesting and siting their fields to receive the maximum benefit of limited rainfall. The Hidatsa and Mandan of North Dakota cultivated maize at the northern limit of its range.
The farming tribes also hunted buffalo, deer, elk, and other game. Typically, on the southern Plains, they planted crops in the spring, left their permanent villages to hunt buffalo in the summer, returned to harvest crops in the fall, and left again to hunt buffalo in the winter. The farming Indians also traded corn to the nomadic tribes for dried buffalo meat. With the arrival of the horse, some tribes, such as the Lakota and Cheyenne, gave up agriculture to become full-time, buffalo-hunting nomads.