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Arapaho Tribe Religion: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the religious beliefs and ceremonies of the Arapaho tribe of Native Americans. Read on to find out about the Ghost Dance, Sun Dance, and other parts of their religion.

The Arapaho Tribe

The Arapaho, a Native American tribe, originally lived on lands that are now in Colorado and Wyoming. A tribe of Plains Indians, they followed the herds of buffalo that were their main food source. The Arapaho lived in tipis, which were easy to take down and move with them.


Arapaho Camp in 1868
camp

The Arapaho eventually split up into two groups. Today, the Northern Arapaho mostly live on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, and most of the Southern Arapaho live in Oklahoma.


Little Bear, an Arapaho Man, in 1898
littlebear

Be He Teiht

Like many Native Americans, the Arapaho believed in a close relationship between themselves and the natural world, including plants, animals, and the land. They believed in sharing with others because anything that was shared would come back to you as even more in the future.

According to Arapaho beliefs, the world was created by Be He Teiht, also known the Creator. Helped by the duck and the turtle, who brought him soil from under the water, Be He Teiht put the soil into his pipe and blew it to the north, south, east, and west to make the earth. He then put the pipe, duck, and turtle into a bundle. The Arapaho believe they have been responsible for the earth ever since.

Because the pipe is so important in this story of creation, the pipe is still very sacred to the Arapaho. They use pipes in ceremonies to communicate with the Creator.

The Sun Dance

The Arapaho held many rituals and ceremonies as part of their religion. One of the most important of these was the Sun Dance, which was held once each year, during the summer. Because this was such an important ceremony, a special place, called the Offerings Lodge, was built just for the Sun Dance. Part of the ceremony involved going without food, water, and sleep for several days.

Vision Quests

The vision quest is a special ceremony for the Arapaho. A man would spend four days and four nights without eating while praying to the Creator. This was done to ask the Creator for power or wisdom. During this ceremony, the man would receive the power or wisdom, often in the form of an animal.

The Ghost Dance

In the late 1800s, the Arapaho began to participate in the Ghost Dance. It was meant to help restore the earth to the way it was before the European Americans arrived. Other Plains Indians tribes also followed this ritual.

Arapaho Ghost Dance
ghost2

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