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Habitat

The Plains Indians lived in the area from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to Mexico. The most important tribes were the Sioux, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, and Comanche. The plains area was hotter than 100 degrees in the summer, and could drop to 40 degrees below zero with heavy snows in the winter. The region was so dry that when it rained it often flooded. The rolling land was covered with grassland and a few mountains. The Black Hills were high and steep. Few Indians lived on the Great Plains before white men brought the horse in the 1600’s.

Homes

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Model of a teepee built by a student

Before white men came to America most of the Plains Indians lived along the rivers and streams where the land was fertile. In their villages the Indians lived in earth lodges. They were made of frames of  logs covered with brush and dirt. When hunting the Indians lived in teepees. Occasionally they built wigwams. The wigwams protected the teepee from rotting. The wigwam was used to store food. To build the teepee the women took long poles and stuck them in the ground in the form of a circle. They leaned the poles together at the top. The poles were fastened with hides. The poles were covered with buffalo hides.  Two longer poles were attached to the top corners. The were used to remove the smoke from the fire.

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The teepee opening always faced east. The outside of the teepee was decorated with paintings of animals, stars, or other objects. The Plains Indians had little furniture. Their beds were made from buffalo robes, skins with the hair left on. They also had back rests. Food, clothes, and belongings were stored in parfleches. A parfleche was a strong pouch made of buffalo hide.

Dress

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The women made their clothing from buffalo hides and deerskin. Boys wore nothing until the age of 10 then they began wearing breech clouts. A breech clout was a deerskin stretched between the legs and fastened to by a leather belt in the back and the front. In cold weather the men put on robes and high boots made from buffalo hides. The young girls wore breech clouts. When they reached adolescence they began wearing loosely-fitting, long-sleeved dresses stitched together with deerskin and decorated with fringe, beads, and small pieces of metal.
Both men and women painted their bodies, faces, and scalps with brightly colored paints made from clay and juices of berries and fruits. The men pierced their ears. Men wore their hair long and separated it into two braids that were decorated with strips of fur, leather, or a single feather. The women cut their hair much shorter than the men.

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