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[Detail] Where gold was firs [sic] discovered [between 1890 and 1910].

[Detail] Where gold was firs [sic] discovered [between 1890 and 1910].

Native American Cultures

Many photographs in the collection depict the lives of Native Americans from more than forty tribes west of the Mississippi River. The largest and most powerful western tribe was the Sioux, also known as the Dakota. The Santee Sioux lived in the woodlands of Minnesota, while the Teton Sioux, comprised of several different bands, lived further to the west, in the Great Plains. Like other Plains people, they camped in teepees and owned many horses, which were useful for hunting.

The Cheyennes once lived with the Santee Sioux in Minnesota, but eventually moved west and acquired horses. The Cheyennes were comprised of two bands. The Northern Cheyennes lived with the Teton Sioux in the Powder River and Bighorn country of Montana and Wyoming. The Southern Cheyennes lived below the Platte River in villages on the Colorado and Kansas plains. The Arapahos were also comprised of northern and southern bands, which were closely associated and lived in the same areas with the Cheyenne bands.

The Kiowas once lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but the Sioux, Cheyennes, and Arapahos pushed them south into the land of the Comanches below the buffalo ranges of Kansas and Nebraska. The Kiowas became allies of the Comanches, whose tribe was divided into several small nomadic bands.

The Apaches and Navajos shared the Southwest, where their proximity to Mexico put them in contact with the Spanish. Like the Comanches, the Apaches were divided into many small bands, but they were able to fend off the Spanish through 250 years of guerrilla warfare. The Navajos, on the other hand, adopted some aspects of Spanish culture and learned to farm and raise livestock.


The Pueblos were living in the Southwest as early as the first century, A.D., long before the Apaches and Navajos arrived from the north. The Pueblos were hunter-gatherers who gradually became farmers as well. They built adobe villages into shallow caves and under overhanging cliffs. These Southwest tribes were often raided by the Utes, a tribe that lived to the north in the Rockies.

Study photographs to examine and compare the cultures of different tribes. Portraits record different types of clothing, while other images record the kinds of dwellings used by different tribes. Search on the names of tribes or use the Subject Index headings such as Hopi Indians, Zuni Indians, and Pawnee Indians. Select images by region or topic through Subject Index headings such as Indians of North America--Great Plains, Indians of North America--New Mexico, and Indians of North America--Structures—Oklahoma.

  • Do different members of a tribe dress differently? How do the men, women, children, chiefs, warriors, and medicine men each dress? If there are differences, what do they suggest?
  • If tribes are closely related, such as the Cheyennes and Arapahos, is this reflected in their clothing and shelter?
  • How does climate affect the types of clothing and shelter used by different peoples?
  • What other aspects of a people's culture are affected by climate and geography?
  • What other objects manifest a people's culture?
  • How would relocation of Native Americans to reservations in different parts of the country have affected their traditional lifestyles and cultures?