Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Arikara from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1811) 1 : a member of an American Indian people of the Missouri River valley in No. Dakota 2 : the language of the Arikara


Summary Article: ARIKARA or REE
from Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America

The third of the upper Missouri River horticultural tribes, the Arikara, are a Caddoan people and a relatively late offshoot of the Skidi Pawnee. In the 1780s French traders reported them below the Cheyenne River in present South Dakota. In 1804, Lewis and Clark found them between the Grand and Cannonball Rivers, close to the present boundary between North and South Dakota, and already weakened in numbers due to smallpox. They were also often on unfriendly terms with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and surrounding Sioux. For a time they apparently rejoined the Skidi on the Loup River, Nebraska, but subsequently returned north, and by 1851 were on the Heart River. In 1862 they finally joined the Hidatsa and Mandan on the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota, where their descendants have remained. Despite their early hostility to Americans, some Arikara served as scouts for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars. Over the years their lands were allotted, and the Missouri bottom lands were lost during the Garrison Dam development in the 1950s.

In 1804 the Arikara numbered 2,600. The census of 1930 gave 420. In 1945 the reported figure was 780, and in 1970, 928. The “Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation” (Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara) now run a museum that exhibits buckskin clothing and historical items. There are usually at least four powwows held each year on the reservation: The White Shield, Mandaree, Little Shell and Twin Buttes powwows, which are combinations of the northern Plains and pan-Lakota intertribal forms. In 1990, the three tribes numbered 6,000, with approximately half living in the Fort Berthold Reservation. The total 2001 population of the three affiliated tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara) enrolled at Fort Berthold was 10,789.

Arikara Bear Dancer, c. 1900. The Bear Society was one of nine making up the prestigious Medicine Fraternity. Annual medicine bundle ceremonies began with the first thunder of early spring and continued through the summer in public, secret and conjuring peformances. The ceremonies coincided with various stages in the growth of maize and squash crops.

Text copyright © Michael Johnson 2007

Related Articles


Full text Article ARIKARA
Cassell's Peoples, Nations and Cultures

A Native North American nation of North Dakota, whose name means ‘people’. Seasonally mobile within their territory as farmers, hunters,...

Full text Article Arikara
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

An Indian people of North America who lived along the Missouri River in what are now North and South Dakota. They were related to the Pawnee ...

Full text Article Arikaras
Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607-1890, The: A Political, Social, and Military History

A Caddoan-speaking native people closely related to the Pawnees. Arikara means “horn,” which refers to a traditional hairstyle worn by the tribesmen

See more from Credo