The Arapaha and their History book cover

QCB PZJ0.11ROS              

The Arapaho and Their History
Compass Point Books
Jan 2005
Pages 48

Grades 5 – 8

 Rating:  Harmful stereotypical



“We the People” is a series of beautiful library bound four color books that tells the history of the United States.  Chapter one of “The Arapaho and Their History” starts with the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864,”  Using quotes and photos that give an accurate feeling of the United States toward the American Indians during the 1800’s like “Nit’s breed lice,” completing vivid description of the massacre, along with an image of a recruitment poster seeking cavalry volunteers to fight Indians, one is anxious to read the coming pages with piqued interest.  Chapter two then begins with “10,000 years ago, ancestors of the Arapaho crossed a land bridge…” negating Native beliefs of coming from the land in which we live, and reinforcing Manifest Destiny without even mentioning it.  If this had been left out and present-tense were to be used I without hesitation would have recommended this series.  We do learn that there are more than 7000 Arapaho living today between Wyoming and Oklahoma reservations, on much less land than they originally inhabited.  Chapter three discusses the hunting practices of these nomadic people who did not have permanent homes, but had tipis made of 15 to 20 buffalo skins, which were originally pulled by dogs on a travois until horses were introduced by the Spanish.  Chapter four discuses Family and community where the children learned skills by watching and playing, listening to stories of their older relatives. Other traditions were passed along through membership groups called “lodges”, and sacred ceremonies such as the Sun Dance.  Chapter Five gives a brief look at the ceremonial aspects of the Sun Dance and seems to question the knowledge of medicine people.  Chapter Six speaks about the peaceful lodge leaders and the wartime leaders, how they were selected and a tradition known as “Counting Coup” on ones enemy.  Chapter Seven mentions the Louisiana Purchase, Merriweather Lewis and William Clark, disease, alcoholism, the California Gold Rush, and how these people all changed the paths of the buffalo herds.  The treaty of Medicine Lodge, which created the southern Arapaho & Cheyenne reservation in Oklahoma, is mentioned in chapter Eight “The Years of Change,” as well as boarding schools and the ban of Native American Religion during the years of 1904 to 1934.  During the Twentieth century the Arapaho worked on regaining some rights by forming a constitutional government, getting legal control of their reservation mineral rights, mining, and cattle farming, yet many of the Arapaho remain unemployed according to Chapter Nine “The Arapaho Today.”

 In the Arapaho book:

1) page 8 - The Land bridge theory is a “theory” not necessarily proven, each tribe has their own creation story of how they came into existence, and to ignore this is to ignore a historical oral tradition and perpetuates a stereotype..

2)  page 24 “The medicine man also supposedly had special knowledge of the spirit world.” The supposedly makes me, the reader, think that this is something made up and makes me question the integrity of the people being discussed.  A medicine man in my culture could have many rolls, he could be a dance leader (meaning he leads our ceremonies), he could be an herbologist / ethnobotonist  (or doctor), he could be a spiritual healer (priest, preacher etc) but the only reason he would be considered any of these would be if he or she has been properly trained and is good at their practice.  If he or she was not, he could be put to death.

3)  page 29 “All these people changed the paths of the buffalo herds.”  The buffalo’s paths were not changed… the buffalo were killed off making it very difficult for Indian tribes to feed their families and much easier for the government to persuade the tribes to sign treaties giving up land for food, education, and health care.

4) page 30  “The Arapaho signed a treaty with the United States giving up some land.”  Any treaty signed gave up American Indian Rights and land with little return from the US.  The first treaty signed between a tribal entity and the U.S. Government was signed in 1778. The final treaty was signed in 1868, meaning that only 367 treaties were ratified.  Please see American Indian Treaties by Francis Prucha

More Resources

Fort Belknap Indian Reservation

Cheyenne - Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma

Arapaho stories