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Origins of Wyoming


Great Plains in Wyoming
Great Plains in Wyoming

Native Americans have lived in Wyoming for over 11,000 years. In 1975 archaeologists uncovered a site dating back 11,200 years in which the remains of prehistoric mammoths were found next to bone tools, projectiles, and knives. Another site shows evidence of prehistoric people mining quartzite, presumably to use for tools.

The principal Native American groups of Wyoming were the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, Blackfoot, Crow, Shoshone, and Bannock. Many of these groups had similar lifestyles, based on the Great Plains culture. They were nomads, living in small groups of up to 100 people, hunting primarily Plains bison. In order to trap the animals, Native Americans built corrals made of brush and poles near steep bluffs or ravines. Then they drove bison herds toward the corral. When the bison entered the corral, men hiding behind the walls chased the bison over cliffs.

In the middle of the 17th century, Native Americans of the Great Plains began to use horses. These animals provided the Native Americans greater mobility because they could carry more goods, and they could transport the young and the elderly with greater ease. Horses also became an important tool for bison hunting. A fast and well-trained group of horses could drive a herd of buffalo over a cliff so that the Native Americans did not have to build a corral. Native American groups with the most horses were often the most prosperous. Many Native American groups stole horses from one another to improve their hunting or to weaken their neighbors’ claims on adjacent hunting grounds. During the 18th and 19th centuries, some Native Americans from the Northeast began migrating west to the Great Plains as white settlers took their land.

As the plains became more populated, rivalries intensified among different Native American groups. The Cheyenne and the Arapaho probably came into the Great Plains region in the 18th century from North Dakota or Minnesota. These traditional allies lived on the eastern plains of Wyoming. The Sioux, who relocated from Minnesota and Wisconsin, also hunted in the eastern plains of Wyoming. By the early 19th century the Crow people were based in the Bighorn Mountains. The Blackfoot, who were antagonistic toward the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, and Sioux, occupied the Snake River country and the Three Forks of the Missouri River in Montana. In the mountains of western Wyoming roamed the Shoshone and Bannock. Other tribes who at one time hunted in the Wyoming country included the Ute, the Flathead, the Nez Perce, and the Kiowa. Access to the best buffalo lands was determined by warfare. "Wyoming" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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