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Ancient Indian Cultures
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PLATEAU INDIAN CULTURE
Plateau CULTURES OF NORTH AMERICA PROJECT WORK PAGE
Plateau Indians Location
The Plateau Indians lived on plateaus, and in low valleys spreading from northwest United States, up to southern Canada.
A map showing where the Plateau Indians lived
A map showing where the Plateau Indians lived
The Plateau Indians mainly settled in Washington, and northern Idaho. However some Indians lived in southern Canada. In the summer, spring, and fall some tribes traveled as far out as to the coast of Washington, and as south as Oregon. Recent studies are showing that they might have lived as far east as Montana.
The Plateau Indians lived on the Columbia River Plateau. The Columbia River Plateau was a high and flat area. Washington, Oregon and Idaho mainly made up the Columbia River Plateau. All Indians who lived in the plateau were considered Plateau Indians. However due to similarities in their culture, and language, those who lived north of the Columbia River Plateau, and Spokane Rivers, were also considered to be part of the Plateau Indians.
Plateau Indians Migration
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The Plateau Indians were semi-nomadic. They did most of their traveling in the summer, fall, and spring. Hunting and fishing was a main supply of food for the Plateau Indians, and so they moved regularly in the summer to follow the salmon and sometimes other game. Besides hunting and fishing, the Plateau Indians were always on the move looking for edible plants, vegetables, nuts and berries. Most of the time the tribes did travel great distances away from their winter village in the summer, the only exception being when the salmon do not travel far enough inland, they then need to travel greater distances to get to their food. In order to survive in the summer, they needed easy to move housing which was made possible by their longhouses.
Plateau Indian Housing
One of the many diverse characteristics of the Plateau Indians was their housing. They had 2 distinct housing styles; permanent winter villages, and spring, summer and fall longhouses.
A winter pithouse
|| || A winter pithouse ||
In the winter the Plateau Indians lived in permanent winter villages.
They usually chose these villages to be near a lake or river in a low valley. In these winter months the Plateau Indians lived in a pit house, covered with soil for insulation. These pit houses usually consisted of a circular or square shaped excavation pit, protected by a conical roof covered with brush and leaves. However these homes had slight variation from area to area. Some pits were square shaped, others were circular. Some roofs were cone shaped, some pyramid shaped, and some almost flat. In some houses entrances were a hole at the top of the roof (which also served as a smoke hole) and some had a hole at the side of the roof. In some cases underground tunnels were used as entrances and linked several houses together. They heavily relied stored food during the harsh winter. Villages were in many cases set up with pit houses, pregnancy and birthing houses, sweat-lodges, and a communal ceremonial structure.
Summer, Spring, and Fall Housing
Housing in the summer, spring, and fall was very similar to each other.
In these seasons the large tribes in the permanent villages broke up into smaller tribes and usually moved west. Out west they could fish, and hunt. During the spring, summer and fall the Plateau Indians lived in longhouses like the one pictured. These longhouses were made out of tule. These longhouses were very movable. They also lived in bush houses before they acquired the horse. Recent discoveries also suggest that certain tribes lived in pit houses all year round
A summer longhouse
A summer longhouse
Although the area had a good climate and resources of food the Plateau Indians still faced hardships like any other early group.
The availability of food depended on the time of year, so they had to semi-nomadic get their food when it was scarce.
Although everyone in the tribe came together to help eachother out, sometimes it wasn't possible. Salmon runs could fail or certain animals were not available so
Eventually in Plateau life, European traders and trappers arrived from the east bringing disease and invading the land, forcing the Indians to act.
Indians at war
Indians at war
Food in the Plateau depended on time of year.
To get an idea about what seasons are like in the Plateau, here are some pictures
Winter in the Plateau .............Fall in the Plateau ............Summer in the Plateau..... .Spring in the Plateau
The tribes developed a cycle of
depending on what was in "season".The region abounded in edible plants and game.
Some included large game was
Other smaller game
Heres a video of a Blacktail Plateau Coyote Den, which was commonly hunted-
The hunting of the tribe was done by men and was considered serious work. Men were armed with arrows and also used spears in the act of hunt, traps were also used. Hot, dry summers and cold winters creates a climate good for many animals and aslo plants, berries were a big part of the food source. Major rivers supported annual runs of pacific salmon and other fish which was the main steady food supply, during salmon season large weirs or nets were used to catch enough for the whole village.
The tribes had fishing stations as pictured:
Food shared liberally among all the villagers. The economy was based on food, so much time and effort was spent and put into smoking or drying it for storage.The Plateau Indians also gathered edible vegetables and fruits like cama's which were the biggest wild plant: the bulb of the wild lilly, kouse, bitter- roots, serviceberry, chokecherry, huckleberry, and wild strawberries. Tribes also traded meats and hides that they hunted, and used every part of an animalSources:
Customs, Traditions, and Beliefs
In the Plateau Indian Culture, beliefs traditions and customs were very important and were held close. Celebrations were a big part and tribes had special celebrations for a range of things including:
Special celebrations were held for children as they grew up and accomplished things, like first game killed or fish caught for boys and first root or berry picked for girls.
There was also a big celebration for when a girl had reached puberty, there was much praying, singing ,and dancing. /Funerals and weddings were also practiced in the Plateau culture, much dance and song again was incorporated.
Funerals usually lasted 5 days, during the funeral people would move around the body and sing with a drum in the background, again the music factor, they believed that doing this would take the spirit to the final resting place. Then the person along with it's belongings were burned to save greif. Weddings were simple, to "propose" to a woman, a man would approach her at a dance and tap her with a stick, and leaving his line he would dance with her. If the woman said no, she would throw the stick off. He then had to fall back into the first line. If the woman let the man dance with the stick on her shoulder until the very end of the dance, they were then considered married.
Winter Guardian Spirit Dance was a very major ceremony
This is a link to a video of an American Indian Pow Wow which similar to the dances that the Plateau Indians would hold-
Whipping Ceremonies were also held which was when the tribes were ready for winter, boys were lined up and whipped to prevent sickness.
Ritual called spirit quests was a big part of the Plateau Culture, tribes believed that adolescents could get supernatural power from spirits. So they were sent for seven days on a mountain with no food or drink until their spirit came, the spirit usually had animal characteristics and gave the adolescents "power"
Rendition of Spirit Quest
The Plateau Indians also believed alot in healing through the spirit
They had shamanic healing which was where a specific member of the tribe treated the spirit of someone with supernatural powers to heal a physical ailment. Also practiced surgeries and had medicine. It was also thought that illness could come from “spirit loss” and the spirit had to be re-entered. Some ceremonies were held with the whole tribe for spirit renewal. The people of the plateau felt deep connection with inanimate beings, like all nature around them and it all had special powers. The special spiritual relationship was in all aspects of everyday life.
Men wore robes and women wore dresses. The men's robes were made from buffalo, mountain goats, and woven bark fibers. The women's leggings, moccasins, shirts, dresses and skirts were made of buckskin before their understanding of fabrics. Clothing for doing work (hunting,farming, etc) were plain in design and color. Plateau Indian footwear consisted of mostly moccasins, sandals, and boots, that were made from buffalo, elk, and deer.Plateau mothers diapered their children, using cattail fluff inside the buckskin pants. When mothers needed a cradle, they used drift-wood that was suitable for their baby. Cat-tail fluff was used to absorb moisture between the buckskin on board that was used to support the baby. Besides their regular and working clothes, they had special clothing for cultural ceremonies. Ceremonial clothes were decorated with shells, fringe, porcupine quills, bird feathers, and bead-work. All me, women, and even children wore fancy clothing for these celebrations. Besides making regular and ceremonial clothing, the plateau women also made basket hats, woven out of dried leaves.
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The art of the Plateau region was greatly influenced by their neighboring peoples of the Great Plains. The Plateau Indian tribes excelled in the art of basketry and made little pottery. The Plateau Indians made constructed these bags mostly using hemp-dogbane, tule, corn husks, sagebrush, willow bark. Tribes in the Plateau area such as the Nez Percé developed a specialty in making corn-husk bags. These flat, flexible bags were made without the use of a loom. The bags were made with great varieties of designs, which had no particular meaning. Besides bags and pottery, some groups in the area of the plateau made totem poles for use at gravesites, or other ceremonies.
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The Plateau area had great diversity in their Instrumentation, more so than in any other in North America. The wide range of instruments, contained things such as whistles, flutes, horns and vast range of percussion instruments. The Music of the northwest coast, included much of the features of music of the Inuit peoples. The vocals were tense, and had many unique sounds.
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external image drum3.jpg
Plateau Indians Weapons and Tools
There were many kinds of weapons and tools that Plateau Indians used. When the men were out hunting they were armed with double-curved or a flat type bow and arrow.They also used spears,harpoons,clubs,bolts,and slings. When the men are hopeing to trap some thing they used nets,deadfall, snares,lassos,pits, and game corals. Most of their arrowheads, knives, and scrapers were made from obsidian, bone, and antlers. One of the tools that the Plateau Indians used was the pebble tool. It was a smooth and water-worn tool. There are ten general types of pebble tools, large ones were used for heavy-duty work such as cutting,chopping,crushing,shredding,pulping,scarping,and smoothing.
For more info go to
What the Plateau Indians Look like What the Plateau American Indians look like may surprise you. Like most Indian tribes they had brown skin. Both the men and the ladies and long hair, usually braided. Some of the men had facial and body hair, but not all of them. Their eyes are usually almost close. The men have big strong hands when the ladies have small hands. They don't have very big lips and a small nose. This is all of the info I could find about how the Plateau indians look like. For a image of the plateau indians go to
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