The Arapaho people are a Native American people group historically living on the plains of Colorado and Wyoming, being close allies of the Cheyenne tribe and loosely aligned with the Lakota and Dakota.
Their language is a
Algonquian language closely related to Gros Ventre Native Americans, whose people are seen as an early offshoot of the Arapaho. Blackfeet and Cheyenne are the other Algonquian-speakers on the Plains, but their languages are quite different from Arapaho.
They are sub-divided into two groups: the Northern and Southern Arapaho. The Northern Arapaho live with the Eastern Shoshone in Wyoming on the federally recognized Arapahoe Tribe of the Wind River Reservation. The Southern Arapaho live with the Southern Cheyenne in Oklahoma on the federally recognized Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. The Northern Arapaho Tribe owns and operates high-stakes, Class III casinos at the Wind River Casino, Little Wind Casino and 789 Smoke Shop and Casino. The Southern Arapahos operate three casinos: the Lucky Star Casino in Clinton, the Feather Warrior Casino in Watonga, and the Feather Warrior Casino in Canton.
A deeply spiritual people, the Arapahos believe in a Creator, Be:he:teiht, and in the close relationship between the earth and all creatures. They have great respect for the elders who have climbed the four hills of life (child, adult, maturity and elder) and now dwell on the fourth hill—a holy place close to the Creator. Living in harmony in what they call the World House, they place great emphasis on sharing, believing that what a person gives away comes back a thousandfold. The richness of the Arapaho culture and beliefs can be seen today in the celebrations held throughout the year, especially in the Sun Dance.
Religiously, they have relied upon traditional beliefs that center around the Sun Dance. This ceremony unites the people together in peace and forgiveness. It is held for one week each July and includes many rituals being the Arapahos most sacred religious ceremony. Most prominent is the dance itself, which lasts for three days. Men and women will "pledge the dance," that is, take part in the dance. During the dance period they will have nothing to eat or drink. The dance is a prayer offered for The People (Arapahos) and for the specific intention of the dancers for the health and well-being of their families.
Christianity first came to the Arapahos by way of the Jesuits and Roman Catholicism in the late 1800s. Today, Arapahos do have an evangelical presence. But materialism and secular vices have thwarted the advancement of evangelical Christianity. They are an unreached people group, and it is estimated that there are between .01% and 2% Evangelical Christians. When Jesus was finally introduced, His message was clouded by harshness and demands to conform to societal standards. The God of Christianity was misrepresented as a harsh taskmaster. Traditional beliefs and practices were discouraged, leaving Native peoples without a spiritual foundation. That spirit of aimlessness has only increased since.
Adrift without a moral compass, the younger generation are easy prey for an enemy who eagerly tempts and leads them to destruction and death. Suicide becomes an option to young people who believe the enemy’s lies and embrace the hopelessness he sells them. Although the Arapaho people have a rich cultural heritage, they struggle to live as a healthy community. They deal with alcoholism and drug abuse, diabetes, broken families, and limited economic opportunities.