strongest indian tribes true west magazine

What were the strongest Indian tribes of the 19th century?

Paul W. Hughes
Vacaville, California

That’s kind of like trying to pick the greatest baseball player ever. Often, one tribe was dominant in an area until a more powerful group came along and wanted their land. Sometimes, a group lost power due to other factors, such as disease, drought that killed crops and die-off of animals.

 The strongest on the Northern Plains were the Lakota and Dakota Sioux, while the Comanches were lords of the Southern Plains (with some challenges from the Kiowas). The Apaches and Navajos controlled the Southwest.

The top tribes in the East included the Iroquois, the Algonquins, the Creeks and the Cherokees. But European incursions forced those groups west.

Even the strongest of tribes eventually lost power to the whites, who were too many and too well-equipped to be stopped.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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