The Arapaho people are a Native American tribe traditionally inhabiting the Great Plains region of the United States, primarily in present-day Colorado and Wyoming. Their culture is rich in beliefs, mythology, and rituals, with a pantheon of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures playing crucial roles in shaping their traditions and way of life. This article aims to provide an overview of the Arapaho belief system, focusing on the main deities, their personalities, and the stories associated with them. Additionally, we will explore any unique beliefs specific to this fascinating culture.


The Arapaho people are deeply spiritual, and their mythology revolves around various deities who govern different aspects of life. Some of the most significant deities in the Arapaho pantheon include:

  • Nihancan: Often referred to as the Creator or the Old Man, Nihancan is the supreme being in Arapaho mythology. He is responsible for creating the world, the animals, and the people. Nihancan is a wise and powerful deity, and his actions often serve to teach the Arapaho people moral lessons and proper behavior.

  • Nih'a: The sun deity, Nih'a, is the second most important god in the Arapaho pantheon. He represents warmth, light, and life. Nih'a is revered for his role in sustaining life on earth, and the sun is often seen as a symbol of his presence.

  • Bee'e: Bee'e, the moon goddess, is Nih'a's counterpart and sister. She is associated with femininity, fertility, and the cycles of life. The Arapaho people believe that the moon influences the growth of plants and the behavior of animals, making Bee'e an essential figure in their agricultural practices.

Mythology and Stories

Arapaho mythology is rich with stories, many of which serve to explain the world's origins, impart moral lessons, or describe the adventures of heroes and mythical creatures. Some of the most noteworthy stories in Arapaho mythology include:

  • The Creation Story: This tale recounts how Nihancan created the world and everything in it. After molding the earth, Nihancan formed the first humans from clay, breathing life into them. The story emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living things and the responsibility of the Arapaho people to respect and care for the natural world.

  • The Spider-Man Story: In this story, a young Arapaho man named Nih'oo3oo meets the mythical Spider-Man, who teaches him the art of creating and using the sacred medicine wheel. The medicine wheel is a powerful symbol in Arapaho culture, representing the circle of life and the interconnectedness of all living things.

  • The Thunderbird and the Water Monster: This story tells of a great battle between the Thunderbird, a powerful and benevolent creature that controls the weather, and a malevolent water monster that threatens the Arapaho people. The Thunderbird emerges victorious, illustrating the triumph of good over evil.

Unique Beliefs

One unique belief in Arapaho culture concerns the Ghost Dance movement, which emerged in the late 19th century. The Ghost Dance was a religious and social movement that sought to revive the traditional way of life for Native American people, which had been disrupted by the encroachment of European settlers. The Arapaho people believed that by participating in the Ghost Dance, they could hasten the return of their ancestors, who would restore their lands and drive away the Europeans. Although the movement ultimately did not achieve its goals, it remains an important part of Arapaho history and serves as a testament to their resilience and desire to preserve their culture.


The Arapaho people engage in various rituals and ceremonies, many of which are centered around their deities, heroes, and mythological creatures. Some of the most significant rituals include:

  • Sun Dance: The Sun Dance is an annual ceremony held in honor of Nih'a, the sun deity. This ritual, which involves fasting, dancing, and other forms of self-sacrifice, is performed to give thanks for the sun's life-sustaining energy and to seek blessings for the tribe. It also serves to strengthen community bonds and reinforce traditional values.

  • Vision Quest: The vision quest is a rite of passage for Arapaho youth, in which they seek guidance from the spirits and a personal vision for their lives. Typically, a young person embarks on a solitary journey into the wilderness, where they fast, pray, and engage in self-reflection. The vision quest is seen as a crucial step in an individual's spiritual and emotional development.

  • Sweat Lodge Ceremony: The sweat lodge ceremony is a purification ritual that helps participants cleanse their bodies and spirits. In a sweat lodge, heated stones are placed in a small, enclosed space, and water is poured over them to create steam. Participants enter the lodge, where they pray, sing, and sweat, purging themselves of negative energies and seeking spiritual renewal.