When it comes to the most ferocious or deadly Native American tribes, it can become a difficult task. Some of this is separated due to time and lost information. Diseases were also important as it thinned out the population so more potentially dangerous tribes became less so. The advancement of technology over hundreds of years, along with imports like horses vastly affected how various tribes would later fight against the colonists, Spaniards, Mexicans, Americans and so on. To rank the most deadly or ferocious types would be an almost impossible task when searching for hard numbers.

Rather than sorting them into a disorderly list, periodically Just About History will highlight some of the more known tribes resistant to expansion. To show that they’re not listed in any particular numerical order, they’ll instead by listed alphabetically.


The Arapaho are a westward tribe which inhabited parts of Wyoming and Colorado. Celebrating a firm warrior culture, the Arapaho became very involved with the Indian Wars against the US Government in the mid 1800s. Their strong military society reflected abilities in excellent horsemanship and using the modern technology at the time to make them more effective and deadly. While they are known as fighting against the Americans, they also had many encounters such as the Pawnee, Crow and numerous others. Perhaps their most famous was in the Sand Creek Massacre where the Colorado militia massacred the Arapaho and Cheyenne in 1864. This would create great animosity and the Arapaho would eventually join a native alliance which took part in the Battle of The Little Big Horn.


The Comanche were spread across a large swath of territory in the southwest United States; in upper Texas and parts of Arizona, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. By the late 1700s the Comanche had firmly shifted into the horse trade, dealing with Europeans and selling and trading the animals. Much of their future raiding occurred against the territory of Mexico where they would launch raids during the full moon, a term which became known as “Comanche Moon.” They excelled in adapting to the modern era and shaping their tactics based on new technologies. Aside from battling the encroachment of the Europeans, they’d also combat other tribes, notably the Apache to their west. In all cases, horse stealing, the capture of weapons and kidnappings were common enough to be mentioned.


Currently holding the largest reservation in the United States the Navajo society goes back to more than 600 years. Originating in a more peaceful hunter-gatherer type before being introduced to farming by the Pueblo, the Navajo seemed to be on a typical societal trajectory. Noteworthy hostility came between the 1840s and the 1860s against the Americans after a treaty of a transfer of land would allow the United States to construct forts and trading posts to be built on Navajo territory. However, in a mission to sign the document, Narbona, a noteworthy peace leader of the Navajo, was killed. This death resulted in periodic raids and attacks until the Americans swept in in 1863 and 1864 destroying crops and settlements which forced a number of Navajo to evacuate. The final note came during the Long Walk when nearly 10,000 Navajo had to walk roughly 300 miles to Fort Sumner, New Mexico in the spring of 1864. More crop failures and disease followed until the Navajo eventually settled upon and finalized a reservation.


A more modern tribe which developed in modern day Florida in the 1700s were the Seminoles. The Seminole Wars ultimately began against the Spanish by the mid 1700s in part due to their acceptance of runaway slaves which would be a perpetual issue of contention between bordering nations. But by 1821 the Spanish relinquished their claims over Florida in the Adams-Onis Treaty and the United States acquired Florida. Two years later acts were passed which seized large swathes of Seminole territory, squeezing them toward the center of the modern state. By 1835 the US Army began to move in and the Seminoles conjured roughly 1400 warriors and found success using guerrilla tactics against the US. The “Second Seminole War” lasted roughly a decade before the Americans claimed victory, sending thousands to “Indian Territory.” Approximately 200 Seminoles escaped to uninhabited and unwanted territory deeper into Florida where they never surrendered. The Seminoles claim they are the only tribe to have never signed a peace treaty with the US Government.


Going by a few different names, the Yaqui are notably from Arizona but have developed a fierce reputation from some of their territories in Mexico. The first encounter by the Yaqui against Europeans occurred in 1533 when the Yaqui drew a line in the land and told the Spanish to not cross, which the Spanish promptly ignored. An immediate battle broke out and decades of clashes began. Continuing to survive in spite of political and environmental changes, after Mexico declared independence from Spain, the Yaqui refused to participate, rejecting taxes and the like. During the invasion of Mexico by France, the Yaqui supported the move. Naturally, after the French were expelled and the Yaqui were left alone with the Mexicans, Mexico passed a series of acts against the Yaqui to seize their lands and subjugate them. While this punished many Yaqui, many others joined warrior groups and carried out guerrilla attacks against the Mexican army. The last major encounter occurred in 1927 between the Yaqui and the Mexican Government as Mexico employed modern weaponry of bombs, machine guns and planes. The Yaqui had survived almost constant combat since their violent introduction nearly 500 years ago.