Northern Cheyenne

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A brief history of the Northern Cheyenne Indians

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Northern Cheyenne:

Northern Cheyenne

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NORTHERN CHEYENNE:

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NORTHERN CHEYENNE

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The Cheyenne Indians are of the Algonquian language family. Their Nation is a blend of the Só'taeo'o and the Tsétsêhéstâhese.

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Once great plains people, the settlement and expansion of the United States pushed the Cheyenne from their land.

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Suffering from the effects of western migration, there became a clear delineation between the Northern and Southern Cheyenne.

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In 1851, the Fort Laramie Treaty affirmed the territory of the Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes on the Great Plains. The treaty also provided for the construction and maintenance of roads through Indian territory to aid in the western migration of settlers.

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The 1859 Colorado Gol d Rush led to the United States’ attempt to claim land that had been designated as Indian territory. Under the leadership of Chief Black Kettle, some Cheyenne were voluntarily relocated to a small reservation in Colorado, while others remained on their traditional homeland.

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Beginning in the spring of 1864, the Colorado Volunteers (a citizens militia) began killing on site any Indian found outside of the reservations. When the Cheyenne began to retaliate by conducting their own raids, general warfare broke out. On November 29, 1864, the Colorado Volunteers killed between 150 and 200 Cheyenne (mostly women and children) during the Sand Creek Massacre.

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On November 27, 1868, Lt. Col. George Custer led his troops into the Battle of Washita River. Allegedly looking for perpetrators of raids, this action brought about the deaths of more than 100 Cheyenne, again mostly women and children.

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Custer was made to pay for his actions on June 25, 1876, when the Cheyenne, Lakota, Sioux, Arapaho and Nez Perce banded together and defeated him on the battlefield at the Little Bighorn.

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Following Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn, the US Army became relentless in their attempts to capture the Cheyenne. In 1877, after the Dull Knife Fight, Chiefs Dull Knife, Little Wolf, Standing Elk and Wild Hog, accompanied by nearly 1000 Cheyenne, surrendered at Fort Robinson. The Cheyenne expected the US to follow the Laramie Treaty and locate them with the Sioux but the US refused. Under promises of adequate living conditions and supplies, the Northern Cheyenne agreed to go South and be relocated to Indian Territory with the Southern Cheyenne.

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Upon arrival in the Indian Territory, the Northern Cheyenne did not find the living conditions that the US had promised. They were faced with famine and disease. There were no buffalo in the vicinity to hunt and the rations provided by the US were inadequate. Many Cheyenne were lost.

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In August of 1878, unwilling to suffer the obvious fate associated with remaining in Oklahoma, the approximately 300 surviving Cheyenne followed Chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf North to reclaim their land .

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At White Clay Creek, Nebraska, the Cheyenne split into two groups. Chief Little Wolf took his group into the Nebraska Sand Hills where they remained for the winter, while Chief Dull Knife went on to the Red Cloud Agency.

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Having found the Red Cloud Agency abandoned, Chief Dull Knife pressed on to Fort Robinson. The Cheyenne remained at the fort for two months awaiting the enforcement of the rights guaranteed under the Fort Laramie Treaty. That enforcement never came. The Cheyenne were to be sent back to Indian Territory.

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All we ask is to be allowed to live, and live in peace... We bowed to the will of the Great Father and went south. There we found a Cheyenne cannot live. So we came home. Better it was, we thought, to die fighting than to perish of sickness... You may kill me here; but you cannot make me go back. We will not go. The only way to get us there is to come here with clubs and knock us on the head, and drag us out and take us down there dead. Dull Knife

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In response to the Cheyenne refusal to return to Indian Territory, the group was locked in a freezing barracks with no food or water. Three days later, on January 9, 1879, the Cheyenne escaped from the barracks.

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The Cheyenne fled Fort Robinson to find haven in the hills. More than 70 Cheyenne died as a result of the escape from Fort Robinson and most of the survivors were recaptured. Chief Dull Knife, his wife and son were among the few who remained at large.

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Chief Dull Knife may not have “won the battle” … he most certainly “won the war.” The Cheyenne were eventually granted land and were free to move north to Montana.

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The Cheyenne once again inhabited two Indian Reservations. The Northern Cheyenne occupied land in Montana and the Southern Cheyenne were located in Concho, Oklahoma (Cheyenne-Arapaho OTSA) and shared land with the Southern Arapaho.

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The Northern Cheyenne were able to settle on land that provided sufficient game to feed the people.

They were able to resume their customs and ceremonial practices.:

They were able to resume their customs and ceremonial practices.

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On November 16, 1884, by the executive order of President Chester A. Arthur, the United States established the Tongue River Indian Reservation - now named the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

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Despite less than optimal treatment outside of the reservations, Cheyenne have faithfully served in the United States Armed Forces in am effort to help to protect the land.

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But, the education provided to the Cheyenne was designed to assimilate its population into the ideology of European Americans, and not to preserve their language or culture. A trend that, unfortunately, continues today.

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What is to be done to preserve the language and culture of the Cheyenne? One that loses more of itself with each passing generation.

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And, who will save it?

Cheyenne Handwork:

Cheyenne Handwork

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Women carried infants in cradleboards that were made from leather hand beaded with intricate designs, lined with soft cloth, and mounted on a wooden backboard.

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Amulets were created for children. These ornate pieces, beaded by hand and stuffed with sweet grass, were used to encapsulate the umbilicus of the child for whom it was made. These pieces were to offer some form of protection for the child because, by reuniting the umbilicus with the child, it kept the child’ s spirit whole. The turtle design was used for girls, while the lizard was meant for boys .

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Many dolls and other small articles displayed the same careful craftsmanship as seen throughout Cheyenne possessions.

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Women’s buckskin dresses were of varying designs with close attention to detail.

Men’s shirts also displayed the same attention to detail in beading and quill work. :

Men’s shirts also displayed the same attention to detail in beading and quill work . The war shirt represents the Cheyenne Bow String Society, the original owners of the gourd dance songs The rattle is used in the gourd dance to mimic the sound of the Bow String warrior's quivers as they danced on the plains

These war shields measure more than three feet in diameter and are made from the hump of the buffalo hide. The shields are made large enough to protect a man's entire body from the arrows of his enemies. Designs painted with the sacred Cheyenne colors offered protection from the enemy's weapons (arrows, as well as bullets).:

These war shields measure more than three feet in diameter and are made from the hump of the buffalo hide. The shields are made large enough to protect a man's entire body from the arrows of his enemies. Designs painted with the sacred Cheyenne colors offered protection from the enemy's weapons (arrows, as well as bullets).

Moccasins and leggings, all with unique designs.:

Moccasins and leggings, all with unique designs.

Cheyenne women used knives to butcher and skin animals and to slice meat. The knife sheaths were decorated with beads, which indicated their wealth. :

Cheyenne women used knives to butcher and skin animals and to slice meat. The knife sheaths were decorated with beads, which indicated their wealth.

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The pipe bag, used to hold pipes and tobacco, is a very important possession. Each bag is beaded with designs that represent the Cheyenne people. It is said that these designs are given during visions or dreams

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Angela Gaul Cheyenne Language and Culture SUNY Empire State College Fall 2011