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Cheyenne Tribe

Cheyenne Tribe

The Cheyenne are a unique tribe of the Plains Native Americans. Though they share common cultures and lifestyles with other Plains tribes, their language and ancestry differ. The name "Cheyenne" is the Sioux name for the tribe, meaning "people of a different speech." For the Sioux, the dominant tribe in the Great Plains, the Cheyenne's Algonquin-rooted language sounded almost foreign.

Cheyenne Tribe Cheyenne Chief Wolf Robe StudySmarterFig. 1 Cheyenne Chief Wolf Robe

Cheyenne Tribes: Location

The Cheyenne originally lived close to other Algonquin tribes in the territory that is present-day Minnesota. They lived in permanent villages and practiced agriculture in addition to hunting and gathering. French explorers document the general location of the Cheyenne in this period in the 1680s.

After that date, the Cheyenne crossed the Minnesota River and moved westward into present-day North and South Dakota. However, they did not settle there long as they were soon pushed west by hostile Sioux and Chippewa tribes. The Cheyenne moved farther down the Missouri River, settling in the flood plains in villages and continued farming.

Did you know?

"The Cheyenne comprise two Native American tribes, the Só'taeo'o or Só'taétaneo'o (more commonly spelled as Suhtai or Sutaio) and the Tsétsêhéstâhese (also spelled Tsitsistas, [t͡sɪt͡shɪstʰɑs])." (Wiki)

In the late 1700s, the Cheyenne used the horse. During this time, their way of life adapted to what we recognize today as the lifestyle of the Plains Natives, using horses to hunt buffalo, adopting the use of the tipi, and beginning a nomadic lifestyle. As Cheyenne legend states, they "lost the corn," meaning they gave up agriculture and permanent villages to follow the herds of buffalo.

During this time, the Cheyenne migrated further into the Black Hills. They were also pushed southward by the expanding territory of the Sioux into present-day eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. Around this time, in 1832, the Cheyenne split into two groups, the Northern Cheyenne, who stayed in the vicinity of the Northern Platte River, and the Southern Cheyenne, who migrated to present-day eastern Colorado and western Kansas.

The Cheyenne Tribe Cheyenne and Arapaho territory 1851 StudySmarterFig. 2 Cheyenne and Arapaho territory 1851

Cheyenne Tribe: Culture

Like most tribes of the Plains Native Americans, the Cheyenne originated in the woodland regions in the eastern parts of the Great Plains. In these regions, most tribes were semi-nomadic, subsisting on semi-permanent villages with limited agriculture and hunting game on foot or with the assistance of domesticated dogs. Many species of animals were common in the region, such as deer, elk, bears, wolves, and rabbits. However, the buffalo was the dominant animal that was essential to the economy. The buffalo provides meat for food, hides, bones, and horns for shelter, clothing, and tools. Another commonality is how their cultures adapted to European settlement and impact, including the horse's introduction, how they hunted and used the buffalo, and how those two changes influenced the rest of their society.

The Adaptation to the Horse

The significant change created by the introduction of the horse transformed semi-nomadic societies into fully nomadic ones that could follow and hunt large herds of buffalo and other plains animals consistently and efficiently. First brought to North America by the Spanish in the 1500s, the horse gained widespread use by the Cheyenne by the 1700s.

The Cheyenne also created a method of sign language unique to the region as a means of communication between the various tribes who may have distinct verbal languages. All of these cultural changes directly result from the introduction of the horse.

The Importance of the Buffalo

Buffalo provides materials for numerous other applications by the Plains Native Americans. For example, tipi coverings, shields, blankets, clothing, thread, rope, tools from bones, rattles for ceremonial purposes and uses for hooves, skulls, horns, and buffalo feces as fuel. Women mastered the art of preparing hides for varied services, creating rawhide, leathers, and numerous items that these raw materials could craft.

The Cheyenne Tribe Buffalo Vernon Bulldogging Steer StudySmarterFig. 3 Vernon Bulldogging Steer

The Tipi as a Shelter

There are few more iconic images than the Plains Native American tipi. A tipi could have up to thirty buffalo skins sewn together. Although men provided the hides through their hunts, cutting pine trees for poles, the women erect the shelter.

Cheyenne Tribe Cheyenne Encampment StudySmarterFig. 4 Cheyenne Encampment

Cheyenne Tribe: Facts

The Cheyenne organized into what they called the Council of forty-four. Each of the 44 peace chiefs represented a different band of Cheyenne and was the headman of an extended family. These Chiefs would meet to settle disputes and decide when to move their camps. They also made decisions concerning tribal warfare and alliances with other tribes—the military policies determined by each band's military societies.

Secret Societies

Some Plains Native American paintings identify warriors as belonging to a particular military society. Each society had its insignia, costumes, songs, dances, and code of behavior. Some societies were age-restricted and open. Others were exclusive, and one could join only when invited. Most societies excluded women, and a few tribes had women-only associations.

The military societies of the Cheyenne consisted of warriors from different bands who carried out raids and fought together. Members also met to review military campaigns and discuss future armed conflicts. Each society had rituals, sacred objects, symbols, and articles of clothing. The clubs had no age limit in Cheyenne military societies, as in other Plains Native American cultures. Some examples of these societies of the Cheyenne include the Dog Soldiers, Fox, Elk, Shield, Wolf, and other groups.

Cheyenne Family Life

In a Cheyenne band, the most important social organization was the family, then the band, then the tribe. The Cheyenne made many rules governing the behavior outside of these groups. For example, Cheyenne women were known for their virtue and were only seen as desirable wives if they behaved well before marriage. Additionally, courtship in the Cheyenne tribes was a very complicated and prolonged experience.

Cheyenne Tribe Clothing

Cheyenne's clothing differed between men and women, though both made clothing out of animal skins, especially deerskin. Men wore deerskin breechcloths and leggings. Women wore deerskin dresses. Often, these articles of clothing were decorated with porcupine quills, animal teeth, gemstones, and river shells.

Cheyenne Rituals and Sun Dance

The name "sun dance" does not come from the Cheyenne but the Sioux Tribe. The purpose of the dance was to come into contact with the spirit world to promote prosperity in keeping buffalo plentiful, bring victory in battle, settle disputes, and heal the sick. The various rituals for the dance are numerous and complex. Many dances involved drumming, singing, and dancing. The most important ceremonies for the Cheyenne are the Arrow Renewal, the New Life Lodge - their version of the Sun Dance- and the Animal Dance.

  • The Arrow Renewal concerned the Four Scared Arrows passed down to the tribes by the mythological hero, Sweet Medicine. This demi-god supposedly made a pilgrimage to the Sacred Mountains near the Black Hills. There, the Great Spirit- Maiyun, gave him four arrows. Two for hunting and two for war. The objects symbolized the existence of each tribe. Once a year, the ten Cheyenne bands would gather and perform rituals with their arrows to renew the tribe and its spirits.
  • The Animal Dance was a hunting ceremony taught to the tribes by Sweet Medicine after his journey to the Sacred Mountain. It was to help hunters provide enough food for their people. In what was typically a five-day ceremony, held once a year. The first four days were for preparation, during which both men and women helped gather the necessary ceremonial items, such as wolf pelts, for the fifth day. On the fifth day, men would dress up as animals, and members of their military society would pretend to hunt them.

Cheyenne Tribe: History

The Cheyenne's history is very similar to that of the Sioux, Crow, and other Plains tribes. Much like other Plains Native Americans, much of the history of the Cheyenne is defined by their interactions with other tribes and the expansion of the United States into native territories. These interactions usually ended in violent conflict, with the indigenous Americans losing more land and freedom with each encounter.

Most Cheyenne bands wanted peace with the white American settlers moving west. Representatives of the Cheyenne had even signed a peace treaty in 1825 and traded with immigrants. They participated in Fort Laramie treaties in 1851 and 1868, designed to protect settlers on the trail west. They participated in these peaceful treaties even though disease ravaged their population. In 1849, 2,000 Cheyenne died during an outbreak of cholera.

The Sand Creek Massacre

In 1858, gold was discovered at Pikes Peak in Colorado, sparking a gold rush into the territory controlled by the Cheyenne. Colorado officials sought to open up Cheyenne and Arapaho hunting grounds to white development in the following years. The tribe refused, and the Colorado officials decided to use military force to take control of the land for miners and settlers.

Black Kettle, a Cheyenne chief, led his band of 600 Cheyenne to Sand Creek near Fort Lyon. The Cheyenne received instructions to move close to army posts in the area to show a declaration of peace. He informed the Fort of his peaceful intentions.

Shortly after, the commander, John Chivington, was informed of the surrender but ignored the order as he advocated a policy of extermination of indigenous Americans. On November 29, 1864, Chivington ordered his men to surround the Cheyenne camp.

Cheyenne Tribe John Chivington StudySmarterFig. 5 John Chivington

Black Kettle raised the flag of surrender and a U.S. Flag, but the cavalry still attacked with cannons and rifles. When the shooting was over, 200 Cheyenne lay dead. Over half of the dead were women and children. The incident confirmed the worst fears of the other Cheyenne tribes, who changed their peaceful policies to ones of raids and attacks on the white settlers.

The Cheyenne Tribe Today

Most Northern Cheyenne still live on the Northern Cheyenne Reservations, located in Lame Deer, Montana. The Southern Cheyenne currently share the land with the Sothern Arapaho in Oklahoma. Both groups practice ranching, farming, and leasing mineral rights for income.

Cheyenne Tribe Present-Day Cheyenne Reservations StudySmarterFig. 6 Present-Day Cheyenne Reservations

Several traditional Cheyenne arts are practiced today, including pipe carving, woodworking, feather-working, leather-working, and quillwork.

In 2002, the privately owned land where the Sand Creek Massacre was purchased and donated to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. It is known as the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.

The Cheyenne - Key takeaways

  • The Cheyenne originally lived close to other Algonquin tribes in the territory that is present-day Minnesota. They lived in permanent villages and practiced agriculture in addition to hunting and gathering.

  • In the late 1700s, the Cheyenne used the horse. During this time, their way of life adapted to what we recognize today as the lifestyle of the Plains Natives, using horses to hunt buffalo, adopting the use of the tipi, and beginning a nomadic lifestyle.

  • In a Cheyenne band, the most important social organization was the family, then the band, then the tribe. The Cheyenne made many rules governing the behavior outside of these groups.

  • The most important ceremonies for the Cheyenne are the Arrow Renewal, the New Life Lodge - their version of the Sun Dance- and the Animal Dance.

  • One of the most infamous incidents was the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.

  • Most Northern Cheyenne still live on the Northern Cheyenne Reservations, located in Lame Deer, Montana. The Southern Cheyenne currently share the land with the Sothern Arapaho in Oklahoma. Farming, ranching, and the leasing of mineral rights play essential roles in the economies of both groups.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cheyenne Tribe

The Cheyenne originally lived close to other Algonquin tribes in the territory that is present-day Minnesota. The Cheyenne crossed the Minnesota River and moved westward into present-day North and South Dakota. However, they did not settle there long as they were soon pushed west by hostile Sioux and Chippewa tribes. The Cheyenne moved farther down the Missouri River, settling in the flood plains in villages and continued farming.  

Cheyenne lived in tipis after the 1700s and the adoption of the horse. 

The Cheyenne are known for their fierce resistance to the expansion of non-Indigenous peoples into their territory. 

Most Northern Cheyenne still live on the Northern Cheyenne Reservations, located in Lame Deer, Montana. The Southern Cheyenne currently share the land with the Sothern Arapaho in Oklahoma. For income, both groups practice ranching, farming, and leasing mineral rights.  

The Cheyenne comprise two Native American tribes, the Só'taeo'o or Só'taétaneo'o (more commonly spelled as Suhtai or Sutaio) and the Tsétsêhéstâhese 

Final Cheyenne Tribe Quiz

Question

Where in North America is the traditional territory of the Cheyenne?

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Answer

The Great Plains

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Question

After the introduction of the horse, what shelter was most used by the Cheyenne?

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Answer

The Tipi

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Question

Before the Cheyenne adopted a nomadic lifestyle, what present-day U.S. state was their territory?


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Answer

Minnesota 

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Question

True or False: The Cheyenne were considered separate from other Plains tribes, such as the Sioux, due to their differing language? 


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Answer

True

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Question

What societal government controlled most aspects of tribal politics for the Cheyenne?


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Answer

Council of Forty-Four

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Question

Approximately how many bands were in the Cheyenne?


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Answer

10

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Question

What was the name of the Cheyenne Military society that was famous for its violent resistance to American expansion?


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Answer

The Dog Soldiers

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Question

Most of the food of the Cheyenne came from which animal?


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Answer

Buffalo 

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Question

Where are the current reservations of the Cheyenne located today?


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Answer

Montana and Oklahoma

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Question

What year did the Sand Creek Massacre take place?


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Answer

1864

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