Ancient history



Current population 3654

Location Great Plains

Language(s) lioox

The Cheyenne are a Native American nation of the Great Plains, close allies of the Arapaho and generally allies of the Lakota (Sioux). They are one of the most famous and important Plains tribes. In their mother tongue, they call themselves “Tsitsistas”. The Cheyenne nation is made up of the union of two tribes, the Tsitsistas and the Sotaae'o. It included ten bands, whose territories spanned the entire Great Plains, from southern Colorado to the Black Hills in South Dakota. At the beginning of the 19th century, the tribe split into two groups:the southern one remaining near the Platte River and the northern one living near the Black Hills near the Lakota tribes.

The Cheyenne of Montana and Oklahoma both spoke the Cheyenne language, with only a few vocabulary items differentiating the two groups. The Cheyenne language is a tonal language that is part of the large group of Algonquian languages.

In 400 years, the Cheyenne have had to adapt to four different ways of life. First, they lived in the eastern woodlands and were a settled, agricultural people, planting corn, beans, and wild rice. They then lived in present-day Minnesota and South Dakota, where they continued to farm and began hunting Great Plains bison. In the Third Era, the Cheyenne abandoned their sedentary, farming lifestyle to become a plains tribe in their own right. The last phase is the reserve phase.

The Indian Wars

During the Indian Wars, the Cheyenne were the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre during which the Colorado militia killed 150 Cheyenne, including at least 50 civilians. Early in the morning of November 27, 1868, the Battle of Washita River began when United States Army Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer led the 7th Cavalry in attacking a band of raiding Cheyenne led by the Chief Black Kettle. 148 Cheyenne were killed, including about 20 women and children. The Northern Cheyenne, and some Southern Cheyenne participated in the Battle of Little Bighorn (June 25, 1876). Along with the Lakota and a small band of Arapaho, they annihilated George Armstrong Custer and his contingent near the Little Bighorn River. The population of the Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho encampment near the site of the battle is estimated to be around 10,000; which would make it the largest Native American gathering in North America before the generalization of reservations.

After the Battle of Little Bighorn, attempts by the U.S. Army to capture the Cheyenne intensified. A group of 972 Cheyenne were deported to the Indian Territories of Oklahoma in 1877. There, living conditions were terrible, the Northern Cheyenne being unaccustomed to the climate, and soon many were stricken with malaria. In 1878, the two main chiefs, Little Wolf and Morning Star (Dull Knife), demanded the release of the Cheyenne so that they could return north. In the same year, a group of about 350 Cheyenne left the Indian Territories in a northerly direction, led by these two chiefs. Army soldiers and civilian volunteers, whose total number is estimated at 13,000, were quickly in pursuit. The gang quickly split into two groups. The group led by Little Wolf returned to Montana. Morning Star's gang was captured and escorted to Fort Robinson, Nebraska, where they were held. They were ordered to return to Oklahoma, which they promptly and firmly refused. Conditions grew increasingly harsh by the end of 1878, and soon the Cheyenne were confined to their quarters, without food, water, or heat.

In January 1879, Morning Star and his companions escaped from Fort Robinson. Most were shot while fleeing the fort. The number of survivors is estimated at 50, who joined the other Northern Cheyenne in Montana. Through their determination and sacrifice, the Northern Cheyenne won the right to dwell in the north near the Black Hills. In 1884, by executive order, a reservation for the Northern Cheyenne was established in southeastern Montana. This reservation was extended in 1890, stretching from the Crow reservation in the west to the Tongue River in the east.

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