The Cheyenne Indians are a Native American nation of the Great Plains. The Cheyenne Nation is composed of three united tribes, the Masikota, the Só'taa'e (more commonly known as Sutai) and the Tsé-tsêhéstâhese (singular: Tsêhéstáno; more commonly known as the Tsitsistas), which translates to "Like Hearted People."
The name Cheyenne derives from the Dakota Sioux word, ahíyena, meaning "little ahíya". Though the identity of the ahíya is not known, many Great Plains tribes assume it means Cree or some other people that spoke an Algonquian language related to the Cree and the Cheyenne.
During the pre-reservation era, the Cheyenne indians were allied with the Arapaho and Lakota (Sioux). The Cheyenne Indians also allied with the Three Affiliated Tribes,(Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara), and adopted many of their cultural characteristics.
The symbol you see represented at the center of the Northern Cheyenne flag is that of the morning star, which was the emblem of Chief Morning Star, better known as Dull Knife, the Cheyenne chief who led his people to their new home after they had been defeated in the War of the Plains. The morning star glyph was also used during the Sun Dance, when the warriors would paint it on their chests. The ancient version of this flag was a deep reddish brown, with the morning star glyph painted in black.
The Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho flag shows an outline of Oklahoma, and a lance adorned with fourteen eagle feathers representing the original members of the tribal council. Crossing the spear are the arrow for war, which is facing down, meaning the two tribes are at peace, and a calumet (peace pipe). At the center of the flag is the seal of the two tribes, which features a tipi surrounded by three white crosses. The border of the seal features fourteen stars, again representing the original tribal council members, and the eight white stars across the top of the map outline represent the new tribal council members.
The Cheyenne Nation was made up of ten bands, spread all over the Great Plains, from southern Colorado to the Black Hills in South Dakota. In the mid-nineteenth century, the bands began to split, with some bands choosing to remain near the Black Hills, while other bands chose to remain near the Platte Rivers of central Colorado.
Currently the Northern Cheyenne, known in Cheyenne either as Notameohmésêhese meaning "Northern Eaters" or simply as Ohmésêhese meaning "Eaters", live in southeast Montana on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. The Southern Cheyenne, known in Cheyenne as Heévâhetane meaning "Roped People," along with the Southern Arapaho, live in central Oklahoma. Their combined population is approximately 20,000.
Cheyenne creation myth:
The Cheyenne creation myth is similar to Christianity's Old Testament and God's creation of Adam and Eve. According to Cheyenne oral history, Haemmawihio, the Cheyenne God, created man from his right rib, and woman from his left. After Heammawehio had created man and woman, he placed the woman in the north to control Hoimaha, who in turn controlled storms, snow, and cold, and was also responsible for illness and death.
Heammawehio placed the man in the south to control the heat, and the thunder. Twice a year, the two battle for control of the earth, creating the seasons.
Another important figure in Cheyenne mythology is that of Sweet Medicine, a deity responsible for giving the Cheyenne four arrows, two bestowing them with power over men, and two giving them power over the buffalo.
The Cheyenne of Montana and Oklahoma speak the Cheyenne language, known as tsêhésenêstsestôtse in the Cheyenne language, with only a handful of vocabulary items different between the two locations; their alphabet contains fourteen letters which can be combined to form words and phrases. The Cheyenne language is part of the larger Algonquian language group.
The earliest known official record of the Cheyenne comes from the mid-seventeenth century, when a group of Cheyenne visited Fort Crevecoeur, near present-day Chicago. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Cheyenne moved from the Great Lakes region to the areas we call Minnesota and North Dakota today.
By the mid 19th century, the Cheyenne had largely abandoned their sedentary, agricultural and pottery traditions and fully adopted the classic nomadic Plains culture. Tipis replaced earth lodges, and the diet switched from fish and agricultural produce to mainly bison and wild fruits and vegetables. During this time, the Cheyenne also moved into Wyoming, Colorado and South Dakota.
In November 1864, a Cheyenne encampment under Chief Black Kettle, flying a flag of truce and indicating its allegiance to the authority of the national government, was attacked by the Colorado Militia. The battle known as the Sand Creek Massacre resulted in the deaths of between 150 and 200 Cheyenne, mostly unarmed noncombatants.
Four years later, on November 27, 1868, the same Cheyenne band was attacked at the Battle of Washita River. The encampment under Chief Black Kettle was located within the defined reservation and thus complying with the government's orders, but some of its members were linked both pre and post battle to the ongoing raiding into Kansas by bands operating out of the Indian Territory. Over 100 Cheyenne were killed, mostly women and children.
The Northern Cheyenne participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which took place on June 25, 1876. The Cheyenne, along with the Lakota and a small band of Arapaho, annihilated Lt. George Armstrong Custer and much of his 7th Cavalry.
Following the Battle of the Little Bighorn attempts by the U.S. Army to capture the Cheyenne intensified. A group of 972 Cheyenne were escorted to Indian Territory in 1877. The government intended to re-unite both the Northern Cheyenne and Southern Cheyenne into one nation.
But food was insufficient and deaths from diseases were high, so two principal Chiefs, Little Wolf and Morning Star (often referred to by his Lakota Sioux name Dull Knife) led a group of 353 Cheyenne back north. It is estimated that a total of 13,000 Army soldiers and volunteers were sent to pursue the Cheyenne.
After crossing into Nebraska, the group split into two. Little Wolf and his band made it back to Montana. Morning Star and his band were captured and escorted to Fort Robinson, Nebraska.They were ordered to return to Oklahoma, but they refused.
Conditions at the fort grew tense through the end of 1878, and soon the Cheyenne were confined to barracks with no food, water or heat. Finally there was an attempt to escape late at night on January 9, 1879.
Much of the group was gunned down as they ran away from the fort, and others were discovered near the fort during the following days. These were ordered to surrender, but most of the escapees chose to fight because they would rather be killed than taken back into custody. It is estimated that only 50 survived the breakout, including Morning Star.
The United States established a reservation for the Northern Cheyenne in Montana in 1884, and it was expanded in 1890. The current western border is the Crow Indian Reservation, and the eastern border is the Tongue River.
The Cheyenne, along with the Lakota and Apache nations, were the last indian nations to be subdued and placed on reservations. (The Seminole tribe of Florida was never subdued.)
Cheyenne Daily Life:
Before the sun rose, the Cheyenne began preparing for the day. Building the fire was the first task to be completed. The women woke to get the water from the nearby stream, while the men and boys went to the stream to bathe. As dawn continued, the camp became livelier. The women made the morning meal and the boys herded the horses back into camp.
After the meal, announcements were made by the old crier who circled the people on his horse. When he was finished, the people went about their daily activities. The children would scatter about the area to swim, run, and model images out of clay. The women of the camp had many activities to keep them busy. They would go off in groups to gather wood and roots early in the day. This was their time for joking and laughing. They gathered sticks from the ground and broke dead branches off the trees in the forest. The wood was divided up, formed into bundles, and strapped on their backs. They then set out for camp. The older men made bows, arrows and pipes, while the young men spent time enhancing their personal appearance or listening to wise men.
Many men hunted game to provide the camp with food. As day turned into night, the Cheyenne people prepared for the meal. This was the lively event of the day in which music, dancing and various other activities took place. After a few hours, the camp became silent as people turned in for the night.
Another tradition of the Cheyenne was their story telling, which could only be done by certain people. These stories were often related and followed a structure.
Best Known Cheyenne Sacred Place:
More than 4,000 years ago, a Cheyenne man named Sweet Medicine received guidance and gifts for the Cheyenne people at Bear Butte. Today, the Cheyenne people continue to come to Bear Butte to fast and pray. Some of the Southern Cheyenne must travel hundreds of miles from Oklahoma where they were displaced by the United States cavalry in the late 1800s when the Cheyenne nation was under threat of extinction.