The United States Government as defined by the
United States Constitution has governmental relationships with
International, Tribal, and State entities. The Tribal nations
have a government-to-government relationship with the United
States. The Tribes of the Northern Plains signed treaties in the
1800's with the United States which are the legal documents that
established Tribal land boundaries and recognized Tribal rights
as a sovereign government.
The Northern Cheyenne Tribal lands were
originally reduced to a reservation with defined boundaries by
Executive Order of the President of the United States in
November, 1884 which identified a tract of land west of the
Tongue River. The Tribal government maintains jurisdiction within
the boundaries of the reservation including all rights-of-way,
waterways, watercourses and streams running through any part of
the reservation and to such others lands as may hereafter be
added to the reservation under the laws of the United States.
The Northern Cheyenne Tribe was organized in
1936 and operates under a constitution consistent with the Indian
Reorganization Act and approved by the Tribal membership. Today
the Tribe is a Federally-chartered organization with both
governmental and corporate responsibilities. The governing body
is a Tribal Council headed by a President, who is elected at
large to serve a term of 4 years. The tribal council consist of
members elected from each of the five districts. The Vice
President and a Sergeant-at-Arms are elected by the tribal
council from within its number and a Secretary and Treasurer are
appointed outside its number. The Secretary and Treasurer have no
The tribal council consists of members elected
from the Ashland, Birney, Busby, Muddy, and Lame Deer districts
in the proportion of one member for each 200 population and an
additional member for each major fraction thereof. The current
governing body has 19 members. The total enrollment for the Tribe
is 6,386 members.
Lame Deer, Montana
Big Horn, Rosebud, Montana
Population of enrolled
The Northern Cheyenne Servi ce Unit is located
in south-central Montana and its western boundaries border the
Crow Reservation.The topography of the reservation varies from
grass covered low rolling hills to moderately high and steep
hills and narrow valleys. Elevations on the reservation range
from 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level. Much of the higher
elevation is covered by Ponderosa Pine timber.
Bordered on the west by the Crow Indian
Reservation, the 440,000 plus acre Northern Cheyenne Reservation
is made up of valleys and plateaus, rivers, streams, and
prairies. The area is very well acclimated to farming and
ranching, both of which are important to the economy of the
The principle communities on the reservation
are as follows:
ASHLAND - Located 20 miles east of Lame
Deer and is situated along the Tongue River, which is the
reservationís eastern boundary. The Labre Indian School
and St. Labre Mission complex are located here. The people on
the reservation generally shop here. Approximately 981 Indian
people reside here.
BIRNEY - Located upriver from Ashland and
about 22 miles southwest of Lame Deer. Approximately 112
Indian people reside here and is primarily a small
unorganized residential area.
The Northern Cheyenne Indians originally dwelt
near the Red River of the North. They met whites at an early date
and were reported by the French as early as 1680. When Lewis and
Clark met them in 1804, they were living on the plains near the
Black Hills. They changed at about this time from an agricultural
people to a typical plains Tribe.
The Cheyenne participated in the treaty making
in 1825, near present Fort Pierre, South Dakota. A few years
later, a large part of the Tribe decided to move southward and
make permanent headquarters on the Arkansas River. The remainder
continued to rove the plains near the headwaters of the North
Platte and Yellowstone Rivers. The separation of the Cheyenne
Tribe was recognized by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.
The Northern Cheyenne joined the Sioux in the
Sitting Bull War in 1876. Finally subdued, they were taken
"prisoners of war" to Fort Reno, Oklahoma, to be
colonized with the Southern Cheyenne. They went unwillingly and
refused to remain. A desparate effort to escape resulted in most
of the group being killed. Little Wolf and some 60 followers
managed to escape to the North. Finally defeated, they were
placed on their present reservation in 1884.
The original Reserve, set aside by Executive
Order of President Arthur, consisted of approximately 271,000
acres between the Crow Reservation and an imaginary line 10 miles
west of the Tongue River which has remained unchanged and
consists of 444,160 acres.
The reservation has an average temperature of
46oF. The highest temperature recorded was 109oF
and the lowest was -38oF. Snow is sometimes heavy/damp
and occasionally the roads become snow-packed and icy in places.
However, the highway maintenance department keeps the roads
passable through the winter so schools are set closed. Each year
averages 185 clear days, 102 partly cloudy, and 78 cloudy days.
Average relative humidity is 25 to 35 percent.
U.S. Highway 212 crosses the resrvtion from
west to east, passing through Busby, Lame Deer, and Ashland,
Montana. Secondary road 39, an all-weather oiled highway, runs
from Lame Deer north through Colstrip and on to Forsyth, Montana.
A paved road maintained by the BIA runs from Ashland to Birney,
Montana. The Lame Deer-Birney road is paved. An oiled road also
runs from Busby to Kiraby, and a paved road joins this to Highway
87 at Decker, Montana. There are no scheduled bus routes through
the reservation. The nearest bus depots are at Crow Agency -41
miles and Forsyth -58 miles. The nearest air transportation
facilities are in Billings, which is served aby Big Sky, Delta,
Horizon, Northwest and United. There is a small aircraft airstrip
in Ashland and Hardin, Montana.
There are over 6,700 enrolled members of the
Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe. Many of them live on the Northern
Cheyenne Indian Reservation, along with non-tribal members, or
members of other Tribes.
A major occupation on the reservation is cattle
ranching and farming for a number of Tribal operators. Major
employers on the reservation include the Northern Cheyenne Tribe,
Inc., (tribal government operations); Bureau of Indian Afairs,
Indian Health Service and educational institutions. There are
businesses which serve the local community i.e., gas stations,
grocery stores, cafes, and repair shops. Major employers adjacent
to the reservation are Western Energy Company (mine operations),
Montana Power company (electrical power), and Northern Cheyenne
Pine Company, (sawmill operations).
The communities on the reservation are very
small and quite limited for services. The tribal government, the
Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs all have
their headquarters in Lame Deer. Forsyth, Colstrip and Hardin,
all off-reservation towns, have ample shopping and services for
residents of the reservation. All three towns are less than an
hourís drive away. Billings, the largest city in Montana, is
about two hours away from the reservation, and offers excellent
shopping, theater, symphony, museums and a commercial airport.
Public schools are available for grades
pre-school and K-12 in Lame Deer. Ashland houses the St. Labre
Indian High School or students may decide to attend public high
school in Colstrip. Also in Colstrip are three public elementary
schools, a middle school and a transportation system which serves
all grade levels. Those attending school after grade 12 may
choose to attend the Dull Knife Community College in Lame Deer.
The institution offers several associate degree programs.
The St. Labre Indian School in Ashland was
established in 1884 by the Franciscan Order. Today it is a
visitor center, museum and gallery, all of which show much of the
Indian culture and heritage as it once was. Some interesting
spots on or near the reservation are the Chief Two Moons Monument
in Busby, the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Museum in Lame Deer, the
Battle of the Little Bighorn Monument, the Decker Coal Mine, and
the Tongue River Reservoir.
There is abundant wildlife, such as whitetail
and mule deer, antelope, elk and countless game birds. Hiking,
exploring, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, snowmobiling,
fishing and hunting are all recreational activities enjoyed on
The Norhern Cheyenne Tribe desires to continue
progress in providing for our people and the development of
increased self-sufficiency. There are plans underway to develop
natural and cultural resources to preserve traditions and educate
Tribal members and non-members, and strengthen the economy on the
reservation. The Tribe will continue to search for ways to
maintain our culture and develop new economic opportunities for
our future generations.
Environmental Problem Statement: In
1997, Tribal environmental staff identified water resource
management as the major reservation water problem.