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Native Americans were the first people to live in America. Learn more about the Cheyenne tribe.

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Cheyenne Tribe

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Cheyenne Hunting Buffalo
The Cheyenne hunted buffalo in the Great Plains.

The Cheyenne originally lived in what is now Minnesota, but at some point moved out further west along the Cheyenne River. They finally settled in two areas on the Great Plains: the Northern Cheyenne near the Platte River and the Southern Cheyenne near the Arkansas River. The Southern Cheyenne allied with their neighbors the Arapaho, and they fought the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache. But later, the five tribes made peace and became allies. The Southern Cheyenne joined with the Arapaho, forming a large tribe that spread out over a large area. When American settlers arrived, the Cheyenne territory covered South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas.

Cheyenne Teepee
Cheyenne teepees were made out of animal hide
and had a hole in the top to release smoke.

The Cheyenne didn't live near the coast, but they used rafts to travel on rivers. They also didn't have horses until the first settlers came, so they used dogsleds instead. The Cheyenne first hunted deer and grew crops, such as squash, beans, and corn. When they moved out onto the plains and got horses, they became buffalo hunters. Once they gave up farming, the Cheyenne traded animal hides with other tribes for fish, corn, tobacco, and fruit. When they grew crops, the Cheyenne lived in wigwams made out of birch-bark and dirt. After they became nomads, meaning that they never lived in one place for a long time but kept moving instead, they lived in tepees, which were easy to break down and rebuild.

Cheyenne Warrior
The name "Dog Warrior" came
from the Cheyenne legend of dogs
who turned into fierce warriors.

Only men could become chiefs, and only men protected the tribe. Some Cheyenne men were soldiers called the Dog Warriors. They had a strict code of honor and bravery, which included fighting until death. They would even stake their belts into the ground to make sure that they did not run away. But though only men were warriors, both men and women were allowed to hunt animals. In addition to this, when the Cheyenne migrated, the women took down, carried, and rebuilt the tribe's houses. This was because the women owned the houses and passed them down to their daughters. This kind of inheritance is called matrilineal inheritance.

Cheyenne Shaman
Shamans spoke with the spirits and had healing
powers, so they were revered in the tribe.

At first, Cheyenne men wore breechcloths, leggings, and moccasins. Later, they wore the "war shirt" that was common with other Native Americans living in the Plains at the time. Women wore deerskin dresses and boots. Dresses and shirts were usually decorated with shells, animal teeth, and quills. In addition to this, the Cheyenne created beadwork, pipestone carving, and pottery. The Cheyenne believed in the supernatural, so each village had several medicine men (a.k.a. shamans), each of whom had a special healing or religious power. These shamans were also be able to speak with the spirits, and could advise the people on what to do in times of trouble. When the missionaries arrived to convert the Indians, many Cheyenne converted, but several tribes remained faithful to their original culture.

Cheyenne Attacking Settler's Wagon Trains
The Cheyenne attacked many of the wagon
trains that crossed their territory.

The Cheyenne were usually friendly and peaceful toward the settlers, even trading with them. But when a gold rush in Colorado began in 1858, the Cheyenne did not like the increased number of settlers in their area. Since the settlers knew so little about the Cheyenne, they would constantly upset the many tribes they came across. Eventually, the Cheyenne agreed to move onto a reservation, but the government did not follow through on their promises, and the Cheyenne suffered from lack of food, which forced them to steal to survive.

Cheyenne Massacre by US Army Troops
The Cheyenne helped the Sioux tribe
in the Battle of Little Bighorn.

The US army sent out troops to punish the Cheyenne for these raids, but soon started to attack tribes without cause. The most notorious of these was the Sand Creek Massacre, in which a US army expedition attacked an unarmed, friendly Cheyenne-Arapaho village for no known reason and massacred over 150 men, women, and children. This event led to the Cheyenne War. Though the Southern Cheyenne were eventually defeated, the Northern Cheyenne joined the Sioux in the Battle of Little Big Horn (Custer's Last Stand). Finally, both the Northern and Southern Cheyenne were moved onto a reservation in Oklahoma. Later, the Northern Cheyenne were moved to a reservation in Montana.

Books on the Cheyenne

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Links to other sites on the Cheyenne

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Cheyenne History http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes
/cheyenne/cheyennehist.htm
Indian Congress of 1898 http://www.omaha.lib.ne.us/transmiss/congress/
gallery/inch01.html
Northern Cheyenne http://users.aol.com/Donh523/navapage/
nchey.htm
Cheyenne http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/
1E1-Cheyenne.html
Culture and History http://www.native-languages.org/
cheyenne_culture.htm
Cheyenne Language http://www.geocities.com/cheyenne_language/
index.htm
My Experience with the Cheyenne http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Chronicles/
v003/v003p059.html
 

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