Cheyenne Indian Tribe
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" I was born upon the prairie where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures, and where everything drew free breath. I want to die there, and not within walls." - Ten Bears, Comanche Chief


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The Cheyenne are a Native American nation of the Great Plains, closely allied with the Arapaho and loosely allied with the Lakota (Sioux). They are one of the most famous and prominent Plains tribes. The Cheyenne nation is composed of two united tribes, the Sotaae'o and the Tsitsistas, which translates to "Like Hearted People". The Cheyenne nation comprised 10 bands, spread all over the Great Plains, from southern Colorado to the Black Hills in South Dakota.

In the early 1800s the tribe split into two factions: the southern band staying near the Platte Rivers and the northern band living near the Black Hills near the Lakota tribes. The Cheyenne of Montana and Oklahoma both speak the Cheyenne language, with only a handful of vocabulary items different between the two locations. The Cheyenne language is a tonal language and is part of the larger Algonquian language group.

In 1851, the first Cheyenne 'territory' was established in northern Colorado. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 granted this territory. Today this former territory includes the cities of Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs. Not long after 1851, the Cheyenne had lost this land due to the influx of settlers due to the gold rush.

In the Indian Wars, the Cheyenne were the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre in which the Colorado Militia killed 600 Cheyenne. In the early morning on November 27, 1868 the Battle of Washita River started when United States Army Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer led the 7th U.S. Cavalry in an attack on a band of peaceful Cheyenne legally living on reservation land with Chief Black Kettle. 103 Cheyenne were killed, mostly women and children.

The Northern Cheyenne also 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 George Armstrong Custer and his contingent. It is estimated that population of the encampment of the Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho along the Little Bighorn River was around 10,000; which would make it one of the largest gathering of Native Americans in North America in pre-reservation times. Following the Battle of the Little Bighorn, attempts by the U.S. Army to capture and escort the Cheyenne intensified. A group of 972 Cheyenne were escorted to Indian Territory in Oklahoma in 1877. There the conditions were dire, the Northern Cheyenne were not used to the climate and soon many became ill with malaria. In 1878, the two principal Chiefs, Little Wolf and Morning Star (Dull Knife) pressed for the release of the Cheyenne so they could travel back north. That same year a group of an estimated 350 Cheyenne left Indian Territory to travel back north. This group was led by Chiefs Little Wolf and Morning Star. The Army and other civilian volunteers were in hot pursuit of the Cheyenne as they traveled north. Is it estimated that a total of 13,000 Army soldiers and volunteers were sent to pursue the Cheyenne. The band soon split. One group was led by Little Wolf, and the other by Morning Star. Little Wolf and his band made it back to Montana. Morning Star and his band were captured and escorted to Ft. Robinson, Nebraska. There Morning Star and his band were sequestered. 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. In January of 1879, Morning Star and his group broke out of Ft. Robinson. Most of the group was gunned down as they ran away from the fort. It is estimated that only approximately 50 survived the breakout to reunite with the other Northern Cheyenne in Montana. Through determination and sacrifice, the Northern Cheyenne had earned their right to remain in the north near the Black Hills. In 1884, by Executive Order, a reservation, the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation was established in southeast Montana. This reservation was expanded in 1890, the current western border is the Crow Indian Reservation and the eastern border is the Tongue River.

For 400 years, the Cheyenne have gone through 4 stages of culture. First they lived in the Eastern Woodlands and were a sedentary/agricultural people, planting corn, and beans. Next they lived in present day Minnesota/South Dakota and continued their farming tradition and also started hunting the bison of the Great Plains. During the third stage the Cheyenne abandoned their sedentary/farming lifestyle and became a full-fledged Plains horse culture tribe. The fourth stage is the reservation phase.

Two books about the Cheyenne are Cheyenne Memories (ISBN 0300073003) by John Stands in Timber, and Marie Sandoz's famous Cheyenne Autumn (ISBN 0803292120). Another brief history can be found in Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.