The Cheyenne Indians are a North American Plains Indian group composed of two tribes, the So’taaeo’o and the Tsitsistas, with current population of nearly 11,000. The Cheyenne originally lived in the upper Mississippi Valley near the Great Lakes, but have since migrated westward due to tribal conflicts with the Sioux and Chippewa30.
MIGRATION AND MOVEMENTS
In the 1670’s, the Indian group lived in the Minnesota River Valley, where they farmed, hunted, gathered, and made pottery. In the early 1700’s they moved and settled on the Cheyenne River in North Dakota. This river was named the “Cheyenne” River, due to their migration and settlement there. During this migration period, the Cheyenne acquired horses and became extremely nomadic, which lead to their eventual abandoning their farms30. In 1780, another group of Indians, known as the Ojibwas, forced the Cheyenne to move yet again. With the help from two other Indian Tribes, the Mandans and Arikaras, they crossed the Missouri River and followed the buffalo herds on horseback. Finally, the So’taaeo’o and the Tsitsistas moved to the Black Hills in South Dakota, and they became known as the Cheyenne40. It is in the Black Hills that “they developed their unique version of the tepee [tipi]-dwelling nomadic Plains culture and gave up agriculture and pottery”12. The Plains Indians called Heaven the ‘Land of Many Tipis,’ with a landscape covered in many colored tents. The tipis were creations of great beauty and originality48.
DIVISION AND TREATIES
In 1820’s to the 1830’s, a large segment of the tribe settled along the Arkansas River in southern Colorado, and the other segment was settles in the high country of Wyoming and Montana along the North Platte, Powder, and Tongue rivers. This divided the tribe into northern and southern branches. However, the two groups continued to maintain contact with family members and rotated from north to south28. In 1828, white fur trappers and traders named Charles and William Bent met a band of Cheyennes and they both agreed to trade. After the Bent built a fort, known as Fort William or Bent’s Fort, at the intersection of the Arkansas and Purgatoire rivers in southeast Colorado, more traders and white men began traveling through the west. Also in 1825, the Cheyennes signed a Friendship Treaty with the United States government. This treaty “gave safe passage to whites traveling through Indian land. In return, the government promised to befriend the Indians40.” Due to the inability of settlers could not travel when the Indians were fighting among themselves, a peace council was held in 1840; the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Comanches, and other tribes met and agreed on a friendship.
|The Cheyennes were forced to move |
The division of the Northern Cheyennes and Southern Cheyennes was not made permanent until the First Treaty of Fort Laramie with the United States in 1851. This treaty set boundaries for the Cheyennes and other tribes, a total of about 10,000 Indians. Also, the Indians agreed to allow the United States build roads and military posts within their land; in return, the “government promised to protects the tribes’ lands and keep the whites out”40. In 1871 most of the Indian tribes signed treaties with the United States giving their ancestral land in exchange for welfare and reservations. However, in 1887, the General Allotment Act changed the government policy yet again:
Now the goal was to make tribal members into individual landowners and farmers, encouraging their absorption into white society. This policy was advantageous to whites who were eager to acquire Indian land, but it proved disastrous for the Indians. One hundred thirty-eight million acres of reservation land were subdivided into tracts of 160, 80, or as little as 40 acres, and allotted to tribe members on an individual basis…Ultimately, more than 90 million acres of land were taken from the Indians by legal and illegal means28.
In 1860, a new treaty was signed and the Southern Cheyennes were assigned to a new reservation north of the Arkansas River. After the government promised to provide food, clothing, and additional goods, it was still not enough to provide for the whole population. This lead to many raids and upset Cheyennes, and eventually the reservation was massacred by the whites, killing between 400 to 500 Indians. Shortly after, the Cheyennes were ordered yet again to move their reservation to the Cimarron River, in what is currently known as Oklahoma. After many fights and battles, another massacre broke out in 1868, killing hundreds of Indians40.
|The Cheyenne had no hope of defending themselves |
against the U.S Army's 700 troops
In 1859, the Northern Cheyennes, the Sioux, and the Northern Arapahos, signed a treaty at North Platte Agency, Nebraska. All three tribes “had to give up land in western Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas to permit white traffic. The Northern Cheyennes were assigned to a reservation on the Laramie River of southeastern Wyoming40.” In the 1860’s, gold was discovered in western Montana and drew hundreds of prospectors. There were many fights between the Indians and the whites after the United States government created many forts near the tribes. The government prepared reservations in Nebraska and Dakota areas for the tribes, however, the Indians refused to leave. The government also tried to persuade the Indians to move to the southern Cheyenne territory in 1873. After much refusal, there was another battle in 1876. The Indians overran the whites, and then surrendered in 1877.
Many of the Northern Cheyennes live on a reservation between the Tongue River and the Crow reservation in Montana. With the help of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the land is protected from the discovery of coal, which would destroy the land if it was exploited. The Southern Cheyennes no longer have a reservation in Oklahoma, but there are still historic sites in memory of the culture40.