Cheyenne Tribe

The Cheyenne tribe of Native American Indians

The Cheyenne tribe is the most well-known of the Plains Indians tribes. During the pre-reservation era, they were closely allied with the Arapaho and the Sioux. The Cheyenne nation was comprised of ten bands which spread from southern Colorado to the Black Hills of North Dakota.

The oldest records indicate that these Native Americans led a sedentary lifestyle, planting corns and beans and making pottery. Gradually they expanded their farming lifestyle to be less sedentary, as they began hunting the bison of the Great Plains. Buffalo were very important to the Cheyenne tribe, providing a source of food, clothes and tools.

Each day, the first task was to build a fire. Announcements were made by a crier, who circled the people as they pursued daily activities. Children modeled items out of clay, while women gathered roots and wood. Older men made bows and arrows, while younger men hunted game. In the evening, there was singing and dancing around the fire. Tribal rituals included the Sun Dance, a ceremony which included dancing, singing, and drumming. The dance sometimes included fasting and experiencing visions. The Sun Dance celebrates renewal and rebirth.

By the middle of the 19th century, the presence of European settlers was becoming more and more noticeable to the Cheyenne tribe. The first Cheyenne territory was established in northern Colorado in 1851. At first the Cheyenne were generally friendly to white settlers, but the Gold Rush of 1858 brought hundreds of white settlers, miners, and soldiers to the area, and the Cheyenne tribe lost their land. Native Americans began to attack wagon trains and mining camps. The massacre of a Cheyenne village at Sand Creek made it clear that the Cheyenne could not peacefully coexist with the Europeans. There were more wars between the Cheyenne and the white settlers.

Many of these Native Americans died in battles, and others died from illness or starvation. Those who survived were relocated to reservations. Today some Cheyenne live in Tongue River, Montana, and others live in Oklahoma on a reservation shared with long-time allies, the Arapaho.

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