Prucha Says Go Bears Assignments Definition

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Lakota: Wazí Aháŋhaŋ Oyáŋke), also called Pine Ridge Agency, is an OglalaLakotaNative Americanreservation located in the U.S. state of South Dakota. Originally included within the territory of the Great Sioux Reservation, Pine Ridge was established in 1889 in the southwest corner of South Dakota on the Nebraska border. Today it consists of 3,468.85 sq mi (8,984.3 km2) of land area and is the eighth-largest reservation in the United States, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

The reservation encompasses the entirety of Oglala Lakota County, the southern half of Jackson County and the northwest portion of Bennett County. Of the 3,142 counties in the United States, these are among the poorest. Only 84,000 acres (340 km2) of land are suitable for agriculture. Extensive off-reservation trust lands are held mostly scattered throughout Bennett County (all of Bennett County was part of Pine Ridge until May 1910),[2][3] and also extend into adjacent Pine Ridge (Whiteclay), Nebraska in Sheridan County, just south of the community of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the administrative center and largest community within the reservation. The 2000 census population of the reservation was 15,521; but a study conducted by Colorado State University and accepted by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has estimated the resident population to reach 28,787.[4]

Pine Ridge is the site of several events that marked tragic milestones in the history between the Sioux of the area and the United States (U.S.) government. Stronghold Table—a mesa in what is today the Oglala-administered portion of Badlands National Park—was the location of the last of the Ghost Dances. The U.S. authorities' attempt to repress this movement eventually led to the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890. A mixed band of Miniconjou Lakota and Hunkpapa Sioux, led by Chief Spotted Elk, sought sanctuary at Pine Ridge after fleeing the Standing Rock Agency, where Sitting Bull had been killed during efforts to arrest him. The families were intercepted by a heavily armed detachment of the Seventh Cavalry, which attacked them, killing many women and children as well as warriors. This was the last large engagement between U.S. forces and Native Americans and marked the end of the western frontier.

Changes accumulated in the last quarter of the 20th century; in 1971 the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) started Oglala Lakota College, a tribal college, which offers 4-year degrees. In 1973 decades of discontent at the Pine Ridge Reservation resulted in a grassroots protest that escalated into the Wounded Knee Incident, gaining national attention. Members of the Oglala Lakota, the American Indian Movement, and supporters occupied the town in defiance of federal and state law enforcement in a protest that turned into an armed standoff lasting 71 days. This event inspired American Indians across the country and gradually led to changes at the reservation, with a revival of some cultural traditions. In 1981 the Lakota Tim Giago started the Lakota Times at Pine Ridge, the first independent Native American newspaper in the nation; he published it until selling it in 1998.

Located at the southern end of the Badlands, the reservation is part of the mixed grass prairie, an ecological transition zone between the short-grass and tall-grass prairies; all are part of the Great Plains. A great variety of plant and animal life flourishes on and adjacent to the reservation, including the endangered black-footed ferret. The area is also important in the field of paleontology; it contains deposits of Pierre Shale formed on the seafloor of the Western Interior Seaway, evidence of the marine Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary, and one of the largest deposits of fossils of extinct mammals from the Oligocene epoch.


19th century[edit]

Great Sioux Reservation[edit]

As stipulated in the Fort Laramie Treaty (1868), the U.S. government built Indian agencies for the various Lakota and other Plains tribes. These were forerunners to the modern Indian reservations. The Red Cloud Agency was established for the Oglala Lakota in 1871 on the North Platte River in Wyoming Territory. The location was one mile (1.6 km) west of the present town of Henry, Nebraska. The location of the Red Cloud Agency was moved to two other locations before being settled at the present Pine Ridge location. Pine Ridge Reservation was originally part of the Great Sioux Reservation established by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868; it encompassed approximately 60 million contiguous acres (240,000 km2) of western South Dakota (all of what is now called West River), northern Nebraska and eastern Wyoming.

Loss of the Black Hills[edit]

In 1874 George Armstrong Custer led the U.S. Army Black Hills Expedition, which set out on July 2 from Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory, with orders to travel to the previously uncharted Black Hills of South Dakota. Its mission was to look for suitable locations for a fort, find a route to the southwest, and to investigate the potential for gold mining. After his discovery of gold was made public, miners began migrating there illegally although it was reservation land.

"Custer's florid descriptions of the mineral and timber resources of the Black Hills, and the land's suitability for grazing and cultivation ... received wide circulation, and had the effect of creating an intense popular demand for the 'opening' of the Hills for settlement."[5] Initially the U.S. military tried to turn away trespassing miners and settlers. Eventually President Grant, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of War, "decided that the military should make no further resistance to the occupation of the Black Hills by miners."[6] These orders were to be enforced "quietly", and the President's decision was to remain "confidential."[6]

As more settlers and gold miners invaded the Black Hills, the Government determined it had to acquire the land from the Sioux, and appointed a commission to negotiate the purchase.[7] The negotiations failed, as the Sioux resisted giving up what they considered sacred land. The U.S. resorted to military force. They declared the Sioux Indians "hostile" for failing to obey an order to return from an off-reservation hunting expedition by a specific date. In the dead of winter, the Sioux found the overland travel was impossible.[8]

The consequent military expedition to remove the Sioux from the Black Hills included an attack on a major encampment of several bands on the Little Bighorn River. Led by General Custer, the attack ended in his defeat; it was an overwhelming victory of chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse over the 7th Cavalry Regiment, a conflict often called Custer's Last Stand.[7][9] US forces were vastly outnumbered.

In 1876 the U.S. Congress decided to open up the Black Hills to development and break up the Great Sioux Reservation. In 1877, it passed an act to make 7.7 million acres (31,000 km2) of the Black Hills available for sale to homesteaders and private interests. In 1889 Congress divided the remaining area of Great Sioux Reservation into five separate reservations, defining the boundaries of each in its Act of March 2, 1889, 25 Stat. 888. Pine Ridge was established at that time.

Wounded Knee Massacre[edit]

Main article: Wounded Knee Massacre

The Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on December 29, 1890,[10] near Wounded Knee Creek (Lakota: Cankpe Opi Wakpala). On the day before, a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M. Whitside intercepted Spotted Elk's (Big Foot) band of Miniconjou Lakota and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota near Porcupine Butte and escorted them 5 miles (8.0 km) westward to Wounded Knee Creek where they made camp. The rest of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, led by Colonel James Forsyth, surrounded the encampment, supported by four Hotchkiss guns.[11]

On the morning of December 29, 1890, the troops went into the camp to disarm the Lakota. One version of events claims that during the process, a deaf tribesman named Black Coyote was reluctant to give up his rifle, saying he had paid a lot for it.[12] A scuffle over Black Coyote's rifle escalated and a shot was fired, which resulted in the 7th Cavalry opening firing indiscriminately from all sides, killing men, women, and children, as well as some of their fellow troopers. Those few Lakota warriors who still had weapons began shooting back at the troopers, who quickly suppressed the Lakota fire. The surviving Lakota fled, but U.S. cavalrymen pursued and killed many who were unarmed.

In the end, U.S. forces killed at least 150 men, women, and children of the Lakota Sioux and wounded 51 (four men, and 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead at 300. Twenty-five troopers also died, and thirty-nine were wounded (six of the wounded would also die).[13] Many Army deaths were believed to have been caused by friendly fire, as the shooting took place at close range in chaotic conditions.[14]

The site has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is administered by the National Park Service.[10]

20th century[edit]

White Clay Extension[edit]

Main article: Whiteclay, Nebraska

In 1882, at the urging of Valentine McGillycuddy — the US Indian Agent at the Pine President Agency — President Chester A. Arthur issued an executive order establishing the White Clay Extension, an area of land in Nebraska extending 5 miles (8.0 km) south of the reservation's border and 10 miles (16 km) wide approximately perpendicular to the road leading north into the town of Pine Ridge on the reservation.[15] This road is today's Nebraska Highway 87. McGillycuddy lobbied for the buffer zone to prevent white peddlers from engaging in the illegal sale of "knives, guns, and alcohol" to the Oglala Lakota residents of Pine Ridge.

A law passed in Congress in 1832 banned the sale of alcohol to Native Americans. The ban was ended in 1953 by Public Law 277, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The amended law gave Native American tribes the option of permitting or banning alcohol sales and consumption on their lands.[16] The OST and many other tribes chose to exclude alcohol from their reservations because of the problems for their people. Today, 200 of the 293 reservations in the 48 contiguous states have banned alcohol sales in their territories.

In 1887, when Congress enacted the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 — breaking up the reservations and allotting a 160 acres (65 ha) plot to the registered head of each family — the Whiteclay Extension was specifically exempted. On March 2, 1889 the U.S. Congress enacted the Great Sioux Agreement of March 2, 1889, 25 Stat. 888, breaking up the Great Sioux Reservation and setting boundaries for the six reduced reservations. In this act, the White Clay Extension was incorporated again within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Agency. "Provided, That the said tract of land in the State of Nebraska shall be reserved, by Executive order, only so long as it may be needed for the use and protection of the Indians receiving rations and annuities at the Pine Ridge Agency."[17]

On January 25, 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt signed an executive order returning the 50 square miles (130 km2) of the White Clay Extension to the public domain. The town of Whiteclay in Sheridan County, Nebraska, just over the border from the reservation, was founded in the former "Extension" zone. Merchants quickly started selling alcohol to the Oglala Sioux.

It is hereby ordered that the tract of country in the State of Nebraska "withdrawn from sale and set aside as an addition to the present Sioux Indian Reservation in the Territory of Dakota" by Executive order dated January 24, 1882, be, and the same hereby is, restored to the public domain.~ President Theodore Roosevelt-January 25, 1904.[18]

On February 20, 1904, Roosevelt amended the executive order to return 1 square mile (2.6 km2) back to Pine Ridge: "the section of land embracing the Pine Ridge Boarding School irrigation ditch and the school pasture".

Bennett County Land dispute[edit]

No additional land changes were made within Pine Ridge until the U.S. Congress passed the Pine Ridge Act of May 27, 1910 (§1, 36 Stat. 440), by which most of the southeastern portion of Pine Ridge located within Bennett County was sold off.

[T]he Secretary of the Interior be, and he is hereby authorized and directed, as hereinafter provided, to sell and dispose of all that portion of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in the State of South Dakota, lying and being in Bennett County and described as follows ..." (Act of May 27, 1910, §1 (36 Stat. 440).

Provided that any Indian to whom allotments have been made on the tract to be ceded may, in case they elect to do so before said lands are offered for sale, relinquish same and select allotments in lieu thereof on the diminished reservation.[19]

The South Dakota Legislature determined the boundaries of Bennett County in 1909, while the land area was still part of the reservation.[20]

The United States participated only as amicus before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cook v. Parkinson, 525 F.2d 120 (8th Cir. 1975), a criminal case that discussed Bennett County as no longer being part of the Reservation. The United States is not bound by that decision because it did not participate in the litigation. The United States was part in United States v. Bennett County, 394 F.2d 8 (8th Cir. 1968), in which the State of South Dakota had to obtain permission from the Department of Interior in order to fix roads or condemn property Bennett County, consistent with the property's Reservation status.[21]

Indian Reorganization Act[edit]

Main article: Indian Reorganization Act

During the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration made changes in federal policy to improve conditions for American Indians. In response to complaints about corruption and injustices in the BIA management of reservations, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, permitting tribal nations to reorganize with self-government. It encouraged them to adopt a model of elected representative governments and elected tribal chairmen or presidents, with written constitutions. While tribes welcomed taking back more control of their government, this change eroded the power and structure of the traditional hereditary leaders of the clan system.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe developed a tribal government along democratic constitutional lines, with a chairman to be elected for a two-year term. This short term makes it difficult for leaders to accomplish longer-term projects, but the tribe has not changed its constitution. The BIA still has had the ability to oversee some tribal operations, including the police. Historically BIA tribal police were often assigned from other Indian tribes rather than representing local people and understanding their culture, which created tensions. Many traditionalists among the Oglala Lakota never supported the new style of government; tribal elders were still respected, and there were multiple lines of authority and influence among different groups on the reservation. Political factions also formed between those who were mixed-bloods or had urban experiences, and those who were full-bloods and tended to be more traditional in practices and culture.[22]

The people continued to be under assimilation pressure: through the early part of the century, many children were sent away to Indian boarding schools where they were usually required to speak English and were prohibited from speaking Lakota; they were usually expected to practice Christianity rather than native religions. In the late 20th century, many of these institutions were found to have had staff who abused the children in their care.[23]

Taking of Badlands Bombing Range[edit]

In 1942 the federal government took privately held Pine Ridge Indian Reservation land owned by tribal members in order to establish the Badlands Bombing Range of 341,725 acres (1,382.91 km2) (the largest portion is located in Oglala Lakota County). It also leased communally held Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) land for this defense installation.

Among the 125 families evicted was that of Pat Cuny, an Oglala Sioux. He fought in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge after surviving torpedoing of his transport in the English Channel.[24]Dewey Beard, a Miniconjou Sioux survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre, who supported himself by raising horses on his 908-acre (3.67 km2) allotment received in 1907 was also evicted. The small federal payments were insufficient to enable such persons to buy new properties. In 1955 the 97-year-old Beard testified of earlier mistreatment at Congressional hearings about this project.[25] He said, for "fifty years I have been kicked around. Today there is a hard winter coming. ...I might starve to death."[citation needed]

Since 1960, the U.S. has returned portions[specify] of the bombing range to the OST. The 1968 Public Law 90-468 returned 202,357 acres (818.91 km2) to the OST and set aside former tribal lands as the Badlands National Monument (the smaller Air Force Retained Area is within the boundaries of the reservation.)[26]

Understandably, many people now believe that the disruption of the time period 1973 –76 was instigated by the Wilson administration —and U.S. agents using that administration— to distract the people from these and other agreements being made about their land.
—Peter Matthiessen

A 2008 USAF & OST agreement initiated "a three-month $1.6 million project to remove unexploded ordnance" from the bombing range at long last.[27]

Wounded Knee Incident[edit]

Main article: Wounded Knee incident

In the early 1970s, tribal tensions rose and some members turned to the American Indian Movement (AIM) for help. Longstanding divisions on the reservation resulted from deep-seated political, ethnic and cultural differences. Many residents did not support the elected tribal government. Many residents were upset about what they described as the autocratic and repressive actions by the tribal president Dick Wilson, elected in 1972.

On Feb. 21, the tribal council was called into session to consider impeaching Wilson. Five hundred Oglala members were in attendance. He was criticized for favoring family and friends with jobs and benefits, not consulting with the tribal council, and creating a private militia, known as the Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOONs), to suppress political opponents. He used tribal funds to pay for this force. Wilson's response was to screen a right wing propaganda film. After a series of meetings held in the Calico community near the Pine Ridge Agency, the old traditional chiefs and the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO) called down to AIM in Rapid City and asked them to come to Pine Ridge. A meeting was arranged between Wilson and Russell Means. Five of Wilson's supporters cornered Means in the parking lot. Means escaped.[28] Women elders such as Ellen Moves Camp, founder of the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO), called for action. They organized a public protest for the next day.[23][23]

About 200 AIM and Oglala Lakota activists occupied the hamlet of Wounded Knee on February 27, 1973. They demanded the removal of Wilson, restoration of treaty negotiations with the U.S. government, and correction of U.S. failures to enforce treaty rights. Visits by the U.S. senators from South Dakota, FBI agents and United States Department of Justice (DOJ) representatives, were attended by widespread media coverage, but the Richard Nixon administration was preoccupied internally with Watergate.[23]

As the events evolved, the activists at Wounded Knee had a 71-day armed stand-off with U.S. law enforcement. AIM leaders at the site were Russell Means, Dennis Banks and Carter Camp; traditional spiritual leaders of the Lakota, such as Frank Fools Crow, were also prominent. Fools Crow led Oglala Lakota spiritual ceremonies and practice in their ways for participants.[23] Joseph H. Trimbach of the FBI and Steve Frizell of DOJ led the government.[23]

Casualties of gunfire included a U.S. Marshal, who was seriously wounded and paralyzed; and the deaths of Frank Clearwater, a Cherokee from North Carolina, and Buddy Lamont, a local Oglala Lakota. After Lamont's death, the Oglala Lakota elders called an end to the occupation.[23] Some Lakota have alleged that Ray Robinson, a civil rights activist, was killed during the Wounded Knee occupation, as he disappeared there.[29][30]

The stand-off ended, but Wilson remained in office. The U.S. government said it could not remove an elected tribal official as the Oglala Sioux Tribe had sovereignty.[23] Ensuing open conflict between factions caused numerous deaths. The murder rate between March 1, 1973, and March 1, 1976, was 170 per 100,000; it was the highest in the country.[31] More than 60 opponents of the tribal government died violent deaths in the three years following the Wounded Knee Incident, a period called the "Reign of Terror" by many residents. Among those killed was Pedro Bissonette, executive director of the civil rights organization OSCRO.[32] Residents accused officials of failing to try to solve the deaths.[33] In 2000, the FBI released a report that accounted for most of the deaths, and disputed the claims of unsolved murders.[34][35] AIM representatives criticized the FBI report.[36]

The Pine Ridge Shootout[edit]

During this period of increased violence, on June 26, 1975, the reservation was the site of an armed confrontation between AIM activists and the FBI and their allies, which became known as the 'Pine Ridge Shootout'.[37] Two FBI agents, Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams, and the AIM activist Joe Stuntz were killed. In two separate trials, the U.S. prosecuted participants in the firefight for the deaths of the agents. AIM members Robert Robideau and Dino Butler were acquitted after asserting that they had acted in self-defense. Leonard Peltier was extradited from Canada and tried separately because of the delay. He was convicted on two counts of first–degree murder for the deaths of the FBI agents[38] and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life in prison, after a trial which is still contentious. He remains in prison.

Murder of Anna Mae Aquash[edit]

Main article: Anna Mae Aquash

On February 24, 1976, the body of Anna Mae Aquash, a Mi'kmaq activist and the most prominent woman in AIM, was found in the far northeast corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Missing since December 1975, she had been shot execution-style. At the time, some AIM people said that she was a government informant, but the FBI has denied that. In 1974 AIM had discovered that Douglas Durham, then head of security, was an FBI informant. Three federal grand juries were called to hear testimony on the Aquash murder: in 1976, 1982 and 1994, but it was more than a quarter of a century before any suspects were indicted and tried for the crime. Two AIM members, Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham, were convicted of her murder in 2004 and 2010 respectively, and sentenced to life in prison. Bruce Ellison, Leonard Peltier's lawyer since the 1970s, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify at the grand jury hearings on Looking Cloud or at his trial in 2004. At trial, the federal prosecutor referred to Ellison as a co-conspirator in the Aquash case.[39][40]

21st century[edit]

Further information: The Battle for Whiteclay

Alcoholism among residents has been a continuing problem in the life of the reservation since its founding. Since 1999, activists from the Pine Ridge Reservation, AIM, and Nebraskans for Peace have worked to have beer sales shut down in nearby Whiteclay, Nebraska, a border town. Whiteclay sells millions of cans of beer annually, primarily to residents from the reservation in South Dakota, where alcohol possession and consumption is prohibited. In 2008 the documentary The Battle for Whiteclay, about the toll of alcoholism and activists' efforts to control beer sales, was released, which has attracted wide attention. The Nebraska legislature allocated funds in late 2010 for increased police patrols in Pine Ridge by the county sheriff's office, based 22 miles (35 km) away in Rushville.

While other tribes and reservations also prohibited alcohol at one time, many have since legalized its sales on their reservations. They use the revenues generated to improve health care and life on the reservation, and they prefer to directly control the regulation of alcohol sales and police its use. A 2007 survey found that 63% of federally recognized tribes in the lower 48 states have legalized liquor sales on their reservations.[41] They include the nearby Sicangu Oyate or Brulé Sioux at the Rosebud Indian Reservation, also located in South Dakota. In 2006, the Omaha Nation in northeastern Nebraska started requiring payment of tribal license fees and sales taxes by liquor stores located in towns within its reservation boundaries in order to benefit in the revenues generated by alcohol sales.[42]

Activists at Pine Ridge have worked to persuade Nebraska to enforce its own laws and support the tribe's prohibition. In 2004 the Oglala Sioux Tribe voted down a referendum to legalize alcohol sales, and in 2006 the tribal council voted to maintain the ban on alcohol sales, rather than taking on the benefits and responsibility directly.[41]

At a discussion at Bellevue University on April 2, 2010, Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk, Inc.—the development corporation of the Winnebago Reservation—said the Oglala Sioux needed to concentrate on economic development. He believes that poverty is at the heart of its people's problems.[43] The Winnebago used revenues from a casino and alcohol sales at their reservation in eastern Nebraska to build an economic development corporation. It now employs 1,400 people in 26 subsidiaries. With its revenues, the Winnebago have been able to build a hospital, a new school and $1 million in new housing. Kevin Abourezk reported that Stew Magnuson—the author of The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder, a study of issues related to the Pine Ridge reservation and its border towns—described alcohol prohibition at the reservation "as a complete failure."[43] Magnuson said, "Whenever you have prohibition, you’re going to have places like Whiteclay."[43] He thought prohibition contributed to bootlegging on the reservation.

On February 9, 2012 the Oglala Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Nebraska against the four liquor stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, as well as the beverage distributors and the brewery companies who make it. The suit, Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Jason Schwarting, Licensee of Arrowhead Inn, Inc. et al, sought $500 million in damages for the "cost of health care, social services and child rehabilitation caused by chronic alcoholism on the reservation, which encompasses some of the nation's most impoverished counties."[44] The suit claims that the defendants knowingly and willingly sell excessive amounts of alcohol, knowing that most of it is smuggled onto the reservation, in violation of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Federal law. The defendants listed in the suit are the following:[45][46]

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev Worldwide, Inc.
  • SAB Miller d/b/a Miller Brewing Company
  • Molson Coors Brewing Company
  • Miller Coors, LLC
  • Pabst Brewing Company
  • Pivo, Inc. d/b/a High Plains Budweiser. President, Treasurer: Jeffrey J. Scheinost. Secretary: Cynthia A. Scheinost. Director: Marykate Scheinost[47]
  • Dietrich Distributing Co., Inc. President, Director, Treasurer: John D. Dietrich[48]
  • Coors Distributing of West Nebraska d/b/a Coors of West Nebraska; President, Treasurer, Director: James K. Raymond, Treasurer, Director: Evelyn K. Raymond[49]
  • Klemm Distributing Inc.: President: Robert (Bob) F. Klemm, Secretary: Barrett R. Klemm[50] d/b/a Arrowhead Distributing, Inc.[51] President: Patrick A, O'Neal. Secretary: Greg Burkholder, Treasurer: Kent O'Neal[52]
  • Jason Schwarting d/b/a Arrowhead Inn, Inc. President: Jason Schwarting,[53] Secretary: Vic Clarke[54]
  • Sanford Holdings, LLC d/b/a D&S Pioneer Service. Corporation Members: Doug Sanford, Steve Sanford[55]
  • Stuart J. Kozal d/b/a/ Jumping Eagle Inn. Owners: Stuart J. Kozal,[56] Lillie I. Norman[57]
  • Clay M. Brehmer and Daniel J. Brehmer d/b/a State Line Liquor[58]

On August 14, 2013, voters voted to end prohibition and legalize alcohol, so the tribe can use the profits for education and detoxification and treatment centers.[59]


In a 2005 interview, Cecilia Fire Thunder, the first female president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, noted, "[Sixty-eight] percent of the college graduates on the reservation are women. Seventy percent of the jobs are held by women. Over 90 percent of the jobs in our schools are held by women."[60]

  • As of 2011, population estimates of the reservation range from 28,000 to 40,000. Numerous enrolled members of the tribe live off the reservation.[61]
  • 80% of residents are unemployed;
  • 98% of the residents live below the Federal poverty level[citation needed]
  • Average per capita income in Oglala Lakota County is $4,000;
  • The infant mortality rate is five times higher than the national average;
  • Native American amputation rates due to diabetes are three to four times higher than the national average;
  • Death rate due to diabetes is three times higher than the national average;
  • Teen suicide is four times the national average; and
  • Life expectancy in 2007 was estimated to be 48 for males and 52 for females.[62]

Tribal government[edit]

The reservation is governed by the eighteen-member Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, who are elected officials rather than traditional clan life leaders, in accordance with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The Executive Officers of the Council are the President (also called Chairman), Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Primary elections are held in October and the General election in November.

The President and Vice-President are elected at large by voters to a term of office of two years; the Secretary and Treasurer are appointed by the Tribal Council. Council members serve a term of two years. There are nine election districts on the reservation. One representative is elected for each 1,000 tribe members

A Constitution was approved on January 15, 1936 with amendments approved on December 24, 1969; December 3, 1985; July 11, 1997.


While many residents have continued to struggle with the tribal government, BIA and other federal representatives, some have become more politically active in other ways. In 2002, the Pine Ridge Reservation was part of a statewide voter registration campaign organized by the Democratic Party. That year, Oglala Lakota candidates won offices in Bennett County; since the 1990s, Native Americans (mostly Lakota) have become a majority of the county's population. Charles Cummings was elected as county sheriff, Gerald 'Jed' Bettelyoun to one of the positions as county commissioner, and Sandy Flye became the first Native American elected to a seat on the county school board. Statewide turnout by Native Americans helped elect the Democratic candidate Tim Johnson to the U.S. Senate by a narrow margin.[63]

In 2004, Cecilia Fire Thunder became the first woman elected president of the OST, defeating the incumbent and Russell Means.[64] In 2005 she led negotiations with Nebraska to strengthen law enforcement in Whiteclay by hiring more Oglala tribal police and having them deputized by Nebraska to patrol in the town. The town sells massive quantities of alcohol to the Lakota, although it is illegal on the reservation.[dubious– discuss] The "historic agreement" was signed by Fire Thunder following approval by the tribal council, the Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman and State Attorney General Jon Bruning.[65]

On March 21, 2006, Fire Thunder announced her plan to bring a Planned Parenthood clinic to the reservation to improve health services to women. The South Dakota state legislature had recently passed a stringent abortion law.[64] In May 2006, the Oglala Sioux tribal council unanimously voted to ban all abortions on the reservation, regardless of the circumstances. The council also voted to suspend Fire Thunder for 20 days pending an impeachment hearing.[66] On June 29, 2006, the tribal council voted to impeach Fire Thunder: it said that founding the clinic was outside her authority and she had failed to consult with them. Her two-year term would have expired in October 2006. In November 2006, state voters reviewed the law passed by the state legislature, and they overwhelmingly defeated the ban on abortions without exceptions, by 55.57 percent to 44.43 percent. A ban with exceptions was proposed in 2008, and state voters rejected that by a margin of 55.21 percent to 44.79 percent.[67]

The U.S. Congress supported Fire Thunder's tribal law enforcement initiative, earmarking $200,000 over two years to pay for the increased cost of OST police patrols in Whiteclay. By May 2007, the tribe had spent none of the money. Fire Thunder's impeachment and tribal political conflict appeared to prevent its implementing the agreement.[65] However, during 2006 and 2007, tribal activists tried to blockade the road inside the reservation to confiscate beer being illegally brought in. The OST police chief complained of having insufficient money and staff to control the beer traffic.[68] The tribe lost the earmarked funds and let the initiative lapse.

In November 2008, Theresa Two Bulls, a Democratic State Senator for South Dakota since 2004, became the second woman elected president of the OST. She succeeded John Yellow Bird Steele and defeated Russell Means.[69] When the reservation had a rash of suicides in late 2009, she declared a state of emergency and organized a call-in to President Barack Obama. She organized services during a blizzard to assist residents in outlying areas on the reservation.[70]

John Yellow Bird Steele was re-elected in 2010. Bryan Brewer was elected as Tribal president in November 2012, defeating the incumbent Steele with 52% of the vote. A retired educator and school administrator, he is new to tribal politics. He intends to work on developing housing and discouraging alcoholism.[71] The journalist Brian Ecoffey noted that Brewer represented a "new direction" for the tribe, as he had not held political office before.[72]

Federal, state, and tribal law[edit]

The Oglala Sioux Tribe maintains legal jurisdiction over all crimes committed on the reservation by tribal members, non-reservation Indians, and those willing to relinquish authority to the tribal courts. Felony crimes and others which have been specifically assumed by the federal government, as defined by various acts of the U.S. Congress, are outside their jurisdiction and are prosecuted by the BIA and FBI. The ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in Ex parte Crow Dog (1883) marked the high point of Indian sovereignty in law enforcement on reservations; since then federal legislation and subsequent Supreme Court decisions have reduced Native American sovereignty in this area.[73]

Public Law 280, enacted by Congress in 1953 and substantially amended in 1968, allows for states to assume jurisdiction on Indian reservations if approved by referendum by the affected reservations. In South Dakota, Public Law 280 is applied only to state highways running through reservations.[74]

Landmark cases affecting tribal criminal law include:

  • Ex parte Crow Dog:109 U.S. 556 (1883): On August 5, 1881, Crow Dog, a Brulé Lakota subchief, shot and killed the Oglala principal chief Chief Spotted Tail, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. A grand jury was convened, and Crow Dog was tried and convicted in Dakota Territorial court in Deadwood, South Dakota, and sentenced to death. In 1883 his lawyers petitioned for writs of habeas corpus and certiorari; his case was argued in November 1883 before the U.S. Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that, according to the provisions of the Treaty of Fort Laramie, the Dakota Territorial court had no jurisdiction over the Rosebud reservation; it overturned Crow Dog's conviction.[75][76] In response to this ruling, Congress passed the Major Crimes Act18 U.S.C. §1 153 in 1884, defining crimes that would be prosecuted under federal law.
  • Major Crimes Act18 U.S.C. §1 153: Congress gave federal authorities concurrent jurisdiction over seven major crimes committed on a reservation, regardless of whether one of the parties was Indian. This legislation reduced the criminal jurisdiction previously held by tribal courts.[77][78]
  • United States v. Quiver, 241 U.S. 602 (1916): Congress left to the Indian Tribal Courts jurisdiction over all crimes not taken by the Federal government. U.S. Department of the Interior, Federal Indian Law (pp 319–20, (1958).
  • Iron Crow v. Oglala Sioux Tribe, 231 F. 2d 89 (1956): Indian Tribal Courts have inherent jurisdiction over all matters not taken over by the Federal government.[79]
  • Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, 435 U.S. 191 (1978): Indian Tribes do not have inherent criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians absent Congressional authority.
  • United States v. Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313 (1978): Indian Tribes have inherent powers to punish offenses against Tribal laws when committed by Tribal members.

Law enforcement[edit]

In traditional Sioux society, law enforcement was performed by members of the warrior societies, such as the Kit Foxes, Badgers and Crow Owners, known as the akicitas. They maintained order in camp and during communal buffalo hunts. Each band would appoint one society as the official akicita group for the year.[80] This custom prevailed for a short time after the Sioux were forced onto the reservations. In 1878 Congress authorized the formation of an Indian police force to provide law enforcement in Indian territory and upon reservations. They were superseded by police assigned and managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA police force is composed of members of various Native American tribes from throughout the United States, and personnel often do not belong to the nations they oversee.

Since the late 1970s, the Oglala Sioux Tribe has received Federal funding to maintain its own reservation police, supplemented by BIA personnel. The FBI has jurisdiction for any felony crimes committed upon the reservation. After the reservation police respond to the initial call, a BIA police person initiates the investigation and notifies the FBI.[81]

The OST is developing a new Tribal Justice Center, to include the tribal courts and a restorative justice courtroom. The latter concept relates to traditional Lakota ideas about restoring the victim and offender to balance within the community. In practice, it is intended to bring together the affected parties in facilitated communication, together with members of the community; to settle on a form of reparation or compensation by the offender that is satisfactory to the victim, which may include money, public apology, and/or community service work; and to bring the offender quickly back within the community with its support for the future. As the process is being used at Kahnawake, a Mohawk reserve in Canada, the First Nation community works to intervene and settle issues before arrest.[82]

Social issues and economy[edit]

Pine Ridge is the eighth-largest reservation in the United States and it is the poorest. The population of Pine Ridge suffer health conditions, including high mortality rates, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, malnutrition and diabetes, among others. Reservation access to health care is limited compared to urban areas, and it is not sufficient. Unemployment on the reservation hovers between 80% and 85%, and 49% of the population live below the federal poverty level.[83][clarification needed] Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewage systems; and many use wood stoves to heat their homes, depleting limited wood resources.

Health and healthcare[edit]

The population on Pine Ridge has among the shortest life expectancies of any group in the Western Hemisphere: approximately 47 years for males and 52 years for females. The infant mortality rate is five times the United States national average, and the adolescent suicide rate is four times the United States national average. Members of the reservation suffer from a disproportionately high rate of poverty and alcoholism.[61] By 2011, a gang culture formed among Native American teenagers on the reservation.[84] Young residents leave the reservation for larger cities. When they return to the reservation, they bring gang culture with them.

The Pine Ridge Comprehensive Health Facility is the on-reservation hospital run by the Indian Health Service. The 110,000 square feet (10,000 m2) inpatient hospital also has an outpatient clinic, dental clinic, and a surgery suite. The emergency room is staffed by two physicians as well as two physician assistants and a hospitalist in triage. The "Sick Kids" clinic is also based at the facility, with pediatricians on staff.

In June 2011, the OST broke ground on a long-planned 60-bed nursing home facility, to be completed within two years. It was developed in cooperation with the federal government, the states of Nebraska and South Dakota. In October 2016, the Oglala Lakota Nursing Home, $6.5-million, 80-bed nursing home for the care of their elderly, opened in White Clay, South Dakota.[85] The tribe borrowed money for a loan for the facility from the Mdewakanton Shakopee tribe, agreeing to "an independent advisory board and an experienced outside management firm."[85] It is working with Native American Health Management, LLC (NAHM), to gain training for staff and oversight of operations until people gain experience.


This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(February 2017)

Alcoholism is widespread on the reservation, affecting an estimated 85 percent of the families.[86] Tribal police estimate that 90 percent of the crimes are alcohol-related.[86]

Because of historic problems with alcohol use by its members, the Oglala Sioux Tribe has prohibited the sale and possession of alcohol on the Pine Ridge Reservation since 1832. The exception was a brief period in the 1970s when on-reservation sales were tried. The town of Whiteclay, Nebraska (just over the South Dakota-Nebraska border) previously had approximately 12 residents and four liquor stores, which sold over 4.9 million 12-ounce cans of beer in 2010 almost exclusively to Oglala Lakota from the reservation (nearly 170 cans per person). The Whiteclay liquor stores were shut down by the state of Nebraska in 2017, though the store owners are appealing to have the stores reopened.[87]

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a spectrum of anatomical structural anomalies, and behavioral, neurocognitive disabilities resulting from the exposure of a fetus to alcohol in the womb. The most severe manifestation within this spectrum is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).[88] A quarter of the children born on the reservation are diagnosed with either FASD or FAS, resulting in lifelong challenges.[89]


The state of education on the reservation is severely lacking in multiple areas. The school drop-out rate is over 70%, and the teacher turnover rate is eight times that of the U.S. national average. Red Cloud Indian School is located in the area.

In 1971 the tribe founded the Oglala Lakota College, one of the earliest tribal colleges in the nation, and part of Native American institution building of the last 40 years. First started as a two-year community college, it has expanded to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees, as well as a master's in Lakota leadership. It is operated by tribal people, with a tribal board. In 2011, it had an enrollment of 1,400.[90]

Map showing the Great Sioux Reservation, subsequent loss of land to the federal government, and current holdings of the various Sioux reservations
A 1911 ad offering former reservation land for sale. Most of the "allotted Indian land" sold the previous year (1910) was Sioux land.
Oglala girl in front of a tipi, c. 1891
Pine Ridge Indian Health Service Hospital

This article is about the Native American people. For the capital city in Wyoming, see Cheyenne, Wyoming. For other uses, see Cheyenne (disambiguation).

Total population


(Northern: 10,840 [1] Southern: 12,130[2])
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( Montana, Oklahoma)
Cheyenne, English, Plains Sign Talk
traditional tribal religion, Native American Church, and Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Arapaho, Blackfoot, Suhtai, and other Algonquian peoples

The Cheyenne (shy-AN) are one of the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains and their language is of the Algonquian language family. The Cheyenne comprise two Native American tribes, the Só'taeo'o or Só'taétaneo'o (more commonly spelled as Suhtai or Sutaio) and the Tsétsêhéstâhese (also spelled Tsitsistas[3]). These tribes merged in the early 19th century. Today, the Cheyenne people are split into two federally recognized Nations: the Southern Cheyenne, who are enrolled in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma, and the Northern Cheyenne, who are enrolled in the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana.

At the time of their first contact with the Europeans, the Cheyenne were living in the area of what is now Minnesota. At times they have been allied with the Lakota and Arapaho, and at other points enemies of the Lakota. In the early 18th century they migrated west across the Mississippi River and into North and South Dakota,[3] where they adopted the horse culture. Having settled the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Powder River Country of present-day Montana, they introduced the horse culture to Lakota bands about 1730. Allied with the Arapaho, the Cheyenne pushed the Kiowa to the Southern Plains. In turn, they were pushed west by the more numerous Lakota. [4]

The Cheyenne Nation or Tsêhéstáno was at one time composed of ten bands that spread across the Great Plains from southern Colorado to the Black Hills in South Dakota. They fought their traditional enemies, the Crow and later (1856–79) the United States Army forces. In the mid-19th century, the bands began to split, with some bands choosing to remain near the Black Hills, while others chose to remain near the Platte Rivers of central Colorado.

The Northern Cheyenne, known in Cheyenne either as Notameohmésêhese, meaning "Northern Eaters" or simply as Ohmésêhese meaning "Eaters", live in southeastern Montana on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Tribal enrollment figures, as of late 2014, indicate that there are approximately 10,840 members, of which about 4,939 reside on the reservation. Approximately 91% of the population are Native Americans (full or part race), with 72.8% identifying themselves as Cheyenne. Slightly more than one quarter of the population five years or older spoke a language other than English.[5]

The Southern Cheyenne, known in Cheyenne as Heévâhetaneo'o meaning "Roped People", together with the Southern Arapaho, form the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, in western Oklahoma. Their combined population is 12,130, as of 2008[update].[2] In 2003, approximately 8,000 of these identified themselves as Cheyenne, although with continuing intermarriage it has become increasingly difficult to separate the tribes.[3]


The Cheyenne Nation is composed of two tribes, the Só'taeo'o or Só'taétaneo'o (more commonly as Suhtai or Sutaio; singular: Só'taétane) and the Tsétsêhéstâhese (more commonly as the Tsitsistas; singular: Tsétsêhéstaestse), which translates to "those who are like this".[6] These two tribes had always traveled together, becoming fully merged sometime after 1831, when they were still noted as having separate camps. The Suhtai were said to have originally had slightly different speech and customs from their traveling companions.[7]

The name "Cheyenne" may be derived from Dakota Siouxexonym for them, Šahíyena (meaning "little Šahíya"). Though the identity of the Šahíya is not known, many Great Plains tribes assume it means Cree or some other people who spoke an Algonquian language related to Cree and Cheyenne.[8] The Cheyenne word for Ojibwe is "Sáhea'eo'o," a word that sounds similar to the Dakota word Šahíya."

Another of the common etymologies for Cheyenne is "a bit like the [people of an] alien speech" (literally, "red-talker").[9] According to George Bird Grinnell, the Dakota had referred to themselves and fellow Siouan-language bands as "white talkers", and those of other language families, such as the Algonquian Cheyenne, as "red talkers" (Šahíyena).[7]

The etymology of the name Tsitsistas (technically Tsétsėhéstȧhese), which the Cheyenne call themselves, is uncertain. According to the Cheyenne dictionary, offered online by Chief Dull Knife College, there is no definitive consensus and various studies of the origins and the translation of the word has been suggested. Grinnell's record is typical; he states "They call themselves Tsistsistas [sic, Tsitsistas is the correct pronunciation], which the books commonly give as meaning "people". It most likely means related to one another, similarly bred, like us, our people, or us.[10] The term for the Cheyenne homeland is Tsiihistano."


Main article: Cheyenne language

The Cheyenne of Montana and Oklahoma speak the Cheyenne language, known as Tsêhésenêstsestôtse (common spelling: Tsisinstsistots). Approximately 800 people speak Cheyenne in Oklahoma.[3] There are only a handful of vocabulary differences between the two locations. The Cheyenne alphabet contains 14 letters. The Cheyenne language is one of the larger Algonquian-language group. Formerly, the Só'taeo'o (Só'taétaneo'o) or Suhtai (Sutaio) bands of Southern and Northern Cheyenne spoke Só'taéka'ęškóne or Só'taenęstsestôtse, a language so close to Tsêhésenêstsestôtse (Cheyenne language), that it is sometimes termed a Cheyenne dialect.[citation needed]


Early history[edit]

The earliest known written historical record of the Cheyenne comes from the mid-17th century, when a group of Cheyenne visited the FrenchFort Crevecoeur, near present-day Peoria, Illinois. The Cheyenne at this time lived between the Mississippi River and Mille Lacs Lake in present-day Minnesota. The Cheyenne economy was based on the collection of wild rice and hunting, especially of bison, which lived in the prairies 70–80 miles west of the Cheyenne villages.[11]

According to tribal history, during the 17th century, the Cheyenne had been driven by the Assiniboine (Hóheeheo'o - "wrapped ones or swaddled", adaptive from the Lakota/Dakota word Hóhe, meaning “rebels”) from the Great Lakes region to present-day Minnesota and North Dakota, where they established villages. The most prominent of the ancient Cheyenne villages is Biesterfeldt Village, in eastern North Dakota along the Sheyenne River. The tribal history also relates that they first reached the Missouri River in 1676.[12] A more recent analysis of early records posits that at least some of the Cheyenne remained in the Mille Lac region of Minnesota until about 1765, when the Ojibwe defeated the Dakota with firearms — pushing the Cheyenne, in turn, to the Minnesota River, where they were reported in 1766.[13]

On the Missouri River, the Cheyenne came into contact with the neighboring Mandan, Hidatsa (Tsé-heše'émâheónese, "people who have soil houses"), and Arikara people (Ónoneo'o), and they adopted many of their cultural characteristics. They were first of the later Plains tribes into the Black Hills and Powder River Country. About 1730, they introduced the horse to Lakota bands (Ho'óhomo'eo'o - “the invited ones (to Cheyenne lands i.e. the Black Hills)”). Conflict with migrating Lakota and Ojibwe people forced the Cheyenne further west, and they, in turn, pushed the Kiowa to the south.[14]

By 1776, the Lakota had overwhelmed the Cheyenne and taken over much of their territory near the Black Hills. In 1804, Lewis and Clark visited a surviving Cheyenne village in North Dakota. Such European explorers learned many different names for the Cheyenne, and did not realize how the different sections were forming a unified tribe.[14]

The Cheyenne Nation is descended from two related tribes, the Tsétsêhéstâhese / Tsitsistas (Cheyenne proper) and Só'taeo'o / Só'taétaneo'o (better known as Suhtai or Sutaio), the latter may have joined the Tsétsêhéstâhese in the early 18th century. Their oral history relays that both tribal peoples are characterized, and represented by two cultural heroes or prophets who received divine articles from their god Ma'heo'o (″Sacred Being, God″, commonly in English Maheo, Mahiu, this is a post-missionary term, formerly the plural Ma'heono was used), which the Só'taeo'o called He'emo (″Goddess, Female Sacred Being, God″, equivalent to Ma'heo'o in the Tsétsêhéstâhese dialect).

The Tsétsêhéstâhese / Tsitsistas prophet Motsé'eóeve (Sweet Medicine Standing, Sweet Root Standing, commonly called Sweet Medicine) had received the Maahótse (in English known as Mahuts, a bundle of (Sacred) Arrows or the (Sacred) Arrows Bundle) at Nóávóse (″medicine(sacred)-hill″, name for Bear Butte, northwest of Rapid City, South Dakota),[15] which they carried when they waged tribal-level war[14][16][17] and were kept in the maahéome (Arrow Lodge or Arrow Tepee). He organized the structure of Cheyenne society, their military or war societies led by prominent warriors, their system of legal justice, and the Council of Forty-four peace chiefs, the latter was formed from four véhoo'o (chiefs or leaders) of the ten principal manaho (bands) and an additional four ″Old Man″ meeting to deliberate at regular tribal gatherings, centered around the Sun Dance.[3]

Sweet Medicine is the Cheyenne prophet who predicted the coming of the horse, cow, whiteman, etc. to the Cheyenne. He was named for motsé'eonȯtse (sweetgrass), one of the sacred plant medicines used by many Plains peoples in ceremonies.

The Só'taeo'o prophet Tomȯsévėséhe ("Erect Horns") had received the Ésevone (aka Is'siwun - "Sacred (Buffalo) Hat Bundle") at Toh'nihvoos (″Stone Hammer Mountain″) near the Great Lakes in the present state of Minnesota. The Ésevone / Hóhkėha'e (Sacred Buffalo Hat) is kept in the vonȧhéome (old term) or hóhkėha'éome (new term) ("Sacred Hat Lodge, Sacred Hat Tepee"). Erect Horns gave them the accompanying ceremonies and the Sun Dance. His vision convinced the tribe to abandon their earlier sedentary agricultural traditions to adopt nomadic Plains horse culture. They replaced their earth lodges with portable tipis and switched their diet from fish and agricultural produce, to mainly bison and wild fruits and vegetables. Their lands ranged from the upper Missouri River into what is now Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and South Dakota.[citation needed]

The Ésevone / Hóhkėha'e ("Sacred Buffalo Hat") is kept among the Northern Cheyenne and Northern Só'taeo'o. The Tséá'enōvȧhtse (″Sacred (Buffalo) Hat Keeper″ or ″Keeper of the Sacred (Buffalo) Hat″) must belong to the Só'taeo'o (Northern or Southern alike). In the 1870s tribal leaders became disenchanted with the keeper of the bundle demanded the keeper Broken Dish give up the bundle; he agreed but his wife did not and desecrated the Sacred Hat and its contents; a ceremonial pipe and a buffalo horn were lost. In 1908 a Cheyenne named Three Fingers gave the horn back to the Hat; the pipe came into possession of a Cheyenne named Burnt All Over who gave it to Hattie Goit of Poteau, Oklahoma who in 1911 gave the pipe to the Oklahoma Historical Society. In 1997 the Oklahoma Historal Society negotiated with the Northern Cheyenne to return the pipe to the tribal keeper of the Sacred Medicine Hat Bundle James Black Wolf.[18]

The Maahótse (Sacred Arrows) are symbols of male power and the power of the Ésevone / Hóhkėha'e (Sacred Buffalo Hat) is female. The Sacred Buffalo Hat and the Sacred Arrows together form the two great covenants of the Cheyenne Nation. Through these two bundles, Ma'heo'o assures continual life and blessings for the people.

Historical Cheyenne bands[edit]

Northern Cheyenne (known in Cheyenne either as Notameohmésêhese or Notameohmésėhétaneo'o meaning "Northern Eaters" or simply as Ohmésêhese / Ôhmésêheseo'o meaning "Eaters")

  • Notameohmésêhese / Notameohmésėhétaneo'o proper ("Northern Eaters", also simply known as Ȯhmésėhese / Ôhmésêheseo'o or Omísis - "Eaters", went by this names because they were known as great hunters and therefore had a good supply of meat to feed their people, most populous Cheyenne group, inhabited land from the northern and western Black Hills (Mo'ȯhtávo'honáéva - ″black-rock-Location″) toward the Powder River Country (Páeo'hé'e - ″gunpowder river″ or ″coal river″), often they were accompanied by their Totoemanaho and Northern Só'taeo'o kin, had through intermarriages close ties to Lakota, today they - along with the Northern Só'taeo'o - are the most influential among the Northern Cheyenne)
  • Northern Oévemanaho / Oivimána (Northern Oévemana - "Northern Scabby", "Northern Scalpers", now living in and around Birney, Montana (Oévemanâhéno - ″scabby-band-place″) near the confluence of the Tongue River and Hanging Woman Creek in the southeastern corner of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation)
  • Northern Só'taeo'o / Só'taétaneo'o (Suhtai or Sutaio, married only other Só'taeo'o (Northern or Southern alike) and camped always separate from the other Cheyenne camps, maintained closest ties to the Notameohmésêhese band, lived in the northern and western Black Hills (Mo'ȯhtávo'honáéva - ″black-rock-Location″) and roamed together with their Notameohmésêhese and Totoemanaho kin also in the Powder River Country (Páeo'hé'e), remained north of the Platte River, where they gained higher band numbers than their southern kin because of better Northern hunting and grass, now living in and around Birney, Montana (Oévemanâhéno - ″scabby-band-place″), today they - along with the Notameohmésêhese - are the most influential among the Northern Cheyenne)

Lesser northern bands (not represented in the Council of Forty-Four):

  • Anskówînîs / Anskowinis ("Narrow Nose", "narrow-nose-bridge", named after their first chief, properly named Broken Dish, but nicknamed Anskówǐnǐs, they separated from the Ôhmésêheseo'o on account of a quarrel)
  • Moktavhetaneo / Mo'ȯhtávėhetaneo'o (Mo'ôhtávêhetane - "Black skinned Men", "Ute-like Men", because they had darker skin than other Cheyenne, they looked more like the Utes to their Cheyenne kin, also meaning ″Mountain Men″, maybe descended from Ute (Mo'ȯhtávėhetaneo'o) captives, living today in the Lame Deer, Montana (Mo'ȯhtávȯheomenéno - ″black-lodge-place″) district on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation; because Lame Deer as tribal and government agency headquarters was also the place where rations were given out it is also known as Meaveʼhoʼeno - ″the giving place″ or ″giving-whiteman-place″)
  • Ononeo'o / Ononeo ("Arikara People" or ″Ree Band″, because they were through intermarriage of mixed Cheyenne-Arikara and Mandan heritage, formerly strong associated with the mixed Cheyenne-Lakota Masikota band, sometimes sought of as a Masikota subband, today they live in the nonofficial Rosebud/Ree district (Ónoneo'o), politically part of the Muddy Creek district, between Busby and Muddy Creek, some are also present in the Lame Deer district)
  • Totoemanaho / Totoimana (Totoemana, Tútoimanáh - "Backward Clan", "Shy Clan" or "Bashful Clan", also translated as ″Reticent Band″, and ″Unwilling Band″, so named because they prefer to camp by themselves, lived in the northern and western Black Hills (Mo'ȯhtávo'honáéva - ″black-rock-Location″) and along the Tongue River (Vétanovéo'hé'e - ″Tongue River″), roamed together with their Notameohmésêhese and Northern Só'taeo'o kin also in the Powder River Country (Páeo'hé'e), had through intermarriages close ties to Lakota, now centered in and around Ashland, Montana (Vóhkoohémâhoéve'ho'éno, formerly called Totoemanáheno) immediately east of the boundary of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation)
  • Vóhpoométaneo'o / Woxpometaneo (Voxpometaneo - "White River People", ″White River Cheyenne″, named for the White River (Vóhpoome) near Pine Ridge in South Dakota, also named after a large extended family as Wóopotsît or Wóhkpotsit - "White Wolf", ″White Crafty People″, the majority joined their Cheyenne kin and settled 1891 south of Kirby, Montana near the headwaters of the Rosebud Creek and are now centered in and around Busby, Montana (Vóhpoométanéno) on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, some stayed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with their Oglala Lakota kin and are known as Tsėhésė-ho'óhomo'eo'o - ″Cheyenne-Sioux″)

Southern Cheyenne (known in Cheyenne as Heévâhetaneo'o meaning "Roped People" - after the most populous band, also commonly known as Sówoniá - "the Southern People")

  • Heévâhetaneo'o / Hevhaitaneo proper (Hévhaitanio - "Haire Rope Men", "Hairy People", also ″Fur Men″, were close affiliated to Arapaho, known as great warriors and noted among the Cheyenne as the best horse tamers and horse raiders from surrounding tribes - especially from the horse-rich Kiowa (Vétapâhaetó'eo'o - ″greasy-wood-ones″) and Comanche (Šé'šenovotsétaneo'o - ″snake people″) to the south, they initiated in 1826 under their Chief Yellow Wolf (Ho'néoxheóvaestse) - together with some Arapaho - the migration of some Cheyenne bands south of the Platte River (Meneo'hé'e - ″Moon Shell River″, North Platte River was known by the same name) toward the Arkansas River (Mótsėsóoneo'hé'e - ″Flint River″) and the establishment of Bents Fort, their tribal lands were between that of the Southern Oévemanaho in the west, the Wotápio in the east and the Dog Soldiers and Hesé'omeétaneo'o in the north, heavy cholera losses in 1849, perhaps half of the survivors were lost at Sand Creek, including the chiefs Yellow Wolf and Big Man; they are today predominant among the Southern Cheyenne)
  • Hesé'omeétaneo'o / Hisiometaneo (Hisíometanio or Issiometaniu - "Ridge People/Men" or ″Hill Band″, also given as ″Pipestem (River) People″, originally part of the Heévâhetaneo'o, also had close ties with the Oglala and Sičháŋǧu (Brulé) Lakota, first living just south of the Masikota along the Niobrara River north of the North Platte River in Nebraska, later they moved south into the hill country along the Upper Smoky Hill River and north of the Upper Arkansas River in Colorado - in lands mostly west of the closely associated Southern Só'taeo'o and Dog Soldiers band and north of the Southern Oévemanaho and Heévâhetaneo'o, ranged sometimes with Comanche south onto the Staked Plains, under chief White Antelope at Sand Creek they experienced heavy losses)
  • Heviksnipahis / Iviststsinihpah ("Aorta People" or "Burnt Aorta People"; as caretakers for the Sacred Arrows, they were also considered as the Tsétsêhéstâhese / Tsitsistas proper or known to the other bands as ″Arrow People″, originally living along the forks of the Cheyenne River and in the eastern Black Hills in western Wyoming, they moved between 1815 and 1825 south to the forks of the North and South Platte River (Vétaneo'hé'e - ″Fat River″ or ″Tallow River″), which made sense geographically since their lands was a central location for all bands and convenient for the performance of the annual ceremonies; later, they moved further south and ranged between the Dog Soldiers band in the north, the Oo'kóhta'oná in the southeast, the Hónowa and Wotápio in the south)
  • Hónowa / Háovȯhnóvȧhese / Nėstamenóoheo'o (Háovôhnóva, Hownowa, Hotnowa - "Poor People", also known as ″Red Lodges People″, lived south of the Oo'kóhta'oná and east of the Wotápio)
  • Southern Oévemanaho / Oivimána (Southern Oévemana - "Southern Scabby", "Southern Scalpers", originally part of the Heévâhetaneo'o, were also close affiliated to Arapaho, moved together with the Heévâhetaneo'o under Chief Yellow Wolf in 1826 south of the Platte River to the Arkansas River, ranged south of the Hesé'omeétaneo'o and west of the Heévâhetaneo'o, led by War Bonnet they lost at Sand Creek about half their number, now living near Watonga (Tséh-ma'ėho'a'ē'ta - ″where there are red (hills) facing together″, also called Oévemanâhéno - ″scabby-band-place″) and Canton, Blaine County, on lands of the former Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Reservation in Oklahoma)
  • Masikota ("Crickets", "Grasshoppers", ″Grey Hair(ed) band″, ″Flexed Leg band″ or ″Wrinkled Up band″, perhaps a Lakotiyapi word mazikute - "iron (rifle) shooters", from mazi - "iron" and kute - "to shoot", mixed Cheyenne-Lakota band, were known by the latter as Sheo, lived southeast of the Black Hills along the White River (Vóhpoome), intermarried with Oglala Lakota and Sičháŋǧu Oyáte (Brule Lakota), was the first group of the tribal unit on the Plains, hence their name First Named, almost wiped out by the cholera epidemic of 1849, joined afterwards the military societyDog Soldiers (Hotamétaneo'o), which took their place as a band in the Cheyenne tribal circle, not present at Sand Creek in 1864, important at Battle of Summit Springs of 1869)
  • Oo'kóhta'oná / Ohktounna (Oktogona, Oktogana, Oqtóguna or Oktoguna - "Bare Legged", "Protruding Jaw", referring to the art of dancing the Deer Dance before they were going to war, formerly strong associated with the mixed Cheyenne-Lakota Masikota band, sometimes sought of as a Masikota subband, living north of the Hónowa and south of the Heviksnipahis, almost wiped out by an cholera epidemic in 1849, perhaps also joining the Dog Soldiers)
  • Wotápio / Wutapai (from the Lakotiyapi word Wutapiu: - "Eat with Lakota-Sioux", "Half-Cheyenne", "Cheyenne-Sioux", originally a band of Lakota Sioux which joined the Southern Cheyenne, by 1820 they had moved south to the Arkansas River in Colorado, where they lived and camped together with their Kiowa allies, through intermarriage becoming a mixed Cheyenne-speaking and identifying hybrid Cheyenne-Kiowa band with Lakota origin, their hunting lands were between the Hónowa in the east, the Heévâhetaneo'o to the west, and the Heviksnipahis to the north, hardest hit by the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864)
  • Southern Só'taeo'o / Só'taétaneo'o (Suhtai or Sutaio, married only other Só'taeo'o (Northern or Southern alike) and always camped separately from the other Cheyenne camps, maintained closest ties to the Hesé'omeétaneo'o band, joined together with the emerging Dog Soldiers band lands along the Smoky Hill River (Mano'éo'hé'e - ″gather(timber) river″), Saline (Šéstotó'eo'hé'e - "Cedar River") and Solomon Rivers (Ma'xêhe'néo'hé'e - "turkey-creek"), in north-central Kansas, their favourite hunting grounds were north of the Dog Soldiers along the upper subbasins of the Republican River (Ma'êhóóhévâhtseo'hé'e - ″Red Shield River″, so named because there gathered the warriors of the Ma'ėhoohēvȧhtse (Red Shield Warriors Society)) especially along the Beaver Creek, which was although a spiritual place, the Hesé'omeétaneo'o mostly ranged west and northwest of them)[19]

lesser southern bands (not represented in the Council of Forty-Four):

  • Moiseo / Moiseyu (Monsoni - "Flint-Men", called after the Flintmen Society (Motsêsóonetaneo'o), were also called Otata-voha - "Blue Horses", after Blue Horse, the first leader of the Coyote Warriors Society (O'ôhoménotâxeo'o), both were branches of the Fox Warriors Society (Vóhkêséhetaneo'o or Monêsóonetaneo'o), one of the four original Cheyenne military societies, also known as ″Flies″, originally a Sioux band from Minnesota, the greater part departed from the Cheyenne about 1815 joining Sioux bands in Minnesota, the remaining were associated strong with / or joined the Wotápio)
  • Ná'kuimana / Nakoimana (Nakoimanah - "Bear People")

The Heviksnipahis (Iviststsinihpah, also known as the Tsétsêhéstâhese / Tsitsistas proper), Heévâhetaneo'o (Hevhaitaneo), Masikota (in Lakotiyapi: Sheo), Omísis (Ôhmésêheseo'o, the Notameohmésêhese proper), Só'taeo'o / Só'taétaneo'o (Suhtai or Sutaio, Northern and Southern), Wotápio (Wutapai), Oévemanaho (Oivimána or Oévemana, Northern and Southern), Hesé'omeétaneo'o (Hisiometaneo or Issiometaniu), Oo'kóhta'oná (Ohktounna or Oqtóguna) and the Hónowa (Háovȯhnóvȧhese or Nėstamenóoheo'o) were the ten principal bands that had the right to send four chief delegates representing them in the Council of Forty-Four.

After the Masikota and Oo'kóhta'oná bands had been almost wiped out through a cholera epidemic in 1849, the remaining Masikota joined the Dog Soldiers warrior society (Hotamétaneo'o). They effectively became a separate band and in 1850 took over the position in the camp circle formerly occupied by the Masikota. The members often opposed policies of peace chiefs such as Black Kettle. Over time, the Dog Soldiers took a prominent leadership role in the wars against the whites. In 1867, most of the band were killed by United States Army forces in the Battle of Summit Springs.

Due to an increasing division between the Dog Soldiers and the council chiefs with respect to policy towards the whites, the Dog Soldiers became separated from the other Cheyenne bands. They effectively became a third division of the Cheyenne people, between the Northern Cheyenne, who ranged north of the Platte River, and the Southern Cheyenne, who occupied the area north of the Arkansas River.

Expansion on the Plains[edit]

After being pushed south and westward by the Lakota, the unified Cheyenne people began to create and expand a new territory of their own. Sometime around 1811 the Cheyenne made a formal alliance with the Arapaho people (Hetanevo'eo'o - „People of the Sky“, „Cloud People“, because of their close interaction also known as Héstanėheo'o - “people, mankind, tribe of people”), which would remain strong throughout their history and into modern times. The alliance helped the Cheyenne expand their territory which stretched from southern Montana, through most of Wyoming, the eastern half of Colorado, far western Nebraska, and far western Kansas. As early as 1820, traders and explorers reported contact with Cheyenne at present-day Denver, Colorado and on the Arkansas River. They were probably hunting and trading in that area earlier. They may have migrated to the south for winter. The Hairy Rope band is reputed to have been the first band to move south, capturing wild horses as far south as the Cimarron River Valley.[20] In response to the construction of Bent’s Fort by Charles Bent, a friend of the Cheyenne who established a popular trading area for the Cheyenne, a large portion of the tribe moved further south and stayed around the area.[21] The other part of the tribe continued to live along the headwaters of the North Platte and Yellowstone rivers. The groups became the Southern Cheyenne, known as Sówoníă (Southerners) and the Northern Cheyenne, known as O'mǐ'sǐs (Eaters). The separation of the tribe was only a geographic one and the two divisions had regular and close contact.

In the southern portion of their territory the Cheyenne and Arapaho warred with the allied Comanche, Kiowa, and Plains Apache. Numerous battles were fought including a notable fight along the Washita River in 1836 with the Kiowa which resulted in the death of 48 Cheyenne warriors of the Bowstring society.[22] In summer 1838, many Cheyenne and Arapaho attacked a camp of Kiowa and Comanche along Wolf Creek in Oklahoma resulting in heavy losses from both sides. Conflict with the Comanche, Kiowa, and Plains Apache ended in 1840 when the tribes made an alliance with each other. The new alliance allowed the Cheyenne to enter the Llano Estacado in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and northeastern New Mexico to hunt bison and trade. Their expansion in the south and alliance with the Kiowa led to their first raid into Mexico in 1853. The raid ended in disaster with heavy resistance from Mexican lancers, resulting in all but three of the war party being killed. To the north the Cheyenne made a strong alliance with the Lakota Sioux, which allowed them to expand their territory into part of their former lands around the Black Hills. They managed to escape the smallpox epidemics, which swept across the plains from white settlements in 1837-39, by heading into the Rocky Mountains, but were greatly affected by the Cholera epidemic in 1849. Contact with Euro-Americans was mostly light, with most contact involving mountain men, traders, explorers, treaty makers, and painters.

Enemies and warrior culture[edit]

See also: Cheyenne military societies

Like many other plains Indian nations, the Cheyenne were a horse and warrior people who developed as skilled and powerful mounted warriors. A warrior was viewed by the people not as a maker of war but as a protector, provider, and leader. Warriors gained rank in Cheyenne society by performing and accumulating various acts of bravery in battle known as coups. The title of war chief could be earned by any warrior who performs enough of the specific coups required to become a war chief. Specific warrior societies developed among the Cheyenne as with other plains nations. Each society had selected leaders who would invite those that they saw worthy enough to their society lodge for initiation into the society. Often, societies would have minor rivalries; however, they might work together as a unit when warring with an enemy. Military societies played an important role in Cheyenne government. Society leaders were often in charge of organizing hunts and raids as well as ensuring proper discipline and the enforcement of laws within the nation.[23] Each of the six distinct warrior societies of the Cheyenne would take turns assuming the leadership role within the nation.[24] The four original military societies of the Cheyenne were the Swift Fox Society, Elk Horn Scrapper or Crooked Lance Society, Shield Society, and the Bowstring Men Society. The fifth society is split between the Crazy Dog Society and the famous Dog Soldiers. The sixth society is the Contrary Warrior Society, most notable for riding backwards into battle as a sign of bravery.[6] All six societies and their various branches exist among the Southern and Northern Cheyenne Nations in present times. Warriors used a combination of traditional weapons such as various types of war clubs, tomahawks, bows and arrows, and lances as well as non-traditional weapons such as revolvers, rifles, and shotguns acquired through raid and trade.

The enemies of the Cheyenne included the Crow (Óoetaneo'o - “crow (bird) people”), Shoshone (Sósone'eo'o), Blackfeet (Mo'ôhtávêhahtátaneo'o, same literal meaning), Flathead (Kȧhkoestséataneo'o - “flat-headed-people”), Nez Perce (Otaesétaneo'o - “pierced nose people”), Arikara, Gros Ventre (Hestóetaneo'o - “beggars for meat”, “spongers” or Môhónooneo'o - lit. “scouting all over ones”), Assiniboine, and Plains Cree (Vóhkoohétaneo'o - “rabbit people”) to the north and west of Cheyenne territory. By the help of the Medicine Arrows (the Mahuts), the Cheyenne tribe massacred a Crow camp in 1820.[25] To the east of Cheyenne Territory they fought with the Sioux, Pawnee (Ho'néhetaneo'o - “wolf people”, possibly an adaptive from the Skiri/Skidi Pawnee or Wolf Pawnee), Ponca (Onéhao'o), Kaw (Oo'kóhtâxétaneo'o - “cut hair people”), Iowa, Ho-Chunk and Omaha (Onéhao'o). The Cheyenne lost the Medicine Arrows during an attack on a hunting camp of Pawnees around 1830.[26] South of Cheyenne territory they fought with the Kiowa (Vétapâhaetó'eo'o - “greasy wood ones”), Comanche (Šé'šenovotsétaneo'o - “snake people”), Ute (Mo'ȯhtávėhetaneo'o - “black (skinned) people”), Plains Apache (Mȯhtséheonetaneo'o - “occupied.comp-people”), Osage (Oo'kóhtâxétaneo'o - “cut hair people”), Wichita people, various Apache tribes and Navajo (Hotamó'keeho - “Indians from out west”; collective name for tribes of the Southswest and Great Basin). Many of the enemies the Cheyenne fought were only encountered occasionally, such as on a long distance raid or hunt. Some of their enemies, particularly the Indian peoples of the eastern great plains such as the Pawnee and Osage would act as Indian Scouts for the US Army, providing valuable tracking skills and information regarding Cheyenne habits and fighting strategies to US soldiers. Some of their enemies such as the Lakota would later in their history become their strong allies, helping the Cheyenne fight against the United States Army during Red Cloud's War and the Great Sioux War of 1876. The Comanche, Kiowa and Plains Apache became allies of the Cheyenne towards the end of the Indian wars on the southern plains, fighting together during conflicts such as the Red River War.[27]

Relationship with the Arapaho[edit]

See also: Arapaho people

The Cheyenne and Arapaho people formed an alliance around 1811 that helped them expand their territories and strengthen their presence on the plains. Like the Cheyenne, the Arapaho language is part of the Algonquian group, although the two languages are not mutually intelligible. The Arapaho remained strong allies with the Cheyenne and helped them fight alongside the Sioux during Red Cloud's War and the Great Sioux War of 1876, also known commonly as the Black Hills War. On the southern plains, the Arapaho and Cheyenne allied with the Comanche, Kiowa, and Plains Apache to fight invading settlers and US soldiers. The Arapaho were present with the Cheyenne at the Sand Creek Massacre when a peaceful encampment of mostly women, children, and the elderly were attacked and massacred by US soldiers. Both major divisions of the Cheyenne, the Northern Cheyenne and Southern Cheyenne were allies to the Arapaho who like the Cheyenne are split into northern and southern divisions. The Southern Cheyenne and Southern Arapaho were assigned to the same reservation in Oklahoma Indian Territory and remained together as the federally recognized Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes after the reservation was opened to American settlement and into modern times.[28] The Northern Arapaho were to be assigned a reservation of their own or share one with the Cheyenne however the government failed to provide them with either and placed them on the already established Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming with their former enemies the Shoshone.

Treaty of 1825[edit]

In the summer of 1825, the tribe was visited on the upper Missouri by a US treaty commission consisting of General Henry Atkinson and Indian agent Benjamin O'Fallon, accompanied by a military escort of 476 men. General Atkinson and his fellow commissioner left Fort Atkinson on May 16, 1825. Ascending the Missouri, they negotiated treaties of friendship and trade with tribes of the upper Missouri, including the Arikara, the Cheyenne, the Crow, the Mandan, the Ponca, and several bands of the Sioux. At that time, the US had competition on the upper Missouri from British traders, who came down from Canada.

The treaties acknowledged that the tribes lived within the United States, vowed perpetual friendship between the US and the tribes, and, recognizing the right of the United States to regulate trade, the tribes promised to deal only with licensed traders. The tribes agreed to forswear private retaliation for injuries, and to return or indemnify the owner of stolen horses or other goods. The commission's efforts to contact the Blackfoot and the Assiniboine were unsuccessful. During their return to Fort Atkinson at the Council Bluff in Nebraska, the commission had successful negotiations with the Ota, the Pawnee and the Omaha.[29]

Effects of the Emigrant Trail[edit]

Increased traffic of emigrants along the related Oregon, Mormon and California trails, beginning in the early 1840s, heightened competition with Native Americans for scarce resources of water and game in arid areas. With resource depletion along the trails, the Cheyenne became increasingly divided into the Northern Cheyenne and Southern Cheyenne, where they could have adequate territory for sustenance.

During the California Gold Rush, emigrants brought in cholera. It spread in mining camps and waterways due to poor sanitation. The disease was generally a major cause of death for emigrants, about one-tenth of whom died during their journeys.

Perhaps from traders, the cholera epidemic reached the Plains Indians in 1849, resulting in severe loss of life during the summer of that year. Historians estimate about 2,000 Cheyenne died, one-half to two-thirds of their population. There were significant losses among other tribes as well, which weakened their social structures. Perhaps because of severe loss of trade during the 1849 season, Bent's Fort was abandoned and burned.[30]

Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851[edit]

In 1846, Thomas Fitzpatrick was appointed US Indian agent for the upper Arkansas and Platte River. His efforts to negotiate with the Northern Cheyenne, the Arapaho and other tribes led to a great council at Fort Laramie in 1851. Treaties were negotiated by a commission consisting of Fitzpatrick and David Dawson Mitchell, US Superintendent of Indian Affairs, with the Indians of the northern plains.

To reduce intertribal warfare on the Plains, the government officials "assigned" territories to each tribe and had them pledge mutual peace. In addition, the government secured permission to build and maintain roads for European-American travelers and traders through Indian country on the Plains, such as the Emigrant Trail and the Santa Fe Trail, and to maintain forts to guard them. The tribes were compensated with annuities of cash and supplies for such encroachment on their territories. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 affirmed the Cheyenne and Arapaho territory on the Great Plains between the North Platte River and the Arkansas. This territory included what is now Colorado, east of the Front Range of the Rockies and north of the Arkansas River; Wyoming and Nebraska, south of the North Platte River; and extreme western Kansas.[31]

Punitive US expedition of 1857[edit]

In April 1856, an incident at the Platte River Bridge (near present-day Casper, Wyoming), resulted in the wounding of a Cheyenne warrior. He returned to the Cheyenne on the plains. During the summer of 1856, Indians attacked travelers along the Emigrant Trail near Fort Kearny. In retaliation, the US Cavalry attacked a Cheyenne camp on Grand Island in Nebraska. They killed ten Cheyenne warriors and wounded eight or more.

Cheyenne parties attacked at least three emigrant settler parties before returning to the Republican River. The Indian agent at Fort Laramie negotiated with the Cheyenne to reduce hostilities, but the Secretary of War ordered the 1st Cavalry Regiment (1855) to carry out a punitive expedition under the command of Colonel Edwin V. Sumner. He went against the Cheyenne in the spring of 1857. Major John Sedgwick led part of the expedition up the Arkansas River, and via Fountain Creek to the South Platte River. Sumner's command went west along the North Platte to Fort Laramie, then down along the Front Range to the South Platte. The combined force of 400 troops went east through the plains searching for Cheyenne.[32][33][34]

Under the influence of the medicine man White Bull (also called Ice) and Grey Beard (also called Dark), the Cheyenne went into battle believing that strong spiritual medicine would prevent the soldiers' guns from firing. They were told that if they dipped their hands in a nearby spring, they had only to raise their hands to repel army bullets. Hands raised, the Cheyenne surrounded the advancing troops as they advanced near the Solomon River. Sumner ordered a cavalry charge and the troops charged with drawn sabers; the Cheyenne fled. With tired horses after long marches, the cavalry could not engage more than a few Cheyenne, as their horses were fresh.

This was the first battle which the Cheyenne fought against the US Army. Casualties were few on each side; J.E.B. Stuart, then a young lieutenant, was shot in the breast while attacking a Cheyenne warrior with a sabre. The troops continued on and two days later burned a hastily abandoned Cheyenne camp; they destroyed lodges and the winter supply of buffalo meat.[33][34][35][36]

Sumner continued to Bent's Fort. To punish the Cheyenne, he distributed their annuities to the Arapaho. He intended further punitive actions, but the Army ordered him to Utah because of an outbreak of trouble with the Mormons (this would be known as the Utah War). The Cheyenne moved below the Arkansas into Kiowa and Comanche country. In the fall, the Northern Cheyenne returned to their country north of the Platte.[33][35][37]

Pike's Peak Gold Rush[edit]

Starting in 1859 with the Colorado Gold Rush, European-American settlers moved into lands reserved for the Cheyenne and other Plains Indians. Travel greatly increased along the Emigrant Trail along the South Platte River and some emigrants stopped before going on to California. For several years there was peace between settlers and Indians. The only conflicts were related to the endemic warfare between the Cheyenne and Arapaho of the plains and the Utes of the mountains.

US negotiations with Black Kettle and other Cheyenne favoring peace resulted in the Treaty of Fort Wise: it established a small reservation for the Cheyenne in southeastern Colorado in exchange for the territory agreed to in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. Many Cheyenne did not sign the treaty, and they continued to live and hunt on their traditional grounds in the Smokey Hill and Republican basins, between the Arkansas and the South Platte, where there were plentiful buffalo.[38]

Efforts to make a wider peace continued, but in the spring of 1864, John Evans, governor of Colorado Territory, and John Chivington, commander of the Colorado Volunteers, a citizens militia, began a series of attacks on Indians camping or hunting on the plains. They killed any Indian on sight and initiated the Colorado War. General warfare broke out and Indians made many raids on the trail along the South Platte, which Denver depended on for supplies. The Army closed the road from August 15 until September 24, 1864.[38]

On November 29, 1864, the Colorado Militia attacked a Cheyenne and Arapaho encampment under Chief Black Kettle, although it flew a flag of truce and indicated its allegiance to the US government. The Sand Creek massacre, as it came to be known, resulted in the death of between 150 and 200 Cheyenne, mostly unarmed women and children. The survivors fled northeast and joined the camps of the Cheyenne on the Smokey Hill and Republican rivers. There warriors smoked the war pipe, passing it from camp to camp among the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho.[39]

In January 1865, they planned and carried out an attack with about 1000 warriors on Camp Rankin, a stage station and fort at Julesburg. The Indians made numerous raids along the South Platte, both east and west of Julesburg, and raided the fort again in early February. They captured much loot and killed many European Americans. Most of the Indians moved north into Nebraska on their way to the Black Hills and the Powder River.[39] (See Battle of Julesburg, Battle of Mud Springs, Battle of Rush Creek, Powder River Expedition, Battle of Platte Bridge)

Black Kettle continued to desire peace and did not join in the second raid or in the plan to go north to the Powder River country. He left the large camp and returned with 80 lodges of his tribesmen to the Arkansas River, where he intended to seek peace with the US.[40]

Battle of Washita River[edit]

Four years later, on November 27, 1868, George Armstrong Custer and his troops attacked Black Kettle's band at the Battle of Washita River. Although his band was camped on a defined reservation, complying with the government's orders, some of its members had been linked to raiding into Kansas by bands operating out of the Indian Territory. Custer claimed 103 Cheyenne "warriors" and an unspecified number of women and children killed whereas different Cheyenne informants named between 11 and 18 men (mostly 10 Cheyenne, 2 Arapaho, 1 Mexican trader) and between 17 and 25 women and children killed in the village.[citation needed]

There are conflicting claims as to whether the band was hostile or friendly. Historians believe that Chief Black Kettle, head of the band, was not part of the war party but the peace party within the Cheyenne nation. But, he did not command absolute authority over members of his band and the European Americans did not understand this. When younger members of the band took part in raiding parties, European Americans blamed the entire band for the incidents and casualties.[citation needed]

Battle of the Little Bighorn[edit]

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The Northern Cheyenne fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which took place on June 25, 1876. The Cheyenne, together with the Lakota, other Sioux warriors and a small band of Arapaho, killed General George Armstrong Custer and much of his 7th Cavalry contingent of soldiers. Historians have estimated that the population of the Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho encampment along the Little Bighorn River was approximately 10,000, making it one of the largest gatherings of Native Americans in North America in pre-reservation times. News of the event traveled across the United States and reached Washington, D.C., just as the nation was celebrating its Centennial. Public reaction arose in outrage against the Cheyenne.

Northern Cheyenne Exodus[edit]

Main articles: Northern Cheyenne Exodus and Fort Robinson tragedy

Cheyenne model tipi, buffalo hide, 1860
Portrait of Cheyenne chief Wolf-on-the-Hill by George Catlin, 1832. A band of Cheyenne visited Fort Pierre in 1832 where some were painted by Catlin during a westward expedition.
Painting of chief Chief Killer, a Southern Cheyenne war chief, wearing society headdress. Painted by E.A Burbank, 1899.
Ledger drawing by Hubble Big Horse showing a battle between Cheyenne warriors and Mexican lancers.
Ledger drawing showing a battle between a Cheyenne warrior (right) and an Osage or Pawnee warrior (left).
Ledger drawing of a mounted Cheyenne warrior counting coup with lance on a dismounted Crow warrior.
Ledger drawing of a Cheyenne warrior with pronghorn horned headdress, symbol of the Crazy Dog Society.
Arapaho and Cheyenne 1851 treaty territory. (Area 426 and 477). Area 477 is the reserve established by treaty of Fort Wise, February 18, 1861.
Chief Black Kettle of the Southern Cheyenne, an advocate of peace among his people.

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