Native American Tribes Nations and Confederacies: Cheyenne

The Cheyenne are an indigenous people of North America whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock. The Cheyenne abandoned their settlements in Minnesota in the 17th century, leaving the region to the hostile Sioux and Ojibwa. Gradually migrating west and then south along the Cheyenne River, they established earth-lodge villages and raised crops.

After the introduction of the horse they became nomadic buffalo hunters. The tribe split in 1830, when a large group decided to settle on the upper Arkansas River and take advantage of the trade facilities offered by Bent's Fort. This group became known as the Southern Cheyenne. The Northern Cheyenne continued to live about the headwaters of the Platte River.

For the next few years the Southern Cheyenne, allied with the Arapaho, were engaged in constant warfare against the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache. Peace was made in 1840, and the five tribes became allies.

The Cheyenne were generally friendly toward white settlers until the discovery of gold in Colorado brought a swarm of gold seekers into their lands. By a treaty signed in 1861 the Cheyenne agreed to live on a reservation in Colorado, but the U.S. government did not fulfill its side of the deal reducing The Cheyenne to near starvation. Cheyenne raids resulted in punitive expeditions by the U.S. army, however the massacre in 1864 of warriors, women, and children at Sand Creek, was an unprovoked assault on a friendly group.

The incident aroused the Cheyenne to fury, and a bitter war followed. General George Custer destroyed Black Kettle's camp on the Washita River, ending the fighting between the whites and the Southern Cheyenne. The Northern Cheyenne joined with the Sioux and overwhelmed Custer and his 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. They finally surrendered in 1877 and were moved south and confined with the Southern Cheyenne in what is now Oklahoma.

Plagued by disease and malnutrition, they made two desperate attempts to escape and return to the north. A separate reservation was eventually established for them in Montana and there were almost 12,000 Cheyenne in the United States in 1990.

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