Cheyenne Indians and the Ghost Dance Term Paper

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Cheyenne Indians and the Ghost Dance

The Cheyenne people are Native Americans of the Algonquian language family. They are of the Great Plains culture area. The name Cheyenne means 'people of an alien speech,' and was given to them by the Sioux.

The Cheyenne call themselves Tsetschestahase or Tsistsistas, which means 'beautiful people' or 'our people.'

Originally farmers, hunters, and gatherers in the land that is now central Minnesota, however, during the late 17th century, the Cheyenne were driven out of the area by the Sioux and Ojibwa tribes.

Gradually they migrated westward and settled in the area that is now North Dakota, but were forced to move south when the Ojibwa destroyed their settlement in 1770.

When the Cheyenne reached the Black Hills of South Dakota, they changed from farming and hunting and living in permanent villages to a nomadic life following the Buffalo herds.

When the horse was introduced to this part of the country around 1750, the Cheyenne became one of the major tribes of the Western Plains and by 1830, they had divided into two main groups, the Northern Cheyenne and the Southern Cheyenne.

The Northern band lived along the North Platte, Powder, and Yellowstone rivers in present-day South Dakota and Wyoming, and ranged into Montana and Nebraska, while the Southern band lived along the upper Arkansas River in what is now Colorado and Kansas, ranging into neighboring states.

The Cheyenne had been peaceful toward the white settlers until the invasion of the gold prospectors in the late 1850's, then conflicts escalated when the United States military began burning Cheyenne villages and Cheyenne warriors raided white settlements.

In November 1864, Colonel John Chivington led an attack with U.S. cavalry troops on a peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho under the South Cheyenne chief Black Kettle at Sand Creek, Colorado.

More than two hundred men, women and children were killed in one of the worst massacres in Native American history.

Allied with the Sioux, Arapaho, Comanche and Kiowa tribes, the Cheyenne participated in subsequent wars against U.S. forces on both the Northern and Southern Plains.

In 1876, Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, led by Sioux chief Sitting Bull and other various war chiefs defeated Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and his 300 troops in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The Cheyenne finally surrendered in 1877 and were relocated by the United States government to the Indian Territory, which is present-day Oklahoma, and there, many died from disease and malnutrition or were killed by U.S. soldiers.

Under the leadership of Dull Knife, a number of Northern Cheyenne escaped the reservation and headed back to the Northern Plains, and although U.S. troops caught up with them six weeks later, they were allowed to stay in the north and were eventually granted reservation lands in Montana.

The Cheyenne were organized into the Council of Forty-Four, with each of 44 peace chiefs acting as the head of an extended family, and making decisions on matters such as alliances with other tribes, when to move camp, and how to resolve disputes between individuals.

The peace chiefs also advised on war policy, however, they left questions concerning strategy to the Cheyenne military societies, such as the Dog Soldiers, consisting of warriors from different bands who fought side by side, who each had its own rituals, totems, and style of dress.

The circle was an important symbol in spiritual, social and political life, because the Cheyenne believed the universe was a circle with four directions, with time and life moving in circular cycles, thus, the insides of their tepees were circular as was the arrangement of the tepees within the village.

Two important ceremonies included the Arrow Renewal and the New Life Lodge. For the Arrow Renewal, three ceremonial lodges were placed in the center of the tepees, the Sacred Arrow Lodge, the Sacred Arrow Keeper's Lodge, and the Offering Lodge, as various bands of extended families met for a four-day ceremony.

The Sacred Arrows, or Mahuts, included four arrows, two for hunting and two for war, that were kept by the tribe through generations and used in various rituals to renew the spirit of the tribe.

The New Life Lodge, which was called the Sun Dance by the Sioux, was a ceremony lasting eight to twelve days to promote visions in which an animal was believed to adopt a person and bestow special powers.

According to one Cheyenne legend, the buffalo used to eat humans, and a race was set up to decide whether the animals would eat the humans or the humans would eat the animals.

"The magpie and the eagle, who were on the same side as the humans had won the race, causing the buffalo to tell their young to hide from humans, who would soon be hunting them."

They also told them to take some human flesh as provisions, which they stuck in front of their chests, and it was because of this that Cheyenne did not consume the flesh beneath the throat of the buffalo, as it was believed to be made from human flesh.

The Cheyenne creation myth is very similar to the Old Testament's story of Adam and Eve. The myth goes that Haemmawihio created man from his right rib and woman from his left rib.

Haemmawihio then placed the woman in the north to control of Hoimaha, who in turn controlled storms, snow and cold, and was also responsible for illness and death, and then placed the man in the south to control the heat, and the thunder.

Then twice a year, the man and woman battle for control of the earth, thus creating the seasons.

Another important figure in their mythology was Sweet Medicine, who was a deity responsible for giving the Cheyenne four arrows, two for power over men and two for power over the buffalo.

Due to their sedentary origins, the Cheyenne were one of the most culturally rich nomadic tribes and have literally hundreds of legends and stories that were passed down from one generation to the next.

Despite their nomadic lifestyle, the Cheyenne still practiced agriculture by planting mais and other vegetables around their temporary homes.

In 1804, when the Lewis and Clark expedition encountered the tribe, they documented them as being well organized on a social level and being 'rich in dogs and horses.'

Dee Brown's book, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knew" is the documented account of the genocide by the United States government of the Native American race. This genocide was carried out in the name of Manifest Destiny, the name adopted to this movement by Congress. Brown begins with the Long Walk of the Navajos in 1860 and ends with the Wounded Knee Massacre thirty years later.

Brown describes the battles and defeats of the numerous native tribes, including the Navaho, Nez Perces, Utes, Apache, Sioux and the Cheyenne, who fought so fiercely against a deceitful U.S. government that literally herded the tribes off their lands and moved them onto reservations.

On the first page of Brown's book is a passage from Christopher Columbus to the King and Queen of Spain upon his arrival in the Americas:

"So tractable, so peaceable, are these people," Columbus wrote to the King

and Queen of Spain, "that I swear to your Majesties that there is not a better nation. They love their neighbors as themselves, and their discourse is ever sweet and gentle, and accompanied with a smile, and though it is true that they are naked, yet their manners are decorous and praiseworthy.'

Sadly the Native Americans' peaceful nature was viewed as an opportunity by the white race to expand their own lands and wealth.

For the most part the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 ended the Indian Wars. What began as a spiritual movement dedicated to gathering strength to reclaim their native lands, ended in the slaughter of several hundred Sioux men, women and children on December 29, 1890.

The Ghost Dance was a movement by the North American Indian tribes in an attempt to rid themselves of the white man and his religious doctrines.

Yearning for the old ways when their tribes roamed freely from coast to coast, the movement focused on the restoration of the past, rather than salvation of the future.

There had been earlier movements such as the Good Message of the Iroquois and the Dreamers of the Columbia River tribes, all with similar features including the rejection of the white man's civilization, particularly alcohol, weapons, and technology, and encouraged unity among the tribes, even those who were once enemies, and a revival of Indian customs and culture.

The Ghost Dance movement began with the prophet Wovoka, a medicine man of the Paiute Tribe and a descendant of long line of family prophets and shamans.

It is said that Wovoka had a vision that the white man would disappear from the Earth after a natural catastrophe and that the Indian dead would return and teach the old way of life that would then last…

Sources Used in Document:



The Cheyenne Indians

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