Belonging to the Land - Northern Cheyenne | Teacher Resource
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Northern Cheyenne


Excerpt from Sweet Medicine

by John Stands in Timber
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What happened to Sweet Medicine while he was gone was not known to the people for a long time, but on his return he told them of his experiences.

He had traveled a long way, deep into the heart of the Black Hills Country, where he seemed to be called by some great power.

At last he reached a mountain known ever since by the Cheyennes as the Sacred Holy Mountain; today it is called Bear Butte.

Here he entered and found a big lodge or teepee. Old women were sitting along one side and old men along the other. But they were not really people, they were gods.

And he saw four arrows there, which were to become the Four Sacred Arrows of the Cheyenne tribe.

The old ones called him Grandson and began instructing him in many things he should take back to the people.

They taught him first about the arrows, because they were to be the highest power in the tribe.

Two were for hunting and two for war. Many ceremonies were connected with them, and they stood for many laws...

Sweet Medicine learned next that he was to give the people a good government, with forty-four chiefs to manage it and a good system of police and military protection, organized in the four military societies—the Swift Foxes, Elks, Red Shields, and Bowstrings.

Tongue River Country, Southeastern Montana

Tongue River
Tongue River

The eastern border of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation was established by executive order in 1884 and expanded in 1900.

Rosebud Battle Site, Big Horn County, Montana

Site of the "Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother." A young Cheyenne warrior woman, Buffalo Calf Road Woman, saved her brother Chief Comes in Sight.

Bear Butte, Black Hills, South Dakota

Bear Butte
Bear Butte, Black Hills, South Dakota. Photograph by Doug McMains, 2016.

Site where Sweet Medicine, the Cheyenne prophet, received instructions relating to the leadership and organization of the Tsistsistas (Cheyenne Nation) government, including the council of forty-four chiefs, the military societies, the Sacred Arrows, and all related organizations and ceremonies.

Stands in Timber, John, and Margot Liberty. 1972. Cheyenne Memories. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Black Mountain, Minnesota

North of the Pipestone Quarries in Minnesota

Pipestone National Monument
Pipestone National Monument, May 8, 2015.;

The site where Erect Horns, prophet of the Suhtaio Cheyenne, was given the Sacred Buffalo Hat Bundle to share with the "special People that wore red paint"—the Cheyenne.

Lucille Spear (Northern Cheyenne), Western Heritage Center.

Lake De Smet, Wyoming

Lake De Smet
Lake De Smet. Photograph by Paul Hermans. [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Located north of Buffalo, Wyoming, this is a special ceremonial place for the Cheyenne where the notable Cheyenne warrior Roman Nose fasted and received spiritual help.

We, the Northern Cheyenne People. Our Land, Our History, Our Culture. Lame Deer, Montana: Chief Dull Knife College.

Cimarron River (west of Fairview, Oklahoma)

Cheyenne camp
Cheyenne camp on Cimarron River west of present Fairview, 1871. Courtesy of Muriel Wright Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society.

Site of a large Southern Cheyenne camp in the late 1800s.

Sheyenne River (tributary of Red River in eastern North Dakota)

Sheyenne River
The Sheyenne River near Lisbon, North Dakota, July 4, 2012. Photograph by Chuck Haney/Danita Delimont. Courtesy of Alamy Stock Photo.

Site of a prominent Cheyenne village.

Fort Robinson, Nebraska

Fort Robinson
Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Photograph by Doug McMains, 2016.

Fort Robinson was established in Nebraska in 1874. The Cheyenne were moved from their northern plains homelands to Indian Territory in Oklahoma with their Southern Cheyenne kinsman. Wanting to return to their home country, leaders Little Wolf and Dull Knife led close to 350 Cheyenne back north. Dull Knife and his group were intercepted and brought to Fort Robinson in October of 1878. By January 1879, the people decided to try to escape as they were being denied food, wood, and water to pressure them to relocate to Oklahoma. In the ensuing escape attempt, many Cheyenne were killed. Each year the Cheyenne run from Fort Robinson, Nebraska, to Lame Deer, Montana, in January to commemorate what their ancestors endured to return home.

Major Robinson (Northern Cheyenne), Western Heritage Center.

Otter Creek, Ashland, Montana

Tongue River Valley
Tongue River Valley in southeastern Montana. Photograph by Alexis Bonogofsky, courtesy of Alexis Bonogofsky.

"Otter Creek was pivotal in many ways as the winter camping grounds for the Cheyenne and where we would go to recover from battles. . . it was like our paradise because it was so plentiful of game, grass, and fresh springs and creeks. . . I took Cheyenne elders into the Otter Creek and Tongue River areas and documented our sacred fasting and ceremonial sites, many burial sites of our holy people are there, and it is where we still gather our medicinal plants and soils."

– Gail Small (Northern Cheyenne)

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The Cheyenne Nation established a hunting territory between the forks of the Platte River in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado and formed an alliance with the Arapaho , who lived nearer the Rocky Mountains. At its peak Cheyenne territory stretched from Montana to Texas and included the Oklahoma Panhandle and the areas around the Cimarron and Washita Rivers in western Oklahoma. There were ten bands of Cheyenne. Today there are two distinct Cheyenne Nations, one in Montana (Northern) and the other in Oklahoma (Southern).

Bear Butte , in South Dakota, is a site of spiritual importance where Sweet Medicine, the Cheyenne prophet, received instructions relating to the leadership and organization of the Tsistsistas (Cheyenne Nation) government, including the council of forty-four chiefs, the military societies, the Sacred Arrows, and all related organizations and ceremonies.

Photograph by Doug McMains, 2016
Bison (buffalo) were the heart of the Cheyenne economy. A buffalo cow could yield 500 pounds of food as well as resources for robes, tipi covers, and other necessities. Buffalo populations in the mid-nineteenth century were estimated at thirty to sixty million. Buffalo are also spiritually important to the Cheyenne Nation; there are accounts that describe the buffalo helping Cheyenne warriors during battle.

Tichkematse drawing of two Cheyenne men hunting buffalo, 1879. Courtesy of National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, NAA MS 290844; NAA INV 08601200
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