The earliest known historical record of the Cheyenne comes from the mid-seventeenth century, when a group of Cheyenne visited the French Fort Crevecoeur, near present-day Chicago, 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 collection of wild rice and hunting, especially of bison which lived in the prairies 70-80 miles west of the Cheyenne villages.
According to tribal tradition, during the 17th century the Cheyenne had been driven by the Ho hé (Assiniboine) 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. Tradition tells that they first reached the Missouri River in 1676. A more recent analysis of early records posits that at least some of the Cheyenne remained in the Mille Lac region of Minnesota until c. 1765, when the Chippewa (Ojibwe) defeated the Dakota with firearms — pushing the Cheyenne in turn to the Minnesota River, where they were reported in 1766.
On the Missouri, the Cheyenne came into contact with the neighboring Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations, 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. Conflict with migrating Lakota and Ojibwa nations forced the Cheyenne further west, and they in turn pushed the Kiowa to the south.
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 American explorers learned many different names for the Cheyenne, and did not realize how the different sections were forming a unified tribe.
Despite being an oral culture, the Cheyenne developed a complex centralized authority and ritual ceremonialism that united the tribe. The ten bands had four leaders each, and the forty-four men (Council of Forty-Four) met to deliberate at regular tribal gatherings, centered around the Sun Dance In addition, they developed the ceremony of the Sacred Arrows, which they carried when they waged tribal-level war.
By the mid-19th century, the Cheyenne had mostly abandoned their earlier sedentary agricultural and pottery traditions because of changed conditions. They fully adopted the classic nomadic Plains 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. Having acquired horses, they adopted a nomadic lifestyle, with their range expanding from the upper Missouri River into what is now Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and South Dakota.
Read more about this topic: Cheyenne People
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