Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
- Colorado History -
The Cheyenne Social Club
Cheyenne Traditional History
Since the Cheyennes had no written characters their history was wholly
traditional, handed down from one generation to another by word of mouth.
The elder, who transmitted these accounts to younger people, solemnly
impressed upon his hearers the importance of repeating the story just
as it had been told to them. Now it is clear to see that without the
story teller the Cheyenne history would have been lost forever; and
with it a piece of our American past.
A buffalo hide robe chronicles the history of the Dakota
Sioux from 1800 - 1871.
The calendar is read from the center outward. Click
the hide for an enlargement.
The Cheyennes have a tradition of a golden age when
war was unknown. No doubt there was fighting and wars long before
the coming of the white man, but these were probably the results of
more or less temporary quarrels, and were not bloody. The only incentive
they had for fighting was revenge, and this desire if not quickly
acted upon was usually forgotten.
The introduction of the horse, furnished to all the plains tribes
a new and strong motive for war, for by war men could acquire something
of great value. Until the coming of the horse, the only possessions
of the plains tribes, except food and clothing, were their dogs, and
their arms. When the horse came it usefulness was at once recognized,
for here was an animal whose possession added immensely to the comfort
and freedom of the people. Since everyone desired to own horses, all
men would exchange valuable things for them; thus no one could have
too many horses.
Only two ways of procuring horses in any numbers were
known - by capturing those running wild on the prairie and those which
were in the possession of neighboring tribes. Among the plains tribes
the practice of taking a horse from the enemy became a regular profession.
Everybody needs a little danger in their lives. The Cheyennes were
pirates on land.
When we read or watch the old western movies about the Indian, we
think of surprise battles and the killing and scalping of enemies;
but their were many brave and successful warriors of the Cheyennes
who never went on the warpaths of this description, who on their war
journeys tried to avoid coming in close contact with their enemies,
and had no wish to kill anyone. Such men went to war for the sole
purpose of obtaining horses; they carried on a war for profit. Some
men possessed a high reputation of courage and boasted never killing
a man, and perhaps never counting coup. An example of this is Big
While out with a war party the Cheyennes charged a body
of the enemy, who fled. Big Foot was riding a very fast horse and
noticed that one of the enemy was riding a particularly fine horse.
Instead of taking part in the fight he followed this man, and when
he overtook him, did not try and kill him, but threw his rope over
him, dragged him from his horse, and letting the man go, caught the
horse and went off with it.
Left: Cheyenne painted for a sun dance.
Right: Sketch of a Cheyenne war cheif by Frederic Remington.
As late as 1850, war parties usually went out on foot. These excursions
were made for the purpose of taking horses. It was not until somewhat
later that trips for the purpose of killing the enemy became the norm.
On the other hand, when some grave injury had been inflicted on the
tribe, the general movement to revenge this injury was made on horseback.
On the foot parties, the men who carried the war-pipe,
the leaders were usually middle-aged men. Young men very seldom led
a war party. They were satisfied to gain experience by following their
elders, until they reached a point where they thought themselves competent
to carry the pipe. When this time arrived, and a man felt he was ready
to lead a war party-carry the pipe to war- he called into his lodge
some older man of great experience, and offered him the pipe and asked
him for help. When the elder had accepted the pipe, the younger man
explained that he wished to lead a party to war, and asked advice
as to what he should do to insure success. Very often he was told
to make an offering to the medicine arrows. The most accepted offer
to the arrows was the tail feathers of eagles but also included blankets,
cloth, and calico.
After the young man had smoked with his adviser, he
put on his buffalo robe, took his gift for the arrows and filled the
pipe, and left the lodge. Wailing and mourning so everyone in the
village could hear him, while walking very slowly until he reached
the door of the arrow lodge. The arrow-keeper would receive the visitor.
The man would place the pipe on the ground in front of the arrow-keeper,
and then stepped back around the fire to the other side, because no
man might pass between the arrows hanging at the head of the arrow-keepers
bed and the fire.
The Arrow Keeper
The young man presented the offerings to the arrow-keeper, who took
them first in his left hand, placed the palm of his right hand on
the ground, and passed the right hand down over the offerings. This
he repeated. Then he transfered the offerings to his right hand and
rubbed his left hand on the ground and passed it over the offerings,
and repeated this. He then handed the offerings back to the young
man and directed him to tie them around the arrow bundle. While doing
this the young man prayed to the arrows aloud, for the arrows hear
everything that is said to them. He would tell the arrows that he
intended to go out with a party to get scalps and horses; begged that
none of his men should be hurt or killed; that he himself might count
a first coup, and that his men might return home happy and with blackened
faces. The arrow-keeper then lighted the pipe and they smoked together.
Any man who was going with this party might make an offering such
as the leader made, or might make other sacrifices.
A man who had already led parties to war and contemplated
another trip made less formal preparations. He called into his lodge
his friends and some older men to discuss the matter. After they had
eaten, a pipe was filled and the intending leader spoke, saying: "My
friends, I wish to go to war. I wish to make up a party to follow
me, and I have called you here to ask if any of you will join me."
If he was a successful man- a number of young men always smoked, thus
signifying that they wished to join him. Those who did not wish to
join let the pipe pass without smoking.
The War Pipe
When a number had agreed to go, a pipe was filled but not lighted,
and they went to the lodge of some priest or doctor. The leader said
to the medicine man, "We wish to go to war," and offered
him the filled pipe. The man took the pipe- thereby agreeing to preform
the necessary ceremonies. Then he was likely to say to them, "It
is well my friends; you are to go to such and such a place, on such
a stream; there you will find people - your enemies." As you
can see the offering of the pipe was the general ceremonial way of
asking an important favor.
Before starting, the party sometimes went into the sweatlodge with
this priest, who prayed over some special war implement that someone
was to carry. This might be a war-bonnet, a shields or lance. The
good influence of the prayers extended over the entire party. During
this ceremony the young men cut bits of skin from arms and legs, and
when exiting, put them under the buffalo skull which rested just outside
the sweatlodge. This ceremony is most likely why the Cheyennes were
also termed the "Cut Arms."
Before the war party started, they supplied themselves
with a little food, put their arms in order, and provided themselves
with extra moccasins. On the appointed day, the leader, alone left
the camp on foot, and afterward, at different times throughout the
day, others set out, all meeting before night and camping together.
When camp was made at night, the pipe was formally lighted and offered
to the sky, the earth, and the four cardinal points. The leader talked
to the young men, giving them good advice, and telling them how they
Small private raiding parties were out either to take horses or to
get a scalp for revenge for the death of a friend or relative. If
the main objective was horses they would sneak into camp at night.
If its scalps they were after, they prefered to come across lone travelers.
The Cheyenne Social Club:
| A Cheyenne War Story: Wolf Road, the Runner
| Cheyenne Traditions and Beliefs, Sacred
| Horses, Warriors, War Pipe, Sweatlodge
| Cheyenne War Parties and Battle Tactics
| The Scalp Dance and Other Cheyenne Dances
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- Colorado History In Depth
Lecture Notes, Reading, and Information:
| The Cheyenne Migration
to Colorado |
| The Gratlan Affair, Massacre, Fort Laramie
| The Sante Fe Trail and Fort Union |
| Sumner - Ninth Military Department / The
First Fort Union |
| Early Arrivals to Fort Union, Daily Life
at Fort Union |
| Captain Grover - The New Fort Union, the
Confederate Threat |
| Fort Union Arsenal, William Shoemaker,
End of Fort Union |
Americans from the East
| Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase
| The Expedition of Zebulon Pike |
| Pikes Peak or Bust / Colorado Gold Rush
Colorado's Role in the US Civil
| The Civil War, Fort Wise / Fort Lyon
| Mace's Hole, Colonel Canby, F.C.V.R.
| Fort Weld |
| The Pet Lambs, John Chivington |
| General Henry Sibly, Battle of Valverde,
Fort Union |
Cripple Creek District Labor Strikes
| The Western Federation of Miners / State
| The 1893 - 1894 Strike | The
Strike of 1903 - 1904 |
| The Mine Owners Association |
| Crimes and Military Rule in the Cripple
Creek District |
| Marshall Law in Cripple Creek District
/ End of the Strike |
Early Cripple Creek District
| Photos, Fire, and Life in Cripple Creek
| Other Colorful Towns in the Cripple Creek
Gillett - Colorado's Only Bullfight, Victor, Independence |
| A Guide to the Miners' Gritty Lingo
More Colorado History
| Bent's Fort Photos, Personalities, Plans,
and More |
| What Was Easter Like at Bent's Fort?
| Colorado Trivia,
Miscellaneous Old Photos,
Western Personalities, Forts, and More |
| Lullabies for Jittery Cows - Cowboy Ballads
| Heraldry of the Branding Iron |
Aims to Clear Infamous Cannibal, Alferd Packer |
| Lead Gives Alferd
Packer's Story More Weight |
Colorado Love Stories: Baby Doe Tabor & More
| Colorado Pioneer Women: Elizabeth Byers
| Early Denver Jokes / The History of April
Fools' Day |
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