Indians of the Great Plains

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The Cheyenne people are the westernmost tribes of the Algonquin band. They used to live far to the east of where they now live. They remained in set settlements and engaged in practices such as land farming, but they later relocated to the west and southwest, leaving some of their kindred in the east. They then settled in the plains outside Missouri and purchased horses. They turned into buffalo hunters as they adapted to the plains, and they had a lot of stamina and bravery. They grew to be one of the toughest and most strong tribes in the central plains (Burch 138). In the modern-day society, the Cheyenne are settled in two main areas: the Northern Cheyenne are settled in Montana whereas the Southern Cheyenne are found in Oklahoma. The separation of the Cheyenne into Northern and Southern Cheyenne began in 1830: which was a slow process, but it was later hastened by the building of the Bent’s Fort in Colorado in the year 1832. This paper will explore the cultural beliefs, rituals, and beliefs of the Cheyenne people.
The Cheyenne people lived in camps where men were the heads of the families. Men were the providers who were tasked with the responsibility of procuring food and any material needed for the sustenance of life. It was also the man’s duty to defend the community from any form of invasion. If the enemies were too strong, the man would try his best to drive them off or provide a shield for the woman and children to be able to escape to safety. The role of the women was to bear children and to take care of the home as well as undertake the most important role in the Indian tradition; promote the tribal warfare. Both the women and men were partners, and they shared work among themselves (Hoebel 8). The husband and wife each bore the other a lasting affection which began during their youth and was expected to last their entire life. The women were always busy in the camp as they were involved in heavy duties such as preparing the food, sewing clothes, and other chores. The women among the Cheyenne were slaves to their husbands. The man, on the other hand, was seen as an idler who smoked his pipe all day under the shade. The women ministered to the men’s comfort by providing them with all their needs. The women were regarded as the rulers of the camps as they acted to spur the men whenever these men were slow in carrying out their duties. The women are more conservative than the men, and whenever the men made some hasty and ill-informed decisions, the women were always there to correct them.
According to Hoebel (10), the birth of a child into the family signified the continuity of life. After birth, the baby would be wrapped up and given protections from the elements of weather. During the first three months, the baby would be carried around by the mother especially when the weather was cold. When the child became strong, and the weather was mild, the baby would be straddled on a baby board and placed in a secure location in the lodge. On some other occasions, the child could be left to crawl on the ground or can be tied to its mother’s back. Children were trained from early childhood before they could walk around. The training was mostly in the form of advice and counsel where the baby was told on what to do and what to refrain from doing. The acts of worthy men in the society were pointed out for emulation.
Divorce was allowed among the Cheyenne people. When a man decided that it was impossible for him to live with a woman, then he was allowed to divorce her in public. This act of divorcing in public served the purpose of notifying the whole community that the man has abandoned all the rights that he possesses over the woman. The man would inform his soldier band of his intentions to divorce his wife and then organize a dance or a gathering where the dancers would chant a particular song. The man would hold a stick and dance up to the drum where he would hit the drum with the stick and throw the stick into the air or towards a group of men in the lodge. The throwing away of the stick signified the throwing away of the divorced woman. Any man in the crowd who receives the stick is free to have the woman.
The Cheyenne people had various forms of entertainment which included speech-making and storytelling. Conversations were crucial in their more or less formal community feasts. These feasts were also organized for different soldier bands to determine which band had the majority of its members performed brave acts. The Cheyenne people were musical, and their music was vocal. Men, women, and children were involved in a song which was used in the many operations in the day to day life. Some songs served as prayers while other were hummed by men especially when they wake up in the morning. Some songs were used when doctors were treating patients. Other songs were sung to praise the dead and show the sorrow of the survivors. Small children enjoyed lullabies while other songs were sung for amusement purposes. Many songs involved the beating of the drum, and in addition to this, there were songs for going to war, adventure or love songs.
The Cheyenne people had a belief system: The Cheyenne believed that there is a god who lives above (Heammawihio) and there is also a god living below the ground (Ahk tun o’ wihio). These two gods are believed to possess equal powers (Killsback 396). The Cheyenne believe that there exist four spirits which reside at the four points of the compass. Whenever the people smoke, the first fumes of smoke are offered to the six deities. The stems of the pipes are first pointed to the sky, then to the earth surface, then to the north, south, east and west. Prayers are said by the person using his words but mentioning each power by its name. Amulets and charms of different descriptions were worn on various occasions. Men often wore the arrowheads which they tied it in their hair or neck. A bundle of deerskin containing some medicine was tied to the shank of the arrowhead. The Cheyenne men believed that the arrowhead would give them a long life. The arrowhead forms part of the general belief of immortality and endurance. The young women wore a protective rope which passed through the waist and tied in front and moves between the thighs. The rope is worn at night which is believed to offer complete protection to the person wearing it. All men are expected to respect this rope and whoever does not respect would be killed by the girl’s relatives.
There are different customs in the Cheyenne society especially those connected to the war path. When going to war, the people in the community would abstain from consuming any food during daylight on the first day. After the sun sets down, the food would be prepared and served by the leaders, and everybody else would be invited to eat. The leaders of the war party were not allowed to eat the buffalo’s head, tongue, sirloin or any part of the hump. If the leaders ate these parts before any of these parts before any accomplishment in the war, they would be unlucky. The bow and arrow were Cheyenne’s most valuable possessions. The bow was used for defense and subsistence. The arrow was also for war, but it also bore some significance: when a man wanted to marry a girl, he would offer ten arrows to the girl’s father a gift.
When a man died, it was the role of his close relatives and close friends to prepare his body for burial. The dead man was dressed in the finest clothing, and in some instances, the families and friends brought some of their most expensive clothing for the man to be dressed in before being buried. The body would be wrapped in blankets and ropes would be passed over several times. The body would be removed from the lodge and carried to the burial site with his relatives following.

Works Cited
Burch, John. “The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Great Plains (Book).” Library Journal, vol. 128, no. 10, 6/1/2003, p. 138. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=9917772&site=ehost-live.
Hoebel, E A. The Cheyennes: Indians of the Great Plains. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Pub, 1988. Print.
Killsback, Leo. “The Northern Cheyenne Exodus in History and Memory.” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 3, Summer2014, pp. 396-399. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=97285577&site=ehost-live.

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