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The Cheyenne are a Native American nation of the Great Plains. The
meaning “people of an alien speech,”
was applied to them by the Sioux. But the Cheyenne call
which translates as “beautiful people” or “our people.”
Nation is comprised of ten bands, spread all over the Great Plains, from southern
Colorado to the Black Hills in South Dakota. In the mid-1800s, the bands began
to split, with bands choosing to remain near the Black Hills, while other bands
chose to remain near the Platte Rivers of central Colorado. Currently the
Northern Cheyenne live in southeast Montana on the Northern Cheyenne Indian
Reservation. The Southern Cheyenne, along with the Southern Arapaho, live in
central Oklahoma. Their combined population is approximately 20,000.
Cheyenne, the circle was an important symbol in spiritual, social, and political
life. They perceived the universe as a circle with four directions, with time
and life moving in circular cycles. The insides of their tepees, where family
units lived, were circular, and the tepees themselves were arranged in a circle
in the village.
creation myth involves the four medicine arrows, given by the creator, Maheo, to
Sweet Medicine, who became the prophet of his people. The Sacred Arrows, or
Mahuts (Maahotse), were four arrows,
two for hunting and two for war, kept by the tribe through the generations. It
was believed that without the Mahuts there would be no Cheyenne tribe, so these
four arrows were guarded in a special tepee by a society of Cheyenne men known
as Arrow Keepers.
One of the
most important Cheyenne ceremonies was the Arrow Renewal. In the Arrow Renewal,
various bands of extended families came together for a four-day ceremony. Three
ceremonial lodges were placed in the center of a circle of tepees: the Sacred
Arrow Lodge, the Sacred Arrow Keeper’s Lodge, and the Offering Lodge.
performed various rituals in and among the lodges to renew the Sacred Arrows and
the spirit of the tribe. The four sacred arrows were often carried into battle
by a chosen warrior, bound to the stem of his lance.