Cheyenne Religion

Doctrines Cheyenne religion recognises a number of deities. The two most important ones are the Wise One Above and a god who lives in the earth. At each point of the compass are four spirits. Central to Cheyenne ritual was the sun dance. This involved staring into the sun while dancing in order to enter into a trance. This gave the enhanced the dancer's power and ensured the renewal of the cosmos. Another cosmogonic ritual was the Renewal of the Sacred Arrows. The ceremony is performed annually over a four day period around the time of the summer solstice. Only males can participate in the ceremony; the women must remain in their teepees during the four day ritual. The focal point of the ceremony are sacred arrows which empower the men of the tribe. In more recent times the Peyote Cult (See Native American Church) has become part of the religious life of the Cheyenne.

History The Cheyenne belong to the Algonquian language group. Until about 1700 the Cheyenne lived as a farming culture in central Minnesota before moving to the prairies where they established a lifestyle based on hunting and agriculture. At about the beginning of the 19th century they moved further west into the Black hills of Dakota where they survived through hunting buffalo and developed a nomadic teepee-dweeling culture.
By the middle of the 19th century the presence of Europeans was making itself increasingly felt among the Cheyenne. In 1851 the Cheyenne and other tribes signed a treaty with representatives of the United States which allowed for the construction of roads and military posts across their territoty. The gold rush of 1858 following the discovery of gold in the Black hills led to white people increasingly encroached into Indian lands. The Cheyenne were further antagonised by the aggressive intrusion of union soldiers during the American civil war. The unprovoked massacre of a Cheyenne village at Sand Creek in 1864 by American soldiers convinced the Cheyenne that peaceful coexistence with Europeans was impossible.
Between 1857 and 1879 the Cheyenne were caught up in wars with the whites. The most famous incident in this conflict was the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 when the forces of General Custer were defeated by the combined forces of the northern Cheyenne and the Dakota.

Symbols The Cheyenne do not identify themselves through the use of a logo. There were a number of venerated objects associated with Cheyenne religious belief. Contained in a sacred bundle were a hat made from the skin and hair of a buffalo cow and four arrows - two for hunting and two for battle.

Adherents According to the 1990 census for American Indian tribes there were 11,456 Cheyenne.

Main Centre
 Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe, P.O. Box 38, Concho OK 73002, USA; tel: (405) 2620345; fax: (405) 262 0745.