Northern Cheyenne Nation


The Northern Cheyenne Nation is located in present-day southeastern Montana and is approximately 444,000 acres in size. The Northern Cheyenne Nation has approximately 11,266 enrolled tribal members with about 5,000 residing on their lands in Montana. The government headquarters are located in Lame Deer, as is Dull Knife College, a community college run by the nation. The tribal government also operates numerous programs and services for its citizens.

Sweet Medicine

by John Stands in Timber
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What happened to Sweet Medicine while he was gone was not known to the people for a long time, but on his return he told them of his experiences.

He had traveled a long way, deep into the heart of the Black Hills Country, where he seemed to be called by some great power.

At last he reached a mountain known ever since by the Cheyennes as the Sacred Holy Mountain; today it is called Bear Butte.

Here he entered and found a big lodge or teepee. Old women were sitting along one side and old men along the other. But they were not really people, they were gods.

And he saw four arrows there, which were to become the Four Sacred Arrows of the Cheyenne tribe.

The old ones called him Grandson and began instructing him in many things he should take back to the people.

They taught him first about the arrows, because they were to be the highest power in the tribe.

Two were for hunting and two for war. Many ceremonies were connected with them, and they stood for many laws...

Sweet Medicine learned next that he was to give the people a good government, with forty-four chiefs to manage it and a good system of police and military protection, organized in the four military societies—the Swift Foxes, Elks, Red Shields, and Bowstrings.

John Stands in Timber and Margot Liberty, Cheyenne Memories (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972).
This passage was written by John Stands in Timber who was born in 1884. He was a tribal historian of the Northern Cheyenne and devoted his life to maintaining the oral history and oral literature of his tribe.
A consortium of tribes purchased 270 acres at Bear Butte , South Dakota. The Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, were the winning bidders on the land sale. The Northern Cheyenne own more than 500 acres around the mountain.

Tom Griffith, Rapid City Journal, Nov 1, 2016. Photograph by Chris Huber.

"I've had the privilege of working with many of our elders on the reservation here for over thirty or forty years . . . and what always strikes me is [how] they begin their stories with who we were as a free people. What a concept, . . .'when we were a free people.' This is before the treaty era , when we lived here in the United States as a free people."

Gail Small (Northern Cheyenne , NMAI Interview, 2016

Gail Small is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. Gail utilizes her experience as an attorney to serve her community.

Valley of the Rosebud, ca. 1905. Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, courtesy of Library of Congress
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