February 6, 2011

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of the Cheyenne River Reservation


Who are the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe?

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is made up of four bands of Sioux people: the Minnecoujou, Two Kettle, Sans Arc, and Blackfoot Sioux.

Official Tribal Name: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of the Cheyenne River Reservation 

Address:P.O. Box 590, Eagle Butte, SD 57625
Phone:  (605) 964-4155
Fax:  (605) 964-4151

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Region: Great Plains

State(s) Today: South Dakota

Traditional Territory:

The Great Sioux Nation extended from the Big Horn Mountains in the west to eastern Wisconsin. The territory also extended from Canada in the north to the Republican River in Kansas in the south.

Confederacy: Sioux Nation
Division: Teton
Bands: Minnecoujou, Two Kettle (Oohenunpa), Sans Arc (Itazipco) and Blackfoot (Si Sapa)


Fort Laramie Treaty, April 29,1868

Reservations: Cheyenne River Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land

The Cheyenne River Reservation is in Dewey and Ziebach Counties, South Dakota.
This video shows a variety of photography taken on this reservation, as well as some tribal history.

Land Area: 1.4 million acres
Tribal Headquarters: Eagle Butte, SD
Time Zone: Mountain
The Cheyenne River Reservation is the fourth-largest Indian reservation in land area in the United States. Its largest community is North Eagle Butte. The Land Acts of 1909 and 1910 opened up the Cheyenne River Reservation to white settlement.

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning

These are the seven bands of the Titunwan (People of the Plains) one of the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Nation.
These bands make up the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe:
Mnikoju (Planters by the Water)
Siha Sapa (Black Foot)
Owohe Nupa (Two Kettle)
Itazipa Cola (Without Bows)

Meaning of Traditional Name:

Common Name:

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

Meaning of Common Name:

Alternate names:

Cheyenne River Lakota Nation (Oyate)
The Lakota were originally referred to as the Dakota when they lived by the Great Lakes.

Alternate spellings: 

Name in other languages:

Population at Contact:

The total population of the Sioux (Lakota, Santee, Yankton, and Yanktonai) was estimated at 28,000 by French explorers in 1660. The Lakota population was first estimated at 8,500 in 1805, growing steadily and reaching 16,110 in 1881. The Lakota were one of the few Indian tribes to increase in population in the 19th century.The number of Lakota people has now increased to about 70,000.

Registered Population Today:

103,255 Sioux self-identified on the 1990 census. 8,000 members are living on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


Charter: None; Constitution and Bylaws: Yes – IRA
Date Approved: December 17, 1935
Name of Governing Body: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council
Number of Council members: (15) fifteen council members
Dates of Constitutional amendments: February 11, 1966, June 18, 1980, July 17, 1992
Number of Executive Officers: (4) Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer


Primary election is the second Tuesday of August and General is first Tuesday in November (coincides with National Elections). The Tribal Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer are elected at large for 4 year terms. The Vice- Chairman is elected from the Council membership for a 2-year term. Council members are elected from each district every two years. Terms of office are staggered, every two years an election for Council members is held.
Number of Election districts or communities: 13

Language Classification:

Siouan-Catawban -> Mississippi Valley Siouan (a.k.a. Central Siouan) -> Dakotan (a.k.a. Sioux-Assiniboine-Stoney) -> Lakota (a.k.a. Lakhota, Teton, Western Sioux)

Some linguists associate Siouan languages with Caddoan and Iroquoian languages in a Macro-Siouan language family. However, such linguistic associations are yet to be proven.

Language Dialects: Lakota

Number of fluent Speakers: About 20,500 still speak the Lakota language fluently.


Easy to follow phonetic chart teaches Lakota language pronunciation


Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Traditional Allies: Arapaho

Traditional Enemies:

Ojibway, Anishnaabe, Cree, Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa.

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Legends / Oral Stories:

Create your own reality
Lakota Star Legends
Legend of the Talking Feather
The End of the World according to Lakota legend
The Legend of Devil’s Tower
The White Buffalo Woman
Tunkasila, Grandfather Rock
Unktomi and the arrowheads

Art & Crafts:

The Lakota are known for their beautiful seed beadwork.


Around 1730, the Cheyenne people introduced the Lakota to horses,called šuŋkawakaŋ (“dog [of] power/mystery/wonder”) in the Lakota language. After their adoption of the horse, Lakota culture changed dramatically from a semi-nomadic agricultural society to a nomadic hunter – gatherer society centered on the buffalo hunt on horseback.




Agricultural when they lived by the Great Lakes, nomadic hunter-gatherers after they adopted the horse into their culture.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

The Great Spirit (Tunkasila) knows no single religion as right and true. He sees the different religions as the spokes in a wheel and he is the hub, the Center…all spokes lead to him and are connected to him. He holds the universe together and the world turns on his axis of love, generosity, and equality.
The Sioux Drum

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs

Education and Media:

Tribal College: Cheyenne River Community College, Eagle Butte, SD
Radio: KLNM 89.5 FM, McLaughlin, SD
Newspapers: Eagle Butte News, Eagle Butte, SD; West River Progress, Dupree, SD

Sioux People of Note

Charles Eastman’s account of Chief Sitting Bull
How Sitting Bull got his names
Other Famous Sioux Leaders
Big Foot (also known as Spotted Elk): A Minnecoujou chief, who remained true to the “old ways” throughout his life. He was regarded as a wise leader, who respected the individual rights of his people. Big Foot, who had settled on the Cheyenne River Reservation, was killed during the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre. He died under the white flag of truce.

Sitting Bull : Chief Sitting Bull lived on the Cheyenne River Reservation. He was fond of the Grand River area which in the 1880s, was the boundary between the Cheyenne River Reservation and the Standing Rock Reservation. In 1890, the United States became concerned about chief Sitting Bull when they learned he was going to lead an exodus off the Reservation. What troubled chief Sitting Bull was the breakup of the huge Reservation promised by treaty. He was killed when they tried to arrest him on the Standing Rock Reservation.

Black Hawk, Sans Arc artist, medicine man
Arthur Amiotte, (Oglala Lakota)-Painter, Sculptor, Author, Historian

Madonna Swan, Lakota author from Cheyenne River Indian Reservation

Bryan Akipa, flutist (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate)

Arvol Looking Horse: Arvol Looking Horse is a 19th generation keeper of the Sacred Pipe of the Great Sioux Nation. In this position, he cares for the Sacred Pipe, presented to the Lakota people by the White Buffalo Calf Woman around 900CE. Looking Horse leads the annual “Sacred Pipestone Run,” the purpose of which is to stop the sale of sacred pipestone. He holds an honorary doctoral degree from the University of South Dakota.

Catastrophic Events:

Smallpox epidemic of 1780-81
Wounded Knee massacre on December 29, 1890
Last Sioux buffalo hunt took place in fall of 1883
Indian-issue beef herds on the Sioux reservation were decimated by anthrax in 1888.
Tuberculosis epedemic 1943-1944 (chanhu sica – bad lung in the Lakota language)

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe History:

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is part of the Great Sioux Nation which includes the Minneconjou, No Bows, Sihasapa and Two Kettle bands. The Great Sioux Nation now recognizes their  land base in accordance with the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.

The Siouan language family, including Lakota-Dakota-Nakota speakers, inhabited over 100 million acres in the upper Mississippi Region in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Conflicts with the Cree and Chippewa, as well as the lure of the Great Plains’ buffalo herds, encouraged the Sioux to move farther west in the mid-17th century.

The Lakota acquired horses around 1740 and crossed the Missouri River shortly after, arriving in the Black Hills in 1775. The Lakota are the archetypal Plains Indian. They lived in organized bands, warred and raided, and depended on buffalo for food and clothing.  

The Great Sioux Nation once extended from the Big Horn Mountains in the west to eastern Wisconsin. The territory extended from Canada in the north to the Republican River in Kansas in the south. The Great Sioux Nation was reduced in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty from the Big Horn Mountains in the west to the east side of the Missouri River, the Heart River in North Dakota in the north and the Platte River in Nebraska to the south. This includes the entire western half of South Dakota.

The Black Hills are located in the center the Great Sioux Nation. The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota/ Dakota people and today considered an important part of their spiritual lives. A direct violation of the 1868 Treaty was committed in 1874 by General George A. Custer and his 7th Cavalry. The 7th Cavalry entered the Black Hills, the center of the Great Sioux Nation and found gold in the Black Hills. The Gold Rush started the conflict between the United States and Great Sioux Nation. The Great Sioux Nation opposite this violation of the treaty.

The United States Government wanted to buy or rent the Black Hills from the Lakota people. The Great Sioux Nation refused to sell or rent their sacred lands.

The 7th Cavalry under General George A. Custer was requested to bring the Sioux bands in and place them on the reservation lands. On June 15, 1876, the Battle of the Little Big Horn between the 7th Cavalry and the Lakota Nation with their allies, the Cheyenne and Arapho, occurred at Greasy Grass, Montana. The Sioux Nation won a victory over General George A. Custer and his 7th Cavalry.

The United States Government demanded that the Lakota nation move to the reservations. The Great Sioux Nation scattered, some to Canada and others later surrendered to the reservations. The people finally surrendered after being cold and hungry and moved on the reservations.

The government still insisted buying the Black Hills from the Lakota people. The Sioux (Lakota) Nation still refused to sell their sacred lands. The United States Government introduced the Sell or Starve Bill also called the Agreement of 1877. The Lakota people starved but refused to sell their sacred land so the U.S. Congress illegally took the Black Hills from the Great Sioux Nation.

The terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 placed the Lakota on one large reservation that covered parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, and four other states.   After defeating the Indian tribes during the Indian Wars of the 1870s, the Act of 1889 broke up the Great Sioux Nation into smaller reservations, the remainder of which exist today at about one half their original size in 1889. The Allotment Act of 1888 allotted Indian lands into 160-acre lots to individuals to divide the nation.

In 1889, the Cheyenne River Reservation was established. About one half of the Reservation was confiscated by the United States government. Then the damming of the Missouri River, started in 1948, submerged an additional 8 percent of the Reservation.   

Many of the Lakota people began believed in the Ghost Dance experiences as the movement spread to the reservations. The U. S. Army feared the unity through prayer among the Tribes and ordered the arrest of Sitting Bull on the Standing Rock Reservation. In the process of the arrest Sitting Bull was shot by Indian Police on December 15, 1890.

The Hunkpapa who lived in Sitting Bull’s camp and relatives fled to the south onto the Cheyenne River Reservation. They joined the Big Foot Band in Cherry Creek, South Dakota then traveled to the Pine Ridge reservation to meet with Chief Red Cloud. The 7th Cavalry caught them at a place called Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. The 7th Cavalry took all the weapons from the Lakota people. The 7th Cavalry massacred 300 people at Wounded Knee and left the bodies to freeze in the snow. The people of the Great Sioux Nation slowly recovered from this injustice and continue to survive in their homeland.

Most of the 13 small communities on the Cheyenne River Reservation do not have water and sewer systems making if difficult to live in sanitary conditions.

With few jobs available many tribal members don’t have jobs and two-thirds of the population survives on much less than one-third the American average income. These dismal living conditions have contributed to feelings of hopelessness and despair among the youth. Indian Country Today reports than one in five girls on the Cheyenne River Reservation has contemplated suicide and more than one in ten have attempted it.

Descendants Remember Battle of Little Big Horn

In the News:

Further Reading:

Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration on Powder River: Battle of Powder River

Tribal Territory, Sovereignty, and Governance: A Study of the Cheyenne River and Lake Traverse Indian Reservations

Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others

US Tribes C to D
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