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History of Arapaho and Cheyenne Treaties

The following treaties were instrumental in establishing and defining the relationship between the United States and the Arapaho and Cheyenne Confederation. They also impacted the history of the tribe after it signed the initial treaty of 1825. As goes the typical Native American – United States relation, lands promised to the tribes usage were then encroached upon by American settlers, railroads, and government roads. The Arapaho and Cheyenne would attack these settlers and railroad workers, and would in turn be attacked by the United States Military, who by the very wording of the treaties, were suppose to be defending the Arapaho and Cheyenne. Each succeeding treaty will show the historian a shrinking land mass controlled by the Arapaho and Cheyenne.

Prior to Euro-American settlement, there was no concept of “land ownership” amongst the Arapaho and Cheyenne as we now think of it. Instead of owning land by title, with definitive boundaries and covenants, think of it as the tribes controlling the land, the resources on it, and who could or could not partake of those resources, whether it be timber, food, water, or the mere trespass upon the land. The encroachment upon their land was to them a threat to their lifestyle, as they required a large land mass per person to subside. They would defend their right to the land, as they always had, in warfare and in compromise.

Outside of listing the signers of each treaty, the treaty of 1865 included a list of individuals who were related to the Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribes and whom the confederation wished to be allotted land from the reservation of the original treaty signed in 1851. This list likely includes many half-breeds and would be considered proof of prior tribal affiliation for descendants of any of the people listed.

Schedule of Treaties

After the treaty of 1868, the Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne became embroiled in the continuous Sioux hostilities with the United States, taking an active part in the defeat of Custer at Little Bighorn in 1876. They likely also resented that they had no land for themselves. Between 1881-1883 Little Chief and some of this band of Northern Cheyenne moved from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency, Indian Territory to the Pine Ridge Agency, Dakota Territory. Finally, in 1884, the Northern Cheyenne received their own reservation, set aside for them, by executive order, in the state of Montana, called the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

Land Cession Maps

The two land cession affected by the treaties above were land cession 426 and 477. Land cession 426 was spread out over 4 different states, and we’ve provided each state as a separate image. You will find cession 477 in Colorado contained within the area covered by 426.