The Chief’s Prophecy: The Destruction of ‘Original’ Cheyenne Leadership during ‘The Critical Era’ (1876-1935)

    Inconsistent modern tribal government political leadership standards are common throughout Indian Country. There is an urgent need to address the causes and effects of tribal political instability and, in particular, the root of this instability which lies in the lack of tribal leadership and the absence of a realistic tribal leadership identity, specific to nations like the Northern Cheyenne. The modern concepts of tribal leadership are inconsistent, undefined, and if they do exist these concepts are incompatible with traditional Indian culture, spirituality, and community needs. Traditional Cheyenne concepts of leadership are rooted in the oral tradition (historical and philosophical) and the ceremonial practices in the Cheyenne culture.
    This is a study of the Northern Cheyenne change in leadership concepts and the loss of traditional Cheyenne concepts of leadership during the time after their last armed resistance in 1876 and before the establishment of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Constitutional government in 1935. The history of Northern Cheyenne Nation is comprised of heroic triumphs and tragedies. Throughout this rich history, there have been spiritual and political leaders who have contributed to the survival of the Northern Cheyenne people. Leadership, from the perspective of the Cheyenne, and the traditional Cheyenne governing system were rooted in spiritual teachings, ceremonies, and sustained through serving the people. These ancient concepts of leadership allowed for stability. Traditional Cheyenne concepts of leadership and governing systems were destroyed through colonization, and this led to political dysfunction.
    The goal of this study is to first identify the traditional Cheyenne concepts leadership, then identify the significant changes in these concepts of leadership to discuss how these changes have led to the current political instability of the Northern Cheyenne tribal government. The primary research question is: What were the major changes in traditional Cheyenne leadership and governance that occurred between 1876 and 1935? Five secondary research questions for the project are: How did these changes in traditional leadership and governance occur? What traditional political, spiritual, and economic institutions of the Cheyenne were changed and how were they changed? What was Cheyenne leadership and governance like after the establishment of a reservation and after the establishment of an Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) constitutional government? What can the Northern Cheyenne people expect in the future of tribal leadership and government? I will use a Cheyenne-centered historical narrative, which will be explained in detail, to explain the importance of the cultural, spiritual, political, and economic adaptation mechanisms which are the basis for Cheyenne leadership.


Leo Killsback


Luci Tapahonso






AAT 3404205
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences