Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College
Southern Cheyenne Dictionary
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Vauda ma. Welcome to the Tsistsistas/Zhizhisstasi (Cheyenne) language website of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College (CATC). This linguistic information is a rudimentary tool designed to assist language learners and to inform others in strengthening their Cheyenne language speaking skills. The Tsistsistas/Zhizhisstasi language is a beautiful and quiet-sounding language spoken by Cheyennes who live predominantly in the states of Oklahoma and Montana.
In assessing the contemporary status of the Cheyenne language, one must acknowledge the linguistic history of the people. Prior to vi’ho’i (Anglo-European “white men”) contact, the language was vital and strong and some people were even bilingual or multilingual, most commonly being able to speak Hinónóéí (Arapaho) or Lakota Sioux. It had to have been virtually impossible for them to think that one day their language would be at risk. However, as more children were educated in Anglo-European reservation and off-reservation schools, native language speakers began to decrease, the result of education policy and practice focused upon assimilation or “education for extinction.” Unfortunately today, UNESCO classifies the Cheyenne language in Oklahoma as “severely endangered.” CATC has developed this website to help maintain the people’s language and culture. It is accepted that language is the foundation of culture; therefore, without language the culture also is in danger of dying out.
The following pages contain a listing of words and/or phrases, both in Cheyenne and English for ease in translation. When possible, some phrases are translated into English. The phonetic spelling is intended as a guide. Lenora Hart Holliman developed the original Cheyenne language orthography that was first introduced at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in the 1970’s. She also devised the dialect used in our geographic region. Therefore, CATC is aware of the debt of gratitude due this woman, and respectfully dedicates its language efforts to Cheyenne elder and language expert Lenora Hart Holliman.