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Cheyenne and Arapaho - A Brief History

In 1804, Lewis and Clark reported some Cheyenne in the Black Hills area. But another migration was now in order and this time south to the upper branches of the Platte River in Wyoming and Nebraska.

The first treaty to be signed by Cheyenne chiefs on behalf of the tribe took place at a gathering in Montana in 1825 on the Teton River. In or around 1835, a portion of the tribe separated itself from the main body to become known as the Southern Arapaho, and settled along the Arkansas River in Colorado. It is this group that currently resides in several of the northwestern counties of Oklahoma.

The year 1851 marked the final separation of the Southern Cheyenne from the main body, subsequently known as the Northern Cheyenne. As a result of the westward expansion of the whites, the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho ceded all of their land claims in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming to the United States on February 18, 1861 at Fort Wise, Kansas. The United States in turn was to provide a reservation for them on a branch of the Arkansas River in Colorado. The Arapaho were to have the eastern portion of the reservation and the Cheyenne the western. However, the agreement was never consummated.

Consequently, by the fall of 1863, the whites became alarmed by inflammatory rumors of a general Indian uprising. The political feelings of Colorado settlers, combined with a highly anti-Indian attitude, prevailed and culminated in the famous attack by white settlers on the Cheyenne Indian encampment under Chief Black Kettle. Many Cheyenne, mostly women and children, were killed. The event is referred to as the "Sand Creek Massacre."

Orders were subsequently issued by the military directing all Indians to report at once to designated military posts. Part of the Arapaho and part of the Cheyenne responded and came in to re-express their desire for peace. As a result, a commission was sent out early in 1865 to meet with them. An agreement was entered into and signed whereby the Cheyenne and Arapaho agreed to relinquish the reservation in southeastern Colorado, which they never occupied, and accept in place thereof a reservation further south in Kansas and Indian Territory. The agreement was formalized under the Medicine Lodge Treaty of October 28, 1867, establishing a reservation, which bounded on the north by the Kansas state line and on the east, south and west by the Arkansas and Cimarron River. After moving to this reservation, the described tract was found to be unsuitable for their needs, and many were on the warpath again. Then, by proclamation issued August 10, 1869, President Grant approved the transfer of their original reservation to the present day western Oklahoma location. The new reservation area was bounded on the east by the 98th degree of west longitude, north by a line contained in an 1886 treaty with the Creek Nation, west by the 100th degree of west longitude, and south by the north line of the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation as established by the 1867 Treaty, and the Washita River. It was this latter area which the Cheyenne-Arapaho occupied as a reservation held in common from 1869 to 1890.

It was during this period on November 27, 1868, Colonel Custer and his troops ruthlessly attacked one of the Cheyenne villages. Black Kettle was killed and his camp destroyed in one of the bloodiest massacres ever in Oklahoma, "The Massacre of the Washita." Bitterness engendered by this attack was a strong factor in Custer being defeated by Sitting Bull at the Little Big Horn, which cost him his life.

In 1870, the first Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency was established at Darlington, which is about two miles north of El Reno, Oklahoma. It wasn't until 1875, five years after the first Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency was established that the Cheyenne retaliation came to an end from a military point of view. During all these troubled years, the Arapaho generally went out of their way to remain at peace in spite of their own great suffering.

The "Jerome Agreement" of 1890 approved by Act of Congress on March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. 989) provided, in part, for the dissolution of the Reservation and the relinquishment by the Cheyenne-Arapahos of all the lands embraced within the exterior boundaries of said reservation except for allotments to individual Indians and reserves for military, agency, school, school-farms, religious or other public uses.

By letter dated March 30, 1892, M.D. Tackett, United States Special Agent in
charge of Cheyenne allotments pursuant to the Act of Congress of March 3, 1891 recommended to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that a schedule of individual allotments and certain reserved areas to be used for schools and agency uses be approved, all of which were legally described in the schedule of allotment. Subsequently, the Secretary of Interior on April 12, 1892, approved the schedule of allotments and reserve area recommendations of Mr. Tackett. From that date, title to the Agency/School lands was in the name of the United States of America held in trust for the use and benefit of the Cheyenne-Arapaho. In 1984, after the closure of Concho Indian School, the school land was transferred to the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes in trust. The buildings and water plant were transferred to the Tribes shortly thereafter.

In 1890, as a result of the desire for more land by the white settlers, an Agreement was formalized whereby each Indian was to retain only 160 acres and the excess lands opened to whites. The Cheyenne and Arapaho country was opened for white settlement on April 19, 1892.

In 1937, the Cheyenne and Arapaho organized a government for their common welfare and adopted a Constitution and By-Laws pursuant to the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act.[1] Decisions and policies once made by chiefs are now enacted in a representative committee of 8 members elected for 4-year terms, on a staggered two-year basis. Tribal lands owned by the Tribes and through individual allotments are substantially less than the original reservation acreage or even that following the original allotments. Tribal Trust Property consists of approximately 10,202 acres as reflected in the following:

Tribal Land Reserve and Location by County in Oklahoma Acres

  • Concho-Canadian County Including the Tribal Headquarters 3,981
  • Canton-Blaine County 2,185
  • Colony-Washita County 2,445
  • Hammon-Custer County 1,280
  • Cedar Tree-Blaine County 160
  • Clinton-Custer County Including Hospital/Elderly Center/Ambulance Service/Field Offices 17
  • Franklin-Blaine County 34
  • Total Tribal Acres 10,202
  • Individual Trust Property 70,000
  • Total Tribal and Individual Trust Property 80,202
  • Individually held trust lands, lands held by the United States Government in trust for individual Indians, number approximately 69,563 acres.

The seat of the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribal government and administration is located at Concho, Oklahoma, now legally defined as Indian country. Less than half of the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribal member population lives in the service area. Of the 5,000 Cheyenne & Arapaho’s living in the service area, an equal number of “other” Indian tribal populations also reside in the service area and often receive services from federal funds specifically allocated to the population of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes.