Cheyenne men. ca. 1880. Photo by Cosand & Mosser. Source - Heard Museu

Cheyenne men. ca. 1880. Photo by Cosand & Mosser. Source - Heard Museum.
The Cheyenne people are Plains Algonquian speakers whose ancestors lived in the Great Lakes region of North America. They began moving westward in the 16th or 17th century. In 1680, they met the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643–1687) on the Illinois River, south of what would become the city of Peoria. Their name, "Cheyenne," is a Sioux word, "Shaiena," which roughly means "people who speak in a strange tongue." In their own language, they are Tsétsêhéstaestse, sometimes spelled Tsistsistas, meaning "the people."
Oral history, as well as archaeological evidence, suggests that they moved into southwest Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas, where they planted corn and built permanent villages. Possible sites have been identified along the Missouri River, and they certainly lived at the Biesterfeldt site on the Sheyenne River in eastern North Dakota between 1724 and 1780. An outlier report is that of a Spanish official in Santa Fe, who as early as 1695 reported seeing a small group of "Chiyennes."
Around 1760, while living in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, they met the Só'taeo'o ("People Left Behind," also spelled Suhtaios or Suhtais), who spoke a similar Algonquian language, and the Cheyenne decided to align with them, eventually growing and expanding their territory.


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