Posts made in January, 2015

The Great Medicine Ceremony

Over time, our Arapaho tribe has adopted certain names from our Non-Native friends and the Sun Dance is one such example.  According to Wooden Leg, a Cheyenne Elder, both the Cheyenne and the Arapaho held what they referred to as a Great Medicine dance that was a ceremony held over a period of one to four days. It was not held at any particular time or with any regularity and usually only every two or three years. However, if the tribe was having misfortune or if a larger number of devotees wanted to undergo the trials, the ceremony would be held in successive years. In modern times, the Northern Arapaho now held this same ceremony once a year on the Wind River Indian Reservation here in Wyoming. This ceremony was renamed the Sun Dance by the white people who observed it but is not done to worship the Sun but, as Wooden Leg stated in his biography, rather to get closer to the Great Medicine above us. The Great Medicine Ceremony and other fasting ceremonies were done in order to make medicine by giving thanks to the One Above and asking His continued favor. It was customary to have this ceremony during the summer season and the main purpose would be to ask the Great Medicine for blessings on the tribe as a whole and not for individuals. Wooden Leg said that their prayers were for such things as good grass, new colts, for success in their hunting and in repelling their enemies. He speaks of an instance when he was a child of when the Cheyenne and Arapaho came together to have their Great Medicine ceremony. It was a time of great upheaval for both people and this must have had far-reaching significance in the years to come. “The Cheyennes and the Arapahoes had their two Great Medicine ceremony dances together on one occasion when I was about twelve years old. (1870) We were south of the mountains beyond the headwaters of Powder river. The two tribes camped as one, in one great camp circle, but all the Cheyenne lodges were at one side of the camp and all of the Arapaho lodges at the opposite side. Each tribe had its Great Medicine lodge at its own side of the combined camp. I went back and forth looking on at both of them. The other people of both tribes did the same. I was not quite old enough during our free roaming days to take a part in the important tribal affairs. I merely looked, listened, kept quiet and though about them. This double sacred dance of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes was for only one day. During that one day...

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A Cheyenne Speaks of the Arapaho at the Battle of Little Bighorn

After a battle at Rosebud on June 17th, 1876, the Cheyenne and their allies were celebrating at their temporary camp at the Little Bighorn. For six nights they stayed in one area, celebrating their victories with feasts and dancing. Every day, hunting parties went out to the near-by buffalo herds and brought back the meat for the woman to prepare. It was during this time that Wooden Leg, a Cheyenne Elder in the 1930’s, reported that six Arapaho men came to their camp. The following are excerpts from Wooden Legs Autobiography. Note that he mentions six Arapaho and not the five that the Arapaho themselves claim were at the battle.  “Six Arapaho men came to the Cheyenne camp while we were at this place. They said they were afraid of soldiers, as they had killed a white man on Powder river. Many Sioux and some Cheyennes suspected them as spies, but finally all of us were satisfied they wanted to stay with us as friends. They were invited into lodges of different ones of the Cheyennes. Some more of our own people from the reservation joined us here. It is likely some Sioux also arrived, but I am not sure about that.” “The six Arapaho men were attached to the lodge of Two Moons, one of the little chiefs of the Fox warrior society. One of his two wives was an Arapaho woman.”  Wooden Leg, A Warrior Who Fought Custer, Interpreted by Thomas B. Marquis, Chapter Seven, Soldiers from the Southward, pages 204 & 209 The Fox warriors were on duty at the time as the camp policeman so that may have helped the Arapaho cause since they were attached to the ones responsible for keeping the order in camp. There were an estimated 1,600 Cheyenne camped in the area and a total of an estimated 12,000 people of varying tribes in the entire camp. After the fighting, Wooden Leg joined the other warriors in looking for scalps and anything else worth taking from the dead Calvary soldiers. Among the dead, he found the body of the Cheyenne Warrior Chief Lame White Man who had been killed and scalped by mistake by what the Cheyenne believe must have been a Sioux. It was not the only mistaken death of the battle either.  “A dead Uncpapa Sioux received something of the same kind of mistaken attention given to our Lame White Man. The dead Sioux was mixed in with dead bodies of the soldiers. An Arapaho and a No Clothing Indian supposed him to be a Crow or a Shoshone belonging to the white men fighters. They jabbed spears many times into the body. They were much embarrassed when they...

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