Southern Cheyenne Odyssey

Sand Creek Massacre News Release

January 31, 2014

For Immediate Release

Craig Moore, (719) 729-3003

The Southern Cheyenne Odyssey

This article is part of a series by the National Park Service concerning the 150th Memorial of the Sand Creek Massacre.

The epic migration of the Cheyenne, or Tsistsistas, tribe from the American Midwest to southeastern Colorado was a journey hundreds of years in the making. An odyssey of people, animals, and events brought the Cheyenne from the Great Lakes through the Dakotas and ultimately to the banks of Sand Creek.

The Cheyenne Nation developed over generations. Scattered across an immense landscape, the people's future hinged on a fragile pendulum of peace and war, friend and foe. Their identity formed through shared language, beliefs, and ceremonies; their livelihood bound to horses, buffalo and other prairie creatures at the mercy of an unpredictable world of grass, wood and water. About two thousand people, half the tribe, began arriving in what is now southeastern Colorado during the early 1800s; they became the Southern Cheyenne, their world tied to the Santa Fe Trail, Bent's Old Fort, the Upper Arkansas Indian Agency, and Sand Creek. Meanwhile, the Northern Cheyenne continued traditional lifeways north of the Platte River.

In late November 1864, about 650 Southern Cheyenne camped at Sand Creek, their lodges dotting the landscape in a familiar pattern of families and clans. Many of the great chiefs and their people gathered here, their customs, religion, culture, and bloodlines resulting from hundreds of years of travelling, visiting, fighting, and bartering. On November 29, the Sand Creek Massacre became the bloody and chaotic center of the continuing odyssey of the Cheyenne.

For more information about the Cheyenne at Sand Creek, go to or visit the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site outside of Eads, Colorado.

Brave Bear, Cheyenne Indian.  Died near Thomas, Oklahoma in 1932. He is seen here in tribal clothing and head dress. He clutches a bow in his left hand.
Brave Bear, Cheyenne Indian.  Died near Thomas, Oklahoma in 1932.

Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Collection: Call Number Z-3155.

Last updated: January 9, 2017

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