Author: Donald J. Berthrong
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
This book recounts the reservation period of the Cheyennes and the Arapahoes in western Oklahoma and the following fifteen years. It is an investigation-and an indictment-of the assimilation and reservation policies thrust upon them in the latter half of the nineteenth century, policies that succeeded only in doing enormous damage to sturdy, vital people. Confined to a reservation in the Indian Territory in 1875, the Southern Cheyennes and their neighbors, the Arapahoes, traditionally hunting and mobile societies, were forced into the federal government's image of "educated, Christian farmer-citizens." Lacking the support of adequate appropriations or protective legislation, the Cheyennes' lives were dominated by hunger, disease, and despair. Continuing niggardliness on the part of Congress in providing adequate agricultural equipment and instruction and an environment hostile to cultivation made agricultural self-sufficiency all but impossible. The continued reduction of their land base through allotments under the 1887 Dawes Act and later leasing and sale of land to whites further eroded the Indians' meager sources of income and security. An educational policy that left Cheyenne children without hope of jobs, the banning of traditional religious ceremonies, the prejudice of white citizens and institutions, and the undermining of the roles of head men and medicine men led to further despair. But, as the author demonstrates, despite these crushing burdens and in the face of the slow and inevitable changes in the society, the Southern Cheyennes retained their identity, a testimony to their courage and character. This well-documented, compassionate account of the ordeal of the two tribes serves as a classic example of what happened to America's Indians at the hands of the whites.