Friday, July 26, 2013

The Sheyenne River Or The Cheyenne River

The Upper Sheyenne River in North Dakota.
The Sheyenne River Or The Cheyenne River
Šahiyela Ožú Wakpá Naíŋš Wakpá Wašté
By Dakota Wind
Bismarck, N.D. – In the Land of Forever, the land of wind, there are two rivers which bear the same name in English, but have two completely different names in Lakȟóta, yet each river was once called home by the Šahiyela (Red Talkers; Cheyenne) long ago.

The Sheyenne River in North Dakota was known to the Dakota and Lakota as the Šahiyela Ožú Wakpá, The River Where The Cheyenne Planted. A long time ago, the Cheyenne, or Tsitsistas, “Human Beings” as they name themselves, lived in earth lodge villages along what became the Sheyenne River in North Dakota.

A view of the Sheyenne River in Ransom County, N.D.

Like other earth lodge cultures of the Great Plains, the Cheyenne planted corn, squash, and beans in gardens on the flood plain of the river. There was once a great Cheyenne village at the great bend of the river in Eddy County. At some point in their history, after they moved west to the Mníšoše (Water-Astir; Missouri River), and at the turn of the nineteenth century, the Cheyenne abandoned their sedentary lifestyle in favor of a nomadic one, like the Thítȟuŋwaŋ (Teton; Plains Dwellers).

The Cheyenne River in South Dakota.

The Cheyenne moved west to the Mníšoše and lived along the river between present-day Fort Yates, ND and the present-day Cheyenne River. Their villages were abandoned a year or two before the Corps of Discovery ascended the Missouri River. But they lived there when the French arrived in the 1730s, and later when the Spanish and English arrived to trade. It was possible that disease from contact drove them west, much as smallpox drove the Mandan to move north to Knife River.

In early maps of explorers and traders, the river where the concentration of Cheyenne lived along the “Cheyenne River,” the river was named so.

What the Cheyenne called the Sheyenne River or the Cheyenne River is beyond me.

For the Lakȟóta, the Cheyenne River was known simply as Wakpá Wašté, or The Good River.

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