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Native Languages of the Americas: Cheyenne

Language: Cheyenne is an Algonquian Indian language spoken by about 1500 Native Americans in Montana and central Oklahoma. It is related to Arapaho but has a much more complex phonology, with vowel devoicing and tones. Some children are still learning Cheyenne as a native language, but due to the small number of speakers there is fear that the language may die out if effort is not put into revitalizing it. Cheyenne is a verb-based polysynthetic language with long words, complex morphology, and fairly free word order.



People: Cheyenne Indians call themselves Tsitsistas; 'Cheyenne' is a mistake, a Sioux word for Cree. The Cheyenne were Great Plains people, originally native to the area that is now Colorado and Wyoming. Like many tribes, the Cheyennes were forced to leave their homelands by the Americans during the 1800's, and today they live in two distinct communities: the Northern Cheyenne in Montana, numbering 6500, and the Southern Cheyenne, who are united with their longtime allies the Arapaho into a single Nation in Oklahoma with a combined 11,000 members.

History: Many Native American tribes were victims of their small size, as smallpox and other European diseases left too few survivors to withstand colonization. The Cheyenne were victims of their own large size, for factions within their nation were poorly understood by the American settlers encroaching on their territories. For years relations between Cheyenne Indians and white Americans followed an ugly pattern of some settler killing a Cheyenne woman from one clan, that clan killing some settlers in revenge, and then angry soldiers killing some bewildered Cheyennes from a different clan--prompting their own kin to take revenge, and starting the cycle anew. This bloody cycle reached its worst point in the Sand Creek massacre of 1864, where one Colonel Chivington deliberately attacked a reservation of peaceable Cheyennes and Arapahoes under American protection and killed more than 150 Native American men, women, and children despite their repeated attempts to surrender. "Nits," he famously proclaimed, "breed lice." The most egregious massacre in American history--none of the participants even attempted to claim that the victims were armed or dangerous--Sand Creek was condemned as an atrocity even by the media of the time. Eventually the Cheyenne people were forced to move to Oklahoma. The Cheyennes from the south grudgingly accepted this arrangement, but the Cheyennes from the north could not adapt to the hot weather and "broke out" to flee back to the north, led by Chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf. Though many of the escapees were killed by the US Army en route, the rest reached safety and their descendents still live in Montana today.


Cheyenne Language Resources
Cheyenne language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Cheyenne Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Cheyenne Indians past and present.

Cheyenne Indians Fact Sheet
Our answers to frequently asked questions about the Cheyennes, their language and culture.

Cheyenne Legends
Introduction to Cheyenne Indian mythology.


Cheyenne Language Resources

Our Online Cheyenne Language Materials

Cheyenne Vocabulary:
    List of vocabulary words in the Cheyenne language, with comparison to words in other Algonquian languages.
Cheyenne Pronunciation Guide:
    How to pronounce Cheyenne words.
Cheyenne Animal Words:
    Photo glossary of animal words in the Cheyenne language.
Cheyenne Body Parts:
    Online and printable worksheets showing parts of the body in the Cheyenne language.
Cheyenne Colors:
    Worksheet showing color words in the Cheyenne language.
Cheyenne Animate Nouns:
    Lesson on Cheyenne animate and inanimate nouns.

Cheyenne Dictionaries, Audio Tapes and Language Resources

English-Cheyenne Student Dictionary:
    Cheyenne dictionary for sale.
Let's Talk Cheyenne:
    Cheyenne language lessons on audio cassette.
Cheyenne Books * Cheyenne Courses * Cheyenne Language Program:
    Other Cheyenne language learning materials for sale.
Learning Cheyenne:
    Bibliography of Cheyenne language learning resources.
Native American Language Dictionaries:
    Cheyenne and other American Indian dictionaries and language materials for sale.

Cheyenne Language Community and Tools

Cheyenne Alphabet:
    Cheyenne fonts and symbol sets.

Cheyenne Language Lessons and Linguistic Descriptions

Cheyenne Language Pages:
    A wide array of information about the Cheyenne language, including etymology, grammar, orthography, and samples.
Let's Talk Cheyenne * Flashcards:
    Free Cheyenne language learning downloads.
The Cheyenne Language * Modern Cheyenne Pronunciation:
    Cheyenne pronunciation guides with lists of Cheyenne vocabulary.
Cheyenne Writing Systems * Different Ways to Spell Cheyenne * Etsehesenestse:
    Cheyenne orthographies.
Cheyenne Dialects:
    Dialectical differences between the Northern and Southern Cheyenne languages.
Cheyenne Dictionary:
    Online Cheyenne-English and English-Cheyenne dictionary lookup.
Cheyenne Picture Dictionary:
    Cheyenne glossary with pictures and audio files.
Freelang Cheyenne Dictionary:
    Free downloadable wordlist from the Cheyenne language.
Hello Oklahoma: Cheyenne Tribe:
    Cheyenne language greeting, alphabet, and sample text.
Cheyenne Word Lists * Cheyenne Sounds Glossary:
    Cheyenne glossaries.
Common Cheyenne Words * The Cheyenne Language:
    Cheyenne audio phrasebooks.

Literature and Texts in the Cheyenne Language

Cheyenne Language * Cheyenne Orthography * Cheyenne Numbers:
    Scanned-in Central Aymara language materials from the Rosetta Project.
Silent Night:
    Cheyenne translation of the Christmas song.
Cheyenne Prayers * Language Museum: Cheyenne:
    The Lord's Prayer and other Christian prayers in Cheyenne translation.

Cheyenne Language Preservation and Usage

Just Speak Your Language * Cheyenne Language Surviving * Preserving the Cheyenne Language:
    Cheyenne language loss and preservation.
House of Languages: Cheyenne:
    Information about Cheyenne language usage.
Ethnologue: Cheyenne:
    Demographic information about the Cheyenne language.
Cheyenne Language Tree:
    Theories about Cheyenne's language relationships compiled by Linguist List.
Cheyenne Language Structures:
    Cheyenne linguistic profile and academic bibliography.

Cheyenne Proper Names

Cheyenne Names:
    Compendium of Cheyenne names, their meaning, and in some cases audio files.
Cheyenne Placenames * Cheyenne Places:
    Cheyenne place name meanings.
Sand Creek Massacre Names:
    A partial list of Cheyenne family heads present at the Sand Creek Massacre.
American Indian Names for Pets:
    Our new fundraiser offering names for dogs and other animals in Native American languages (including Cheyenne).

Additional Resources, Links, and References

   Wikipedia: Cheyenne:
   Encyclopedia articles on the Cheyenne Indians and their language.
  La Lengua Cheyenne: * Idioma Cheyenne:
  Article on the Cheyenne language in Spanish. With a language map.
  Cheyenne Language:
  Cheyenne links.
  Cheyenne Tribe:
  Cheyenne Indian books.



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