Northern Cheyenne History
by Donald Hollowbreast,
people I am acquainted with consider me a writer and historian. I do not
consider myself that seriously. It is up to them to say.
In the early days of the Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation, there was no
hospital. Field nurses made calls in each of the communities. They used one
horse hitch buggies in the summer and one horse hitch sleds in the winter to
make calls. They may have done so during the Flu Epidemic of 1918, but long
before the reservation was established, we had medicine men and women.
I was born in 1917, during the time of the Flu Epidemic and I, too, did not
escape the sickness. The Cheyenne called the epidemic "The Year of Many Deaths."
When I got sick, my father, Hubert Hollowbreast, rode horseback to the home of
the Cheyenne medicine men and women. He offered them a shawl, cloth and a horse
to come to doctor me at our home, a log cabin.
took turns doctoring me all night long. A medicine man sat on the floor near the
"patient's" feet, shook his rattle and sang. The medicine woman sat between me
and the medicine man. She chewed a bit of root and sprayed it with her mouth on
my forehead and the upper part of my body. Later, she purified me, also on the
forehead and upper body.
After the medicine man sang, he prayed for me. He got on his knees and gently
sucked my forehead, taking out the sickness. He spat the sickness out on the
dirt floor. He did the same on my upper chest. He purified me with sweetgrass
smoke with his hands on my forehead. This concluded the doctoring.
Other medicine men and women doctored me for four nights. Four nights were
enough to help the baby get well. My father did not tell me how many medicine
persons doctored me but I survived the Flu Epidemic. John Stands in Timber lived
near Birney and he was the first Cheyenne to own an automobile. After each trip
to Lame Deer, [the agency] he reported the number of deaths from the Flu.
According to reports, 112 Cheyennes died in the Flu during "The Year of Many
My father was a baby when [General Ranold] Mackenzie and his troopers attacked
the Cheyenne camp along the Powder River in November, 1876. His mother almost
had to abandon him, but she came back running, rushed into the lodge and rescued
[Note: The Cheyennes traveled through mountain snow with only a few blankets and
a little food for 11 days. Ten adults died from wounds and 11 infants froze to
death in their mothers' arms before they stumbled into the camp of Crazy Horse.
He fed and clothed them.]
After my people moved back to their homeland in 1884, my father worked as a fire
fighter on horseback before the lookout towers were installed in four locations
on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. His father, my grandfather, was John
Hollowbreast. Cora Red Bird was my mother's name. Her father, Red Bird, was
wounded during the Cheyenne Outbreak at Ft. Robinson in January of 1879
Northern Cheyenne country by Seidel Standing Elk