Manataka American Indian Council

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Northern Cheyenne History
by Donald Hollowbreast,

Some 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.

They 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 Deaths."

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 him.

[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