7-1 CHAPTER 7 NORTHERN CHEYENNE CULTURAL RESOURCES
"Springs, rivers, swamps and ground water are living beings with spirits.
According to the 2001 Northern Cheyenne Reservation Survey on Traditional Economy
and Subsistence, over 97% of the people believe that springs have spiritual value.
Furthermore, over 90% recognize that water is very important to their social, economic
and spiritual way of life. “The conceptual meaning of water to us would be the physical
manifestation of the essence of life, of life itself, the fabric of life.” (Little Coyote,
1/8/02). The Sacred Buffalo Hat “came to us out of the waters” [of the Great Lakes
Region]. (Little Coyote, 1/8/02).
The Northern Cheyenne communicate with these spirits. The ongoing traditional
cultural importance of these water locations can be seen in the respect shown to these
locations and in the offerings made at these locations. Routine archaeological survey
on the reservation always takes into account water sources relative to the survey
boundaries. A good contemporary example of this is the current widening of U.S. 212
east of Lame Deer. A survey documented the ongoing use of three springs for
traditional cultural purposes and design changes were made to avoid affecting these
The Northern Cheyenne Natural Resources Department is conducting a survey
of springs on the reservation. This work will include not only the physical characteristics
of these springs but also their ongoing traditional cultural uses and the medicinal plants
that are often associated with springs (Rollofson, 1/8/02, Appendix F).
Water is also associated with the turtle. The turtle is good to eat and is always
associated with ceremonies. Some of the sweat lodges are patterned after the turtle
and its longevity. These sweats are made for long life (Little Coyote, 1/6/02).
The traditional water drum is still used by the members of the Native American
Church. “When you take those drums apart after ceremonial use, the breath of life
comes out of them.” (Little Coyote, 1/6/02). Water drums must be taken apart after
every ceremony. The water must be disposed of in a ritually specific fashion. (Little
Swamps are filled with many spirits and may be dangerous due to the
accumulation of power at these localities. The Northern Cheyenne recognize the
spiritual qualities of ground water also. There are special prayers for digging wells.
Ground water represents the quiet nature of the earth. It should not be disturbed...”