The Cheyenne Indians in the mid-20th century comprised two major groups—the southern (Oklahoma) and the northern (Montana). Originally one tribe, they were separated through the westward movement of the whites and were the last among the Indians to be subdued and placed on reservations.
The General Conference Mennonite Church started its first mission work among the Cheyenne Indians of Oklahoma in 1880 by building a school at Darlington for Arapaho children to which some Cheyenne children were admitted. Another school for Cheyennes was established in 1883 at Cantonment, which was soon attended by as many as 75 children. A second step was the establishment of mission stations at Cantonment, 1882; Clinton, 1894; Hammon, 1898; and Fonda, 1907. The Cantonment Church was moved to Longdale, Oklahoma, in 1929.
Since there was no literature in Cheyenne, Rodolphe Petter reduced their language to writing, compiled a grammar and dictionary, and translated portions of the Bible, the Pilgrims' Progress, and songs which were used by the missionaries in their work. Gradually Sunday school, daily vacation Bible school, young people's retreats, and other activities became regular features of the work among the Cheyennes.
By the 1950s most of the Cheyenne children attended public schools with their white neighbors. Many intermarried with other tribes and whites. Some of the old tribal customs, organizations, and traditions remained. Over 900 Cheyennes had been baptized since the beginning of mission work in Oklahoma. The 1953 membership was 400.
The General Conference mission work among the Cheyennes in Montana was started in 1904 at Busby, and spread to Lame Deer, Birney, and Ashland. The closed reservation land was allotted to the Cheyennes in 1926. The remaining land they were permitted to rent out. The Cheyennes lived mostly in villages. There were government schools at the villages Busby and Birney. The work among the northern Cheyennes was similar to that among the southern. Over 500 Cheyennes were baptized from the beginning of the work until 1950, and 250 were members of the church in 1953.
Cheyennes in general learned the English language; intermarriage with whites and other tribes hastened the abandonment of their own language. Modern conveniences sped up the change of life among them. Mission work had a great influence in curtailing the influence of the Indian medicine men and women who were the chief sponsors of the old way of life. Although the influence of disintegrating forces was evident, the power of the Gospel was becoming increasingly noticeable in the lives of many of the Cheyennes.
See also Indians, North America
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 341.
Krehbiel, H. P. The history of the General Conference of the Mennonites of North America, 2 vols. Canton, Ohio: The Author, 1898-1938. Vol. 1 available in full electronic text at
Cite This Article
Habegger, Alfred. "Cheyenne People." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 26 Jun 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Cheyenne_People&oldid=144813.
Habegger, Alfred. (1953). Cheyenne People. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 June 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Cheyenne_People&oldid=144813.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 554. All rights reserved.
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