photo courtesy of Colorado Historical Society
The Cheyenne-Arapahoe Indians were known as the horsemen of the plains and carved out a niche in the eastern part of Colorado.
Being driven further westward by expansion of the white man's interests, these Plains Indians helped the tribes already in Colorado with a new way of life by introducing the horse to others.
These two tribes of Native Americans made a lasting impression on the plains of Colorado. They had a very strong sense of loyalty to all members of their "family".
Arapahoe and Cheyenne were very similar in their beliefs and way of life but separate from each other.
The Cheyenne-Arapahoe Indians developed as a separation of one tribe.
The Arapahoe became a northern band and the Cheyenne were the southern band.
Both had lived together, but each band's life was their own. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe went to war and hunted together.
The pecking order of these two tribes were similar.
Both had leaders for war and peace; they raised their children in the same way; sometimes the tribes would intermarry, making a more solid allegiance between the two.
With the horse, came freedom of travel. Hunting food, such as buffalo, was much easier with four legs than just two.
All seemed well, but with the coming of the white man, the Indian's lives began to change.
The Cheyenne and Arapahoe got along well with the first white men traveling into the state. These were trappers and were only interested in beaver, not the buffalo.
The Plains Indians were very amused by the frantic and excited white men at the time of the gold rush.
Everyone seemed to get along up to a point. When white farmers moved into the plains of Colorado, there was a major problem for the Indians.
The white farmers fenced and plowed the land and destroyed buffalo migration patterns. Add to that a clash of cultures and trouble was inevitable.
The Sand Creek Massacre was a hostile act of the whites against the Cheyenne, who were trying to live peaceably while the white man took their land.
After the massacre, the Indians began attacking settlers on the high plains of Colorado.
A town called Julesburg on the Platte River was burned over and over; a battle at a place called Beecher's Island; and the final battle against the Cheyenne and Arapahoe was at Summit Springs near present day Sterling.
With "Buffalo Bill" Cody as their guide, eight companies of the Fifth Calvary set out to find and destroy a large group of Cheyenne, Arapahoe and Sioux.
The morning of July 11, 1869, Captain Luther North came upon a village of about 85 Indian lodges.
He and his men charged the camp, killed around 60 Indians, took two dozen prisoners and stole hundreds of horses and belongings of the Indians.
So just like the other Native Americans in Colorado, the Cheyenne-Arapahoe Indians were eventually pushed further off their lands until all that was left for them was a tiny reservation on which to live in poverty and captivity.
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