Published on November 25, 2012 by Amy
Cheyenne military societies are one of the two central institutions of traditional Cheyenne Indian tribal governance, the other being the Council of Forty-four. While council chiefs are responsible for overall governance of individual bands and the tribe as a whole, the headmen of military societies are in charge of maintaining discipline within the tribe, overseeing tribal hunts and ceremonies, and providing military leadership. Historically, council chiefs selected which of the six military societies would assume these duties; after a period of time on-duty, the chiefs would select a different society to take up the duties.
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The prophet Sweet Medicine was said to designate the four original Cheyenne warrior societies. Over the ages, some have developed branches or have transformed.
Fox Warriors Society (Vóhkêséhetaneo’o or Monêsóonetaneo’o), also known as Swift Fox or Kitfox. This society is found among both the Northern and the Southern Cheyenne. The Coyote Warriors Society (O’ôhoménotâxeo’o) and Flintmen Society (Motsêsóonetaneo’o) are branches of the Fox Warriors Society.
Elk Warriors Society also known as Elk Horn Scrapers (Hémo’eoxeso), Bone Scraper Society, Hoof Rattle, Crooked Lance, Headed Lance, Blue Soldiers or Medicine Lance. This society is found among both the Northern and the Southern Cheyenne. This was the society of the famous warrior Roman Nose, and also of the mixed-race Cheyenne George Bent.
Shield Warriors Society (Ma’êhoohevaso), also known as Red Shield. This society was originally found in both the Northern and the Southern Cheyenne. Today it exists only among the Northern Cheyenne. Buffalo Warriors (Hotóanótâxeo’o), also known as Buffalo Bull or Bull, is a branch of the Shield Warriors Society.
Bowstring Men (Héma’tanóohese), also known as the Owl Man’s Bowstring. This society was originally found in both the Northern and the Southern Cheyenne. Today it is only among the Southern Cheyenne. Wolf Warriors Society (Ho’néhenótâxeo’o) is the alternate name for the Bowstring Men among the Southern Cheyenne. This society developed out of the Bowstring Men in the 19th century through a vision given to Owl Friend.
Dog Warrior Society (Hotamétaneo’o), also known as Dog Men. This society was also called Dog Soldiers by the whites. The Dog Warrior Society was established by a directive given in a visionary dream after the prophet Sweet Medicine’s departure. This society was originally found in both the Northern and the Southern Cheyenne. Today it exists only among the Southern Cheyenne.
Crazy Dogs (Hotamémâsêhao’o), also known as Foolish Dogs. This society is similar to the Bowstring Men in function, but is found only among the Northern Cheyenne. Among the Northern Cheyenne, Dog Warrior Society and Wolf Warriors merged. This resulted in the development of new Dog Warriors, now called the Crazy Dogs. The Crazy Dogs are considered by many to be a sixth society instead of a branch of the fifth society.
Contrary Warriors Society (Hohnóhkao’o), also known as the Inverted Bow-string Society. Its members, the Contrary Warriors, have proved their bravery by riding backward into battle.
Contrary Society, also known as Clown Society. This society draws upon the same spiritual powers as the Contrary Warriors Society. It is primarily composed of Cheyenne elders and may be a mature variation of the Contrary Warriors Society. They were charged with teaching the Cheyenne ceremonial ways of the cultural “dos” and “don’ts” through humour, sarcasm and satire, in a fashion contrary to the traditional Cheyenne culture.