Tongue River Indian Reservation

Published on January 6, 2013 by Amy

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The Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation
The Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation

The Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, formerly named the Tongue River Indian Reservation, is home to the Northern Cheyenne tribe of Native Americans. Located in southeastern Montana, it is approximately 444,000 acres in size and centered by the town of Lame Deer, the tribal and government agency headquarters and home of the Northern Cheyenne Powwow. It is bounded on the east by the Tongue River and on the west by the Crow Reservation. There are small parcels of non-contiguous off-reservation trust lands in Meade County, South Dakota, northeast of the city of Sturgis. The Reservation’s timbered ridges that extend into northwestern South Dakota are part of Custer National Forest. The reservation is approximately 40 miles (64 km) east of the site of the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn, or “Battle of Greasy Grass”, as it is called by the Lakota. According to latest tribal enrollment figures, as of June 1, 2012, there are 10,522 tribal members of which about 4,940 resided on the reservation. Approximately 91% of the population were Native Americans (full or part race), with 72.8% identifying as Cheyenne. Slightly more than a quarter of the population five years or older spoke a language other than English. A few members of the Crow tribe also live on the reservation.

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The Northern Cheyenne were allies of the Lakota in the Black Hills War of 1876–77. As do most Native Americans, they have a special bond to the land. Numerous Cheyenne work as foresters, fire fighters and Emergency medical services employees. This is visible in traditional communities like Lame Deer and Birney and it also emphasized by the 2006 split vote on development coal and coalbed methane on the reservation.

A historical buffalo jump, burial sites of Indian chiefs, the site of Custer’s last camp before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Cheyenne Indian Museum, Ten Bears Gallery, St. Labre Indian Catholic High School|St. Labre Indian School, and the Ashland Powwow are sites of special interest in the Ashland area.

The Northern Cheyenne are related to the Southern Cheyenne, who are located in Oklahoma. Following the Black Hills War and earlier conflicts in Colorado (see Sand Creek Massacre and Washita Massacre), the Northern Cheyenne were forcibly moved to Oklahoma and kept on lands of their southern relatives. Unable to acclimate swiftly to the heat of western Oklahoma (Indian Territory at the time), having to grow their food instead of hunting or gathering as were their ways and the general conditions of where they were held, the northerners quickly began dying. In desperation, a small band left the reservation and headed north in 1878, an odyssey that later inspired Mari Sandoz’s novel, Cheyenne Autumn.

The Northern Cheyenne briefly settled around Fort Keogh (Miles City, Montana). In the early 1880s, many families began to migrate south to the Tongue River watershed area and established homesteads in the northern edge of the Powder River Basin, which they considered their natural home. The United States government established the Tongue River Indian Reservation, which consisted of 371,200 acres (1,502 km2) of land, under the executive order given by President Chester A. Arthur on November 16, 1884. The boundaries originally did not include the Cheyenne who had homesteaded further east near the Tongue River, therefore those people who had were helped by the St. Labre Catholic Mission. This changed though when on March 19, 1900, President William McKinley extended the reservation to the west bank of the Tongue River, for a total of 444,157 acres (1,797.44 km2). Those Cheyenne who had homesteaded east of the Tongue River were relocated to reservation lands west of the river.

Communities and neighborhoods

Lame Deer, Montana with about 4,000 residents, 92% of them American Indian is the capital of the Northern Cheyenne nation. Chief Dull Knife College is located there. To the west is Muddy, Montana with about 600 residents, 94% American Indian, and further west Busby, Montana with about 700 residents, 90% American Indian. Busby was the site of the Tongue River Boarding School opened in 1904, and later would become quite avid in Basketball. Also playing the Globe Trotters and beating them in a Basketball game also they would go to state and win from the 1950s. by the Indian Bureau (later called the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).) The Busby White River Cheyenne Mennonite Church is located in Busby. Which is still standing and have regular Sunday church ceremonys.

Ashland, Montana is to the east. In 1884 a Catholic boarding school, the St. Labre Indian School was established there.[5] The 460 residents of Ashland are about 75% American Indian. They as well became very good in basketball and when Busby became part of their district, they had notable rivalry basketball games in the late 1940s and on. Birney, Montana, population about 100, 86% Indian, is south of Lame Deer and Ashland. Part of Birney, “White Birney”, lies south of the reservation. Colstrip, Montana with about 2,300 residents, where some Cheyenne attend the Colstrip Public School, is about 20 miles north of the reservation. About 240 American Indians live in Colstrip, making up 11% of the population. Colstrip is an industrial city devoted to coal mining and electrical generation. It was very tough to make it in Colstrip high school due to the case that most of all the students were white and Colstrip was around thirty miles away from the Northern Cheyenne reservation. But also they would soon realize that the Cheyenne people were very avid sports players and help lead them state in many sports they had to offer at Colstrip high school.


Chief Dull Knife College, originally named Dull Knife Memorial College, is an open admission Native American tribal community college and land grant institution. It is located on the reservation, in Lame Deer, and has a current enrollment of 141 students. On average, more than half of the graduates move on to four-year colleges. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. It is member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and American Association of Community Colleges.

The reservation is the recipient of a 2010 Promise Neighborhoods grant from the United States Department of Education, through the local Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Source: wikipedia Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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