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The Northern Cheyenne

Since separating from what are were called the Southern Cheyenne, and now simply the Cheyenne, in the early 1830s, the Northern Cheyenne stayed in the area around the Upper Platte River. Today it is still the home of the people who call themselves "Tsistsistas" or "beautiful people". The name Cheyenne was originally the name given them by the neighboring Sioux. It meant "red talkers" or "people of a different speech". This was because the Cheyenne language is an Algonquin based tongue, while the Lakota speak a Siouan dialect.

The Northern Cheyenne homeland is a reservation of 437,000 acres in southeastern Montana (NAA, 280), just east of their neighbors, the Crow. The Northern Cheyenne continue to utilize the flag described in Dr. Whitney Smith's "Flag Book of the United States", a light blue flag bearing the Indian glyph of the "morning star", or "Wo' hih' hev" (FBUS, 260-262). The symbol has been used for ages by the Cheyenne in their art and decorating. One common use mentioned in Dr. Smith's book is in the religious ceremony known as the Sun Dance. In the Sun Dance, warriors would paint the star symbol on their chests (e-mail, Eugene D. Little Coyote, date May 11, 1997) .

The morning star recalls the name of one of the Northern Cheyenne's great chiefs, who was also known by the name "Dull Knife". Wo'hih'hev led his people to their current home after defeat in the Indian wars of the Plains. As such the wo'hih'ev symbolizes hope and guidance.

According to Dr. Smith, the flag dates back to 1964 and is based upon a design suggested by the then President of the Northern Cheyenne, John Woodenlegs (Ibid). One other source, Eugene D. Little Coyote attributes the actual design to Hubert Bearchum, but agrees that the design was adopted by the administration of Pres. Woodenlegs. Mr. Little Coyote also notes that along with adopting the "Morning Star" design, Pres. Woddenlegs selected "Wo'hih'hev" as his name for himself (e-mail, dated May, 11, 1997).

Mr. Little Coyote points out that if the flag employed traditional coloration, the background would be a brownish-red while the star would appear in black.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603