The Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation is located in present-day southeastern Montana, and is approximately 444,000 acres in size with 99% tribal ownership. We have approximately 9,882 enrolled tribal members with about 4,838 residing on the reservation.
The Northern Cheyenne were allies of the Lakota in the Black Hills War of 1876–77. Many of the people still care for this land. Numerous Cheyenne work as foresters, fire fighters and Emergency medical services employees, to help save the land they have left.
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 School, and the Ashland Powwow are sites of special interest in the Ashland area. Lame Deer is tribal headquarters and home of the Northern Cheyenne Powwow.
The Northern Cheyenne are close relatives of the Southern Cheyenne, an American Indian nation located in Oklahoma. Following the Black Hills War and earlier conflicts in Colorado (see Sand Creek Massacre and Washita Massacre), the Northern Cheyenne were sent to Oklahoma to join their southern relatives. Unacclimated to the hot conditions of western Oklahoma (Indian Territory at the time), the northerners began dying like flies. 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 established the Tongue River Indian Reservation, now named the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, of 371,200 acres (1,502 km2) by executive order of President Chester A. Arthur on November 16, 1884.
The boundaries excluded Cheyenne who had homesteaded further east near the Tongue River. Those people were served by the St. Labres Catholic Mission. The western boundary is the Crow Indian Reservation. 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. The Reservation’s timbered ridges in southeastern Montana and northwestern South Dakota are also part of the Crow Reservation and Custer National Forest.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,018 people, 526 households, and 401 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 36.3 people per square mile (14.0/km²). There are 573 housing units at an average density of 10.3 per square mile (4.0/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 5.80% White, 0.05% African American, 92.47% Native American, 0.05% Asian, 0.15% from other races, and 1.49% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.18% of the population. 67.9% spoke English, 28.9% Cheyenne and 2.7% Crow as their first language.
There were 526 households out of which 44.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.9% were married couples living together, 27.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.6% were non-families. 21.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.77 and the average family size was 4.42.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 43.7% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 16.3% from 45 to 64, and 5.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 93.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.2 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $19,828, and the median income for a family was $19,821. Males had a median income of $26,484 compared with $23,500 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $7,247. About 46.9% of families and 50.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 59.4% of those under the age of 18 and 49.0% of those 65 and older.
Chief Dull Knife College
Chief Dull Knife College (originally Dull Knife Memorial College) is a small, open-admission, Native American tribal community college and land grant institution. It is located on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana, USA. Current enrollment is 141 students. More than half of its graduates move on to four-year colleges. The school has one main building.
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 school is named in honor of Morning Star, who had been chief of the Northern Cheyenne, and who is sometimes known as Dull Knife.
It was noticed that few Cheyenne who were attending colleges away from the reservation were actually graduating; many were dropping out and returning to the reservation. Theories were advanced that students were having difficulty adjusting to a culturally different environment; another that they were being subjected to racial discrimination. Cheyenne students often had family responsibilities, caring for children or elderly relatives, while the available educational institutions were located far from the reservation. Students from the tribe were not adequately prepared for rigorous academic work due to poor quality education and resources. These problems are shared by many tribes and the tribal colleges and universities movement began among American Indian educators to provide educational opportunities to Indian students that were tailored to their cultural and educational needs. Beginning with Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona in the Navajo Nation in 1968, tribal colleges were opened on many reservations.
Chartered in September 1975 under the leadership of former tribal president John Woodenlegs, Dull Knife Memorial College originally operated in army tents training students in mining, construction and forestry for development in nearby communities. In 1975 funding for permanent facilities was granted by the BIA. In 1978, it began to offer academic courses leading to Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees, as well as vocational certificates. Associate degrees generally require two years of work over 6 semesters. As of 2009 tuition and fees for a semester of study was about $1,150. In September 2001, the name was officially changed to Chief Dull Knife College. It has proven difficult due to lack of funding to fully realize the cultural goals related to Cheyenne culture, but significant progress has been made. Enrollment is 85% American Indian with 90% of the students having a background of poverty. About 60% of Dull Knife graduates go on to a four-year college.