Cheyenne War Chiefs

Native Americans

Northern Cheyenne War Chiefs, Little Wolf and Morning Star, 1873 by William Henry Jackson.

This is a studio photograph of two great Native American war chiefs of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, taken in 1873.

The Cheyenne are an indigenous Native American people belonging to the Algonquin language family. Their original homeland was in Minnesota but in the face of white settlement and aggression they relocated westward, eventually centering in the Black Hills area. During the 1800s they were a powerful Native American group, and they waged successful wars against their neighbours as well as white settlers and the American army.

Their ethnic and linguistic group was contained two main divisions, known to the American government as the Northern and Southern Cheyenne, but in their own language the so called Northern Cheyenne referred to themselves as Notameohmésêhese meaning “Northern Eaters” or simply as Ohmésêhese meaning “Eaters”, while the Southern Cheyenne referred to themselves as Heévâhetaneo’o meaning “Roped People”. Their society was centered the horse culture, namely on the use and breeding of horses in furtherance of a nomadic lifestyle.

Because of the frequent conflicts of his people with neighbouring tribes and with the American army, military leadership was extremely important. Military leaders or war chiefs were elected by the tribes.

One of their greatest chiefs was Little Wolf ( c. 1820–1904) who led his people in many campaigns, including the daring escape of his tribe from Army captivity back to the Northern Cheyenne’s homeland in a heroic exodus known as the Northern Cheyenne Exodus. Little Wolf (perhaps better translated as Little Coyote) was given the high honour of being named as one of the Old Man Chiefs by a council of his people.

Chief Morning Star (1810-1883), as he was called by Federal Officials, was also an important Cheyenne war chief. Among his people, he was more properly known as Dull Knife.

Chief Morning Star/Dull Knife was an admired warrior and led resistance against white settlement and expansion. After Custer’s defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn, Dull Knife allied with the Sioux but he was eventually defeated and forced to surrender. He and the people under him were interred in Indian Territory in Oklahoma. There the tribe suffered starvation and disease, so several attempts were made to break out and return to their homeland. Many were killed in the attempt, but Dull Knife and some of his people were able to escape and return to their homelands.

This iconic photograph of the two chiefs was taken by William Henry Jackson, a photographer renowned for his pictures which documented life on the rapidly changing western frontier. It is thanks to Jackson that we are able to glimpse what life was like on the frontier of the Old West.



Scare Mongering About New Immigrants

New Immigrants

New Immigrants

The early 1900s saw a wave of immigration to America from Europe, particularly Italy, Poland, the Balkans and Ireland. The majority of these immigrants passed through Ellis Island and then set about to carve out a small piece of the American dream for themselves and their families. Most of these new immigrants repaid their adoptive country with hard work and an enthusiastic desire to become part of the society which had offered them a chance for a better life.

Romanian Immigrants

Romanian Immigrants

Unfortunately, not all Americans welcomed these new arrivals with open arms; they looked upon the new immigrants as an invading force that would corrupt traditional American values, and spread criminality, superstition and vice. In one book entitled THE OLD WORLD IN THE NEW THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PAST AND PRESENT IMMIGRATION TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE (available online at, the author Edward Alsworth Ross,  Ph.D., LL.D. — a Professor of Sociology in the University of Wisconsin —  states categorically that immigrants are more likely to end up in insane asylums, that they commit more crimes, that they are a drain on the public purse because they require more social assistance, that they abused their children, and were prone to vices such as gambling, drinking and prostitution.

Italian Family

Italian Immigrant Family on Social Assistance

Ross also describes an achievement gap between immigrant children and “true Americans”. Immigrant children were said to be dull behaviour problems, trailing behind genuine “Americans”,  defined by the Mr. Ross as people of German or British descent. Immigrant children were supposedly less intelligent and fit mainly to go into simple menial work.

This same book, which is a cornucopia of jaw dropping racism and invective against new Americans, spends a lot of time worrying about the danger of the higher birth rate among immigrants, and the danger that they will squeeze out the old population, turning huge sections of the nation into copies of their old countries.

The author goes on to state:

“Our descendants,” a social worker remarked to me, “will look back on the nineteenth century as our Golden Age, just as we look back on Greece.” Thoughtful people whose work takes them into the slime at the bottom of our foreignized cities and industrial centers find decline actually upon us.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Immigrant Worker

An Exhausted Immigrant Worker

It is interesting to read some of the anti-immigrant publications that were published during the early 1900s; a lot of the things that you hear today said against new immigrants and the need for a rational immigration policy are not new at all, and the same dire warnings about immigration were uttered over a century ago about different ethnic groups. Ironically some of the same people who now want to limit immigration to America because of its supposed ill effects and costs, are the descendents of the same immigrants who were vilified when their grand parents and great parents came to America.



learning English

New Immigrants Attending English Classes

Perhaps the next time we hear someone railing against immigration and the supposed ill effects of new comers on American society, we should reflect that there is nothing new about this kind of scare mongering.



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