Cheyenne - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Cheyenne world was a dynamic, operative system with interrelated components. Within the Cheyenne universe ( Hestanov), the world was divided into seven major levels. Spirit-beings ( maiyun ) reside in this universe and their sacredness is relative to their relationship to Ma'heo'o, the creator of all physical and spiritual life in Hestanov. These levels are intersected by the Maiheyuno, a Personal spirit residing at each of the cardinal directions. Ri-ous animals, birds, and plants are manifestations of these spirit-beings. In Cheyenne religious expression, aspects of these spirit-beings or the spirit-beings themselves are entwined symbolically with plant and animal forms portrayed in Cheyenne ceremonies. Many Cheyenne today view the world's ecological crisis as an end to Hestanov. Christian missionary activity has been continuous among the Cheyenne for a century, especially the Mennonites and Catholics. Today there is a variety of religious beliefs and expressions including Christianity and the American Indian church, although Sacred Arrows ( Mahuts ) and the Medicine Hat ( Isiwun ) remain the most venerated sacred objects.

Religious Practitioners. Aside from the Keepers of Mahuts and Isiwun and the arrow priests, there were numerous Cheyenne shamans and doctors, each possessing a particular religious or healing power.

Ceremonies. There were four major religious ceremonies: the renewal of Mahuts, the Hoxehe-vohomo' ehestotse (New Life Lodge or Sun Dance), the Massaum (Animal Dance), and Isiwun. Mahuts was given to the Cheyenne by their cultural hero, Mutsoyef (Sweet Medicine). The four Sacred Arrows included two "Man Arrows" for warfare and two "Bison Arrows" for hunting. The Arrows were renewed every few years, unless a murder took place or a pledger needed their blessing. Presently, the renewal of the Mahuts, the New Life Lodge, and ceremonies surrounding Isiwun are still performed.

Arts. Aboriginal arts featured a particular musical style, songs, and an artistic tradition, all important parts of Cheyenne social and ceremonial life. The Cheyenne artistic tradition reflected not only the sacred but the socioeconomic pursuits of men and women. Presently, there are a number of prominent Cheyenne artists, and Cheyenne songs are still performed at various functions.

Medicine. Disease arose from both natural and supernatural causes. Curing techniques involved the use of herbal and root remedies, ritual purification, the sweat lodge, smoking, prayer, and sometimes surgery. Both men and women were healers. Treatment of sickness was designed to restore the patient not only biologically but spiritually as well. Presently, most Cheyenne use Western clinical medicine to cure afflictions, but native healers are still used by many people.

Death and Afterlife. Cheyenne believed that death, like disease, could have a natural or spiritual causation. As a cultural phenomenon, death was a spiritual process. At birth, Ma'heo'o provided the child with the "gift of breath/power" ( omotome ) and "spiritual potential" ( mahta'sooma). These two gifts are developed through life. As a person ages, the process is reversed. Mahta'sooma leaves the body, resulting in behavior and cognitive changes. Next omotome departs, bringing on death. The spirit of the deceased then travels up the long fork of the Milky Way to Seana, the camp of the dead. If the dead individual was an outcast, died in a violent accident or by suicide, or was an unredeemed sinner, he or she would travel the "suicide road," the short fork of the Milky Way. Others would return to earth as malevolent spirits. The concern for following the "good life," and so to have a "good death," is still prevalent among the Cheyenne.

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 17, 2011 @ 10:10 am
that was good but i need more it's for a project due friday
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 20, 2012 @ 2:14 pm
I would like to say thank you for all the information that was on this page. I had alot of information and learned new things. About my culture and now I can teach others about it to.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 13, 2012 @ 12:12 pm
For much more information, read from the 2-volume book _Sweet Medicine_ by Peter J. Powell. He is the adopted son of the Cheyenne tribal historian, John Stands-in-Timber, and became the tribal historian. He worked with both the 'Southern' (i.e. reservation) Cheyenne in Oklahoma and the 'Northern' Cheyenne, who maintain some of their tribal lands in Montana & Wyoming.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 5, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
I would like someone to give me a brief outline of gender roles in Cheyenne culture if it differs from western culture and how anyone help ?
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 14, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
I would like to say thank you for the information for my paper.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 29, 2014 @ 7:19 pm
Nice, and very helpful for essays, and papers. I enjoy sing this to help me.
Donovan Taylor
Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 24, 2014 @ 3:15 pm
I love to research all aspect of my Cheyenne culture and strive to interpret to Cheyenne translation; which, is quite interesting. Oral history if exposed to elders is valuable as well and slightly differs from scripts of scholars and I am appreciative of any information, "Thank YOu all for this piece".
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 13, 2014 @ 7:19 pm
wow thanks even though i sat like in whole hour but im cool with that i need like of infromation
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 10, 2015 @ 11:23 pm
Maiyun and Maiheyuno are two different spellings of the same word referring to the plural of Ma'heo'o. Ma'heo'o is a modern way of spelling the singular for sacred being. Older spellings of the singular are Maheo and Mahiyu.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 10, 2015 @ 12:12 pm
thanks for making this, hepls with the project we have in school
Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 19, 2015 @ 10:10 am
Thank you for direction. It brings clarity to some information that was given when I was young, without having to be told that I am a question box. :D ... I always asked too many questions my mom told me.
Thanks again. Blessings to you.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 15, 2019 @ 3:15 pm
Thank you, this is very helpful. Maybe you can add more information?
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 8, 2019 @ 3:15 pm
Cheyenne means Awaking of the cool blue earth. My Great Grandmother was Cheyenne & She told my Grandma this.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 16, 2019 @ 4:16 pm
This was a great article, just need more information on the arts and crafts.
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 7, 2020 @ 10:22 pm
Great article, do you happen to know the author, I am trying to cite this article for a research project on the Cheyenne? I would really appreciate it!

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: