Tsistsistas, is the Cheyenne word meaning “Human Beings” or “The People.” The Cheyenne are descended from an ancient, Algonquian-language speaking tribe referred to as Chaa. They were also historically referred to as the Marsh People of the Great Lakes region, as they lived along the head of the Mississippi River in the central part of what is now Minnesota.
The Cheyenne were initially sedentary people – farming and raising crops of their main food sources, such as corn, beans, and squash – before later becoming hunters and gatherers. In 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition encountered the Cheyenne living on the upper Missouri River.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes became allies and formed into one Nation. Around the 1830s the Cheyenne were trapping beaver and buffalo and tanning the hides for trading purposes. Economic trade with the French, Europeans, and others began along the Arkansas River in what is now southeastern Colorado, near and at Bent’s Old Fort.
Hinono’ei, the Arapaho people, lived in the Great Lakes region along the Mississippi River. Around 1680, they began to migrate out of the Great Lakes area after being forcibly moved or pushed out of their established territory by the whites and traditional enemy tribes. Their adaptation to newer lands on the vast Great Plains and their will to survive and advance their people included making weapons such as the bow and arrow and the spear. As the horse and the buffalo flourished, the Arapahos became self-sustaining in their new territory.
Around 1796, while living and hunting buffalo on the Central Great Plains, the Arapaho people migrated to camps along the Cheyenne River near the Black Hills in what is now South Dakota. It is said that this is the area where the Cheyenne became allies with the Arapaho and, in the early 1800s, they began to camp, hunt, and live together. By 1885, the Arapahos began hunting, along with their pony herd of 4,000 along Wolf Creek in what is now northwestern Oklahoma.