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Cheyenne Children, Protected and Loved

Last updated on June 30, 2020

The Northern Northern Cheyenne Reservation is in SE Montana, beside the Custer battlefield. I lived here in the early 1990s, and have often reflected on good things I learned by Being There. Early on, I found that most of my questions were answered by observing. I learned to listen more than talk.

Cheyenne Chief Society meeting, Lame Deer, MT. November 1992 Photo: Lisa Gruwell

I am touched by how gentle the Cheyenne are with their children; yelling at kids is not the norm, as it is in the surrounding American culture. Tribal society is family society. Neighbors are considered aunts or uncles, and all kids are close like siblings or cousins, and the result is that they all take responsibility for one another.

At gatherings, like powwows, ceremonies or parties, kids regularly look over at the adults to see who’s watching; this behavior is a cultural universal. Invariably, a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle will be looking back. If the kids are getting too rambunctious, the watching adult merely shakes her head or gives a certain look. Responding, the kids quiet down. I observed this over and over. It was like dance partners who communicate with look and touch.

Cheyenne boys at Chief Society meeting, November ’92. Photo: Lisa Gruwell

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