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The Cheyenne "outbreaks" that occurred in Indian Territory were basically breakouts from confinement. Restriction to the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation, thrice reduced during its creation in the 1860s, severely limited Cheyenne resources and freedom. This undermined the efforts of the "peace chiefs," who sought to restrain the actions of some Cheyenne military societies and to limit raids by young men seeking horses and warrior status.

Such activities were one factor in the Red River War of 1874–75. The Southern Cheyenne were in 1874 outraged by the theft of their horses by Kansas marauders and the loss of bison to commercial hide hunters. The Cheyenne were in turn accused of some attacks on wagon teamsters and Kansas settlers. In June Cheyenne warriors took part in the failed Comanche and Kiowa assault on the Adobe Walls hide trading post in Texas.

The War Department in July 1874 demanded that southern Plains Indians who wished to avoid injury from a forthcoming "pacification" campaign enroll at Indian agencies. But a month later, a violent Kiowa-versus-cavalry confrontation at Anadarko Agency encouraged a mass exodus from western Indian Territory. This and enrollment failures led to the classification of nearly 85 percent of the two thousand Southern Cheyenne as "hostile." Many of those who fled sought shelter along the entrenched streams of the Texas Panhandle bison range. Converging army columns destroyed many encampments of refugee and nontreaty Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne in the watershed of the Red River that autumn and winter. By March 1875 most Cheyenne leaders had reported to Fort Sill or quietly returned to the Darlington Agency.

A second "outbreak" came in 1878. The Northern Cheyenne had surrendered and been sent south after participating in the "Great Sioux War" of 1876–77. There they encountered resentment from the Southern Cheyenne, who now had to share the already inadequate ration allotments from Darlington Agency. Malaria and other unfamiliar diseases also ravaged the newcomers. In September 1878 approximately one-third of the nine hundred northerners attempted to migrate. They believed that the 1851 and 1868 treaties left them the option of settling among the Lakota "Sioux" in South Dakota. However, troops from Fort Reno were sent to force their return.

After an epic flight-fight through Kansas, Dull Knife's band surrendered in Nebraska and Little Wolf's in Montana. Nearly half of Dull Knife's followers were killed in an attempted escape from Fort Robinson, Nebraska, in January 1879. However, the bands' survivors were never returned south. Many of their descendants settled upon a Northern Cheyenne reservation created in Montana in 1884.

Michael A. Hughes


Donald J. Berthrong, The Southern Cheyennes (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963).

William Y. Chalfant, Cheyennes at Dark Water Creek: The Last Fight of the Red River War (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997).

John H. Monnett, Tell Them We Are Going Home: The Odyssey of the Northern Cheyennes (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001).

Wilbur S. Nye, Carbine and Lance: The Story of Old Fort Sill (3d ed., rev.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Michael A. Hughes, “Cheyenne Outbreaks,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=CH029.

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