Henrietta Mann, Ph.D. Cheyenne: One More Heartbreaking Road to Historical Trauma

Dr. Henrietta Mann

As an elder of the Cheyenne Nation, I have cherished my long walk on this good earth.

The Cheyenne were warned by the Great Prophet Sweet Medicine that they would one day meet a light-skinned people who would number as many as the stars, who would bring their own ways, and who would hunger for and take the land and all its abundant resources that the Everywhere Spirit had placed there for the use of “the natural, ordinary people of this earth island.” He said to avoid them; however, they would be so numerous they would not be able to stand before them, and they would do what they want to do.

It happened as prophesied.

Manifest Destiny, imperialistic expansion across the continent, was the justification for taking the land. For the Cheyenne and Arapaho, land greed, the discovery of gold in Colorado Territory, and their efforts to protect their territory resulted in the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre of Black Kettle’s band. An estimated 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho men, and primarily women and children were murdered and their bodies were savagely mutilated. Four years later, this same band of Cheyenne, was again attacked at dawn at the Battle of the Washita. The number of fatalities range anywhere from 30 to 60. Their pony herd of over 800 was also slaughtered. In addition, 53 women and children were taken as prisoners of war.

Two of my great-grandmothers were in Black Kettle’s camps at Sand Creek and the Washita when they were attacked. One became a prisoner of war. Miraculously, they survived these two massacres and imprisonment, and I am their direct descendant.

I grew up in the Red Moon community in western Oklahoma. I have lived with and seen the devastating traumatic effects of two massacres conducted by the United States military. I have seen the effects of starvation when the United States government withheld or skimped on food rations called for in treaty stipulations. I have seen the effects of an assimilationist-oriented education in United States federal manual labor schools on reservations and in off reservation boarding schools were children were forcefully taken from their families for years at a time. I have witnessed the erosion of our cultures and languages, the lifeblood of our people.

Tragically, the uprooted Christian faith carried to this Turtle Island augmented the Anglo-European settler practice of colonialism and domination. Regardless of church and state separation, churches joined with the federal government and relentlessly attacked the spiritual ways of this land’s first peoples and sought to convert them to Christianity. They worked together so closely that Indian reservations were divided among the various denominations whereby they assumed responsibility for administering federal Indian policy and for educating Indian children. The government’s aggressive philosophy of Manifest Destiny, the Christian duty of church clergy, and education nearly brought about the total physical and cultural annihilation of this land’s first peoples.

The foregoing serves as background to what creates intergenerational historical trauma a syndrome experienced by colonized, massacred, dislocated peoples, whose cultures also have been attacked and eroded. One can mournfully predict that this, too, will be the result of what is happening to innocent children and babies pulled away from their parents on the southern border of this our sacred homeland. How can one dismiss the heartbreak, fear, and disbelief of the parents, as they were deported without their children?

Native peoples, too, have had to confront intermittent relocation, imposed by agents of someone referred to as “the great white father” of a government located in faraway place we called “Washingdyn.” Our beloved and cherished children, too, were forcefully taken from our families to be educated in places, sometimes thousands of miles away, where strangers expected them to not only learn new ways but to pray to a different God. Some were never seen again.

As an elder of the Cheyenne Nation, I have cherished my long walk on this good earth. As one of my great-grandmother’s said, “I [too] have seen good and harsh times,” but I never expected to live long enough to see “the great white father” institute such an ill-conceived and hard-hearted immigration directive.

How sad it is that some forget the woman called the Statue of Liberty who stands in the waters of life with her light held high to welcome immigrants to a new home. This is the home generations upon generations of my ancestors first loved and now share with the many who came seeking a new life and perhaps sanctuary, sometimes carrying only hope in their hearts. It is that hope and the great capacity we have been given to love one another and to revere each small grain of soil of this sacred landscape that makes this country good, welcoming, safe, and honorable. It is time to stop the trajectory of yet another heartbreaking road to historical trauma. I urge us all to mend our broken hearts and spirits, and to mend the circle of all-encompassing life that has been broken in inhospitable acts against inhumanity and re-institute simple but powerful love and peace.

Native American education has been the focal point of Dr. Henrietta Mann's work for more than 50 years. In 1991, Rolling Stone Magazine named her as one of the ten leading professors in the nation. In 2016 Dr. Mann became one of the first two Native American educational scholars ever to be elected to membership in the National Academy of Education.

Henrietta also is sought out as a spiritual mentor and she has prayed at ceremonies ranging from Indigenous gatherings in New Zealand to Ground Zero. At 16 she enrolled at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education degree, later earning a Master of Arts degree from Oklahoma State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of New Mexico.

Comments (6)
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Sorry, but since I have taken Native American History and other classes to learn more about First Nation people such as my ancestors. I do not have any more pity for the Mexicans that I do the people called Pilgrims, the Spanish invaders were here first, they enslaved our people, So when you speak about Pilgrims you bet your bottom the Spaniards and Mexicans are included. what did ya all forget the real History.


Beautiful important words, history and wisdom. Mexicans are First Nation people as well as some more Spaniards and some African descendants. Some are all of the above. Mexicans, in some parts of Mexico do not speak Spanish as their first language but speak a First nation language. The majority that have fled to the US, are of first nation people. The majority here as part of the US for many generations - remember the border crossed them versus moving into the US. I am of Central American descent. Like some Mexicans - of Mayan heritage. Other Mexicans may have a stronger Aztec heritage. We should not allow colonizers to divide and conquer as they have done successfully time and time again. Mexican First Nation people were also enslaved. The Spaniards who arrived in Mexico enslaved first nation people and some had children and intermarried. For some families, we are the children of the slaver as well as the children of those who were enslaved. Latinos in the US, we are often rainbow children. We need to make peace with the fact that our ancestors hurt first nation people and our ancestors were first nation people who were hurt and continue to be hurt by systemic oppression. In some parts of Mexico and Latin America, our ancestors were also African slaves or Africans who fought for their freedom in the Americas to not become slaves.

Yooper Jim
Yooper Jim

From Dallas Goldtooth: Those crossing that border, they Indigenous. -Those babies and children being taken by US officials, they Indigenous. -Those fleeing their homelands because of state-sponsored terror, they Indigenous. -Those coerced to travel north because they need to feed/protect/support their families, they Indigenous.

They are my people, no matter the distance. They are my people, no matter the language. They are my people. They are my people.


With great respect and honor, Grandmother Dr. Henrietta Mann, Miigwetch for the tremendous service you have provided to all of our relatives. Your inter-cultural achievements extend far beyond what will be spoken or written ~ and that is considerable, indeed. I wish to assure you that, among the many awakening ones with whom our facebook groups are interacting, spiritual integrity to our Great Laws of Binding, is returning to our lands. You are a beacon for us all, helping to guide us on to mend the broken hoop. Having been raised in one culture with another stored deep in my bones, I know my earthwalk is one of being a bridge. It is an honor and a privilege I humbly hold in my heart. Out of curiosity, Grandmother, are you related to the one known as Wilma Mankiller? She was a revered role model for me.

As a 1/4 Anishinaabe-Ojibwe, growing up in a small town, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) setting, in the '40's, '50's and '60's, there were no blacks, no jews, no catholics and most definitely no indians. As children, our dad and both uncles had been kidnapped from their families and were isolated in "boarding schools". Our culture, traditions, language and sacred ceremonies were beaten out of them ~ so much so that when we children became adults, craving information, our father was unable to remember the name of our Tribe or our Nation. To date, the intergenerational trauma has greatly affected 3 generations of my immediate family. I am doing my very best to keep it limited to that.

In my facebook families, I often end with * WE ARE * ONE HEART * ThankUS.


Sister Shyanne, there is no such thing as "real history". The history that was written into books, and called, "history", was primarily whatever the male-dominated, war mongering, priesthood ~ "his" story ~ wanted it to look like. Conversely, stories that were passed down from generation to generation by our Indigenous Relatives, are far more accurate. There was, and continues to be, great honor, respect and reverence for Truth as well as for the Greater Good of All. There was-is no need to distort Truth. There is nothing to hide. This cannot be said, with any accuracy, about many who were not raised in a traditional First Peoples culture.