One summer evening discussion on a front porch sparked Webs of Kinship: Family in Northern Cheyenne Nationhood, Christina Gish Hill’s 2017 book from the...

One summer evening discussion on a front porch sparked Webs of Kinship: Family in Northern Cheyenne Nationhood, Christina Gish Hill’s 2017 book from the University of Oklahoma Press. A friend on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana mentioned that “Dull Knife had a family,” a remark which clarified for Hill the importance of kinship in understanding Indigenous societies on the northern plains. Many historians, ethnographers, and anthropologists have attempted to fit the Cheyenne and other Indigenous people into political boxes such as nation states and tribes. Hill argues that a more accurate method of imagining these Native American polities is by tracing the spiderweb-like links between families and kin across time and space. These networks give the Northern Cheyenne society tremendous resiliency and flexibility, and have allowed them to retain autonomy and land base into the twenty first century. Using the words of several Northern Cheyenne informants, as well as written sources and images, Dr. Hill, an associate professor of anthropology at Iowa State University, recounts the history of the Northern Cheyenne through the tumultuous and tragic nineteenth century, and in doing so presents a compelling example of strength and perseverance through reciprocity and kinship.


Stephen Hausmann is a doctoral candidate at Temple University and Visiting Instructor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently writing his dissertation, a history of race and the environment in the Black Hills and surrounding northern plains region of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

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