The Cheyenne “Hotametaneo’o”, literally Dog-Men, were called Dog Soldiers by the 19th century white population of the Plains region. One of the six major Cheyenne military societies, the Dog Soldiers Society slowly became the most powerful by the mid 1800’s. They were the elite military leaders also in charge of the tribal discipline, community hunts and ceremonies. So powerful and aggressive were the Dog Soldiers that the Civil Council Chiefs lost all control over them. Over time they became a separate family clan from the tribe, at odds with the Peace Chiefs, such as Black Kettle and White Antelope, regarding how to deal with white intruders and the US Army. They absolutely refused to sign any treaties or entertain the thought of moving to a reservation. They were described by a reporter covering the negotiations at Medicine Lodge in 1867 as “…the awesome warriors were armed to the teeth with revolvers and bows … proud, haughty, defiant as should become those who are to grant favors, not beg them.” From a territory situated in what is now Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado, their aggressive warrior behavior was also directed toward their ancestral enemies, Comanche and Kiowa to the South, Pawnee to the East, Crow to the North and Shoshone and the Ute to the West. They kept a busy schedule!
Like other Societies, the Dog Soldier’s had its own symbols, regalia, dances and songs. Often Dog Soldiers wore their hair braided and wrapped in trade cloth as well as long nickel silver hair pieces hanging on their backs. They also often wore breast plates, either hair pipes or german silver pectoral with hanging najas. Bone Hair Pipe chockers were also very popular sometimes decorated with abalone shell. Most of the warriors carried an eagle bone whistle around their necks when going to a fight.
One of the most powerful article was the shield. Highly decorated with unique, personal and mystic symbols dedicated to the spiritual protection of the warrior. Often seen in visions, the symbols on the shield were accentuated by the addition of eagle feathers or others objects.
Their weapons of choice were the bow and arrows, knives and lances, but quickly they added pistols and rifles acquired through raids and trade, yet the greatest war deed was counting coup, which was accomplished with their crooked lance, bow, quirt or coup stick. The most peculiar and symbolic item that distinguished the Dog Soldiers is the “Dog Rope”, a long hide strip or sash decorated with quillwork and eagle feathers that was either looped over the right shoulder and hanging under the left arm or secured to the breechclout belt. At the end was attached a red painted wooden pin that could be staked to the ground indicating the warrior intention to not retreat and fight to the end to protect his people. One such warrior died staked to the ground at the battle of Summit Springs in 1869.
This pictorial painted buffalo robe describes a battle between Crow and Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, possibly a battle which occurred in 1863 in Eastern Montana along the Big Horn River. The narration throughout the drawings indicates the Cheyenne as the victors of this close quarters combat. The imagery is the accurate description of real people and real events. These are not random drawings, but very specific identifiable renditions of deeds and items belonging to the Dog Soldiers or the Crow warriors. For instance, the shields drawn are very obvious Cheyenne imagery. Similar examples of shields exist in museums and private collections today. In the upper right corner, the rider on the red horse is wearing a trade blanket with a magnificent Cheyenne beaded blanket strip. The warrior in the upper left is holding a society quirt, possibly third degree, while the one in the center riding the red horse with black spots, as well as the one at the bottom left, is wearing a Dog rope or no retreat sash unique to the Dog Soldier’s war tradition. On the right side, the warrior on the black and white horse wears a upright headdress and the fighter in the lower corner is using his crooked lance to count coup on a Crow victim. In the bottom center is a representation of a shield associated with Cheyenne Dog Society. An interesting weapon adopted by Dog-Men was the cavalry sword, depicted with two Cheyenne fighters in close combat. Research has shown that 17 such swords where recovered at Tall Bull’s camp after the Summit Springs battle in 1869.
In each of the vignettes, we see close hand to hand combat that demonstrate the Dog Soldiers bravery and power. The horse’s bridles were also displaying the recently taken scalps, and all the horse’s tails are tied up, telling us that they had been prepared for war prior the fight. The warrior on the top row also shows his preparation, his entire body painted for war in the tradition of the Contrary warrior who were highly respected for their bravery in combat. Another interesting vignette on the top row shows a Crow warrior armed with a pistol and a Crow coupstick or crooked lance, obviously a brave fighter. Another clear indication of tribal affiliation is the representation of the classic, traditional Crow hair style, the pompadour or tied as a front top knot. Many other items are easily identified throughout the painting, weapons (rifles, muskets, blanket gun), clothing (leggings, moccasins, cape, shirts) and other imageries, but one intriguing image is on the top right corner and depicts what looks like bear paws/tracks! Could it be the artist name glyph? We will certainly never know for sure, but there was a prominent Dog Soldier warrior named Bear Paw/Tracks!
Two other clues indicate a Cheyenne artist and provenance. First the pictorial style, perhaps better than any other tribes, Cheyenne artists developed a recognizable language of images. The manner the horses were portrayed in all their art, whether on painted robes, tipi liners or ledger drawings, with their graceful movement and long legs, very specific body or hair coloration helps identify the tribal affiliation of the artist.
Lastly, the hide has been cut in the Cheyenne tradition, unlike the Sioux, Cheyenne would cut out around the horns and eyes leaving a narrow curved hide strip for the head. The front legs were sewn backward creating a more square hide