Battlefields, Monuments and Markers: A Guide to Native American United States Army Engagements, 1854-1890 by Andrew Hogarth and Kim Vaughan.
As recently as one hundred years ago the Great Western Plains of the United States of America was the homeland of the nomadic Native American tribes – the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Shoshone, Kiowa, Nez Perce and Comanche. Their traditional lands stretched from the Canadian border to the Texas panhandle. The years 1854-1890 marked the height of European-Native American confrontation. Battlefields, Monuments and Markers concerns itself with those years presenting to the reader over eighty sites in a series of modern photographs, a brief history of the events and a guide on how to find these places. 100 pages, plus maps.
National Library of Australia Card Number and ISBN 0-646-14651-3.
I have included only some of the main Northern Plains battlefields from the published book. Plus the locations and how to get to many of these sites are not included. This section is purely for the general lecture material.
Grattan Massacre August 18, 1854. The Horse Creek treaty of 1851 between the Plains Indians and the United States government was just three years old when hostilities broke out on the northern plains. On the 18th August, 1854 a Lakota-Miniconjou-Sioux, High Forehead, while visiting his Brule Sioux relatives near Fort Laramie, shot and killed a cow which had strayed into the camp. The cow was from a passing Mormon wagon train. The owner com- plained bitterly to the commanding officer at Fort Laramie. Lieutenant John L. Grattan and thirty soldiers were sent to investigate the matter. On arrival at the encampment Chief Conquering Bear tried to defuse the volatile situation with the soldiers. An accidental shot from the soldier lines led to open fire from both sides. Conquering Bear was killed by an exploding shell from Grattan’s howitzer cannon. The Lakota-Brule-Sioux under the leadership of Spotted Tail eventually overran the soldiers position killing every man.
Blue Water Creek Massacre September 2, 1955. In response to the Grattan incident General William S. Harney and a force of six hundred soldiers were ordered into the field to punish the Lakota-Brule-Sioux. On September 2, 1855 Harney’s scouts located Little Thunder’s Brule and Oglala village of fifty-two lodges on the Blue Water Creek in southwestern Nebraska. In negotiations lasting one hour with Little Thunder and his chiefs a compromise for surrender could not be reached. With his troops already in position Harney ordered an attack on the village. Unable to hold their position with limited warriors and inferior firearms the Sioux retreated across the open plain and to the caves in the bluffs. After the fight one cavalry officer was sent to inspect the cave areas. The officer later said the scene defied description. In one cave alone were seven women and three children all dead from the cannon fire. In the attack eighty-six Sioux were killed, five wounded and sixty to seventy women and children taken prisoner. Chief Little Thunder escaped. Four soldiers were killed, seven wounded and one reported missing in action.
Killdeer Mountain Battle. July 28, 1864. After the establishment of Fort Rice on the upper Missouri River in July, 1864, General Alfred H. Sully prepared to move his army against the Lakota-Sioux. On the morning of July 28, 1864 General Sully’s scouts located a large Sioux village at Killdeer Mountain in North Dakota. Many prominent chiefs were camped at Killdeer Mountain including the Hunkpapa-Lakota-Sioux Chiefs Sitting Bull, Four Horns and also Santee-Sioux Chief Inkpaduta. With twenty-two hundred soldiers, Sully charged the village from the southwest. The Sioux with only lances, clubs, bows and a few old muskets rallied quickly. The battle lasted six hours and it was Sitting Bull’s first encounter with the United States army. The army captured the village and burnt the huge winter food supply of the Sioux including thousands of tanned buffalo robes. Many of the camp dogs were also shot dead by the soldiers. Perhaps the most notable act of bravery during the battle was the action of Sioux The-Man-Who-Never-Walked, a cripple since birth who demanded to be taken to the front lines at the height of the fighting so he could prove his bravery as a warrior. His death song was short and proud. Thirty Santee-Sioux were killed while fighting in a ravine by the US cavalry. The Sioux successfully covered the retreat of the women and children to an area some miles from the village at Killdeer Mounain.
Sand Creek November 29, 1864. White volunteer soldiers under the command of Preacher-Colonel John M. Chivington attack the peaceful village of Black Kettle killing over one hundred and thirty-seven Indians. Many of the dead included women, children and elders. Nine Cheyenne peace chiefs died in the massacre including White Antelope, War Bonnet, Yellow Wolf and Arapaho Chief Left Hand. John Sipes a present day Chief and Tribal Historian of the Cheyenne Council of Forty-Four’s great great grandmother Mochis lost her entire family during the Sand Creek massacre. Mochis later became a woman warrior and married Medicine Water.
Platte Bridge July 26, 1865. In retaliation for the Sand Creek massacre, Southern Cheyenne Dog Soldiers join with their Northern Cheyenne relatives, Lakota-Sioux and Arapaho to attack Platte Bridge Station, killing twenty-eight soldiers. The Cheyenne were led by noted warrior Roman Nose. Between thirty to sixty Indians were killed. It is said that Lakota-Oglala-Sioux warrior Crazy Horse also participated at the Platte Bridge Station incident.
Tongue River Massacre August 29, 1865. In the summer of 1865 General Patrick E. Conner organised three columns of troops to move into the area around the Powder and Tongue River in eastern Montana Territory. On the morning of August 29, 1865 the army under Connors direct command attacked the unsuspecting Arapaho village of two hundred and fifty lodges of Chief Black Bear. Black Bear rallied his warriors who during the hand to hand fighting managed to form a defensive line enabling many women and children to escape. Between fifty to sixty Arapaho were killed, with two thousand Arapaho horses killed or stolen by the soldiers. Chief Black Bear’s son was killed during the massacre.
The Fetterman Massacre December 21, 1866. Fort Phil Kearny was kept under constant siege by Red Cloud and his Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne alliance of warriors since its establishment in the summer of 1866. On December 21, 1866 Red Cloud baited Colonel Carrington into sending out Captain Willian Fetterman and eighty-one men to relief the besieged wood cutting train. As the soldiers passed over Lodge Trail Ridge they were no longer visible from the fort, and were quickly attacked by Red Cloud’s warriors. Within one hour Captains Fetterman, Brown and Lieutenant Grummond and their seventy-nine soldiers were dead. It is said that both Fetterman and Brown committed suicide. Sixty warriors were killed in the action and a further one hundred and forty wounded. The Fetterman massacre was the worst defeat inflicted upon the United States army in the Great Plains region till Little Bighorn ten years later.
The Kidder Massacre July 2, 1867. On June 1, 1876 Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer left Fort Hays in central Kansas with eleven hundred men of the Seventh Cavalry. Custer’s orders were to engage and subdue the Lakota-Sioux and their Southern Cheyenne allies who were constantly harassing homesteaders in the region. On June 29, 1867 General William T. Sherman commander of Fort Sedgwick near Julesburg, Colorado, gave dispatches to Lieutenant Lyman S. Kidder for deliver to Custer’s command operating in the field. On July 12, 1867 Custer’s column found the mutilated and partially burned and scalped bodies of Kidder and his ten man escort. There was evidence of a running battle. Only the Sioux scout Red Bead had not been mutilated. It is believed that Lakota-Brule-Sioux chief Pawnee Killer was responsible for the death of Kidder and his soldiers.
Medicine Lodge Creek October 21, 1867. In the summer of 1867 a meeting of Indians and U.S. Government Peace Commissioners took place at Medicine Lodge, located on the Medicine River. Indian leaders who signed the treaty were Black Kettle, Little Robe, Little Bear (Cheyenne), Satank (Kiowa), Ten Bears and Silver Brooch (Comanche). Cheyenne War Chiefs Tall Bull and White Horse opposed the treaty. Bill Tallbull the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Historian always championed the life of his great grandfather during his many years of lecturing at the Lame Deer schools on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeastern Montana.
Beecher Island September 17, 1868. Cheyenne and Brule Sioux attack a group of fifty frontiersmen under the command of Major George A. Forsyth. The battle lasted seven days, six soldiers were killed and fifteen seriously wounded. The Cheyenne lost around twenty including Roman Nose. The incident at Beecher Island was organised by General Philip Sheridan who wanted to sound out the attitudes of the Southern Cheyenne Dog Soldier warriors and their Lakota-Brule-Sioux allies.
Washita River November 27, 1868. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry attack the peaceful village of Black Kettle. Over one hundred and three Indians were killed, the majority of which were women and children. Black Kettle and his wife were killed in the attack. Black Kettle and his wife were found face down in the Washita River, both had been shot in the back as they were fleeing the carnage. The United States government’s provoked attack against the Southern Cheyenne located on the Washita River in Indian Territory was in direct violation of the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867. The attack was US government sanctioned.
Summit Springs July 10, 1869. Major Eugene A. Carr and the 5th Cavalry attack the Southern Cheyenne Dog Soldier Society village of Tall Bull and White Horse. Five hundred Indians were camped at Summit Springs, fifty-two were killed and seventeen women taken prisoner. War Chief Tall Bull was killed during the battle. The United States government’s policy of removal or extermination for the Cheyenne from their Colorado homeland to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) was now completed. The surviving Cheyenne Dog Soldiers and their families under the leadership of White Horse headed for the Powder River in Montana and safety with their Northern Cheyenne kin. Many of the survivors of Summit Springs would later gain some revenge against the Seventh Cavalry when attacked at the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory on June 25, 1876.
Adobe Walls June 27, 1874. A large war party of Comanche, Kiowa and Southern Cheyenne numbering around seven hundred warriors attack the buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls Settlement. Three hunters were killed, thirteen Indians were killed in the battle but it has been suggested that bodies may have been removed during the engagement. John Sipes one of the forty-four present-day Chiefs and Tribal Historian of the traditional Cheyenne great great grandfather Medicine Water led many of the Southern Cheyenne warriors during the fight at Adobe Walls against the buffalo hunters. Medicine Water had recently been made the chief of the renowned Bowstring Warrior Society.
Palo Duro Canyon September 27, 1874. Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie with eight companies of the 4th Cavalry attack and destroy a large village of Kiowa, Comanche and Southern Cheyenne. Three Indians were killed during the battle the most prominent being Kiowa War Chief Red War Bonnet. Mackenzie captured over fourteen hundred Indian horses and ordered them to be shot. The bones of the dead Indian horses remained at the bottom of the Palo Duro Canyon for the next eight decades until their removal in the early 1950’s. The tragic loss of their horses broke the spirit of the southern tribes, and most surrendered in the months after the attack.
Sappa Creek April 23, 1875. Second-Lieutenant Austin Henely with forty-five soldiers and twenty-five buffalo hunters attack and destroy the Southern Cheyenne village of the Sacred Arrow Keeper Stone Forehead and White Antelope. Between seventy to seventy-five Indians were killed, the majority being women and children. As a result of their actions at Sappa Creek, eight soldiers were given medals of honour. Today the site of Sappa Creek is unmarked on the Kansas state map. There is no monument or marker to the dead Southern Cheyenne, and present day rancher Larry Catlin tells the story of crying and wailing noises coming from the village site bottoms land in the evenings while he works in his tool shed repairing farm machinery. John Sipes Cheyenne Chief and tribal Historian has visited the Sappa Creek site often during his decades of researching his peoples culture and recent history.
The Powder River Battle, March 17, 1876. As the no-reservation Lakota-Sioux and their Northern Cheyenne allies ignored the January 31, 1876 ultimatum to return and settle on the reservations, General Philip Sheridan received authority from Washington to proceed with military action against any Indians living in and around the Powder River country in eastern Montana Territory. In early march,1876 a column of eight hundred and eighty-three soldiers and scouts under the command of Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds left Fort Fetterman in central Wyoming. On the morning of March 17, 1876 army scout Frank Grouard located the Lakota-Sioux and Northern Cheyenne village of Two Moons and He Dog. The village consisted of sixty-five lodges and the element of surprise was lost when Reynolds split his command into two units. The Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne were able to cover a retreat for the women and children while the warriors held of the soldiers. Two warriors were killed in the attack and many women and children later died from wounds inflicted during the attack. The soldiers captured much of the village and burned much needed Indian food supplies. Colonel Reynolds faced a court-martial for leaving a wounded soldier in the field.
The Rosedbud Battle, June 17, 1876. The 1868 treaty signed at Fort Laramie acknowledged the Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne ownership of a land area covering the western half of South Dakota, eastern Wyoming and Montana. This land was closed to white settlement. By 1874 gold had been discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota and hordes of prospectors flocked to the area. Angered by the violation of the 1868 treaty the non-agency Lakota-Sioux under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse retaliated by launching a series of attacks on the settlers. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, unable to halt the invasion into Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne lands, ordered all non-agency Indians to return to the reservations before the 31st January, 1876. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse rejected this ultimatum. In reply Washington sent three armies into the field to force the Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne back onto the reservations. General George Crook with a force of over thirteen hundred men and Crow and Shoshone scouts left their base at Fort Fetterman in Wyoming and headed north to the Powder River country in Montana hoping to make a strike against the Indians. By this time however, the Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne had gathered together in one large village for protection. The memory of the Reynolds attack on the Two Moons village was still recent. On the 16th June, 1876 Crook and his men camped overnight at Rosebud Creek. On breaking camp the following morning the soldiers travelled five miles and then stopped for breakfast. During this stop shots were heard to the north and Crook was informed by his scouts that a large war party was within minutes of striking. The war party led by Crazy Horse, Two Moons and Spotted Wolf numbered between one thousand to fifteen hundred warriors. The battle lasted six hours. Ten soldiers were killed and twenty one seriously wounded. Indian casualties were estimated to be slightly higher. With low supplies of ammunition Crook and his battered army moved on to Goose Creek, Wyoming to await reinforcements.
The Little Bighorn Battle, June 25, 1876. By the years 1875-1876 the majority of Plains Indian bands were settled on reservations. Agency Indians numbered over ten thousand. Life on the agencies was hard. It demanded a sedentary lifestyle, food was always in short supply and many traditional rites were outlawed. Non-agency Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse numbering some three thousand formed a stronghold of resistance in the Powder and Tongue River region of southeastern Montana. The United States government Indian policy of the time was concerned with two major issues. One being the setting up of three expeditions to force all non-agency Indians onto the reservations. The other issue involved bickering over the appropriations to feed the agency Indians. The three military expeditions set up targeted the Lakota-Sioux and Northern Cheyenne under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. General George Crook and his column of soldiers from Fort Fetterman in Wyoming suffered defeat at the Rosebud giving the Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne a distinct psychological advantage. General Alfred H. Terry and his column of soldiers from Fort Abraham Lincoln in North Dakota moved towards southeastern Montana. Colonel John Gibbon and his column of soldiers from Fort Ellis in Montana planned to rendezvous with General Terry. The military made no attempt to hide their preparations and intentions. During the months February to May 1876 the agency Indians began to leave the reservations to join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in the Powder and Tongue River region. Their motives for departure were undoubtedly mixed but all perhaps sensed that this was their last opportunity to live in the old way and make a final stand against the United States government. By retreat across the river to the bluffs above the valley. Reno lost over half his command in the battle, only the timely arrival of Captain Benteen saving his command from complete annihilation. As Reno and Benteen dug in on the bluffs Custer and his cavalry reached the northern end of the village. On reaching a high grassy ridge Custer faced a large war party of Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne crossing the river to engage his men. Custer ordered his men into battle formation along the ridge and sent two messengers to Benteen ordering that the pack train and more ammunition be brought to his position immediately. The supplies never arrived. The large war party under the leadership of Crazy Horse, Gall and Two Moons quickly forced Custer’s men to retreat up what is now known as Custer Hill. Within two hours Custer’s entire command was wiped out. The fighting continued for a further two days until the arrival of Terry and Gibbon. The Lakota-Sioux and Cheyenne scored a decisive victory.
Warbonnet Creek, July 17,1876. On the morning of the July 17, 1876 a band of eight hundred Cheyenne were attacked by the 5th Cavalry under the command of Colonel Wesley Merritt at Warbonnet Creek in northwestern Nebraska. The Cheyenne from the Red Cloud agency near Fort Robinson were travelling north for their annual buffalo hunt. Fearing the young warriors would join the non-agency Indians in the Powder River region the army decided to attack. The Cheyenne scouts Yellow Hand, Buffalo Robe and Beaver Heart engaged the attacking soldiers in a long range shoot- ing match, then Yellow Hand with his warbonnet in place rode back and forth in front of the soldiers line drawing their fire. These tactics enabled the Cheyenne to retreat to their agency near Fort Robinson. Yellow Hand was killed in the attack by famed army scout Buffalo Bill Cody. Riding up opposite sides of a draw both men dismounted, Yellow Hand fired but missed Cody. Cody wounded the warrior in the leg, his second shot killed Yellow Hand. The Cheyenne later returned to Warbonnet Creek to recover the scalped and naked body of Yellow Hand. Buffalo Bill Cody later re-enacted the events of Warbonnet Creek in his famous Wild West Show.
The Slim Buttes Battle, September 9, 1876. After the devastating defeat of Custer and his 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn, General Philip Sheridan ordered more troops west as reinforcements for the armies of Generals Terry and Crook. On August 24, 1876, General Crook and his army headed north to the Powder River country in search of the Sioux and Cheyenne. After two weeks in the field Crook’s large column of troops began to run low on rations. Captain Anson Mills with a force of one hundred and fifty men was ordered to ride to Deadwood, South Dakota some two hundred miles to the south for much needed supplies. On the journey south, scout Frank Grouard located a small village of thirty-seven lodges at Slim Buttes. At daybreak on the 9th September Mills and his men attacked the sleeping village. In an attempt to escape Chief American Horse with some twenty warriors, women and children headed for a nearby ravine. The soldiers maintained an intense fire into the ravine and some hours later American Horse and two warriors surrendered. Chief American Horse died later that evening from bullet wounds sustained while in the ravine. While the fight was still in its early stages General Crook arrived with the rest of his command but Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and their warriors had also arrived ready to fight. A long range shooting match developed between the two sides with both sides sustaining only a few casualties. Ten weeks after their defeat at the Little Bighorn the United States army had recorded its first blow against the non-agency Lakota-Sioux and theirCheyenne allies.
The Dull Knife Battle, November 25, 1876. After the defeat of Custer and the 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn valley, the large encampment of Lakota-Sioux and Northern Cheyenne broke up into smaller bands. The Northern Cheyenne established a winter camp at Red Fork, a tributary of the Powder River in Wyoming. Dull Knife and Little Wolf were the principal chiefs of this large Northern Cheyenne village. At this time Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie with a force of one thousand officers, enlisted men and Indian scouts was in the field searching for the village of Crazy Horse, the famous Lakota-Oglala-Sioux War Chief. In late November, scouts informed Mackenzie of a large Northern Cheyenne village that was located in a canyon of the Bighorn mountain range. The soldiers attacked the village at dawn on November 25, 1876. Taken completely by surprise many Cheyenne were killed. Accounts say twenty-six Indians were found dead but it is likely that many bodies were taken from the field during the battle. Little Wolf was shot seven times but survived. Others fled the burning village without blankets, moccasins, food or ammunition. Five soldiers were killed and twenty-six wounded. Soldiers appropriated the large winter food supply and horse herd. The destitute Northern Cheyenne headed for the village of Crazy Horse on the Tongue River. Unable to find sufficient food during the harsh winter months to supply the needs of such a large group of people, the Northern Cheyenne eventually surrendered to the military during the months of December 1876 and January 1877.
Battle Butte, Tongue River, January 8, 1877. Confident after their victories at Slim Buttes and over the Northern Cheyenne village of Dull Knife and Little Wolf the United States army was keen to subdue the last of the non-agency Lakota-Sioux and the small band of Northern Cheyenne under the leadership of Two Moons. General Nelson A. Miles established a cantonment at the mouth of the Tongue River in Montana from where he hoped to strike Indian villages during the winter months. In late December 1876 a delegation of five Lakota-Miniconjou-Sioux approached the cantonment under a flag of truce but they were brutally murdered by the army’s Crow Indian scouts. The approach of the delegation alerted Miles to the possibility of a village in the vicinity. On December 29, 1876 General Miles with four hundred and thirty-six men left the cantonment in search of the village. After travelling one hundred and fifteen miles along the Tongue River the soldiers were confronted by a large party of warriors under the leadership of Crazy Horse who occupied a line of strategic buttes and ridges. Over two feet of snow had fallen during the previous night which made an attack difficult. The battle began on January 8, 1877. With their village dismantled and already moving the Lakota-Sioux and Northern Cheyenne allies retreated from the buttes after hours of fighting. One soldier, two Lakota-Sioux warriors and a Northern Cheyenne medicine man were killed during the battle. This winter attack at Battle Butte prompted many Lakota-Sioux and Northern Cheyenne to surrender in acknowledgment of the futility of their struggle against the power and determination of the United States government.
The Lame Deer Battle, May 7, 1877. The recent defeat of Custer at the Little Bighorn and Crook at the Rosebud prompted the United States Army to step up its campaign against the Lakota-Sioux and Northern Cheyenne. The majority of non-agency Indians including Crazy Horse and Two Moons had surrendered by May, 1877. Of main concern to the army was the band of Lakota-Miniconjou-Sioux under the leadership of Lame Deer who still roamed freely in the Tongue and Rosebud River region. The band numbered some two hundred and fifty people. In early May, 1877 Indian scouts located the Lakota-Minniconjou-Sioux village on Muddy Creek, Montana. On May 7, 1877 Colonel Nelson A. Miles led four troops of cavalry in a dawn attack on the village. In the battle that followed fourteen warriors including Lame Deer and Iron Star were killed. Four soldiers were also killed. Miles ordered the village to be burnt and took possession of the large Indian pony herd. Fast Bull, son of Lame Deer, escaped with some two hundred and twenty members of the band. Four months later Fast Bull surrendered at Camp Sheridan in northwestern Nebraska.
The Crazy Horse Murder, Fort Robinson, September 5, 1877. One of the major events to happen at Fort Robinson during the Lakota-Sioux Indian War of 1876 was the murder of war Chief Crazy Horse. After surrendering with 899 men, women and children of his in early May, 1877, Crazy Horse was eventually arrested on the orders of General Crook. Taken to the guardhouse by the soldiers a scuffle broke out as Crazy Horse entered the doorway of the guardhouse. His old time friend Little Big Man held the chiefs hands as he tried to draw a knife to escape. William Gentiles a private of forty years then thrust his bayonet into the back of Crazy Horse. He died later that evening with his parents and chief Touch The Clouds by his side. The burial site of the strange man of the Oglala’s is still unknown to the day.
Cheyenne Outbreak, Fort Robinson, January 9, 1879. After their staggered surrender in December 1876 and in January 1877 the United States government decided to move the Northern Cheyenne to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). The journey south took over three months with over nine hundred and seventy Northern Cheyenne arriving at the Darlington reservation on August 5, 1877. During the first twelve months in Indian Territory more than half of the Northern Cheyenne died from malaria, dysentery and other diseases. On September 9, 1878 three hundred Cheyenne under the leadership of Dull Knife and Little Wolf left the Darlington Reservation to head home to the Tongue River country in eastern Montana. At the North Platte River the band divided into two groups, Little Wolf and his followers continued north to the Nebraska Sand Hills, while Dull Knife and his followers mostly old men, women and children sought refuge at the Lakota-Sioux agency near Fort Robinson. On arrival at Fort Robinson Dull Knife was informed that he and his people were to be sent back to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The Cheyenne refused and so were imprisoned without food or water. On January 9, 1879 after seven days of confinement the Northern Cheyenne broke out with the aid of a few concealed weapons. In the battle that followed sixty-four Indians were killed and seventy-eight taken prisoner. Dull Knife escaped with his immediate family to the Lakota-Oglala-Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation.
The Sitting Bull Murder, Grand River, December 15, 1890. As the 1880s drew to a close white expansion into the west boomed. The Indian wars were over and the Plains Indians confined to small parcels of land called reservations. Life on the reservations was difficult with a complete change in lifestyle, food and provisions in short supply and starvation often endured during the harsh winter months. In 1890 a Paiute Medicine Man named Wovoka predicted the second coming of Christ, the death of all whites and the return of the great buffalo herds. This vision of hope would come to fruition if people performed the Ghost Dance. At the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, the Lakota-Hunkpapa-Sioux under the leadership of Chief Sitting Bull adopted the new Ghost Dance. Fearful of trouble the United States government sent soldiers to occupy the Indian agencies. Indian agent James McLaughlin insisted that the Lakota-Hunkpapa-Sioux leaders Sitting Bull, Hump and Big Foot who supported the Ghost Dance be arrested. At dawn on December 15, 1890 Lieutenant Bull Head and over forty Indian police surrounded Sitting Bull’s cabin and forced the chief from his lodgings. As Sitting Bull appealed to his followers to free him from the police a warrior named Catch the Bear stepped forward and shot Lieutenant Bull Head. As he fell Bull Head fired at Sitting Bull and then another officer, Red Tomahawk shot the old chief in the head. In the fight that followed six Indian police were killed as well as six of Sitting Bull’s followers including his son Crowfoot.
The Wounded Knee Massacre, December 29, 1890. General Nelson A. Miles ordered more troops onto the reservations to contain the Ghost Dance cult after the murder of Lakota-Hunkpapa-Sioux Chief Sitting Bull. Some bands left the reservations after Sitting Bull’s death fearing for the safety of their women and children. Chief Big Foot and his band left the Cheyenne River agency to join Red Cloud on the Pine Ridge reservation. On their journey to Pine Ridge Big Foot’s band was intercepted by the reformed Seventh Cavalry and agreed to be escorted over the rest of the journey. That night both soldiers and Lakota-Miniconnjou-Sioux camped at Wounded Knee Creek. On the morning of December 29, 1890 Colonel James Forsyth informed the Lakota-Minniconjou-Sioux that all warriors must be stripped of their weapons. To implement this order Forsyth had his soldiers surround the camp during the night and had also strategically placed his four rapid-firing hotchkiss cannons to face into the camp. Big Foot agreed to allow his warriors to be searched but when Forsyth then ordered the women and children to be searched, a young medicine man, Yellow Bird, reminded his people of the protection afforded them by their ghost dance shirts. A scuffle developed between a soldier and a warrior and a shot was accidentally fired leading the troops to open fire. Chief Big Foot was one of the first to die. Over two hundred and ninety eight Lakota-Miniconjou-Sioux were killed, two thirds of whom were women and children. Forsyth lost twenty five men, thirty nine were wounded. One of the five male warriors that survived the massacre was Dewey Beard, a veteran of the Little Bighorn battle fourteen years earlier, Dewey shot dead three soldiers during his daring escape. Dewey Beard was the last survivor to die from the Custer fight in 1955.
Frank Fools Crow, Pine Ridge Reservation, S. D. 1890. Frank Fools Crow was born in 1890 or thereabouts at Porcupine on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. Actual birth records were not kept but most accounts associate his birth around the time of the Wounded Knee massacre. His maternal and paternal ancestry include prominent figures in the Indian community. His maternal grandfather was Porcupine Tail after whom the community of Porcupine, South Dakota was named. His mother Spoon Hunter died shortly after his birth. His paternal grandfather Knife Chief participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. His father Bear Eagle and uncle Iron Cloud were both important influences in his life. Bear Eagle lived in the traditional manner and refused to send his grandson to school. Consequently Fools Crow spoke, read or wrote very little in English, but was rich in the way and customs of traditional Lakota life. Iron Cloud gave his ceremonial pipe to Fools Crow just before his death in 1917.This event marked the maturing of Fools Crow as a Medicine Man. Throughout his life Frank Fools Crow worked tirelessly as a medicine man and as a spokesperson for his people, the Oglala -Lakota. As a medicine man he led Sun Dances, performed yuwipi and sweatlodge ceremonies. He also practiced healing through the use of herbs. As a spokesperson for his people, he met with President Gerald Ford, led his people in honouring Indian participants at the anniversary of the Little Bighorn, encouraged refusal on monetary settlement for the seizure of the sacred Paha Sapa’s and acted as a negotiator in the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee. As a ceremonial chief, Frank Fools Crow led his people by example. He maintained and promoted traditional Lakota values while seeking a way in the white man’s world through understanding and non-violence. Frank Fools Crow died in late 1989.