Thursday, September 21, 2006

Red Cloud

September 20, 1822: Red Cloud was born on this date.

(Image courtesy of

Words Spoken - Red Cloud

"When we first made treaties with the Government, this was our position: Our old life and our old customs were about to end; the game upon which we lived was disappearing; the whites were closing around us, and nothing remained for us but to adopt their ways and have the same rights with them if we wished to save ourselves."


Excerpt from: Red Cloud, As remembered by Ohiyesa (Charles A. Eastman)

Red Cloud was born about 1819 near the forks of the Platte River. He was one of a family of nine children whose father, an able and respected warrior, reared his son under the old Spartan regime. The young Red Cloud is said to have been a fine horseman, able to swim across the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, of high bearing and unquestionable courage, yet invariably gentle and courteous in everyday life. This last trait, together with a singularly musical and agreeable voice, has always been characteristic of the man ...

... I once asked Red Cloud if he could recall having ever been afraid, and in reply he told me this story. He was about sixteen years old and had already been once or twice upon the warpath, when one fall his people were hunting in the Big Horn country, where they might expect trouble at any moment with the hostile Crows or Shoshones. Red Cloud had followed a single buffalo bull into the Bad Lands and was out of sight and hearing of his companions. When he had brought down his game, he noted carefully every feature of his surroundings so that he might at once detect anything unusual, and tied his horse with a long lariat to the horn of the dead bison, while skinning and cutting up the meat so as to pack it to camp. Every few minutes he paused in his work to scrutinize the landscape, for he had a feeling that danger was not far off.

Suddenly, almost over his head, as it seemed, he heard a tremendous war whoop, and glancing sidewise, thought he beheld the charge of an overwhelming number of warriors. He tried desperately to give the usual undaunted war whoop in reply, but instead a yell of terror burst from his lips, his legs gave way under him, and he fell in a heap. When he realized, the next instant, that the war whoop was merely the sudden loud whinnying of his own horse, and the charging army a band of fleeing elk, he was so ashamed of himself that he never forgot the incident, although up to that time he had never mentioned it. His subsequent career would indicate that the lesson was well learned.

The future leader was still a very young man when he joined a war party against the Utes. Having pushed eagerly forward on the trail, he found himself far in advance of his companions as night came on, and at the same time rain began to fall heavily. Among the scattered scrub pines, the lone warrior found a natural cave, and after a hasty examination, he decided to shelter there for the night.

Scarcely had he rolled himself in his blanket when he heard a slight rustling at the entrance, as if some creature were preparing to share his retreat. It was pitch dark. He could see nothing, but judged that it must be either a man or a grizzly. There was not room to draw a bow. It must be between knife and knife, or between knife and claws, he said to himself. The intruder made no search but quietly lay down in the opposite corner of the cave. Red Cloud remained perfectly still, scarcely breathing, his hand upon his knife. Hour after hour he lay broad awake, while many thoughts passed through his brain. Suddenly, without warning, he sneezed, and instantly a strong man sprang to a sitting posture opposite. The first gray of morning was creeping into their rocky den, and behold! a Ute hunter sat before him.

Desperate as the situation appeared, it was not without a grim humor. Neither could afford to take his eyes from the other's; the tension was great, till at last a smile wavered over the expressionless face of the Ute. Red Cloud answered the smile, and in that instant a treaty of peace was born between them.

"Put your knife in its sheath. I shall do so also, and we will smoke together," signed Red Cloud. The other assented gladly, and they ratified thus the truce which assured to each a safe return to his friends. Having finished their smoke, they shook hands and separated. Neither had given the other any information. Red Cloud returned to his party and told his story, adding that he had divulged nothing and had nothing to report. Some were inclined to censure him for not fighting, but he was sustained by a majority of the warriors, who commended his self-restraint. In a day or two they discovered the main camp of the enemy and fought a remarkable battle, in which Red Cloud especially distinguished himself .

The Sioux were now entering upon the most stormy period of their history. The old things were fast giving place to new. The young men, for the first time engaging in serious and destructive warfare with the neighboring tribes, armed with the deadly weapons furnished by the white man, began to realize that they must soon enter upon a desperate struggle for their ancestral hunting grounds. The old men had been innocently cultivating the friendship of the stranger, saying among themselves, "Surely there is land enough for all!"

Red Cloud was a modest and little known man of about twenty-eight years, when General Harney called all the western bands of Sioux together at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for the purpose of securing an agreement and right of way through their territory. The Ogalalas held aloof from this proposal, but Bear Bull, an Ogalala chief, after having been plied with whisky, undertook to dictate submission to the rest of the clan. Enraged by failure, he fired upon a group of his own tribesmen, and Red Cloud's father and brother fell dead. According to Indian custom, it fell to him to avenge the deed. Calmly, without uttering a word, he faced old Bear Bull and his son, who attempted to defend his father, and shot them both. He did what he believed to be his duty, and the whole band sustained him. Indeed, the tragedy gave the young man at once a certain standing, as one who not only defended his people against enemies from without, but against injustice and aggression within the tribe. From this time on he was a recognized leader.

Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse, then head chief of the Ogalalas, took council with Red Cloud in all important matters, and the young warrior rapidly advanced in authority and influence. In 1854, when he was barely thirty-five years old, the various bands were again encamped near Fort Laramie. A Mormon emigrant train, moving westward, left a footsore cow behind, and the young men killed her for food. The next day, to their astonishment, an officer with thirty men appeared at the Indian camp and demanded of old Conquering Bear that they be given up. The chief in vain protested that it was all a mistake and offered to make reparation. It would seem that either the officer was under the influence of liquor, or else had a mind to bully the Indians, for he would accept neither explanation nor payment, but demanded point-blank that the young men who had killed the cow be delivered up to summary punishment. The old chief refused to be intimidated and was shot dead on the spot. Not one soldier ever reached the gate of Fort Laramie! Here Red Cloud led the young Ogallalas, and so intense was the feeling that they even killed the half-breed interpreter.

Curiously enough, there was no attempt at retaliation on the part of the army, and no serious break until 1860, when the Sioux were involved in troubles with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes. In 1862, a grave outbreak was precipitated by the eastern Sioux in Minnesota under Little Crow, in which the western bands took no part. Yet this event ushered in a new period for their race. The surveyors of the Union Pacific were laying out the proposed road through the heart of the southern buffalo country, the rendezvous of Ogallalas, Brules, Arapahoes, Comanches, and Pawnees, who followed the buffalo as a means of livelihood. To be sure, most of these tribes were at war with one another, yet during the summer months they met often to proclaim a truce and hold joint councils and festivities, which were now largely turned into discussions of the common enemy. It became evident, however, that some of the smaller and weaker tribes were inclined to welcome the new order of things, recognizing that it was the policy of the government to put an end to tribal warfare.

Red Cloud's position was uncompromisingly against submission. He made some noted speeches in this line, one of which was repeated to me by an old man who had heard and remembered it with the remarkable verbal memory of an Indian.

"Friends," said Red Cloud, "it has been our misfortune to welcome the white man. We have been deceived. He brought with him some shining things that pleased our eyes; he brought weapons more effective than our own: above all, he brought the spirit water that makes one forget for a time old age, weakness, and sorrow. But I wish to say to you that if you would possess these things for yourselves, you must begin anew and put away the wisdom of your fathers. You must lay up food, and forget the hungry. When your house is built, your storeroom filled, then look around for a neighbor whom you can take at a disadvantage, and seize all that he has! Give away only what you do not want; or rather, do not part with any of your possessions unless in exchange for another's.

"My countrymen, shall the glittering trinkets of this rich man, his deceitful drink that overcomes the mind, shall these things tempt us to give up our homes, our hunting grounds, and the honorable teaching of our old men? Shall we permit ourselves to be driven to and fro -- to be herded like the cattle of the white man?"

His next speech that has been remembered was made in 1866, just before the attack on Fort Phil Kearny. The tension of feeling against the invaders had now reached its height. There was no dissenting voice in the council upon the Powder River, when it was decided to oppose to the uttermost the evident purpose of the government. Red Cloud was not altogether ignorant of the numerical strength and the resourcefulness of the white man, but he was determined to face any odds rather than submit.

"Hear ye, Dakotas!" he exclaimed. "When the Great Father at Washington sent us his chief soldier [General Harney] to ask for a path through our hunting grounds, a way for his iron road to the mountains and the western sea, we were told that they wished merely to pass through our country, not to tarry among us, but to seek for gold in the far west. Our old chiefs thought to show their friendship and good will, when they allowed this dangerous snake in our midst. They promised to protect the wayfarers.

"Yet before the ashes of the council fire are cold, the Great Father is building his forts among us. You have heard the sound of the white soldier's ax upon the Little Piney. His presence here is an insult and a threat. It is an insult to the spirits of our ancestors. Are we then to give up their sacred graves to be plowed for corn? Dakotas, I am for war!"

In less than a week after this speech, the Sioux advanced upon Fort Phil Kearny, the new sentinel that had just taken her place upon the farthest frontier, guarding the Oregon Trail. Every detail of the attack had been planned with care, though not without heated discussion, and nearly every well-known Sioux chief had agreed in striking the blow. The brilliant young war leader, Crazy Horse, was appointed to lead the charge. His lieutenants were Sword, Hump, and Dull Knife, with Little Chief of the Cheyennes, while the older men acted as councilors. Their success was instantaneous. In less than half an hour, they had cut down nearly a hundred men under Captain Fetterman, whom they drew out of the fort by a ruse and then annihilated.

Instead of sending troops to punish, the government sent a commission to treat with the Sioux. The result was the famous treaty of 1868, which Red Cloud was the last to sign, having refused to do so until all of the forts within their territory should be vacated. All of his demands were acceded to, the new road abandoned, the garrisons withdrawn, and in the new treaty it was distinctly stated that the Black Hills and the Big Horn were Indian country, set apart for their perpetual occupancy, and that no white man should enter that region without the consent of the Sioux.

Scarcely was this treaty signed, however, when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and the popular cry was: "Remove the Indians!" This was easier said than done. That very territory had just been solemnly guaranteed to them forever: yet how stem the irresistible rush for gold? The government, at first, entered some small protest, just enough to "save its face" as the saying is; but there was no serious attempt to prevent the wholesale violation of the treaty. It was this state of affairs that led to the last great speech made by Red Cloud, at a gathering upon the Little Rosebud River. It is brief, and touches upon the hopelessness of their future as a race. He seems at about this time to have reached the conclusion that resistance could not last much longer; in fact, the greater part of the Sioux nation was already under government control.

"We are told," said he, "that Spotted Tail has consented to be the Beggars' Chief. Those Indians who go over to the white man can be nothing but beggars, for he respects only riches, and how can an Indian be a rich man? He cannot without ceasing to be an Indian. As for me, I have listened patiently to the promises of the Great Father, but his memory is short. I am now done with him. This is all I have to say."

The wilder bands separated soon after this council, to follow the drift of the buffalo, some in the vicinity of the Black Hills and others in the Big Horn region. Small war parties came down from time to time upon stray travelers, who received no mercy at their hands, or made dashes upon neighboring forts. Red Cloud claimed the right to guard and hold by force, if need be, all this territory which had been conceded to his people by the treaty of 1868. The land became a very nest of outlawry. Aside from organized parties of prospectors, there were bands of white horse thieves and desperadoes who took advantage of the situation to plunder immigrants and Indians alike.

An attempt was made by means of military camps to establish control and force all the Indians upon reservations, and another commission was sent to negotiate their removal to Indian Territory, but met with an absolute refusal. After much guerrilla warfare, an important military campaign against the Sioux was set on foot in 1876, ending in Custer's signal defeat upon the Little Big Horn.

In this notable battle, Red Cloud did not participate in person, nor in the earlier one with Crook upon the Little Rosebud, but he had a son in both fights. He was now a councilor rather than a warrior, but his young men were constantly in the field, while Spotted Tail had definitely surrendered and was in close touch with representatives of the government. But the inevitable end was near. One morning in the fall of 1876 Red Cloud was surrounded by United States troops under the command of Colonel McKenzie, who disarmed his people and brought them into Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Thence they were removed to the Pine Ridge agency, where he lived for more than thirty years as a "reservation Indian." In order to humiliate him further, government authorities proclaimed the more tractable Spotted Tail head chief of the Sioux. Of course, Red Cloud's own people never recognized any other chief.

In 1880 he appealed to Professor Marsh, of Yale, head of a scientific expedition to the Bad Lands, charging certain frauds at the agency and apparently proving his case; at any rate the matter was considered worthy of official investigation. In 1890-1891, during the "Ghost Dance craze" and the difficulties that followed, he was suspected of collusion with the hostiles, but he did not join them openly, and nothing could be proved against him. He was already an old man, and became almost entirely blind before his death in 1909 in his ninetieth year.

His private life was exemplary. He was faithful to one wife all his days, and was a devoted father to his children. He was ambitious for his only son, known as Jack Red Cloud, and much desired him to be a great warrior. He started him on the warpath at the age of fifteen, not then realizing that the days of Indian warfare were well-nigh at an end.

Among latter-day chiefs, Red Cloud was notable as a quiet man, simple and direct in speech, courageous in action, an ardent lover of his country, and possessed in a marked degree of the manly qualities characteristic of the American Indian in his best days.

(Image courtesy of


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Leonard Peltier's 62

A Special Message from Leonard Peltier:


Greetings Sisters, Brothers, Friends and Supporters!

Well here it is another year. Another birthday. This one makes me 62 years old. Also this makes it my thirty plus years in prison. I believe it was right after I was illegally convicted in Fargo, North Dokota when I wrote a statement telling everyone that my freedom would only come after the masses had demanded it. But first we would have to unite and organize, to reach them.

So far we have been unable to do so. Yes we have reached millions who have signed my petitions we have circulated throughout the world asking for my release. True most of those good peoples are from Europe, but we have also made a lot of gains here in the United States. At one time we had fifty five (55) members of Congress sign a letter for a new trial or my release. Fifty-five members is historical. No other prisoner in history has ever been able to accomplish this, nor has anyone else, individually I mean, and there are other accomplishments we have made and won here in the United States. Still I sit in prison not because I am guilty of the alleged crime I was illegally convicted of but because we still are unable to reach the masses here in America. The reason for this is not because the American people do not care or want to help, but because we have been unable to reach them. Personally I believe the majority of them do care and want to help. We sense this from the ones we are able to reach. We are moving forward very slowly in this freedom campaign of mine. The reason is we just do not have the financial resources to move forward at the pace we would like to be. This is the real and only reason that we have not been able to reach the people in the United States. Nothing is free here in America, not justice or the media. So although there is still no light at the end of the tunnel for me or my freedom, we continue struggling forward. I continue to search for the hope and strength I need to survive. I continue to pray and hope that one day I will get the support I need from the American people and one day I will still be able to walk out of prison. So my hopes and spirits are still high at my 62 years of age. I continue on this continued struggle. We are still finding bits and pieces of new evidence to file new appeals on. Those of you who have followed my case closely I can imagine are thinking How can this be, as there has been so many constitutional violations already. But the same old problem exists. The courts continue to cover up the continued criminal acts of my conviction committed by my prosecutors.

Your help is needed, Give what you can.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tasunka Witko

September 6, 1877: Crazy Horse died (Army records show night of September 7th.)


Words Spoken: Tasunka Witko (Crazy Horse):

"A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. I was hostile to the white man...we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came...They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight."

( There is no known photograph of Tasunka Witko; this is the earliest drawing of him. )


>From , and at this website there is audio version of the discussion with George Kills In Sight.

George Kills in Sight: Crazy Horse is sort of related to my grandmother on my father's side. My father's mother is cousin to Crazy Horse. Of course now everybody seems to claim relation to Crazy Horse, but it used to be the fact that my grandmother is cousin to Crazy Horse. And my grandfather was along in northern part of the state where, now known as the Cheyenne River Reservation. Him and others were up on the hunt scouting around when they come back they were told. In the meantime Pine Ridge, members of the Pine Ridge Indians, went up there and told Crazy Horse that he's wanted down to ...

Joseph Cash: Fort Robinson?

Kills in Sight: Someplace where, yeah, Fort Robertson. So ah . . . he kind of hesitated but finally they talked him into it, so they left. When that hunting party -- my grandfather's Big Crow -- when they come back they were told. So right away they didn't waste no time, they, they followed them -- which is about almost a day ahead of them. But they traveled during nights too, and just as the, the party got to Fort Robertson, they caught up to them. They caught up to them and ah, my grandfather, Big Crow, he had a six-shooter with a holster along with cartridges. He told him, he said, ?Brother-in law,? he said, ?put this on,? he said. ?You might need it 'cause something is going to be happening.? So he put it on his waist and then they, they didn't go in with him, but they stand so far and the guards stopped them, and they turn over to the . . . those Pine Ridge members that went after him escorted him to, to the . . . instead of taking him to the Army officer, they take him to . . . right straight to the jail. So there's two guards on each side of the gate. And this Pine Ridge, members of the Pine Ridge, that escorted him, they told him that was a jail -- in Indian. So he turned around, and this guard -- he was a white soldier -- just run his bayonet through, through the guts. He didn't shoot him or anything, just ...

Cash: Bayoneted him?

Kills in Sight: Killed him there. They just let him lay there, and of course he was dead. So, my grandfather and his bunch, they was from Cheyenne. They went up there and they claimed the body. He . . . the mistake that the Army did was they should be turned over and taken to the Army officer . . . and then later he probably could be thrown in jail maybe. But still . . . just taken back to the jail, without proving no questions about why he was wanted.

Cash: Yeah. And what happened to the body then?

Kills in Sight: My grandfather and his, his bunch claimed the body and they took it. They told them to just to take it out so . . . They made a travois and brought it, brought him home. And they brought him home to the, to the camp where the Northern Cheyenne Siouxs are and his father and mother took it over. And then they bound him up in, in buffalo robe -- tied with rawhide rope -- and wherever they go. . . they took him along. They didn't bury him. And the way they told . . . they had him almost a month. I don't know how they could tell but the change of the moon or they . . . he kept. But he wasn't spoiled; the body was preserved.

So finally the leaders got together and on the Pine Ridge Reservation -- now known as, as Medicine -- right around in that pines, in the breaks or someplace, they camped. And they asked the father of Crazy Horse to bury his son. So he agreed to it, that he's going bury his son but under one condition: he has to fill his pipe, and those that would not tell -- ever tell where he was going to be buried -- will smoke the pipe with him. Just like that: they pledged themselves not to tell the place he was to go and be buried. So ah, but those that's gonna tell, they might as well leave because he's not gonna bury him. So those big crowd thin out, just a few stayed and smoked the pipe.

So they dug a hole in a kind of washout, like a ravine, close up to a ridge. They dug that under there, a kind of stone. So they dug way under there and they left the body in there. They laid the body in there, and then put rocks just tight, you know, and put dirt on there, and fixed it so that nobody ever think there was a grave there. So, that's why when they fixed that monument they wanted to know where he was buried but nobody will tell. Those that were present at the time will never tell.

Courtesy of the Institute of American Indian Studies, South Dakota Oral History Center, University of South Dakota.


>From Glenn Welker's site:

While Sitting Bull was pursued into Canada, Crazy Horse and the Cheyennes wandered about, comparatively undisturbed, during the rest of that year, until in the winter the army surprised the Cheyennes, but did not do them much harm, possibly because they knew that Crazy Horse was not far off. His name was held in wholesome respect. From time to time, delegations of friendly Indians were sent to him, to urge him to come in to the reservation, promising a full hearing and fair treatment.

For some time he held out, but the rapid disappearance of the buffalo, their only means of support, probably weighed with him more than any other influence. In July, 1877, he was finally prevailed upon to come in to Fort Robinson, Nebraska, with several thousand Indians, most of them Ogallala and Minneconwoju Sioux, on the distinct understanding that the government would hear and adjust their grievances.

At this juncture General Crook proclaimed Spotted Tail, who had rendered much valuable service to the army, head chief of the Sioux, which was resented by many. The attention paid Crazy Horse was offensive to Spotted Tail and the Indian scouts, who planned a conspiracy against him. They reported to General Crook that the young chief would murder him at the next council, and stampede the Sioux into another war. He was urged not to attend the council and did not, but sent another officer to represent him. Meanwhile the friends of Crazy Horse discovered the plot and told him of it. His reply was, "Only cowards are murderers."

His wife was critically ill at the time, and he decided to take her to her parents at Spotted Tail agency, whereupon his enemies circulated the story that he had fled, and a party of scouts was sent after him. They overtook him riding with his wife and one other but did not undertake to arrest him, and after he had left the sick woman with her people he went to call on Captain Lea, the agent for the Brules, accompanied by all the warriors of the Minneconwoju band. This volunteer escort made an imposing appearance on horseback, shouting and singing, and in the words of Captain Lea himself and the missionary, the Reverend Mr. Cleveland, the situation was extremely critical. Indeed, the scouts who had followed Crazy Horse from Red Cloud agency were advised not to show themselves, as some of the warriors had urged that they be taken out and horsewhipped publicly. Under these circumstances Crazy Horse again showed his masterful spirit by holding these young men in check. He said to them in his quiet way: "It is well to be brave in the field of battle; it is cowardly to display bravery against one's own tribesmen. These scouts have been compelled to do what they did; they are no better than servants of the white officers. I came here on a peaceful errand."

The captain urged him to report at army headquarters to explain himself and correct false rumors, and on his giving consent, furnished him with a wagon and escort. It has been said that he went back under arrest, but this is untrue. Indians have boasted that they had a hand in bringing him in, but their stories are without foundation. He went of his own accord, either suspecting no treachery or determined to defy it.

When he reached the military camp, Little Big Man walked arm-in-arm with him, and his cousin and friend, Touch-the-Cloud, was just in advance. After they passed the sentinel, an officer approached them and walked on his other side. He was unarmed but for the knife which is carried for ordinary uses by women as well as men. Unsuspectingly he walked toward the guardhouse, when Touch-the-Cloud suddenly turned back exclaiming: "Cousin, they will put you in prison!" "Another white man's trick! Let me go! Let me die fighting!" cried Crazy Horse. He stopped and tried to free himself and draw his knife, but both arms were held fast by Little Big Man and the officer. While he struggled thus, a soldier thrust him through with his bayonet from behind. The wound was mortal, and he died in the course of that night, his old father singing the death song over him and afterward carrying away the body, which they said must not be further polluted by the touch of a white man. They hid it somewhere in the Bad Lands, his resting place to this day.

Thus died one of the ablest and truest American Indians. His life was ideal; his record clean. He was never involved in any of the numerous massacres on the trail, but was a leader in practically every open fight. Such characters as those of Crazy Horse and Chief Joseph are not easily found among so-called civilized people. The reputation of great men is apt to be shadowed by questionable motives and policies, but here are two pure patriots, as worthy of honor as any who ever breathed God's air in the wide spaces of a new world.