Bull Chief

Bull Chief

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Bull Chief was born in 1825 into the Absaroke, or Mountain Crow, tribe that lived in the region that would become Montana and Wyoming.* The Indian leader flourished and developed at a time when the buffalo culture that he was born into, was at its peak.When he was a young warrior, Bull Chief was determined that he did not have to follow the usual course of fasting and gaining a vision to achieve success. His determination and personal strength were required not only for hunting and combat, but in spiritual pursuits as well.Through self-sacrifice and strenuous physical trials, the men of his culture sought visions to achieve direction and dominance. After several attempts, he finally experienced his vision and gained his first “honor.” After that, he often counted coup, which was to strike or touch an enemy warrior with a slender wand, and come away unscathed.By distinguishing himself in battle against their enemies, his tribe often recognized Bull Chief as the bravest warrior, and he eventually became chief of the Absaroke tribe.

*From the mouth of the Yellowstone to the Black Hills, from the crest of the Wind River mountains, northwestward through Yellowstone park to present-day Helena, Montana, thence to the confluence of the Mussellback and the Missouri rivers.

White Bull

(LIBI Archives/Library)

A noted Minneconjou Lakota warrior he was later a chief in reservation life. As a boy he was known as Bull-Standing-with-Cow. Born in 1849 on the north edge of the Black Hills, his father and grandfather before him were chiefs of the Minneconjou Sioux, and his mother, Good Feather, was Sitting Bull's sister. The famous Hunkpapa Lakota leader was his uncle. With such parentage he could not help but become an outstanding warrior.

Bull-Standing-with-Cow began his life as a warrior in 1865 at the age of 16, about the time when warfare with the whites erupted into almost continuous conflict. This warfare began during the Connor expedition of 1865 and built to a climax with the Battle of the Little Bighorn, June 25-26, 1876. Bull-Standing-with-Cow first made his mark as a warrior in 1865 when he counted coup on three enemy Indian scouts, knocking all three from their mounts. In addition, he took 10 horses from the enemy. As a result of his heroic deeds, his uncle, Black Moon, christened him White Bull.

Before the attack on soldiers at Fort Phil Kearney in December 1866, White Bull was invited to join the prestigious Fox Soldier warrior society. White Bull was among the Minneconjou, Oglala, and Cheyenne who sprang the trap on Captain William Fetterman's command of 80 men. In the battle White Bull pulled a wounded warrior from the fight and killed one soldier with his bow and arrow. He arrived at the finish just as the last cavalry trooper was killed in hand-to-hand fighting.

White Bull was primarily an observer at the Wagon Box fight, July 1867, where approximately 30 wood cutters and their soldier escort led by Captain James Powell held off as many as 1,000 warriors with their newly acquired breech-loading rifles. The warriors initially charged the wagon corral on horseback but later dismounted and attacked by foot. The Indians claimed only six killed in the fighting and a like number wounded. The whites lost six men killed in defense.

In subsequent years, White Bull distinguished himself in a number of skirmishes and horse stealing raids against the Crows, Assiniboine and Flatheads. In August 1872, White Bull joined Sitting Bull in a daring pipe smoking exhibition of bravery. This was done in full view of soldiers along the Yellowstone who were guarding a railroad surveying crew. The soldiers repeatedly fired at the sitting pipe smokers, kicking up dust all around them to no effect. Sitting Bull calmly smoked the pipe, passed it to others in the circle, and then casually cleaned the pipe, before walking back out of range of the soldier rifles. This act of bravery greatly impressed the Sioux and Cheyenne. White Bull later called it, "the bravest deed possible."

White Bull reached the pinnacle of warrior achievement against the whites during the summer of 1876. At the Battle of the Rosebud, June 17, 1876, White Bull charged headlong on horseback against a Shoshone scout of General George Crook. Both fired their repeating rifles into the other the Shoshone missed, but White Bull knocked the Shoshone's horse down with two bullets to the Shoshone mount's right fore-shoulder. White Bull then rode the Shoshone down and 'lamed him' in the right leg, before riding off.

At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, June 25-26, 1876, White Bull was 26 years old. He played a very active role in the battle. In the fight White Bull counted seven coups, six of them 'firsts,' killed two men in hand-to-hand combat, captured two guns and twelve horses, had his horse shot from under him, and was wounded in the ankle by a spent bullet.

Sitting Bull's Sioux continued to resist Colonel Nelson Miles' troop build-up along the Yellowstone River in the fall of 1876. When Sitting Bull crossed over into Canada that winter, White Bull chose to stay with his people, the Minneconjou. They settled at the Cheyenne River Agency along the Missouri River in present day South Dakota.

Many years later, in 1932, White Bull narrated his story as a warrior in his youth to historian Stanley Vestal. It remains one of the most complete accounts of a northern Plains Indian warrior's life. Joseph White Bull died July 21, 1947, he was 98 years old.


Sitting Bull was born on land later included in the Dakota Territory. [7] [8] In 2007, Sitting Bull's great-grandson asserted from family oral tradition that Sitting Bull was born along the Yellowstone River, south of present-day Miles City, Montana. [9] He was named Jumping Badger at birth, and nicknamed Húŋkešni [ˈhʊ̃kɛʃni] or "Slow" said to describe his careful and unhurried nature. [10] When he was fourteen years old he accompanied a group of Lakota warriors (which included his father and his uncle Four Horns) in a raiding party to take horses from a camp of Crow warriors. He displayed bravery by riding forward and counting coup on one of the surprised Crow, which was witnessed by the other mounted Lakota. Upon returning to camp his father gave a celebratory feast at which he conferred his own name upon his son. The name, Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, which in the Lakota language approximately means "buffalo who set himself to watch over the herd", was simplified as "Sitting Bull". [11] Thereafter, Sitting Bull's father was known as Jumping Bull. At this ceremony before the entire band, Sitting Bull's father presented his son with an eagle feather to wear in his hair, a warrior's horse, and a hardened buffalo hide shield to mark his son's passage into manhood as a Lakota warrior. [11]

During the Dakota War of 1862, in which Sitting Bull's people were not involved, [7] several bands of eastern Dakota people killed an estimated 300 to 800 settlers and soldiers in south-central Minnesota in response to poor treatment by the government and in an effort to drive the whites away. Despite being embroiled in the American Civil War, the United States Army retaliated in 1863 and 1864, even against bands which had not been involved in the hostilities. [12] In 1864, two brigades of about 2200 soldiers under Brigadier General Alfred Sully attacked a village. The defenders were led by Sitting Bull, Gall and Inkpaduta. [12] The Lakota and Dakota were driven out, but skirmishing continued into August at the Battle of the Badlands. [13] [14]

In September, Sitting Bull and about one hundred Hunkpapa Lakota encountered a small party near what is now Marmarth, North Dakota. They had been left behind by a wagon train commanded by Captain James L. Fisk to effect some repairs to an overturned wagon. When he led an attack, Sitting Bull was shot in the left hip by a soldier. [12] The bullet exited out through the small of his back, and the wound was not serious. [15]

From 1866 to 1868, Red Cloud as a leader of the Oglala Lakota fought against U.S. forces, attacking their forts in an effort to keep control of the Powder River Country of Montana. In support of him, Sitting Bull led numerous war parties against Fort Berthold, Fort Stevenson, and Fort Buford and their environs from 1865 through 1868. [16] The uprising has come to be known as Red Cloud's War.

By early 1868, the U.S. government desired a peaceful settlement to the conflict. It agreed to Red Cloud's demands that the U.S. abandon forts Phil Kearny and C.F. Smith. Gall of the Hunkpapa (among other representatives of the Hunkpapa, Blackfeet, and Yankton Dakota) signed a form of the Treaty of Fort Laramie on July 2, 1868, at Fort Rice (near Bismarck, North Dakota). [17] Sitting Bull did not agree to the treaty. He told the Jesuit missionary, Pierre Jean De Smet, who sought him out on behalf of the government: "I wish all to know that I do not propose to sell any part of my country." [18] He continued his hit-and-run attacks on forts in the upper Missouri area throughout the late 1860s and early 1870s. [19]

The events of 1866–1868 mark a historically debated period of Sitting Bull's life. According to historian Stanley Vestal, who conducted interviews with surviving Hunkpapa in 1930, Sitting Bull was made "Supreme Chief of the whole Sioux Nation" at this time. Later historians and ethnologists have refuted this concept of authority, as the Lakota society was highly decentralized. Lakota bands and their elders made individual decisions, including whether to wage war. [20]

Sitting Bull's band of Hunkpapa continued to attack migrating parties and forts in the late 1860s. When in 1871 the Northern Pacific Railway conducted a survey for a route across the northern plains directly through Hunkpapa lands, it encountered stiff Lakota resistance. [21] The same railway people returned the following year accompanied by federal troops. Sitting Bull and the Hunkpapa attacked the survey party, which was forced to turn back. [22] In 1873, the military accompaniment for the surveyors was increased again, but Sitting Bull's forces resisted the survey "most vigorously." [23] The Panic of 1873 forced the Northern Pacific Railway's backers (such as Jay Cooke) into bankruptcy. This halted construction of the railroad through Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota territory. [24]

After the 1848 discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada and dramatic gains in new wealth from it, other men became interested in the potential for gold mining in the Black Hills. In 1874, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer led a military expedition from Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck to explore the Black Hills for gold and to determine a suitable location for a military fort in the Hills. [25] Custer's announcement of gold in the Black Hills triggered the Black Hills Gold Rush. Tensions increased between the Lakota and European Americans seeking to move into the Black Hills. [26]

Although Sitting Bull did not attack Custer's expedition in 1874, the U.S. government was increasingly pressured by citizens to open the Black Hills to mining and settlement. Failing in an attempt to negotiate a purchase or lease of the Hills, the government in Washington had to find a way around the promise to protect the Sioux in their land, as specified in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. [27] It was alarmed at reports of Sioux depredations, some of which were encouraged by Sitting Bull. In November 1875, President Grant ordered all Sioux bands outside the Great Sioux Reservation to move onto the reservation, knowing full well that not all would comply. As of February 1, 1876, the Interior Department certified as "hostile" those bands who continued to live off the reservation. [28] This certification allowed the military to pursue Sitting Bull and other Lakota bands as "hostiles". [28] [29]

Based on tribal oral histories, historian Margot Liberty theorizes that many Lakota bands allied with the Cheyenne during the Plains Wars because they thought the other nation was under attack by the U.S. Given this connection, she suggests the major war should have been called "The Great Cheyenne War". Since 1860, the Northern Cheyenne had led several battles among the Plains Indians. Before 1876, the U.S. Army had destroyed seven Cheyenne camps, more than those of any other nation. [30]

Other historians, such as Robert M. Utley and Jerome Greene, also use Lakota oral testimony, but they have concluded that the Lakota coalition, of which Sitting Bull was the ostensible head, was the primary target of the federal government's pacification campaign. [31] [32] [33]

Battle of the Little Bighorn

During the period 1868–1876, Sitting Bull developed into one of the most important Native American political leaders. After the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) and the creation of the Great Sioux Reservation, many traditional Sioux warriors, such as Red Cloud of the Oglala and Spotted Tail of the Brulé, moved to reside permanently on the reservations. They were largely dependent for subsistence on the U.S. Indian agencies. Many other chiefs, including members of Sitting Bull's Hunkpapa band such as Gall, at times, lived temporarily at the agencies. They needed the supplies at a time when white encroachment and the depletion of buffalo herds reduced their resources and challenged Native American independence. [ citation needed ]

In 1875, the Northern Cheyenne, Hunkpapa, Oglala, Sans Arc, and Minneconjou camped together for a Sun Dance, with both the Cheyenne medicine man White Bull or Ice and Sitting Bull in association. This ceremonial alliance preceded their fighting together in 1876. [30] Sitting Bull had a major revelation.

At the climactic moment, "Sitting Bull intoned, 'The Great Spirit has given our enemies to us. We are to destroy them. We do not know who they are. They may be soldiers.' Ice too observed, 'No one then knew who the enemy were – of what tribe.'. They were soon to find out."

— Utley 1992: 122–24

Sitting Bull's refusal to adopt any dependence on the U.S. government meant that at times he and his small band of warriors lived isolated on the Plains. When Native Americans were threatened by the United States, numerous members from various Sioux bands and other tribes, such as the Northern Cheyenne, came to Sitting Bull's camp. His reputation for "strong medicine" developed as he continued to evade the European Americans.

After the ultimatum on January 1, 1876, when the U.S. Army began to track down as hostiles those Sioux and others living off the reservation, Native Americans gathered at Sitting Bull's camp. He took an active role in encouraging this "unity camp". He sent scouts to the reservations to recruit warriors and told the Hunkpapa to share supplies with those Native Americans who joined them. An example of his generosity was Sitting Bull's provision for Wooden Leg's Northern Cheyenne tribe. They had been impoverished by Captain Reynold's March 17, 1876, attack and fled to Sitting Bull's camp for safety. [30]

Over the course of the first half of 1876, Sitting Bull's camp continually expanded as natives joined him for safety in numbers. His leadership had attracted warriors and families, creating an extensive village estimated at more than 10,000 people. Lt. Col. Custer came across this large camp on June 25, 1876. Sitting Bull did not take a direct military role in the ensuing battle instead, he acted as a spiritual leader. A week prior to the attack, he had performed the Sun Dance, in which he fasted and sacrificed over 100 pieces of flesh from his arms. [7]

Custer's 7th Cavalry, divided into three battalions, attacked Cheyenne and Lakota tribes at their camp on the Little Big Horn River (known as the Greasy Grass River to the Lakota) on June 25, 1876. Custer and his officers did not realize how large the camp was. More than 2,000 Native American warriors had left their reservations to follow Sitting Bull. Inspired by Sitting Bull's vision of U.S. soldiers being killed as they entered the tribe's camp, the Cheyenne and Lakota fought back. The 7th Cavalry's badly outnumbered troops lost ground quickly on two fronts and were forced to retreat. The tribes led a counter-attack against Custer's wing on a nearby ridge, ultimately annihilating them [34] and surrounding and laying siege to the other two battalions led by Reno and Benteen.

The Native Americans' victory celebrations were short-lived. Public shock and outrage at Custer's defeat and death, as well as the government's understanding of the military capability of the remaining Sioux, led the War Department to assign thousands more soldiers to the area. Over the next year, the new American military forces pursued the Lakota, forcing many of the Native Americans to surrender. Sitting Bull refused to do so and in May 1877 led his band across the border into the North-West Territories, Canada. He remained in exile for four years near Wood Mountain, refusing a pardon and the chance to return. [35] When crossing the border into Canadian territory, Sitting Bull was met by the Mounties of the region. During this meeting, James Morrow Walsh, commander of the North-West Mounted Police, explained to Sitting Bull that the Lakota were now on British soil and must obey British law. Walsh emphasized that he enforced the law equally and that every person in the territory had a right to justice. Walsh became an advocate for Sitting Bull and the two became good friends for the remainder of their lives. [36]

While in Canada, Sitting Bull also met with Crowfoot, who was a leader of the Blackfeet, long-time powerful enemies of the Lakota and Cheyenne. Sitting Bull wished to make peace with the Blackfeet Nation and Crowfoot. As an advocate for peace himself, Crowfoot eagerly accepted the tobacco peace offering. Sitting Bull was so impressed by Crowfoot that he named one of his sons after him. [37] Sitting Bull and his people stayed in Canada for four years. Due to the smaller size of the buffalo herds in Canada, Sitting Bull and his men found it difficult to find enough food to feed their starving people. Sitting Bull's presence in the country led to increased tensions between the Canadian and the United States governments. [38] Before Sitting Bull left Canada, he may have visited Walsh for a final time and left a ceremonial headdress as a memento. [39]


Hunger and desperation eventually forced Sitting Bull and 186 of his family and followers to return to the United States and surrender on July 19, 1881. Sitting Bull had his young son Crow Foot surrender his Winchester lever-action carbine to Major David H. Brotherton, commanding officer of Fort Buford. Sitting Bull said to Brotherton, "I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle". [7] In the parlor of the Commanding Officer's Quarters in a ceremony the next day, he told the four soldiers, 20 warriors and other guests in the small room that he wished to regard the soldiers and the white race as friends but he wanted to know who would teach his son the new ways of the world. Two weeks later, after waiting in vain for other members of his tribe to follow him from Canada, Sitting Bull and his band were transferred to Fort Yates, the military post located adjacent to the Standing Rock Agency. This reservation straddles the present-day boundary between North and South Dakota. [40]

Sitting Bull and his band of 186 people were kept separate from the other Hunkpapa gathered at the agency. Army officials were concerned that he would stir up trouble among the recently surrendered northern bands. On August 26, 1881, he was visited by census taker William T. Selwyn, who counted twelve people in the Hunkpapa leader's immediate family. Forty-one families, totaling 195 people, were recorded in Sitting Bull's band. [41]

The military decided to transfer Sitting Bull and his band to Fort Randall to be held as prisoners of war. Loaded onto a steamboat, the band of 172 people was sent down the Missouri River to Fort Randall (near present-day Pickstown, South Dakota) on the southern border of the state. There they spent the next 20 months. They were allowed to return north to the Standing Rock Agency in May 1883. [7]

In 1883, rumors were reported that Sitting Bull had been baptized into the Catholic Church. James McLaughlin, Indian agent at Standing Rock Agency, dismissed these reports, saying that "The reported baptism of Sitting-Bull is erroneous. There is no immediate prospect of such ceremony so far as I am aware." [42] [43] [44]

In 1884 show promoter Alvaren Allen asked Agent James McLaughlin to allow Sitting Bull to tour parts of Canada and the northern United States. The show was called the "Sitting Bull Connection." It was during this tour that Sitting Bull met Annie Oakley in Minnesota. [45] He was so impressed with Oakley's skills with firearms that he offered $65 (equal to $1,872 today) for a photographer to take a photo of the two together. [46] The admiration and respect was mutual. Oakley stated that Sitting Bull made a "great pet" of her. [46] In observing Oakley, Sitting Bull's respect for the young sharpshooter grew. Oakley was quite modest in her attire, deeply respectful of others, and had a remarkable stage persona despite being a woman who stood only five feet in height. Sitting Bull felt that she was "gifted" by supernatural means in order to shoot so accurately with both hands. As a result of his esteem, he symbolically "adopted" her as a daughter in 1884. He named her "Little Sure Shot" – a name that Oakley used throughout her career. [47]

In 1885, Sitting Bull was allowed to leave the reservation to go Wild Westing with Buffalo Bill Cody's Buffalo Bill's Wild West. He earned about $50 a week (equal to $1,440 today) for riding once around the arena, where he was a popular attraction. Although it is rumored that he cursed his audiences in his native tongue during the show, the historian Utley contends that he did not. [48] Historians have reported that Sitting Bull gave speeches about his desire for education for the young, and reconciling relations between the Sioux and whites. [49]

The historian Edward Lazarus wrote that Sitting Bull reportedly cursed his audience in Lakota in 1884, during an opening address celebrating the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway. [50] According to Michael Hiltzik, ". Sitting Bull declared in Lakota, 'I hate all White people.' . 'You are thieves and liars. You have taken away our land and made us outcasts.' The translator, however, read the original address which had been written as a 'gracious act of amity', and the audience, including President Grant was left none the wiser. [51]

Sitting Bull stayed with the show for four months before returning home. During that time, audiences considered him a celebrity and romanticized him as a warrior. He earned a small fortune by charging for his autograph and picture, although he often gave his money away to the homeless and beggars. [52]

Sitting Bull returned to the Standing Rock Agency after working in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. The tension between Sitting Bull and Agent McLaughlin increased and each became warier of the other over several issues including division and sale of parts of the Great Sioux Reservation. [53] During that period, in 1889 Indian Rights Activist Caroline Weldon from Brooklyn, New York, a member of the National Indian Defense Association "NIDA", reached out to Sitting Bull, acting to be his voice, secretary, interpreter and advocate. She joined him, together with her young son Christy at his compound on the Grand River, sharing with him and his family home and hearth. [54] In 1889, during a time of harsh winters and long droughts impacting the Sioux Reservation, a Paiute Indian named Wovoka spread a religious movement from Nevada eastward to the Plains that preached a resurrection of the Native. It was known as the "Ghost Dance Movement" because it called on the Indians to dance and chant for the rising up of deceased relatives and the return of the buffalo. The dance included shirts that were said to stop bullets. When the movement reached Standing Rock, Sitting Bull allowed the dancers to gather at his camp. Although he did not appear to participate in the dancing, he was viewed as a key instigator. Alarm spread to nearby white settlements. [55]

Wounded Knee: American Indian activists organize

The American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded in 1968 in an effort to stop police harassment of Indians in the Minneapolis area. Borrowing some tactics from the anti-war student demonstrators of the era, AIM soon gained national notoriety for its flamboyant protests. However, many mainstream Indian leaders denounced the youth-dominated group as too radical.

In 1972, a faction of AIM members led by Dennis Banks and Leonard Peltier sought to close the divide by making alliances with traditional tribal elders on reservations. They had their greatest success on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, after a group of young whites murdered a Sioux named Yellow Thunder. Although Yellow Thunder’s attackers only received six-year prison sentences, this was widely seen as a victory by the local Sioux accustomed to unfair treatment by the often racist Anglo judicial system. AIM’s highly visible publicity campaign on the case was given considerable credit for the verdict, winning the organization a great deal of respect on the reservation.

Geronimo Resists Reservations

National Atlas of the United States

American Westward expansion brought new woes𠅊nd foes—to the Apache. With the 1848 signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Mexican-American War came to an end. Mexico ceded much of what is now the American Southwest to the United States, including land the Apaches had called home for centuries. The Gadsden Purchase in 1854 gave the U.S. even more land in today’s Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.

In 1872, the U.S. government created a reservation for the Chiricahua Apaches that included at least a portion of their homeland, but they were soon evicted and forced to join other Apache groups on the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. A defiant Geronimo broke out of San Carlos Reservation with his followers three separate times in the next decade. His knowledge of the surrounding hills helped him to evade his pursuers.

The more often Geronimo escaped and the longer he was able to disappear, the more embarrassed the U.S. military and politicians grew. His belief that no bullets could harm him appeared to be true, as he continually escaped skirmishes with law enforcement, Anglo-Americans and Mexicans. He was wounded multiple times, but always recovered. He became a newspaper sensation.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The White Bull Manuscript, as it is commonly known, was commissioned by Usher Burdick in 1931. Burdick encouraged White Bull to chronicle his life. In a black bound business ledger, White Bull recorded the events of his life in his native Dakota language. The ledger measures 14.75 x 10.5 inches, and contains writings and/or pictographs on a total of 51 pages. The pictographs are rendered in ink, lead pencil and colored crayon, with explanatory text in Dakota. Buffalo and bear hunts, horse raiding exploits, instances of "counting coup," and battles and skirmishes are among the subjects. White Bull also included a typical Teton winter count, or calendrical history. No pictographs were created for the winter count.

Through the generosity of John Douglas Leith (1898-1989), Class of 1920, the University of North Dakota purchased the ledger book from Usher Burdick in 1959. James Howard translated the manuscript in The Warrior Who Killed Custer: The Personal Narrative of Chief Joseph White Bull, published in 1968. A related set of pictographs, also created by White Bull, can be found in the Walter Stanley Campbell Papers at the University of Oklahoma. Campbell commissioned White Bull to draw his life's story in 1932. Campbell, using the pen name Stanley Vestal, published Warpath: The True Story of the Fighting Sioux Told in a Biography of Chief White Bull in 1934.

The White Bull Manuscript was featured in the national art exhibition “Plains Indians Drawings, 1865-1935: Pages from a Visual History,” held by the American Federation of Arts from 1996 to 1998.

Famous Indian Chiefs – Red Cloud

Famous Indian Chiefs – Red Cloud

As one of the famous Indian Chiefs, Red Cloud was both a warrior and a statesman. He was known for directly fighting against the American government. His victory against one of his uncle’s greatest rival resulted in the divide of the Oglala. He was known for his victories against Pawnees, Crows, Utes, and Shoshones. He was also the one who led the greatest war against the United States and won. It was during the creation of the forts in Boseman Trail which result in the creation of the Fort Laramie Treaty.

Ponca History

Prior to 1500 AD, this collective group traveled from their original home in the Southeast, down the Ohio River to its mouth (Dorsey, 1886, p. 218). when they arrived at the Mississippi River the group was separated when trying to cross. Those that traveled upriver were known as U-Mon-Hon meaning “against the current” or “upstream.” the U-Mon-Hon or Omaha was also comprised of the Ponca, Osage and Kansas.

The group that traveled down river earned the name u-ga-xpa or Quapaw, meaning “with the current” or “downstream.” The Quapaw continued south along the east bank of the Mississippi River into what is now Arkansas, and these descriptive names were already in place by the time Hernando de Soto met the Quapaw Tribe when he crossed the Mississippi River in 1541 (Fletcher & Laflesche, 1911, p. 36) and (Baird, 1989, p. 14).

The name for the Ponca has been interpreted by some authorities as “that which is sacred” (Mails, 1985, p. 308), yet certain members of the Ponca Tribe believe it comes from the Ponca word pah-ca meaning “nose” or “that part of the face that goes before the rest of the body.” Other interpretations include “sacred head” and “gentle leader.”

Later during the 1600s, the Ponca, Omaha, Osage and Kansas that went upriver along the Mississippi, stayed for a time near present day Osage and Gasconde Counties in Missouri, west of present day St. Louis. At this time they were joined by the Iowa, who belong to the Chiwere dialect of the Siouan language group, similar to the Otoe and Missouri Tribes.

It is then believed that the Omaha, Ponca and Iowa proceeded slowly northward through present day Missouri, and into present day Iowa. They migrated up the Des Moines River to its headwaters in what is now Minnesota and built a village for a time near the pipestone quarries.

Historical and archaeological evidence verifies that the Omaha, Ponca and Iowa as a group, then traveled west to build a fortified village on the Big Sioux River, north of Sioux Falls, South Dakota (Howard, 1965, p. 15).

The Rev. James O. Dorsey, for many years a missionary and amateur ethnographer among the Ponca and the Omaha in the late 19th Century, states that later the neighboring Yankton Dakota Tribe made war on the Omaha, Ponca and Iowa while they camped on the Big Sioux River, which forced the group to travel west to the present day site of Lake Andes, in Choteau County, South Dakota. It is believed that it was here, prior to 1673, that the Omaha’s sacred cedar pole was cut, an important religious object, and afterward the Omaha assigned each clan and sub-clan its particular customs and duties (Dorsey, 1884, pp. 211-213). both Omaha and Ponca legends say they were living in a village near a lake when the sacred cedar pole was found.

It was in this same area that Omaha and Ponca oral history say that the Omaha, Ponca and Iowa first encountered the Marinara, who at that time occupied territory in Northeastern Nebraska. At first they warred with the Marinara, but later a peace was determined by performing the wa-wan or calumet ceremony. Then a grand council was established to reach an agreement on the terms of the peace, and rules of war and hunting. (Fletcher & Laflesche, 1911, p. 218). It is also believed that it was at this time that the Arikara showed the Omaha, Ponca, Iowa group how to build an earthlodge, and in return, the Omaha gave the Marinara permission to perform certain aspects of the Hethuska Society traditions and dances (Howard, 1965, p. 14) (Duncan, 1997, p. 33).

In the early 1700s, the Omaha, Ponca and Iowa migrated up the Missouri River to the mouth of the White River in South Dakota. In his work titled Known Village Sites of the Ponca, Dr. James H. Howard cites evidence that the Ponca continued westward to the Black Hills, while the Omaha and Iowa remained in the vicinity of the White River around 1715 (Howard, 1970, p. 131). Later it is believed, the Ponca returned to build a village with the Omaha and the Iowa at the mouth of the White River.

Then the Ponca migrated by themselves, downstream along the Missouri River, then pushed westward and settled in Nebraska near the Niobrara River. According to Dorsey (1884, pp. 211-213) and Howard (1965, p. 11), the Ponca built a fortified village by themselves by Ponca Creek near the Niobrara River when the group reached the vicinity of present day Niobrara, Nebraska, in what is now Knox County. This archaeological site known as “Ponca Fort,” has been dated to circa 1700, and closely resembles the middle Mississippian fortified towns found in Ohio which date to 800 through 1550.

During this time, the Omaha and Iowa pushed further south along the Missouri River to build a village at Covington, Nebraska in present day Dakota County. Then, according to John John Champe (cited by Wood, 1959, p. 10), the Omaha and Iowa continued moving further south to build a village along Bow Creek near present day Wynot, Nebraska in Cedar County about 1735. However, attacks on the Omaha and Iowa villages by the Dakotas forced both the Omaha and the Iowa to leave the “bad village” site and migrate further south along the Missouri River.

By 1770, the Omaha had migrated to a site on Omaha Creek to build a fortified earth lodge village by themselves which they called “Big Village” in present day Thurston County, Nebraska.

The Iowa continued further south almost to the Platte River, making a village near present day Florence, Nebraska in Douglas County. From that time, the Iowa never again built a village near the Omaha (Fletcher & Laflesche, 1911, p. 86).

Throughout the 1700s the Ponca were referenced in various maps and literature as living between Ponca Creek and the Niobrara River in North-central Nebraska. The Ponca made first contact with Spanish traders in 1789, and in 1790 their estimated population was approximately three thousand strong. (Duncan, 1997, p. 59) the Ponca then made first contact with French traders in 1794. Soon, the Ponca learned the value of being the middlemen in trade between Europeans and those tribes along the Upper Missouri, and in 1795 they began the practice of stopping and raiding trading craft as they went up the Missouri River (Howard, 1965, p. 25).

By the time the Lewis and Clark expedition reached the Ponca village in September 1804, on the lower side of Ponca Creek, about two miles from the Missouri River, the Ponca had become quite familiar with Europeans. Unfortunately, this association with Europeans had caused a smallpox epidemic among the Ponca in 1800 prior to Lewis and Clark’s arrival, which significantly reduced their number (James, 1823, p. 225).

During the war of 1812, the Ponca and the Omaha allied with the United States, while the Sauk, who held territories northeast of the Omaha, allied with the British. Involvement in this warfare continued to reduce the population of the Ponca. Formal relations between the Ponca and the United States did not begin however, until 1817. It was then that the first treaty was made between the Ponca and the U.S. to establish “perpetual peace and friendship” (Howard, 1965, p. 27).

In the early 1800s, the Ponca were still a semi-sedentary tribe living in earth lodges that the Arikara taught them and the Omaha how to construct. They planted corn and other crops, hunted buffalo occasionally and traded for many of their goods. However, they were vulnerable from attack by larger nomadic tribes as evidenced by an event that took place in 1824. Peter Wilson, acting on behalf of Maj. Benjamin O’Fallon, visited a group of Ponca at the mouth of the Niobrara River. Upon arriving, he learned that a party of 30 Ponca men had been returning home from a friendly visit with the Oglala Lakota to the north, when they were attacked by a group of Brule or Sicangu Lakota. Of the 30 Ponca, only 12 returned alive. Among the 18 killed was the famous Ponca Chief, Shu-de-ga-xe or “Smoke Maker” (the first of this name) (Report of P. Wilson to B. O’Fallon, 1824, National Archives, St. Louis Superintendency).

In 1825 another treaty with the Ponca was made, in which the Ponca acknowledged that they lived within the “territorial limits of the United States,” thereby recognizing the supremacy of the larger force of the U.S. Government. This treaty also stated that only “American Citizens” were to be allowed to reside among the tribe as traders, as was the custom at that time, and the tribe agreed to delegate the punishment of offenders to the United States Government, giving American traders an advantage over French and Spanish traders in the area. This was followed in 1826 by yet another treaty, in which the Federal Government agreed to receive the Ponca “…into their friendship and under their protection.” it should be noted, that there are no records that exist to date, showing that any member of the Ponca Tribe have ever killed white settlers or soldiers, or have ever taken up arms against the United States of America. A fact that still provides modern-day Ponca with a certain level of pride.

Since the “War of 1812,” the Sauk Tribe had continued to make war on the Omaha and the Ponca earthlodge villages which lay between the Sauk Territory and the buffalo herds to the west. It was not until after the United States military subdued the Sauk in 1834 during the Black Hawk War, that the Ponca and the Omaha gained some relief. (O'shea & Ludwickson, 1992, pp. 36-39) by 1835, a cholera epidemic killed an estimated 10% of the Ponca Tribe's population, further reducing their number to approximately 700 persons (Howard, 1965, p. 24).

During the 1830s the Ponca were generally thought to be allies with elements of the Yankton Dakota and the Teton Lakota and frequently joined with them in warfare against the Pawnee. This was believed to be a means of self-preservation for the now smaller tribe of Ponca, whose lands were in-between the Lakota and Pawnee territories. However, the larger tribe of Pawnee frequently made war on the Ponca when their northern allies were not around. Occasionally, small elements of the Lakota would sometimes raid the Ponca as well, taking horses or stealing corn they had grown. As time progressed, the Ponca and other semi-sedentary tribes along the Upper Missouri River, such as the Omaha, Arikara, Pawnee, Mandan and Hidatsa, who were attached to their earthlodge villages and cornfields, were no match for the nomadic Dakota and Lakota, who were very mobile, well-armed and always knew the exact strength and precise location of these tribes.

In the summer of 1846, an advanced party of 400 Mormons were heading west to find a route through the Rocky Mountains after being driven from their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois earlier that year.

At the direction of Brigham Young, who stayed with the main group of Mormons in the Council Bluffs/Omaha area, this advance party traveled along the north side of the Platte River to a deserted Pawnee village on the Loup River near present day Genoa, Nebraska (Tibbitts, 2003, p. 1). While the Mormons were there, 9 Ponca chiefs and sub-chiefs arrived on the 8th of August 1846, intending to seek peace negotiations with the Pawnee. These Ponca chiefs were documented by the Mormons as:

  • Buffalo Bull – head chief (also known as Little Bear.
  • Two Bulls – son of Buffalo Bull (he becomes head chief when his father dies in September 1846.
  • Black Warrior – a chief of the 2nd rank (nephew of Buffalo Bull).
  • Buffalo Chip – a chief of the 2nd rank (after Black Warrior dies in August 1846).
  • Iron Whip – principle chief of Gray Blanket village (brother of two Bulls).
  • White Eagle – son of Iron Whip (has hereditary leadership rites).
  • Drum – principle chief of Fish Smell Village.
  • Smoke Maker – a chief of the 2nd rank (son of the chief of the same name who was killed by the Sicangu Lakota in 1824.
  • Little Chief – son of Smoke Maker (has hereditary leadership rites.

Finding that the Pawnee had deserted the village, the nine Ponca chiefs invited the Mormons to spend the winter with them. The Mormons were given some provisions to tide them over and assigned a camp near the Gray Blanket village near the junction of the Niobrara and Missouri Rivers (Tibbitts, 2003, p. 4).

There were many Mormons who wrote journals about their life and enjoyable experiences among the Ponca. The Ponca Chief Iron Whip indicated the best route for the Mormons to follow when they continued on their journey west in April of 1847. Later in 1847 the Mormons settled in the Rocky Mountains in what is now Salt Lake City, Utah.

In the fall of 1855, according to an account recorded by Rev. James O. Dorsey, an unusual large scale conflict took place between the Ponca and their old enemies the Pawnee. It seems that both tribes were out on their tribal buffalo hunts and the encounter was accidental. The Ponca were divided into two hunting groups, those from the Gray Blanket village and those from the Fish Smell village. The hunters from the Fish Smell village were the first to see the Pawnee from a distance in their hunting camp, and charged to attack. However, by the time they entered the camp, the Pawnee had fled. The Fish Smell Poncas contented themselves with looting the deserted Pawnee hunting camp, taking such things as dried meat, moccasins, leggings, and rawhide lariats left behind. Meanwhile, the Ponca hunting party from the Gray Blanket village ran into the fleeing Pawnee and after an intense running fight, killed them to a man. To commemorate the victory over the Pawnee, Chief Smoke Maker's newborn son was carried to the battlefield by an old woman and caused him to put his feet on two of the Pawnee corpses, whereupon he was given the name Non-ba-a-ton meaning “treads on two” (Dorsey, 1890, pp. 377-383) (Fletcher & Laflesche, 1911, p. 54).

The tribal buffalo hunt in 1855 was the last successful big hunt. Beginning in 1856, although the Ponca tried to hunt in the spring and the fall in the traditional way, they were frequently turned away by Teton Lakota war parties.

Cut off from the buffalo and fearful of leaving their villages to farm outlying fields, the Ponca were often at the point of starvation. To make matters worse, white settlers had been slowly filtering into Ponca Territory and squatting on valuable bottom land fields. Bending to their inevitable situation, the Ponca chiefs signed a treaty with the U.S. Government on 12 March 1858 which ceded to the government all 2.3 million acres of land which the Ponca owned or claimed “except for a small portion on which to colonize or domesticate them.” In return, the Federal Government promised to “protect the tribe in the possession of the remainder of their domain as their permanent home and to secure them in their persons and property” (Royce, 1899, p. 818).

In the spring of the following year, in 1859, the Ponca tried to make their customary tribal buffalo hunt, but encountered a combined party of Sicangu Lakota, Oglala Lakota and Cheyenne at the headwaters of the Elkhorn River. The combined party attacked the Ponca hunting camp, killing a Ponca sub-chief named Heavy Cloud and 14 others in retaliation for selling their lands to the U.S. Government the previous year (Howard, 1965, p. 31).

By 1865, the last treaty signed with the Ponca, ceded an additional 30,000 acres of Ponca land to the U.S. Government, reducing the Ponca Reservation near Niobrara Nebraska, in what is now Knox and Boyd counties, to a mere 96,000 acres.

It was the ft. Laramie treaty of 1868 that forever altered the course of Ponca history. Among other things, through an inexplicable and almost criminal blunder, the treaty established the boundaries of the “great Sioux (Lakota) Reservation” which included the 96,000 acres that was the Ponca Reservation. The Teton Lakota Bands now had a perfect excuse for their continued raids on the Ponca, as the Ponca were now trespassers in their own homeland. Over the next eight years, the Ponca repeatedly appealed to the U.S. Government for protection and assistance. However, the government made no effort to correct this fantastic error, or to protect the Ponca as promised in the treaty of 1858.

According to Alice Fletcher in The Omaha Tribe (Fletcher & Laflesche, 1911, p. 51) by November 1874, the total population of the Ponca was counted as 733 persons, divided into three villages along the Niobrara River. However, figures presented do not add up. The information furnished to Fletcher by the Office of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs showed the Wa-in-xu-de or “Gray Blanket” village was said to have a population of 377 persons, the Hu-bthon or “Fish Smell” village had 144 persons, and the “Point” village had 248 persons. These figures total 769, which differs from Fletcher's statement, “the total population of the tribe at that time was 733.” Fletcher further states that “there were eight chiefs, each of whom had his band,” and she gives a breakdown of the population among each as follows:

According to Alice Fletcher in The Omaha Tribe (Fletcher & Laflesche, 1911, p. 51) by November 1874, the total population of the Ponca was counted as 733 persons, divided into three villages along the Niobrara River. However, figures presented do not add up. The information furnished to Fletcher by the Office of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs showed the Wa-in-xu-de or “Gray Blanket” village was said to have a population of 377 persons, the Hu-Bthon or “Fish Smell” village had 144 persons, and the “Point” village had 248 persons. These figures total 769, which differs from Fletcher's statement, “the total population of the tribe at that time was 733.” Fletcher further states that “there were eight chiefs, each of whom had his band,” and she gives a breakdown of the population among each as follows:

  1. White Eagle's Band – 89 persons
  2. Big Soldier's Band – 97 persons
  3. Traveling Buffalo's Band – 72 persons
  4. Black Crow's Band – 90 persons
  5. Over The Land's Band – 73 persons
  6. Woodpecker's Band – 75 persons
  7. Standing Bear's Band – 82 persons
  8. Big Hoofed Buffalo's Band – 22 persons

When these cited figures above are added, the total comes to 600 persons accounted for. It is therefore safe to say that the population of the Ponca Tribe in 1874 consisted of a range between 600 and 769 individuals.

In 1876, the U.S. Government formulated a policy to consolidate as many tribes as possible in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. The Ponca Tribe was approached by a government agent from the Indian Bureau, who selected 8 chiefs to accompany him to Oklahoma to look over several alternative sites for a new Ponca Reservation there. The Ponca chiefs made the journey to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, visiting many different land reserves which were equally barren and unsuitable for agriculture.

The Ponca chiefs refused to select any of the sites and after informing the government agent of their decision, requested to be allowed to return home to Niobrara, Nebraska. The agent, angry at their lack of cooperation, then left the Ponca chiefs, some of whom were advanced in years and ill. The chiefs were then forced to make the journey home in the middle of winter, without money, food or an interpreter. Some 50 days later, the Ponca chiefs reached the Otoe Reservation along the Kansas/Nebraska border. The Otoes provided them with enough food and horses to make their way back to Niobrara, Nebraska.

When the 8 Ponca chiefs reached their homeland, they found that since the Ponca had refused to go to Indian Territory of their own free will, a government order had been issued on 12 April 1877 to force their removal. Federal troops were called in to enforce the removal orders, and by May 1877, the Ponca had begun their forced migration to “the hot country.”

The long march took a heavy toll on the tribe, over half of whom were women and children. Storms, along with poor road and traveling conditions, greatly impeded their journey, causing a lot of suffering and deaths. Chief Standing Bear's daughter Prairie Flower, and his wife Shines White, were among those who died along the way.

It was not until 9 July 1877 that the party passed through Baxter Springs in Southeastern Kansas and crossed the line into the Indian Territory on the lands of the Quapaw Tribe. They were quartered in tipis they had brought with them, as no other provisions had been made by the government for their accommodation. Discouraged, homesick and hopeless, the Ponca now numbering 681, found themselves on the lands of strangers, in the middle of a hot summer, with no crops nor prospects for any (Howard, 1965, p. 35).

The Ponca were very unhappy in this location and pleaded for a better location in the Indian Territory. Another location was found for them on the west bank of the Arkansas River, covering both sides of the Salt Fork River in North-Central Oklahoma near what is now Ponca City. This land was part of the Indian Territory purchased from the Cherokee by the U.S. Government in the treaty of 1866. In July of 1878, the Ponca were moved again to this new parcel of 101,894 acres, and it was set apart as the Ponca Reservation.

The Ponca were suffering from malaria in this new country and many died from it. Food was also scarce as they had been on the move during the summers of 1877 and 1878 and had not been able to cultivate any crops. When Bear Shield, the eldest 12 year old son of Chief Standing Bear died in 1878, the Chief was unwilling to bury him in this strange country. Therefore, Standing Bear and sixty-six followers left the Ponca Reservation in January 1879 on foot, following a wagon containing the body of his dead son, as they headed north to the traditional Ponca burial grounds in Nebraska.

Because the Ponca were not to leave their reservation without permission, Standing Bear and his small group of followers were labeled as a renegade band. Gen. George Crook was then given orders by Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz to arrest the run-a-ways and return them to Indian Territory.

By March 1879, Standing Bear and his followers had reached the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska, and the Omaha Chief Iron Eyes took pity on them, and offered food and asylum. However, Gen. Crook caught up with Standing Bear and his Ponca followers, took them into custody without incident, and began escorting them back to Indian Territory. On their way south, they camped at Ft. Omaha near the city of Omaha, Nebraska and their story was made known to the citizens there.

The Omaha Daily Herald Newspaper publicized the plight of the Ponca group, and it was carried by many other newspapers across the country. As a result, two prominent attorneys decided that a writ of habeas corpus, asking for 14th Amendment protection, could prevent the Ponca from being forcibly returned to their reservation in Oklahoma. (The 14th Amendment states that no state shall deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without due process of law.) The United States Government denied the right of Standing Bear to obtain a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that “an Indian is not a person within the meaning of the law.”

The case of Standing Bear vs. Crook was brought before Judge Elmer S. Dundy in U.S. District Court on 30 April 1879, and by 12 May 1879 Judge Dundy had filed his now famous decision in favor of Chief Standing Bear holding that “an Indian is a person the same as a white man, and similarly entitled to the protection of the constitution.” Standing Bear and his followers were set free, and he then continued back to the Ponca tribal burial grounds on the Missouri bluffs where he buried his son with tribal honors.

By 20 October 1880, when agent A. R. Satterwhite filed a report for the Ponca Agency in Indian Territory, the population of the Ponca in Oklahoma was now only 530 under the leadership of the following men:

White Eagle
Black Crow
Rush Into Battle
The Chief
Big Bull
Big Soldier
Child Chief

In the same report filed in 1880, it was recorded that among the Ponca in Oklahoma, 80 houses had been built. In addition, 350 head of cattle, and 600 horses were recorded, along with wagons that had been provided. Also, 350 acres had been planted with corn and other vegetables (Foreman, 1946, pp. 253-254).

Although Standing Bear and his followers were freed in the spring of 1879, they had no home to return to in Nebraska. However, after the trial, President Rutherford B. Hayes assigned a commission to investigate details and found that the Ponca were being unjustly treated.

By August of 1881, only 26,236 acres in Knox County, Nebraska were returned to the Ponca near Niobrara, and by 1882, there were 170 Ponca living there. From this time, the Ponca have been divided into the Northern Ponca of Nebraska and the Southern Ponca of Oklahoma (Howard, 1965, p. 38).

Poverty and disease would continue to take its toll on the Ponca over the years, however their populations steadily increased. By 1906, just one year prior to Oklahoma statehood, the total Ponca population was 833, divided as 570 Southern Ponca in Oklahoma and 263 Northern Ponca in Nebraska.

In 1936 the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act paved the way for the Southern Ponca in Oklahoma to create a constitution and by-laws still in use today. This document titled, “Constitution and Bylaws of the Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma” was registered with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Then, figures taken in 1937 showed a total population of Ponca was 1,222, divided as 825 Southern Ponca in Oklahoma and 397 Northern Ponca in Nebraska.

By 1950 the U.S. Government formulated a policy which called for the dissolving and termination of all Indian Tribes. This policy effected some 109 tribes and bands including 13,263 Indian people and 1,365,801 acres of trust land.

In 1962, the Congress of the United States decided that the Northern Ponca Tribe should be terminated. In 1966, the Northern Poncas were completely terminated and all of their land and tribal holdings were dissolved. This termination removed 442 Ponca from the tribal rolls, dispossessing them of 834 acres in Nebraska.

During the 1970s members of the Northern Ponca Tribe, unwilling to accept their status as a terminated tribe, initiated the process of restoration to federal recognition. In April 1987, Nebraska passed legislative resolution #128 giving state recognition to the Northern Ponca Tribe and its members.

The Ponca Restoration Bill giving the Northern Ponca federal recognition was introduced to the U.S. Senate, passed, and was signed into law by President Bush on 31 October 1990. The Northern Ponca now operates under a constitution consistent with the Indian Reorganization Act of 18 June 1934.

As a result of the 2000 census, it was determined that there were 4,858 individuals in the United States that identified themselves as being Ponca alone, or Ponca in combination with another tribe or race.

In 2018, The Ponca Tribe of Indians Oklahoma (Southern Poncas) has 3,783 enrolled members.

Beautiful portraits of chiefs and leaders of the Sioux Native American tribe

Among the numerous Native American nations that have lived on the Great Plains were the Sioux. The name “Sioux” means “little snakes.” They occupied the territory of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, Illinois, and Nebraska. Their struggle with the Europeans began in the 17th century when Frenchman Jean Duluth moved into their territory and occupied their land. Matters would grow far, far more contentious.

The tribe of the Sioux was actually made up of a few smaller tribes that were very powerful and had a rich history of famous tribe members. Some of the most notable of these Indian chiefs were Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Lone Horn, Flying Hawk, Crazy Horse, and Spotted Elk. Fortunately, many of these faces haven’t been forgotten: their photographs testify to their personal struggle and courageous contributions.

The great leader of the Sioux Indian Tribe was Chief Red Cloud, who was known for his courage and wisdom. He was an important figure in the battle between the U.S. government and the Native Americans in the 19th century. He firmly resisted the so-called Bozeman trail through the territory of Montana and for two years continuously opposed the building of a road through Wyoming and Montana, a period known as Red Cloud’s War.

Eagle_Bear,_Sioux. Author:BPL CC BY-SA2.0

Afraid of Eagle (Sioux) Author: CC BY-SA2.0

Black Foot, Standing Bear, Big Eagle, Sioux Author: Frank Rinehart – Boston Public Library CC BY-SA2.0

Chief Bone Necklace an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (1899).

Cheyenne Chief Tall Bull

One summer evening in 1853, six young Cheyenne Dog Soldiers lay in the grass outside a Pawnee camp along the Red Shield (or Republican) River. As the scouts were about to pull out and return to the main party, one of them stopped and made a suggestion: ‘Let us wrap ourselves in blankets and go into the village one at a time. We can bump against them and count coup. However, the other scouts refused, reminding the reckless brave that they were there to locate the village so the main party could attack them.

That impetuous warrior, Tall Bull, had by 1864 become acknowledged leader of the Dog Soldiers, the fiercest of the Cheyenne warrior societies. More than 100 lodges, or about 500 people, followed him and the other chiefs over eastern Colorado and western Kansas and Nebraska.

Late that year the Sand Creek Massacre setoff a war with the whites, the so-called Cheyenne-Arapaho War of 1864-65. Tall Bull, seeing the war’s futility, led his people north, away from the white men to the Powder River country. But within a year, homesickness had driven them back to the Republican and Smoky Hill River area.

In the spring of 1866, Tall Bull and his followers returned to a strange land. The buffalo were drifting out of the prime lands along the Smoky Hill, moving away from the advancing farms and railroads. Suffering depredations at the hands of white settlers and seeing the buffalo disappearing, the Dog Soldiers began a war once again. Through the winter and into the spring of 1867 they raided the central stage route, determined to drive the wagons and stations off the buffalo range. In response, Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock took 1,400 soldiers to Fort Larned, Kan., in April to have a council with the Dog Soldiers.

Tall Bull and many other Dog Soldiers responded to the invitation from their agent, Edward Wynkoop. They moved their village of 500 lodges 35 miles southwest of the fort but stopped there and made camp. Sand Creek was still fresh in their memories. Only the chiefs rode into Larned to talk with the soldiers.

Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who was present at the talks, described Tall Bull as a fine, warlike-looking chieftain. While many of the chiefs who came to the council wore captured military clothing, Tall Bull came dressed in his finest, shunning the white man’s clothes. He was described as having 20 to 30 silver dollars flattened out to the size of saucers, fastened ‘flatwise’ on a thong about a yard and a half long, one end of which was attached to the crown of his head and the other end floated out behind him as he rode. His moccasins were embroidered with small beads and he was enveloped in a dark blanket.

That Tall Bull was a major chief by that time was obvious. After Hancock’s speech and display of artillery might, it was Tall Bull who rose and spoke for the group. Lieutenant Albert Barnitz of the 7th Cavalry noticed that one of their principal chiefs, ‘Tall Bull’, while making a speech… or rather while the interpreter was translating… stood tapping the ground with his foot, in a very defiant manner.

Tall Bull was not defiant. Nor was he conciliatory. Professing his desire for a just peace, he stressed the need for the soldiers and whites to quit making war on the Indians. Custer’s recollection of the speech indicates that Hancock and his soldiers had not come to listen but to dictate to the Indians. His [Tall Bull’s] speech contained nothing important, recalled Custer.

Tall Bull’s final statement indicates that what Barnitz took for defiance was probably impatience mixed with a little contempt: I shall have no more to say to you there [in his village, to which Hancock was determined to go] than here. I have said all I want to say. He had recently visited the Powder River country, where Sioux leader Red Cloud wanted to chase out the white man. Reports from the north indicated he was doing just that. The Cheyennes could do the same on the Smoky Hill. At least twice during that time, Tall Bull maintained the peace by stopping the Dog Soldiers from attacking the troops as they approached their village and also by restraining the great warrior Roman Nose from killing Hancock during a council.

Displaying even more maturity and responsibility, Tall Bull led his people away from the village, abandoning all possessions rather than risking a fight so close to the women and children. Hancock, enraged at their defiance, burned the village. The war that followed this foolish action was over quickly. Hancock was withdrawn from the Plains. A council was arranged in the fall of 1867 at a place on the Medicine Lodge River in south-central Kansas. All the tribes were invited-and most of the Indians on reservations attended.

Camping three days’ journey west of the council on the Cimarron River, the Dog Soldiers under Tall Bull waited for six days. When they finally arrived at noon on September 28, it was in a manner that left no doubt they were not a conquered people. Arriving on horseback, the Dog Soldiers formed a platoon front about 150 yards from the commissioners, as they had seen the cavalry do many times. At the sound of a bugle, they charged into camp firing weapons in the air and brandishing bows with arrows nocked. Skidding to a halt within yards of the commission, they slid to the ground, then laughed and began shaking hands.

During the talks that followed, Tall Bull, one of the major negotiators, emphasized again that the Cheyennes wanted peace but also said that if war was what the whites wanted, he would accept that. Negotiations stalled. The Cheyennes refused to give up the hunting grounds north of the Arkansas River. The peace commission had already written out a treaty that required just that. As the council began to look like a failure, Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri, the chief negotiator, provided a verbal understanding that the Cheyenne chiefs could hunt between the Arkansas and the Republican as long as there were buffalo there. With that understanding, the chiefs signed the treaty. As Barnitz said in a letter to his wife, the Indians were signing away their rights … as they have no idea what they are giving up.

In the spring of 1868, Tall Bull violated the Medicine Lodge Creek Treaty by taking his warriors north of the Arkansas to hunt and raid. It was he who chose the warriors to raid the Kaws at Council Grove in eastern Kansas that year. To escape the soldiers who responded to those raids, Tall Bull led his band of about 300 warriors and their families to the headwaters of the Republican. In August 1868 they were camped along the Arikaree fork of the Republican-hunting buffalo and preparing for winter. More Cheyennes and several groups of Sioux and Arapahos joined them there until they numbered close to 700 warriors.

Colonel Sandy Forsyth led a group of 50 scouts in pursuit of the raiders. On September 16, 1868, they camped on the Arikaree-not knowing that the whole of the tribe he was chasing and a lot more were camped 20 miles away on the same stream. Hunters rushed into the Cheyenne camp that evening and told of the white scouts. Tall Bull roused the camp, calling on his allies to prepare for war.

Tall Bull’s actual conduct in the battle that followed-the Battle of Beecher Island-is unknown. He is not mentioned by the Cheyenne survivors as one of the warriors who led the charges or directed the battle, but his presence throughout is acknowledged. He advised Roman Nose not to go into the battle with his medicine broken but urged him to hurry his purifications. He was there after the morning failures with the group seeking Roman Nose to lead the next charge. He was there at the end, after Roman Nose had fallen, to pick up the pieces of this great mass of warriors who had fought and failed.

Most of the Indian survivors went north, but Tall Bull gathered a mixed company of Dog Soldiers, Sioux and Arapaho lodges and attacked western Kansas and Nebraska again. Although he was never beaten in battle, the cold that winter drove the Dog Soldiers to the reservation-the Southern Cheyenne villages around Fort Cobb.

During a move in the spring from Fort Cobb to Fort Supply, an argument broke out between Tall Bull and Chief Little Robe. Tall Bull wanted the young men to join him, when the ponies got fat, in raiding and hunting north of the Arkansas. Chief Little Robe could see nothing good in that and ordered Tall Bull off the reservation. Tall Bull left angry, with about 165 lodges of Dog Soldiers, stating he would live free or die.

Traveling north through eastern Colorado Territory, Tall Bull led his people to the Republican again-trying to find the bands that had not gone south for the winter. While Tall Bull’s people camped near Beaver Creek, the 5th Cavalry, under Major Eugene Carr, attacked them. A long, tiring fight ensued over many miles and with many skirmishes. The village lost many provisions and lodges. In retaliation, Tall Bull led his warriors to the Smoky Hill, where they killed, looted, burned and kidnapped. When he had sated his anger and his need for provisions, he retreated once again into the rough and isolated country between the Republican and the Plattedetermined to take his people north once again, as he had in 1865, to five free with their northern relatives.

At White Butte, as the Cheyennes called Summit Springs, Tall Bull rested his village. We will stop here for two days, he told his followers, then we will push across the south Platte and go up to the Rock where we starved the Pawnees. Believing that they had outrun the pursuing soldiers, and sure that the Platte was too high to cross, they settled into camp. But on the afternoon of July 11, 1869, Carr’s Pawnee scouts found the village. Without being detected, the troops came within 1,200 yards of the sleepy village and attacked. Without a chance to organize or to defend themselves or their families, the Cheyennes ran, grabbing horses where they could, trying to get out of the way of the big American horses and the screaming Pawnees. Two Crows, a Cheyenne Dog Soldier, recognized a horse as it came toward him. It was Tall Bull’s war pony, a gentle and welltrained animal. He ran alongside it, grabbed its mane, then swung onto it. On its back, he escaped from the village.

Tall Bull, in the meantime, grabbed another pony, an orange-colored steed with a silver mane and tail. He lifted his wife and child onto its back with him, then ran it into a narrow, steep ravine. About 20 others ran there with him. When he had secured his wife and child deep in the ravine, he rode back to the opening, dismounted and stabbed his horse behind the foreleg, causing the animal to drop to the ground, dead. The Pawnee scouts under Frank and Luther North surrounded the ravine. As the North brothers rode up, an Indian raised his head over the rim and fired at them. Frank quickly dismounted and handed his brother his reins. He told his brother, Ride away and he will put his head up again.

Luther did as he was told, while Frank aimed his rifle at the spot where the head had disappeared. Within a few seconds, the Indian’s head popped up again. North killed him with one shot. A few minutes following, a woman and child left the ravine, signaling Frank North not to shoot. She approached him begging for mercy in sign language. North sent her to the rear with the child. North organized his scouts to attack and overrun the ravine. Within minutes the battle was over. Everyone between those steep banks was dead.

After the battle, an interpreter discovered that the woman who had come out of the ravine was one of Tall Bull’s widows. She said that North had killed Tall Bull with that one shot. Others, though, also claimed to have killed him. A Lieutenant Masons claim is unsubstantiated. William Buffalo Bill Cody’s claim is based on an episode that happened after the main battle, when skirmishers returned to harass the troops in the village.

Cody reported that there was an Indian on a very nice horse riding just out of rifle range. Cody dropped into a gully and slithered out to where he could be sure to hit the man and not the horse, for the horse was his quest. With a single shot from cover, Cody downed the man. The horse, in a panic, ran into the village and was captured. Later that day, as the captured Indians saw Cody leading the horse, a woman set up a howl. Through an interpreter she claimed to be Tall Bull’s wife and recognized the horse as his.

Although it is easy to confuse things in memory and during a battle, these two reports, North’s and Cody’s, seem to be so contradictory that only one can be the truth. In reality, both are probably true. Early in the fight, Two Crows had taken one of Tall Bull’s war ponies. It is most likely that Cody killed Two Crows or someone who had taken the horse from him and not Tall Bull.

At the end of the Battle of Summit Springs, Tall Bull was dead. Roman Nose was a year dead. So was Black Kettle. All the leaders of the Southern Cheyennes and the fiercest of all the warrior societies were gone. So, too, was the power of the Southern Cheyennes-forever.

This article was written by L. Robert Pyle and originally published in the April 2002 issue of Wild West Magazine.

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Worship of an Apis bull, experienced by ancient Egyptians as holy, has been known since the First Dynasty in Memphis, while worship of the Apis as a proper god, at least according to Manetho's Aegyptiaca, seems to be a later adoption, purportedly started during the reign of king Kaiechos (possibly Nebra) of the Second Dynasty. [3]

Apis is named on very early monuments, but little is known of the divine animal before the New Kingdom. [2] Ceremonial burials of bulls indicate that ritual sacrifice was part of the worship of the early cow deities, Hathor and Bat, and a bull might represent her offspring, a king who became a deity after death. [ citation needed ] He was entitled "the renewal of the life" of the Memphite deity Ptah: but after death he became Osorapis, i.e. the Osiris Apis, just as dead humans were assimilated to Osiris, the ruler of the underworld. This Osorapis was identified with Serapis of the late Hellenistic period and may well be identical with him. Creating parallels to their own religious beliefs, ancient Greek writers identified Apis as an incarnation of Osiris, ignoring the connection with Ptah. [2]

Apis was the most popular of three great bull cults of ancient Egypt, the others being the cults of Mnevis and Buchis. All are related to the worship of Hathor or Bat, similar primary goddesses separated by region until unification that eventually merged as Hathor. The worship of Apis was continued by the Greeks and after them by the Romans, and lasted until almost 400 CE.

This animal was chosen because it symbolized the courageous heart, great strength, and fighting spirit of the king. Apis came to being considered a manifestation of the king, as bulls were symbols of strength and fertility, qualities that are closely linked with kingship. "Strong bull of his mother Hathor" was a common title for Egyptian gods and male kings, being unused for women serving as king, such as Hatshepsut.

As early as the time of the Narmer Palette, the king is depicted with a bovine tail on one side, and a bull is seen knocking down the walls of a city on the other.

Occasionally, Apis was pictured with the sun-disk symbol of his mother, Hathor, between his horns, being one of few deities ever associated with her symbol. When the disk was depicted on his head with his horns below and the triangular marking on his forehead, an ankh was suggested. That symbol always was closely associated with Hathor.

Early on, Apis was the herald (wḥm) of Ptah, the chief deity in the area around Memphis. As a manifestation of Ptah, Apis also was considered to be a symbol of the king, embodying the qualities of kingship. In the region where Ptah was worshiped, cattle exhibited white patterning on their mainly black bodies, and so a belief grew up that the Apis calf had to have a certain set of markings suitable to its role. It was required to have a white triangular marking upon its forehead, a white Egyptian vulture wing outline on its back, a scarab mark under its tongue, a white crescent moon shape on its right flank, and double hairs on his tail.

The calf that matched these markings was selected from the herds, brought to a temple, given a harem of cows, and worshiped as an aspect of Ptah. The cow who was his mother was believed to have conceived him by a flash of lightning from the heavens, or from moonbeams. She also was treated specially, and given a special burial. At the temple, Apis was used as an oracle, his movements being interpreted as prophecies. His breath was believed to cure disease and his presence to bless those around with strength. A window was created in the temple through which he could be viewed and, on certain holidays, he was led through the streets of the city, bedecked with jewelry and flowers.

Details of the mummification ritual of the sacred bull are written within the Apis papyrus. [4] Sometimes the body of the bull was mummified and fixed in a standing position on a foundation made of wooden planks.

By the New Kingdom period, the remains of the sacred bulls were interred at the cemetery of Saqqara. The earliest known burial in Saqqara was performed in the reign of Amenhotep III by his son Thutmose afterward, seven more bulls were buried nearby. Ramesses II initiated Apis burials in what now is known as the Serapeum, an underground complex of burial chambers at Saqqara for the sacred bulls, a site used throughout the rest of Ancient Egyptian history into the reign of Cleopatra.

Khaemweset, the priestly son of Ramesses II (c. 1300 BCE), excavated a great gallery to be lined with the tomb chambers another similar gallery was added by Psamtik I. The careful documentation of the ages of the animals in the later instances, with the regnal dates for their birth, enthronement, and death have thrown much light on the chronology from the Twenty-second Dynasty onward. The name of the mother cow and the place of the calf's birth often are recorded. The sarcophagi are of immense size and the burial must have entailed enormous expense. It is remarkable, therefore, that the ancient religious leaders contrived to bury one of the animals in the fourth year of Cambyses II. [2]

The Apis was a protector of the deceased and linked to the pharaoh. Horns embellish some of the tombs of ancient pharaohs and Apis often was depicted on private coffins as a powerful protector. As a form of Osiris, ruler of the underworld, it was believed that to be under the protection of Apis would give the person control over the four winds in the afterlife.

According to Arrian, Apis was one of the Egyptian deities Alexander the Great propitiated by offering a sacrifice during his seizure of Ancient Egypt from the Persians. [6] After Alexander's death, his general Ptolemy I Soter made efforts to integrate Egyptian religion with that of the new Hellenic rulers. Ptolemy's policy was to find a deity that might win the reverence of both groups, despite the curses of the Egyptian religious leaders against the deities of the previous foreign rulers (i.e. Set, lauded by the Hyksos). Without success, Alexander had attempted to use Amun for this purpose, but that deity was more prominent in Upper Egypt and not for those in Lower Egypt, where the Greeks had stronger influence. Since the Greeks had little respect for animal-headed deities, a Greek statue was created as an idol and proclaimed as an anthropomorphic equivalent of the highly popular Apis. It was named Aser-hapi (i.e. Osiris-Apis), which became Serapis, and later was said to represent Osiris fully, rather than just his Ka.

The earliest mention of a Serapis is in the authentic death scene of Alexander, from the royal diaries. [7] Here, Serapis has a temple at Babylon, and is of such importance that he alone is named as being consulted on behalf of the dying Alexander. The presence of this temple in Babylon radically altered perceptions of the mythologies of this era, although it has been discovered that the unconnected Babylonian deity Ea was entitled Serapsi, meaning king of the deep, and it is Serapsi who is referred to in the diaries, not Serapis. The significance of this Serapsi in the Hellenic psyche, however, due to its involvement in Alexander's death, also may have contributed to the choice of Osiris-Apis as the chief Ptolemaic deity during their occupation of Ancient Egypt.

According to Plutarch, Ptolemy stole the statue from Sinope, having been instructed in a dream by the Unknown God to bring the statue to Alexandria, where the statue was pronounced to be "Serapis" by two religious experts. Among those experts was one of the Eumolpidae, the ancient family from which the hierophant of the Eleusinian Mysteries traditionally had been chosen since before any historical records. The other expert supposedly was the scholarly Egyptian priest Manetho, which increased acceptability from both the Egyptians and the Greeks.

Plutarch may not be correct, however, as some Egyptologists assert that the Sinope in Plutarch's report is the hill of Sinopeion, a name given to the site of an existing Serapeum at Memphis. Also, according to Tacitus, Serapis (i.e. Apis explicitly identified as Osiris in full) had been the tutelary deity of the village of Rhacotis, before it suddenly expanded into the great capital of "Alexandria".

Being introduced by the Greeks, understandably, the statue depicted a fully human figure resembling Hades or Pluto, both being kings of the Greek underworld. The figure was enthroned with the modius, which is a basket or a grain-measure, on his head, a Greek symbol for the land of the dead. He also held a sceptre, indicating rulership, and Cerberus, gatekeeper of the underworld, rested at his feet. It also had what appeared to be a serpent at its base, fitting the Egyptian symbol of sovereignty, the uraeus.

With his (i.e., Osiris') wife, Isis, and their son (at this point in history) Horus (in the form of Harpocrates), Serapis won an important place in the Greek world, reaching Ancient Rome, with Anubis being identified as Cerberus. The cult survived until 385, when Christians destroyed the Serapeum of Alexandria, and subsequently, the cult was forbidden by the Edict of Thessalonica.

The pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk uses Apis as its logo.

In modern day Egypt, an entire district of the city of Alexandria is named after the Apis bull.