History for the Rest of Us

Roman Nose

Roman Nose

Feb 7, 2013

This Cheyenne war chief was a contemporary of Dull Knife. He was not so strong a character as the other, and was inclined to be pompous and boastful; but with all this he was a true type of native American in spirit and bravery. While Dull Knife was noted in warfare among Indians, Roman Nose made his record against the whites, in defense of territory embracing the Republican and Arickaree rivers. He was killed on the latter river in 1868, in the celebrated battle with General Forsythe. Save Chief Gall and Washakie in the prime of their manhood, this chief had no peer in bodily perfection and masterful personality. No Greek or Roman gymnast was ever a finer model of physical beauty and power. He thrilled his men to frenzied action when he came upon the field. It was said of him that he sacrificed more youths by his personal influence in battle than any other leader, being very reckless himself in grand-stand charges. He was killed needlessly in this manner. Roman Nose always rode an uncommonly fine, spirited horse, and with his war bonnet and other paraphernalia gave a wonderful exhibition. The Indians used to say that the soldiers must gaze at him rather than aim at him, as they so seldom hit him even when running the gantlet before a firing line. He did a remarkable thing once when on a one-arrow-to-kill buffalo hunt with his brother-in-law. His companion had selected his animal and drew so powerfully on his sinew bowstring that it broke. Roman Nose had killed his own cow and was whipping up close to the other when the misfortune occurred. Both horses were going at full speed and the arrow jerked up in the air. Roman Nose caught it and shot the cow for him. Another curious story told of him is to the effect that he had an intimate Sioux friend who was courting a Cheyenne girl, but without success. As the wooing of both Sioux and Cheyennes was pretty much all effected in the night time, Roman Nose told his friend to let him do the courting for him. He arranged with the young woman to elope...

Chief Joseph Surrenders

Chief Joseph Surrenders

Dec 7, 2012

Chief Joseph was Chief of a tribe of Nez Perce Indians. He had led his people in resistance to the white men settling in the Nez Perce’s lands in the Oregon Territory. Ordered to move to Idaho in 1877, or face retribution, the Nez Perce agreed to move onto a reservation. After tribe members killed four white settlers, he and his people fled for Canada with the U.S. Army in pursuit. They had several battles as they moved through Washington, Idaho, and Montana on their way to Canada. The tribe had traveled approximately 1700 miles and, after a five-day battle, they found themselves in dire conditions. Within 40 miles of Canada, Chief Joseph surrendered on October 5, 1877 in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana Territory. The following is Chief Joseph’s speech: October 5, 1877 Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Ta Hool Hool Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever. Related Stories: Chief Joseph Sitting Bull Rain in the Face Two Strike Red...

Chief Spotted Tail

Chief Spotted Tail

Oct 30, 2012

Among the Sioux chiefs of the “transition period” only one was shrewd enough to read coming events in their true light. It is said of Spotted Tail that he was rather a slow-moving boy, preferring in their various games and mimic battles to play the role of councilor, to plan and assign to the others their parts in the fray. This he did so cleverly that he soon became a leader among his youthful contemporaries; and withal he was apt at mimicry and impersonation, so that the other boys were accustomed to say of him, “He has his grandfather’s wit and the wisdom of his grandmother!” Spotted Tail was an orphan, reared by his grandparents, and at an early age compelled to shift for himself. Thus he was somewhat at a disadvantage among the other boys; yet even this fact may have helped to develop in him courage and ingenuity. One little incident of his boy life, occurring at about his tenth year, is characteristic of the man. In the midst of a game, two boys became involved in a dispute which promised to be a serious one, as both drew knives. The young Spotted Tail instantly began to cry, “The Shoshones are upon us! To arms! to arms!” and the other boys joined in the war whoop. This distracted the attention of the combatants and ended the affair. Upon the whole, his boyhood is not so well remembered as is that of most of his leading contemporaries, probably because he had no parents to bring him frequently before the people, as was the custom with the wellborn, whose every step in their progress toward manhood was publicly announced at a feast given in their honor. It is known, however, that he began at an early age to carve out a position for himself. It is personal qualities alone that tell among our people, and the youthful Spotted Tail gained at every turn. At the age of seventeen, he had become a sure shot and a clever hunter; but, above all, he had already shown that he possessed a superior mind. He had come into contact with white people at the various trading posts,...

Red Cloud

Red Cloud

Oct 25, 2012

Red Cloud was born about 1820 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. When he was about six years old, his father gave him a spirited colt, and said to him: “My son, when you are able to sit quietly upon the back of this colt without saddle or bridle, I shall be glad, for the boy who can win a wild creature and learn to use it will as a man be able to win and rule men.” The little fellow, instead of going for advice and help to his grandfather, as most Indian boys would have done, began quietly to practice throwing the lariat. In a little while he was able to lasso the colt. He was dragged off his feet at once, but hung on, and finally managed to picket him near the teepee. When the big boys drove the herd of ponies to water, he drove his colt with the rest. Presently the pony became used to him and allowed himself to be handled. The boy began to ride him bareback; he was thrown many times, but persisted until he could ride without even a lariat, sitting with arms folded and guiding the animal by the movements of his body. From that time on he told me that he broke all his own ponies, and before long his father’s as well. The old men, his contemporaries, have often related to me how Red Cloud was always successful in the hunt because his horses were so well broken. At the age of nine, he began to ride his father’s pack pony upon the buffalo hunt. He was twelve years old, he told me, when he was first permitted to take part in the chase,...

Two Strike

Two Strike

Oct 23, 2012

It is a pity that so many interesting names of well-known Indians have been mistranslated, so that their meaning becomes very vague if it is not wholly lost. In some cases an opposite meaning is conveyed. For instance there is the name, “Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses.” It does not mean that the owner of the name is afraid of his own horse—far from it! Tashunkekokipapi signifies “The young men [of the enemy] fear his horses.” Whenever that man attacks, the enemy knows there will be a determined charge. The name Tashunkewitko, or Crazy Horse, is a poetic simile. This leader was likened to an untrained or untouched horse, wild, ignorant of domestic uses, splendid in action, and unconscious of danger. The name of Two Strike is a deed name. In a battle with the Utes this man knocked two enemies from the back of a war horse. The true rendering of the name Nomkahpa would be, “He knocked off two.” I was well acquainted with Two Strike and spent many pleasant hours with him, both at Washington, D. C., and in his home on the Rosebud reservation. What I have written is not all taken from his own mouth, because he was modest in talking about himself, but I had him vouch for the truth of the stories. He said that he was born near the Republican River about 1832. His earliest recollection was of an attack by the Shoshones upon their camp on the Little Piney. The first white men he ever met were traders who visited his people when he was very young. The incident was still vividly with him, because, he said, “They made my father crazy,” [drunk]. This made a deep impression upon him, he told me, so that from that day he was always afraid of the white man’s “mysterious water.” Two Strike was not a large man, but he was very supple and alert in motion, as agile as an antelope. His face was mobile and intelligent. Although he had the usual somber visage of an Indian, his expression brightened up wonderfully when he talked. In some ways wily and shrewd in intellect, he was not deceitful nor mean. He had...

Rain-in-the-Face

Rain-in-the-Face

Oct 22, 2012

The noted Sioux warrior, Rain-in-the-Face, whose name once carried terror to every part of the frontier, died at his home on the Standing Rock reserve in North Dakota on September 14, 1905. About two months before his death I went to see him for the last time, where he lay upon the bed of sickness from which he never rose again, and drew from him his life-history. It had been my experience that you cannot induce an Indian to tell a story, or even his own name, by asking him directly. “Friend,” I said, “even if a man is on a hot trail, he stops for a smoke! In the good old days, before the charge there was a smoke. At home, by the fireside, when the old men were asked to tell their brave deeds, again the pipe was passed. So come, let us smoke now to the memory of the old days!” He took of my tobacco and filled his long pipe, and we smoked. Then I told an old mirthful story to get him in the humor of relating his own history. The old man lay upon an iron bedstead, covered by a red blanket, in a corner of the little log cabin. He was all alone that day; only an old dog lay silent and watchful at his master’s feet. Finally he looked up and said with a pleasant smile: “True, friend; it is the old custom to retrace one’s trail before leaving it forever! I know that I am at the door of the spirit home. “I was born near the forks of the Cheyenne River, about seventy years ago. My father was not a chief; my grandfather was not a chief, but a good hunter and a feast-maker. On my mother’s side I had some noted ancestors, but they left me no chieftainship. I had to work for my reputation. “When I was a boy, I loved to fight,” he continued. “In all our boyish games I had the name of being hard to handle, and I took much pride in the fact. “I was about ten years old when we encountered a band of Cheyennes. They were...