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首页 » 英文名人传记 » Lives of Famous Indian Chiefs » CHAPTER XIII.
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The Sioux or Dakota Indians were first seen by the French explorers in 1640, near the head waters of the Mississippi River. The Algonquins called them Nadowessioux, whence the name gradually became shortened into Sioux. This was the largest family or confederation in the Northwest and was divided into a number of tribes, known as the Santee, Sisseton, Wahpeton, Yankton, Yanktonnais, Teton, Brule, Ogalalla and Unepapa. These are all Sioux proper, and still number nearly thirty thousand tall, well-built Indians, with large features and heavy, massive faces. They are perhaps the finest type of plains Indians, who, until recent years, lived by hunting the buffalo.
At one time their territory extended east of the Mississippi and from the source of the "Father of Waters" to the upper Missouri, but they live at present chiefly in the States of North and South Dakota.
Undoubtedly the most famous leader of the Sioux was the subject of this sketch. He was great in spite of the fact that he was a medicine man, rather than chief proper, and that his tongue was mightier than his tomahawk.
Sitting Bull was born on Willow Creek, Dakota, in 1837. He is said to have been an Unepapa, though he signed the treaty in 1868 as an Oglala.
He is described as a heavy built Indian, with a large, massive head, and, strange to say, brown hair, which is very rare among Indians. His complexion was also light and his face badly marked with smallpox. He was about five feet ten inches tall, possessed a fine physique and striking appearance, with his prominent hooked nose, and fierce half-bloodshot eyes gleaming from under brows which indicate large perceptive organs. Judging from his photograph, taken in a standing position, he was slightly bow-legged, and wore his hair in two heavy braids hanging on either side in front of his shoulders.
Sitting Bull's reputation was more of the agitator and schemer than of the warrior. As Cyrus Townsend Bradley, in his "Indian Fights and Fighters," well says, "The Indians said he had a big head but a little heart, and they esteemed him something of a coward; in spite of this his influence over the chiefs and the Indians was paramount, and remained so until his death.
"Perhaps he lacked the physical courage which is necessary in fighting, but he must have had abundant moral courage, for he was the most implacable enemy and the most dangerous—because of his ability, which was so great as to overcome the Indian's contempt for his lack of personal courage—that the United States had ever had among the Indians. He was a strategist, a tactician—everything but a fighter. However, his lack of fighting qualities was not serious, for he gathered around him a dauntless array of war-chiefs, the first among them being Crazy Horse, an Ogalalla, a skilful and indomitable, as well as a brave and ferocious leader." There was probably, no other Sioux who could make so proud a showing of the combined essentials of leadership as this prophet, priest, medicine man and chief.
The leading events of the early part of his career were recorded by himself and fell into the hands of the whites by an accident soon after the Phil. Kearney massacre. It seems that a Yanktonnais Indian brought to Fort Buford an old roster-book of the Thirty-first Infantry, which had on the blank sides of the leaves a series of portraitures of the doings of a mighty warrior. They were rather skilfully executed in brown and black inks, with coloring added for the horses and clothing. The totem in the corner of each pictograph, a buffalo bull on its haunches, connected with the hero by a line, revealed the fact that it was a history of Sitting Bull, who with a band of warriors had been committing depredations in that part of the country for several years.
The Yanktonnais Indian finally admitted that he had stolen it from Sitting Bull and sold it for a dollar and a half's worth of supplies. Almost every picture of the first twenty-five represents the slaughter of enemies of all sorts—Indians and white men, women and children, frontiersmen, railroad hands, teamsters and soldiers. He was as impartial as death itself, and all was grist that came to his mill. The next lot of about a dozen show his exploits as a collector of horses, a pursuit at which he was a brilliant success. The last few pictures represent him as leader of the Strong Hearts—a Sioux fraternity of warriors noted for their bravery and fortitude—charging two Crow villages. In one of these encounters thirty scalps were taken. These picture diaries are usually correct in detail. Ordinarily they are made on buffalo robes, or buckskin, and are kept by the hero to display among his own people who are acquainted with the facts of which he boasts. In this case there were soldiers at the fort who could vouch for the truth of some of the picture records.
While, therefore, Sitting Bull was not a chief of any great prominence during "the piping times of peace," he had a record as a fighter and a reputation as a skilful commander, which made him a powerful loadstone of attraction to the discontented Sioux of the agencies. These always thought of him, and flocked to his camp at the first outbreak of hostility.
It was stated at one time that Sitting Bull, while hating the white Americans, and disdaining to speak their language, was yet very fond of the French Canadians, that he talked French and that he had been converted to Christianity by a French Jesuit, named Father De Smet. It is uncertain how much truth there is in the statement, but there is probably some foundation for it. Certain it is, the French Jesuits have always been noted for their wonderful success in gaining the affections of the Indians, as well as for the transitory nature of their conversions. It is quite possible that Father De Smet may not only have baptized Sitting Bull some time, but induced him and his braves to attend mass, as performed by himself in the wilderness. There was never any real evidence of a change of heart, and the benefits of the conversion were only skin deep, as far as preventing cruelty in war was concerned.
It can not be denied that Sitting Bull was an Indian of unusual powers of mind, and a warrior whose talent amounted to genius. He must have been a general of the highest order, to have set the United States at defiance, as he did, for ten long years. That he was able to do this so long was owing to his skilful use of two advantages: a central position surrounded by "bad-lands," and the quarter circle of agencies from which he and his band drew supplies as wards of the Government, and allies, every campaign. These so-called "bad-lands" are large sections of clay soil, baked into chasms, four or five feet wide and perhaps twenty feet deep, by the long and intense droughts of that climate. This rough country, impassable for wagons, surrounded the hostiles at the time of which we write.
In the face of these advantages and of Sitting Bull's talents as a warrior, the Government decided to pacify them by giving the Indians all they asked, in the treaty of 1868.
Thus matters stood from 1868 to 1875, when Sitting Bull, accompanied by Red Cloud and Spotted Tail, visited the national capital. The three distinguished Sioux chiefs attracted marked attention, and were feasted and entertained by some of the leading men of the nation. General Grant was then President and the Great Father granted an audience with the three chiefs. The President and his advisers tried to induce the Sioux leaders to sign a new treaty, because—well gold had been discovered in the Black Hills, most of which by treaty belonged to the Sioux, but the three chiefs stubbornly refused to sign any treaty whatever, even at the request of the Great Father.
"Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war." She also has her defeats, and this was one of them. Finding nothing could be accomplished in the way of a new treaty, or peaceable settlement of the vexatious question, it was determined in 1876 to try one more campaign against Sitting Bull and his hostiles.
When gold was discovered in the Black Hills, there was the usual rush of miners and turbulent frontier population. Notwithstanding the fact that our authorities warned the emigrants to keep away, thousands of desperate men were soon engaged in the scramble for the precious metal. By way of retaliation, the Sioux left their reservation and began burning houses, stealing horses and killing settlers in Montana and Wyoming. A strong force of regulars under Generals Crook and Terry marched against them in the mountainous country of the Upper Yellowstone, and several thousand warriors under Sitting Bull were driven back toward the Big Horn mountains and river.
Gen. George A. Custer and Major Reno were sent forward with the Seventh Cavalry to locate the hostiles. Custer started on June 22d, and early in the morning of the 25th, 1876, discovered the camp of Sitting Bull. The village extended three and a half miles up the Little Big Horn and is estimated to have contained at least five thousand people.
Any one else but Custer would have waited for reinforcements, or retired without risking a battle with such tremendous odds against him, but this was not Custer's way.
It is quite probable he did not realize what a fearful hornet's nest he was about to stir up. Certain it is, Custer, as had always been his custom, divided his command into three parts—one division under Major Reno, one under Captain Benteen, the third commanded by himself. Reno was ordered to charge the lower end of the village, Benteen to charge the center on the opposite side, and he intended to strike the enemy on the upper end of the valley.
The particulars of what followed can never be known, since Custer and every one of his immediate command were killed. As in the case of the fall of the Alamo, in 1836, none of the soldiers survived to tell the story.
There were, however, two survivors who were not soldiers in the strictest sense of the term. They were Curley, the Crow scout, who escaped by letting down his hair and donning a blanket, and thus disguising himself as a Sioux. He claims to have found an unguarded pass through which he escaped and to have informed General Custer of it. He even urged Custer to mount his fleet horse and ride for his life. But that gallant hero preferred to die by his men, rather than attempt to escape in this selfish manner.
The other survivor was Comanche, the famous horse of Captain Keogh, a relative of General Custer. He was found about a day's journey from the battlefield, and as he had seven bad wounds, and was very weak from loss of blood, the soldiers never expected to get him back to camp, but by constructing a strong litter of poles and army blankets this was accomplished. With the best of treatment the equine hero fully recovered, and was given an honorable discharge. Special provision was made for the care and support of Comanche at Fort Riley. Once in a while, when the cavalry troops were on inspection, Comanche was led out, saddled and bridled, but no one ever sat in his saddle after the battle of the Little Big Horn.
Custer's command used the dead bodies of their horses killed by the Indians for a barricade. As the soldiers began the attack with a charge, every horse had been saddled. When, however, Comanche was found he was stripped of his saddle, bridle and accoutrements. It is therefore supposed that the Indians stripped and left him, believing he could not recover.
He is known to be the sole survivor of the cavalry horses, as the body of every other horse was found among the heaps of slain.
Comanche was one of the original mounts of the Seventh Cavalry, which was organized in 1866, and had been in almost every battle with the Indian service of that thrilling period. He was now taken in charge by Captain Rowlan and sent to Fort Riley, where for fourteen years he roamed the pasture at will, and was the pet of the Seventh Cavalry. He received the kindest of treatment until he died of old age, November 6, 1891. At the time of his death it was estimated that he was forty-five years old. This is the more remarkable when it is remembered that few horses reach the age of thirty-five years.
Comanche's skin was stuffed and mounted and placed in the museum of the Kansas State University. It was afterward on exhibition at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where it was seen by the author.
As there were no white survivors of the Custer fight on Little Big Horn, the historian is compelled to get his information from the Indian leaders.
Sitting Bull, Gall and Rain-in-the-Face, Itiomagaju, have each been induced to give their versions of it. We have not thought it best to quote Sitting Bull's statement. He was absent at the time of the battle "making medicine," took no active part in it, and we consider the whole story as either drawn on his imagination, or that of the reporter who interviewed him. We quote the account of Rain-in-the-Face, because he at least was present at the battle, and is the accredited slayer of Capt. Tom Custer.
It seems that Rain-in-the-Face had waylaid and murdered Dr. Houzinger, a veterinary surgeon, and Mr. Baliran, a sutler, who were stragglers in the rear, at the time of the Yellowstone expedition under General Stanley. Not long after this Rain-in-the-Face, with other young Sioux, took part in the Sun Dance, a ceremonial performance of great torture in which the aspirants give final proof of endurance and courage which entitles them to the toga virilis of a full-fledged, warrior. One feature of it was the suspension in air of the candidate by a rawhide rope passed through slits cut in the breast, or elsewhere, until the flesh tears and he falls to the ground. If he faints, falters or fails, or even gives way momentarily to his anguish during the period of suspension, he is called and treated as a squaw for the rest of his miserable life.
Edward Esmond says, "Rain-in-the-Face was lucky when he was so tied up; the tendons gave way easily, and he was released after so short a suspension that it was felt he had not fairly won his spurs. Sitting Bull, the chief medicine man, decided that the test was unsatisfactory. Rain-in-the-Face thereupon defied Sitting Bull to do his worst, declaring there was no test could wring a murmur of pain from his lips.
"Sitting Bull was equal to the occasion. He cut deep slits in the back over the kidneys, the hollows remaining were big enough almost to take in a closed fist years after, and passed the rawhide rope through them. For two days the young Indian hung suspended, taunting his torturers, jeering at them, defying them to do their worst, while singing his war songs and boasting of his deeds. The tough flesh, muscles and tendons would not tear loose although he kicked and struggled violently to get free. Finally, Sitting Bull, satisfied that Rain-in-the-Face's courage and endurance were above proof, ordered buffalo skulls to be tied to his legs, and the added weight, with some more vigorous kicking, enabled the Indian Stoic to break free. It was one of the most wonderful exhibitions of stoicism, endurance and courage ever witnessed among the Sioux, where these qualities were not infrequent."
Rain-in-the-Face had passed the test. No one thereafter questioned his courage. He was an approved warrior, indeed. It was while suspended thus that he boasted of the murder of Dr. Houzinger and Mr. Baliran, and was overheard by Charley Reynolds, the scout, who told Custer and the regiment. Rain-in-the-Face was arrested at Standing Rock Agency by a squad of soldiers under the command of Capt. Tom Custer, whom the Indians called Little Hair, to distinguish him from his brother, the general, whom they called Long Hair. He was put in the guard-house and condemned to execution, but, with the aid of white prisoners, made his escape. Before doing so, however, he told Tom Custer, in the event of his escape, he would cut his heart out and eat it.
Sitting Bull's Wives
From now on we will let the noted warrior tell his own story as found in Outdoor Life, of March, 1903:
"I rejoined Sitting Bull and Gall. They were afraid to come and get me there. I sent Little Hair a picture, on a piece of buffalo skin, of a bloody-heart. He knew I didn't forget my vow. The next time I saw Little Hair, ugh! I got his heart. I have said all."
And, Indian-like, he stopped. But we wanted to hear how he took Tom Custer's heart. McFadden, who is quite an artist as well as an actor of note, had made an imaginary sketch of "Custer's Last Charge." He got it and handed it to Rain, saying: "Does that look anything like the fight?" Rain studied it for a long time, and then burst out laughing.
"No," he said, "this picture is a lie. Those long swords, have swords—they never fought us with swords, but with guns and revolvers. These men are on ponies—they fought us on foot, and every fourth man held the others' horses. That's always their way of fighting. We tie ourselves onto our ponies and fight in a circle. These people are not dressed as we dress in a fight. They look like agency Indians—we strip naked and have ourselves and our ponies painted. This picture gives us bows and arrows. We were better armed than the long swords. Their guns wouldn't shoot but once—the thing would not throw out the empty cartridge shells. (In this he was historically correct, as dozens of guns were picked up on the battlefield by General Gibbon's command, two days after, with the shells still sticking in them, showing that the ejector wouldn't work.) When we found they could not shoot we saved our bullets by knocking the long swords over with our war-clubs—it was just like killing sheep. Some of them got on their knees and begged; we spared none—ugh! This picture is like all the white man's pictures of Indians, a lie. I will show you how it looked."
Then turning it over he pulled out a stump of a lead pencil from his pouch and drew a large shape of a letter S turned sidewise. "Here," said he, "is the Little Big Horn River; we had our-lodges along the banks in the shape of a bent bow."
"How many lodges did you have?" asked Harry.
"Oh, many, many times ten. We were like blades of grass." [It is estimated that there were between four and six thousand Indians, hence there must have been at least a thousand lodges.]
"Sitting Bull had made big medicine way off on a hill. He came in with it; he had it in a bag on a coup-stick. He made a big speech and said that Waukontonka (the Great Spirit) had come to him riding on an eagle. Waukontonka had told him that the long swords were coming, but the Indians would wipe them off the face of the earth. His speech made our hearts glad. Next day our runners came in and told us the long swords were coming. Sitting Bull had the squaws put up empty death lodges along the bend of the river to fool the Ree scouts when they came up and looked down over the bluffs. The brush and bend hid our lodges. Then Sitting Bull went away to make more medicine and didn't come back till the fight was over.
"Gall was head chief. Crazy Horse led the Cheyennes; Goose, the Bannocks. I was not a head chief—my brother, Iron Horn was—but I had a band of the worst Uncpapas; all of them had killed more enemies than they had fingers and toes. When the long swords came we knew their ponies were tired out. We knew they were fooled by the death lodges. They thought we were but a handful.
"We knew they made a mistake when they separated. Gall took most of the Indians up the river to come in between them and cut them off. We saw the Ree scouts had stayed back with Long Yellow Hair, and we were glad. We saw them trotting along, and let them come in over the bluffs. Some of our young men went up the gully which they had crossed and cut them off from behind.
"Then we showed our line in front, and the long swords charged. They reeled under our fire and started to fall back. Our young men behind them opened fire. Then we saw some officers talking and pointing. Don't know who they were, for they all looked alike. I didn't see Long Hair then or afterward. We heard the Rees singing their death song—they knew we had them. All dismounted and every fourth man held the others' ponies. Then we closed all around them. We rushed like a wave does at the sand out there (this interview occurred at Coney Island) and shot the pony holders and stampeded the ponies by waving our blankets in their faces. Our squaws caught them, for they were tired out.
"I had sung the war-song—I had smelt the powder smoke—my heart was bad—I was like one that had no mind. I rushed in and took their flag; my pony fell dead as I took it. I cut the thong that bound me. I jumped up and brained the long-sword flagman with my war-club and ran back to our line with the flag.
"The long sword's blood and brains splashed in my face. It felt hot and blood ran in my mouth. I could taste it. I was mad. I got a fresh pony and rushed back, shooting, cutting and slashing. This pony was shot and I got another.
"This time I saw Little Hair. I remembered my vow. I was crazy. I feared nothing. I knew nothing would hurt me, for I had my white-weasel-tail-charm on. {FN} [He was wearing the charm at the time he told this.] I don't know how many I killed trying to get at him. He knew me. I laughed at him and yelled at him. I saw his mouth move, but there was so much noise I couldn't hear his voice. He was afraid. When I got near enough I shot him with my revolver. My gun was gone, I don't know where. I leaped from my pony and cut out his heart and bit a piece out of it and spit it in his face. I got back on my pony and rode off shaking it. I was satisfied and sick of fighting; I didn't scalp him."
{FN} Notwithstanding his white-weasel-tail charm Rain-in-the-Face was wounded in this battle. A bullet pierced his right leg just above the knee. With a razor the wounded man attempted some surgery. First he cut deeply into the front of his leg, but failed to reach the bullet. Then he reached around to the back of his leg and cut into the flesh from that quarter. He got the bullet, also several tendons, and narrowly missed cutting the artery and bleeding to death. He was lame and had to walk on crutches all his life thereafter. [Statement of Mr. Esmond.]
"I didn't go back on the field after that. The squaws came up afterward and killed the wounded, cut their bootlegs off for moccasin soles and took their money, watches and rings. They cut their fingers off to get them quicker. They hunted for Long Yellow Hair to scalp him, but could not find him. He didn't wear his fort clothes (uniform), his hair had been cut off, and the Indians didn't know him. [This corroborates what Mrs. Custer says about her husband having his long yellow curls cut at St. Paul some weeks before he was killed.]
"That night we had a big feast and the scalp dance. Then Sitting Bull came up and made another speech. He said, 'I told you how it would be. I made great medicine. My medicine warmed your hearts and made you brave.'
"He talked a long time. All the Indians gave him the credit of winning the fight because his medicine won it. But he wasn't in the fight. Gall got mad at Sitting Bull that night. Gall said: 'We did the fighting, you only made medicine. It would have been the same anyway.' Their hearts were bad towards each other after that always.
"After that fight we could have killed all the others on the hill (Reno's command) but for the quarrel between Gall and Sitting Bull. Both wanted to be head chief. Some of the Indians said Gall was right and went with him. Some said Sitting Bull was. I didn't care, I was my own chief and had my bad young men; we would not obey either of them unless we wanted to, and they feared us.
"I was sick of fighting—I had had enough. I wanted to dance. We heard more long swords were coming with wheel guns (artillery, Gatlings). We moved camp north. They followed many days till we crossed the line into Canada. I stayed over there till Sitting Bull came back, and I came back with him. That is all there is to tell. I never told it to white men before."
When he had finished, I said to him: "Rain, if you didn't kill Long Yellow Hair, who did?" "I don't know. No one knows. It was like running in the dark." "Well," asked Mae, "Why was it Long Yellow Hair wasn't scalped, when every one else was? Did you consider him too brave to be scalped?"
"No one is too brave to be scalped; that wouldn't make any difference. The squaws wondered afterward why they couldn't find him. He must have lain under some other dead bodies. I didn't know, till I heard it long afterward from the whites, that he wasn't scalped."
Rain-in-the-Face was about sixty-two years of age at the time of his death, which occurred at Standing Rock Agency, North Dakota, September 12, 1905, and was the last chief to survive and tell the tale of the Custer fight, Gall and Sitting Bull have both gone to hunt the white buffalo long since. Rain could write his name in English. He was taught to do it at the World's Fair in order to sell Longfellow's poem entitled, "The Revenge of Rain-in-the-Face." He didn't know the significance of it after he had written it. His knowledge of English was confined to about thirty words, but he could not say them so any one could understand him, though he could understand almost anything that was said in English. The author recalls seeing him at the World's Fair while hunting Indian data. He looked then very much like his picture and walked with crutches.
Like many other Indians, his gratitude was for favors to come and not for favors already shown. You could depend upon any promise he made, but it took a world of patience to get him to promise anything. Even at the age of sixty he was still a Hercules. In form and face he was the most pronounced type of the ideal Fenimore Cooper dime novel Indian in America.
Upon the arrival of news of the Custer fight at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, General Miles and the Fifth Infantry were ordered to proceed to the scene of hostilities and form part of the large command already there. The order was at once obeyed.
On October 18 Lieut.-Col. E. S. Otis, commanding a battalion of four companies of the Twenty-third Infantry, was escorting a wagon train of supplies from Glendive, Montana, to the cantonment, when he was attacked by a large force of Indians. The soldiers had a hard fight to keep the animals from being stampeded, and the train from capture. They finally beat off the Indians, and during a temporary cessation of hostilities, a messenger rode out from the Indian lines, waving a paper, which was left on a hill in sight. When it was picked up Colonel Otis found it to be an imperious message, probably written by some half-breed, but dictated by the subject of this sketch. It ran as follows:
"I want to know what you are doing traveling on this road. You scare all the buffalo away. I want to hunt in this place. I want you to turn back from here. If you don't I will fight you again. I want you to leave what you have got here and turn back from here.
                           "I am your friend.
                                          Sitting Bull."
"I mean all the rations you have got and some powder. Wish you would write as soon as you can."
This document was certainly unique in Indian warfare, as it illustrates both the spirit and naivete of the noted chief.
Colonel Otis dispatched a scout to Sitting Bull with the information that he intended to take his wagon train through to headquarters in spite of all the Indians on earth, and if Sitting Bull wanted to have a fight, he (Otis) would be glad to accommodate him at any time and on any terms. The train soon started and the Indians as promptly resumed the attack. But the engagement was soon terminated by a flag of truce. A messenger from the Indians stated that they were tired and hungry and wanted to treat for peace.
Otis invited Sitting Bull to come into his lines, but that wily chief refused, although he sent three chiefs to represent him. Otis had no authority to treat for peace, but he gave the Indians a small quantity of hard bread and two sides of bacon. He also advised them to go to Tongue River and communicate with his superior officer, General Miles. The train now moved on, and after following a short distance with threatening movements the Indians withdrew.
The same night Otis met General Miles with his entire force, who sent the train on to the cantonment, and started after Sitting Bull. Miles's little army at this time numbered three hundred and ninety-eight men, with one Gatling gun. With Sitting Bull were Gall and other noted chiefs, and one thousand warriors of the Miniconjous, San Ares, Brules and Uncpapas, together with their women and children, in all over three thousand Indians. Miles overtook Sitting Bull on October 21, at Cedar Creek, when that chief asked for an interview, which was arranged. Sitting Bull was attended by a sub-chief and six warriors, Miles by an aide and six troopers. The meeting took place at a halfway point between the two lines, all parties being mounted.
In his "Indian Fights and Fighters," Cyrus Townsend Brady says of this interview: "Sitting Bull wanted peace on the old basis. The Indians demanded permission to retain their arms, with liberty to hunt and roam at will over the plains and through the mountains, with no responsibility to any one, while the Government required them to surrender their arms and come into the agencies. The demands were irreconcilable, therefore. The interview was an interesting one, and though it began calmly enough, it grew exciting toward the end.
"Sitting Bull, whom Miles describes as a fine, powerful, intelligent, determined looking man, was evidently full of bitter and persistent animosity toward the white race. He said, 'No Indian that ever lived loved the white man, and no white man that ever lived loved the Indian; that God Almighty had made him an Indian, but He didn't make him an agency Indian, and he didn't intend to be one.' The manner of the famous chief had been cold, but dignified and courteous. As the conversation progressed, he became angry—so enraged, in fact, that in Miles's words, 'he finally gave an exhibition of wild frenzy. His whole manner seemed more like that of a wild beast than a human being. His face assumed a furious expression. His jaws were lightly closed, his lips were compressed and you could see his eyes glisten with the fire of savage hatred.'
"One can not help admiring the picture presented by the splendid, though ferocious, savage. I have no doubt General Miles himself admired him.
"At the height of the conference, a young warrior stole out from the Indian lines and slipped a carbine under Sitting Bull's blanket. He was followed by several other Indians, to the number of a dozen, who joined the band, evidently meditating treachery. Miles, who with his aide, was armed with revolvers only, promptly required these new auxiliaries to retire, else the conference would be terminated immediately. His demand was reluctantly obeyed. After some further talk a second meeting was appointed for the morrow, and the conference broke up.
"During the night Miles moved his command in position to be able to intercept the movement of the Indians the next day. There was another interview with the picturesque and imperious savage, whose conditions of peace were found to be absolutely impossible, since they involved the abandonment of all military posts, the withdrawal of all settlers, garrisons, etc., from the country. He wanted everything and would give nothing. He spoke like a conqueror, and looked like one, although his subsequent actions were not in keeping with the part. Miles, seeing the futility of further discussion, peremptorily broke up the conference. He told Sitting Bull that he would take no advantage of the flag of truce, but that he would give him just fifteen minutes to get back to his people to prepare for fighting. Shouting defiance, the chiefs rode back to the Indian lines.
"There was 'mounting in hot haste' and hurried preparations made for immediate battle on both sides. Watch in hand, Miles checked off the minutes, and exactly at the time appointed he ordered an advance. The Indians set fire to the dry grass, which was not yet covered with snow, and the battle was joined amid clouds of flame and smoke. Although outnumbered nearly three to one, the attack of the soldiers was pressed home so relentlessly that the Indians were driven back from their camp, which fell into the possession of Miles.
"The Sioux were not beaten, however, for the discomfited warriors rallied a force to protect their flying women and children, under the leadership of Gall and others. Sitting Bull not being as much of a fighter as a talker. They were led to the fight again and again by their intrepid chiefs. On one occasion, so impetuous was their gallantry that the troops were forced to form a square to repel their wild charges. Before the battle was over—and it continued into the next day—the Indians had been driven headlong for over forty miles."
Chief Gall
"They had suffered a serious loss in warriors, but a greater in the destruction of their camp equipage and winter supplies and other property. Two thousand of them came in on the third day and surrendered under promises of good treatment. Several hundred broke into small parties and scattered. Miles's little force was too small to be divided to form a guard for the Indians; he had other things to do, so he detained a number of the principal chiefs as hostages, and exacted promises from the rest that they would surrender at the Spotted Tail or Red Cloud Agency—a promise which, by the way, the great majority of them kept. Sitting Bull, Gall and about four hundred others refused to surrender, and made for the boundary line, escaping pursuit for the time being."
Here they were joined by the brothers Iron Horn and Rain-in-the-Face, each leading a band.
Sitting Bull now determined to make his home in British America, and seemed to be on friendly terms with his cousin John of the same surname. His following was augmented by discontented Indians from the reservations, who were continually crossing the boundary to join the famous chief. Canada thus became the sanctuary of refuge for the Indian, as it had formerly been for the Negro slave, but the two races were impelled by entirely different motives. That of the Negro was to escape cruel servitude, often with the accompaniment of the overseer's lash or the bloodhound's fangs; while the incentive of the Indian in fleeing from our reservations was the hope of escaping impending starvation. One of the military commanders, in his official report, says, "The hostile body was largely reenforced by accessions from the various agencies, where the malcontents were, doubtless in many cases, driven to desperation by starvation and the heartless frauds perpetrated on them"; and that the Interior Department is obliged to confess that, "Such desertions were largely due to the uneasiness which the Indians had long felt on account of the infraction of treaty stipulations by the white invasion of the Black Hills, seriously aggravated at the most critical period by irregular and insufficient issues of rations necessitated by inadequate and delayed appropriations."
Indeed, it seemed in those dark days the "apparent purpose of the Government to abandon them (the reservation Indians) to starvation."
As if to add insult to injury, about this time a commission consisting of Brig.-Gen. A. H. Terry, Hon. A. G. Lawrence and Colonel (now General) Corbin, secretary, was sent to Canada to treat with Sitting Bull, and the malcontents then at Fort Walsh. General Terry recapitulated to them the advantages of being at peace with the United States, the kindly (?) treatment that all surrendered prisoners had received, and said: "The President invites you to come to the boundary of his and your country, and there give up your arms and ammunition, and thence go to the agencies to which he will assign you, and there give up your horses, excepting those which are required for peace purposes. Your arms and horses will then be sold, and with all the money obtained for them cows will be bought and sent to you."
The reference to the kindly treatment received by the surrendered prisoners would have been amusing if it had not been pitiful. At that moment there were Indians in the council who had left our reservations solely to escape starvation, and the Indian chiefs knew all about this.
The Indians must have been totally without sense of humor if they could have listened to the commissioners without laughing. Sitting Bull's reply, which we can only quote in part, is worthy of being put on record among the notable protests of Indian chiefs against the oppressions of their race. Said he "For sixty-four years you have kept me and my people and treated us bad. What have we done that you should want us to stop? We have done nothing. It is all the people on your side that have started us to do all these depredations. We could not go anywhere else and we took refuge in this country. . . . I would like to know why you came here? In the first place I did not give you the country; but you followed me from one place to another, so I had to leave and come over to this country. . . . You have got ears to hear, and eyes to see, and you see how I live with these people. You see me. Here I am. If you think I am a fool, you are a bigger fool than I am. This house is a medicine-house. You come here to tell us lies, but we don't want to hear them. I don't wish any such language used to me that is to tell me lies in my Great Mother's (Queen Victoria's) house. This country is mine, and I intend to stay here and to raise this country full of grown people. See these people here. We were raised with them [shaking hands with the British officers]. That is enough, so no more. . . . The part of the country you gave me you ran me out of. . . . I wish you to go back and take it easy going back."
After several others had spoken, and the Indians seemed about to leave the room, the interpreter was directed to ask the following questions: "Shall I say to the President that you refuse the offers that he has made to you? Are we to understand that you refuse those offers?" Sitting Bull answered: "I could tell you more, but that is all I have to tell. If we told you more, you would not pay any attention to it. This part of the country does not belong to your people. You belong to the other side, this side belongs to us."
Thus the conference closed. The Indians positively refused to give up all their weapons, to exchange their horses for cows and the priceless privilege of being shut up upon reservations, off which they could not go without being pursued, arrested and brought back by troops.
Sitting Bull did not believe the cows would materialize if his people gave up their horses. He had long since lost faith in the Government which, as he expressed it, "had made fifty-two treaties with the Sioux and kept none of them."
It was also in this connection that the great Indian leader made his famous reply: "Tell them at Washington if they have one man who speaks the truth to send him to me, and I will listen to what he has to say."
The country originally owned and occupied by the Sioux extended many miles beyond the Canadian boundary line. Hence they had claims to territory in both countries, but their lot at this period was indeed sad. Those bands on our side were for the most part confined to reservations where, by reason of crop failure and the other causes already given, they were threatened with starvation.
Those malcontent Indians under Sitting Bull, on the Canadian side, enjoyed liberty, but they had little else. The Canadian Government would give them protection but no supplies. And now the buffalo, on which they depended mainly for subsistence, was being gradually exterminated or driven off.
Besides the commission appointed by the Government at least two enterprising Chicago papers sent reporters all the way to Canada to interview the Indian sphinx of the Northwest. These interviews took place at Fort Walsh, in the presence of Major Walsh, who seems to have been a prime favorite with Sitting Bull and all his followers. In the first one, it is stated:
"At the appointed time, half-past eight, the lamps were lighted and the most mysterious Indian chieftain who ever flourished in North America was ushered in. There he stood, his blanket rolled back, his head upreared, his right moccasin put forward, his right hand thrown across his chest. I arose and approached him, holding out both hands. He grasped them cordially. 'How!' said he, 'How!' At this time he was clad in a black and white calico shirt, black cloth leggins and moccasins, magnificently embroidered with beads and porcupine quills. He held in his left hand a foxskin cap, its brush drooping to his feet; with the dignity and grace of a natural gentleman he had removed it from his head at the threshold. His eyes gleamed like black diamonds. His visage, devoid of paint, was noble and commanding; nay, it was something more. Besides the Indian character given to it by high cheek-bones, a broad, retreating forehead, a prominent, aquiline nose and a jaw like a bull-dog's, there was about the mouth something of beauty, but more an expression of exquisite irony. Such a mouth and such eyes as this Indian's, if seen in the countenance of a white man would appear to denote qualities similar to those which animated the career of Mazarin. Yet there was something wondrously sweet in his smile as he extended to me his hands.
"Such hands! They felt as small and soft as a maiden's, but when I pressed them I could feel the sinews beneath the flesh quivering hard like a wild animal's. I led him to a seat, a lounge set against the wall, on which he sat with indolent grace. Major Walsh, brilliant in red uniform, sat beside him, and a portable table was brought near. Two interpreters brought chairs and seated themselves, and at a neighboring desk the stenographer took his place. I afterward learned that two Sioux chiefs stood on guard outside the door, and that all the Indians in the fort had their arms ready to spring in case of a suspected treachery. On the previous night two of the Indians had been taken suddenly ill, and their sickness had been ascribed by some warriors to poison. So restless and anxious were all the savages that nothing but the influence and tact of Major Walsh could have procured for me and for your readers the following valuable, indeed, historical, colloquy with this justly famous Indian.
"I turned to the interpreter and said, 'Explain again to Sitting Bull that he is with a friend.' The interpreter explained. 'Banee!' said the chief, holding out his hand again and pressing mine.
"Major Walsh here said: 'Sitting Bull is in the best mood now that you could possibly wish. Proceed with your questions and make them as logical as you can. I will assist you and trip you up occasionally if you are likely to irritate him.'
"Then the dialogue went on. I give it literally:"
"'You are a great chief,' said I to Sitting Bull, 'but you live behind a cloud. Your face is dark, my people do not see it. Tell me, do you hate the Americans very much?"
"A gleam as of fire shot across his face.
"'I am no chief.'
"This was precisely what I expected. It will dissipate at once the erroneous idea which has prevailed that Sitting Bull is either a chief or a warrior.
"'What are you?'
"'I am.' said he, crossing both hands upon his chest, slightly nodding, and smiling satirically, 'a man.'
"'What does he mean?' I inquired, turning to Major Walsh. 'He means,' responded the major, 'to keep you in ignorance of his secret if he can. His position among his bands is anomalous. His own tribe, the Uncpapas, are not all in fealty to him. Parts of nearly twenty different tribes of Sioux, besides a remnant of the Uncpapas, abide with him. So far as I have learned, he rules over these fragments of tribes, which compose his camp of twenty-five hundred, including between eight hundred and nine hundred warriors, by sheer compelling force of intellect and will. I believe that he understands nothing particularly of war or military tactics, at least not enough to give him the skill or the right to command warriors in battle. He is supposed to have guided the fortunes of several battles, including the fight in which Custer fell. That supposition, as you will presently find, is partially erroneous. His word was always potent in the camp or in the field, but he has usually left to the war-chiefs the duties appertaining to engagements. When the crisis came he gave his opinion, which was accepted as law.'
"'What was he then?' I inquired, continuing this momentary dialogue with Major Walsh. 'Was he, is he, a mere medicine man?'
"'Don't for the world,' replied the major, 'intimate to him, in the questions you are about to ask him, that you have derived the idea from me, or from any one, that he is a mere medicine man. He would deem that a profound insult. In point of fact he is a medicine man, but a far greater, more influential medicine man than any savage I have ever known. He has constituted himself a ruler. He is a unique power among the Indians. To the warriors, his people, he speaks with the authority of a Robert Peel, to their chiefs with that of a Richelieu. This does not really express the extent of his influence, for behind Peel and Richelieu there were traitors and in front of them were factions. Sitting Bull has no traitors in his camp; there are none to be jealous of him. He does not assert himself over strongly. He does not interfere with the rights or duties of others. His power consists in the universal confidence which is given to his judgment, which he seldom denotes until he is asked for an expression of it. It has been, so far, so accurate, it has guided his people so well, he has been caught in so few mistakes and he has saved even his ablest and oldest chiefs from so many evil consequences of their own misjudgment, that to-day his word among them all is worth more than the united voices of the rest of the camp. He speaks; they listen and they obey. Now let us hear what his explanation will be?
"'You say you are no chief?' 'No!' with considerable hauteur.
"'Are you a head soldier?' 'I am nothing—neither a chief nor a soldier.' 'What, nothing?' 'Nothing.'
"'What, then, makes the warriors of your camp, the great chiefs who are here along with you, look up to you so? Why do they think so much of you?' Sitting Bull's lips curled with a proud smile. 'Oh, I used to be a kind of a chief; but the Americans made me go away from my father's hunting ground.'
"'You do not love the Americans?' You should have seen this savage's lips. 'I saw to-day that all the warriors around you clapped their hands and cried out when you spoke. What you said appeared to please them. They liked you. They seemed to think that what you said was right for them to say. If you are not a great chief, why do these men think so much of you?'
"At this, Sitting Bull, who had in the meantime been leaning back against the wall, assumed a posture of mingled toleration and disdain.
"'Your people lookup to men because they are rich; because they have much land, many lodges, many squaws.' 'Yes.'
"'Well, I suppose my people look up to me because I am poor. That is the difference.' In this answer was concentrated all the evasiveness natural to an Indian.
"'What is your feeling toward the Americans now?' He did not even deign an answer. He touched his hip, where his knife was.
"I asked the interpreter to insist on an answer.
"'Listen,' said Sitting Bull, not changing his posture, but putting his right hand out upon my knee. I told them to-day what my notions were—that I did not want to go back there. Every time that I had any difficulty with them they struck me first. I want to live in peace.'
"'Have you an implacable enmity to the Americans? Would you live with them in peace if they allowed you to do so or do you think you can only obtain peace here?' 'The White Mother is good.'
"'Better than the Great Father?' 'Hough!' And then, after a pause, Sitting Bull continued: 'They [the Commissioners] asked me to-day to give them my horses. I bought my horses and they are mine. I bought them from men who came up the Missouri in Mackinaws. They do not belong to the Government, neither do the rifles. The rifles are also mine. I bought them I paid for them. Why I should give them up, I do not know. I will not give them up.'
"'Do you really think, do your people believe that it is wise to reject the proffers that have been made to you by the United States Commissioners? Do not some of you feel as if you were destined to lose your old hunting grounds? Don't you see that you will probably have the same difficulty in Canada that you have had in the United States?' 'The White Mother does not lie.'
"'Do you expect to live here by hunting? Are there buffaloes enough? Can your people subsist on the game here?' 'I don't know. I hope so.'
"'If not, are any part of your people disposed to take up agriculture? Would any of them raise steers and go to farming? 'I don't know.'
"'What will they do, then?' 'As long as there are buffaloes that is the way we will live.'
"'But the time will come when there will be no more buffaloes.' 'Those are the words of an American.'
"'How long do you think the buffaloes will last?' Sitting Bull arose. 'We know,' said he, extending his right hand with an impressive gesture, 'that on the other side the buffaloes will not last very long. Why? Because the country over there is poisoned with blood—a poison that kills all the buffaloes or drives them away. It is strange,' he continued, with his peculiar smile, 'that the Americans should complain that the Indians kill buffaloes. We kill buffaloes, as we kill other animals, for food and clothing, and to make our lodges warm. They kill buffaloes for what? Go through your country. See the thousands of carcasses rotting on the plains. Your young men shoot for pleasure. All they take from a dead buffalo is his tail or his head, or his horns, perhaps, to show they have killed a buffalo. What is this? Is it robbery? You call us savages. What are they? The buffaloes have come north. We have come north to find them, and to get away from a place where the people tell lies.'"
Chief One Bull
"To gain time, and not to dwell importunately on a single point, I asked Sitting Bull to tell me something of his early life. In the first place, where he was born? 'I was born on the Missouri River; at least I recollect that somebody told me so—I don't know who told me or where I was told of it.'
"'Of what tribe are you?' 'I am an Uncpapa.'
"'Of the Sioux?' 'Yes; of the great Sioux nation.'
"'Who was your father?' 'My father is dead.'
"'Is your mother living?' 'My mother lives with me in my lodge.'
"'Great lies are told about you. White men say that you lived among them when you were young; that you went to school; that you learned to write and read from books; that you speak English; that you know how to talk French?' 'It is a lie.'
"'You are an Indian?' (Proudly) 'I am a Sioux.'
"Then suddenly relaxing from his hauteur. Sitting Bull began to laugh. 'I have heard,' he said, 'of some of these stories. They are all strange lies. What I am I am,' and here he leaned back and resumed his attitude and expression of barbaric grandeur. 'I am a man. I see, I know; I began to see when I was not yet born—when I was not in my mother's arms. It was then I began to study about my people. I studied about many things. I studied about the smallpox, that was killing my people—the great sickness that was killing the women and children. I was so interested that I turned over on my side. The Great Spirit must have told me at that time (and here he unconsciously revealed his secret), that I would be the man to be the judge of all the other Indians—a big man, to decide for them in all their ways.'
"'And you have since decided for them?' 'I speak. It is enough.'
"'Could not your people, whom you love so well, get on with the Americans?' 'No!'
"'Why?' 'I never taught my people to trust Americans. I have told them the truth—that the Americans are great liars. I never dealt with the Americans. Why should I? The land belonged to my people. I say I never dealt with them—I mean I never treated with them in a way to surrender my people's rights. I traded with them, but I always gave full value for what I got. I never asked the United States Government to make me presents of blankets or cloth, or anything of that kind. The most I did was to ask them to send me an honest trader that I could trade with, and I proposed to give him buffalo robes and elk skins, and other hides in exchange for what we wanted. I told every trader who came to our camps that I did not want any favors from him—that I wanted to trade with him fairly and equally, giving him full value for what I got, but the traders wanted me to trade with them on no such terms. They wanted to give little and get much. They told me if I did not accept what they gave me in trade they would get the Government to fight me. I told them I did not want to fight.'
"'But you fought?' 'At last, yes; but not until I had tried hard to prevent a fight. At first my young men, when they began to talk bad, stole five American horses. I did not like this and was afraid something bad would come of it. I took the horses away from them and gave them back to the Americans. It did no good. By and by we had to fight.'"
The reporter now drew from the great leader his version of the Little Big Horn fight, and the death of Custer. But, as neither party to the dialogue were in the battle, this part of the interview must of necessity be the work of imagination and will not be quoted. It is impossible for any one to give an authentic description of a battle fought in his absence.
John F. Finnerty, the war correspondent for the Chicago Times, also visited Sitting Bull, while he and his band were encamped on Mushroom Creek, Woody Mountain, in the summer of 1879.
His experience with the "Sphinx" was somewhat different from that of the other reporter.
The invitation to make this visit also came from Major Walsh, of the mounted police, who called at General Miles's camp, on Rocky Creek, a few days previous. We can only quote a few paragraphs bearing directly on the famous chief:
"So," thought I, "I am going to see the elephant. I have followed Sitting Bull around long enough, and now I shall behold 'the lion in his den,' in earnest. Presently the tramping and shouting of the scalp-dance ceased, and the chiefs, their many colored blankets folded around them, after the fashion of the ancient toga, came filing down to the council, seating themselves according to their tribes in a big semicircle.
"Major Walsh had chairs placed for himself and me under the shade of his garden fence. The chiefs seated themselves on the ground, after the Turkish fashion. Behind them, rank after rank, were the mounted warriors, and still further back, the squaws and children. The chiefs were all assembled, and I inquired which was Sitting Bull. 'He is not among them,' said Major Walsh. 'He will not speak in council where Americans are present, because he stubbornly declares he will have nothing to do with them. You will see him, however, before very long.'
"Soon afterward, an Indian mounted on a cream-colored pony, and holding in his hand an eagle's wing, which did duty for a fan, spurred in back of the chiefs and stared stolidly for a minute or two at me. His hair, parted in the ordinary Sioux fashion, was without a plume. His broad face and wide jaws were destitute of paint, and as he sat there on his horse, regarding me with a look which seemed blended of curiosity and insolence, I did not need to be told that he was Sitting Bull.
"'That is old Bull himself,' said the major. 'He will hear everything, but will say nothing until he feels called upon to agitate something with the tribe?
"After a little, the noted savage dismounted, and led his horse partly into the shade. I noticed he was an inch or two over the medium height, broadly built, rather bow-legged, I thought, and he limped slightly, as though from an old wound. He sat upon the ground, and was soon engirdled by a crowd of young warriors, with whom he was an especial favorite, as representing the unquenchable hostility of the aboriginal savage to the hated palefaces.
"I amused myself on July 31 by accompanying the major to a bluff immediately overlooking the Sioux camp, and from which a complete view of the numbers and surroundings of that great horde of savages could be obtained. I thought there were, at the lowest calculation, from one thousand to eleven hundred lodges in that encampment. There must have been twenty-five hundred fighting men, at the least, in the confederated tribes. Arms and ammunition were plentiful, but food of any kind was scarce. The Indians did not seem to trouble themselves about concealing their strength; on the contrary, they seemed to glory in it, and the young warriors wore an air of haughty hostility whenever I came near them. Their leaders, however, treated me respectfully. Sitting Bull only stared at me occasionally, but was not rude, as was often his habit when brought in contact with people he supposed to be Americans, whom he hated with inconceivable rancor. He said to Larrabee, the interpreter: 'That man (meaning me) is from the other side. I want nothing to do with the Americans. They do not treat me well. They cheat me when I trade. They have my country now. Let them keep it. I never seek anybody. Least of all do I seek any Americans."
"This rather nettled me, for I had made not the slightest attempt to speak to Mr. Bull, and, in fact, did not care much to interview him, as he had been long ago pumped dry about his hatred of our people, and that was about his chief stock-in-trade, although I am not going to deny that he had some great mysterious power over the Sioux, and especially over his own tribe of Uncpapas. He was, in fact, their beau-ideal of implacable hostility to the paleface, and he shouted at the United States, from the safe recesses of the Queen's dominions, 'No surrender!'
"'Tell Sitting Bull,' I said to Larrabee, 'that if he does not seek me, neither do I him. I am not going to beg him to speak to me.'
"The interpreter laughed and said: 'It is just as well not to take any notice. He may be in better humor by-and-by.'
"Many of the high-minded and most of the vicious men among the Indians of the Northwest found their leader in Sitting Bull, who, although often unpopular with his fellow-chiefs, was always potent for evil with the wild and restless spirits who believed that war against the whites was, or ought to be, the chief object of their existence. This was about the true status of the Indian agitator in those days. He had strong personal magnetism. His judgment was said to be superior to his courage, and his cunning superior to both. He had not, like Crazy Horse, the reputation of being recklessly brave, but neither was he reputed a dastard. Sitting Bull was simply prudent and would not throw away his life, so long as he had any chance of doing injury to the Americans.
"It is true that the wily savage was to all intents and purposes, a British subject, but his influence crossed the line, and no settlers would venture on Milk River until the implacable savage was thoroughly whipped and humbled. I don't care what any one says about Sitting Bull not having been a warrior. If he had not the sword, he had at least the magic sway of a Mohammed over the rude war tribes that engirdled him. Everybody talks of Sitting Bull, and, whether he be a figure-head or an idea or an incomprehensible mystery, his old-time influence was undoubted. His very name was potent. He was the Rhoderick Dhu of his wild and warlike race, and when he fell the Sioux Confederation fell with him. The agitator was then verging on fifty, but hardly looked it.
"Mrs. Allen, wife of the post trader, said Sitting Bull was the nicest Indian around the trading-post, always treating her with the most marked consideration, and never intruding upon the privacy of the household, by hanging around at meal time, as some of the others did. In the hostile camp I had several opportunities of studying his face, and I can say honestly that 'Old Sit' has a fine aboriginal countenance, and, once seen, he can never be forgotten. I heard his voice many times—deep guttural, but, at the same time, melodious. He called my friend, Walsh, 'meejure,' his nearest approach to the pronunciation of 'major.' In manner he was dignified but not stiff, and when in good humor, which occurred pretty often, he laughed with the ease of a schoolboy. The traditional idea of white people that Indians never laugh, is but a time-honored absurdity. Among themselves they are often gayly boisterous, and I know of no people who can enjoy what they consider a good joke better.
"The Indians appeared to be pretty short on meat supply during my stay in their camp, but the poor creatures had no more idea of the imminence of the famine which subsequently compelled their surrender, than so many children. The faithful squaws went out on the wooded bluffs and gathered all kinds of berries to make up for the lack of animal food. Yet it was the intense humanity of Major Walsh that absolutely kept the wretched people from eating their horses. I knew then that the reign of Sitting Bull would not be long in the land."
In the fall of 1880, E. H. Allison, the army scout, who was master of the Sioux language, was ordered by Gen. A. H. Terry to visit the camp of Sitting Bull and induce that leader and his band to surrender. Accordingly, the scout made preparation to start, by filling an army wagon with provisions and presents for the Indians. He now selected the four best mules in the camp to draw the wagon, and Private Day, a soldier, volunteered as teamster, dressed in citizen's clothes.
The scout and his companion started from Port Buford October 25, and reached the camp of Sitting Bull in due time. They found the Indians on the west bank of Frenchman's Creek, just where it joins Milk River, which is in the northern part of Montana.
"We reached the camp," said the scout, "about 3 p. m., when I was rather agreeably surprised and somewhat puzzled by receiving a pressing invitation, which could easily be construed into a command, to make my home at Sitting Bull's lodge, as long as I stayed in the camp. I accepted the invitation, but stipulated that Chief Gall should superintend the distribution of the provisions which I had brought them. [He thus satisfied both chiefs and their followers.] To this Sitting Bull readily acceded, and I was soon comfortably housed, together with the soldier, in the tepee of the great Indian priest and prophet. After an early supper, I sought and obtained a private interview with Chief Gall, who, knowing the object of my visit, informed me that he had resolved to effect the surrender of the entire band. Sitting Bull and all, but to accomplish this more time would be required than he had first anticipated. He must first go back to Canada, to enable Sitting Bull to keep an engagement to meet Major Walsh, of the Dominion forces, in a council, at the Woody Mountain Trading Post. And to insure success, and expedite matters, he advised that I should meet him again at Woody Mountain, as soon as possible, after reporting to Major Brotherton, at Fort Buford. Considering the circumstances, I deemed it best to acquiesce in his plans. Yet I was anxious to make some kind of a showing on this trip that would encourage Major Brotherton, and reward him for the confidence he had placed in me. I explained this to Chief Gail, who told me to remain in the camp two days, to rest my mules, and by that time he would have twenty families ready to send in with me; but he cautioned me not to let Silting Bull know their real purpose, but to lead him to suppose they were only going in to the agency on a visit to their friends.
"Perfectly satisfied with these arrangements, I returned a little after dark to Sitting Bull's lodge, where the soldier, who could not speak a word of the Indian language, was having a lonesome time, and growing somewhat anxious for my safety. We were both very tired and soon lay down to rest, while I engaged the old chief in conversation. Sitting Bull's family at that time consisted of his two wives (sisters), two daughters and three sons, the eldest being a daughter of seventeen, the other daughter being next, about fourteen, the eldest son, Crow Foot (since dead), seven years old, and the two youngest boys were twins, born about three weeks before the battle of the Little Big Horn, and were, therefore, not more than four and a half years old; one of the twins was named Ih-pe-ya-na-pa-pi, from the fact that his mother 'fled and abandoned him in the tepee,' at the time of the battle. The accompanying cut shows the arrangement of beds, etc., in the lodge, while we were there.
"I continued in conversation with the chief until about midnight, when I fell asleep. I must have been asleep less than an hour, when I was awakened by the sharp crack of a rifle ringing out on the still night air, and the simultaneous war-whoop of contending savages. The camp was instantly in a state of the wildest confusion. Indian women, seizing their babies, fled, screaming, they knew not whither, for safety; warriors suddenly awakened from their slumbers, seized their arms and flew with the speed of the wind to the aid of their comrades, who were already engaged in conflict with an enemy, whose presence could only be determined by the sharp report and flashes of fire from their guns, as they fired in the darkness upon the Sioux camp. Here was an opportunity for the soldier and myself to prove our friendship, by aiding the Sioux warriors in their defense of the camp, which we proceeded to do, by seizing our rifles and hastily joining the warriors, who, by this time, had turned the enemy, whose firing soon ceased altogether, and we all returned to the camp, where comparative quiet was restored; but no one slept any more that night. Our muscles were strained and our nervous systems were unstrung."
"The fact that myself and companion took part in the defense of the camp was favorably commented on by all, and in all probability saved our lives, for the Indians are very superstitious, and their blood was up; something was wrong; in fact, things had been going wrong for several days. There must be a 'Jonah' in the camp, and how easy it would be to find a pair of 'Jonahs' in the persons of two white men in camp; but our prompt action had made a most favorable impression, and diverted their thoughts from the subject of 'Jonahs,' and I improved the opportunity by comparing their uncertain, hunted existence with the happy life of their friends at the agencies in Dakota, whose wives and little ones were even then sleeping peacefully in their beds, without fear of being disturbed by prowling bands of Indian foes.
"A number of warriors followed cautiously after the retreating Blackfeet, but failed to come up with them. They returned to camp about ten in the morning, and reported finding blood-stained bandages on the trail, so there must have been some of the enemy wounded. Among the Sioux, no one was hurt, nor did they lose any horses on this occasion. But danger was yet lurking near. About two in the afternoon, a warrior came into camp and reported the discovery of a small herd of buffalo, about four miles from camp. About thirty warriors mounted their horses and went out to kill them; among the number was Scarlet Plume, a popular young brave, who was a favorite with every one. The warriors approached the buffalo under cover, till they were within easy rifle range, when they opened fire and killed all but one, which struck on across the plain, seemingly unhurt. Young Scarlet Plume alone gave chase, following the animal and finally killing it near the head of a ravine, running up from the Milk River, which at that point was densely studded with timber. He had killed his last buffalo. He was alone and more than a mile from his companions. A party of Blackfeet braves, concealed in the timber, had been watching his movements, and now, while he was busily engaged skinning the buffalo, they approached, under cover of the ravine, shot him, took his scalp and made good their escape. His body was found by his father. Old Scarlet Thunder, and was brought by him into camp, a little before sunset that evening. Then indeed there was weeping and wailing in that camp. Language utterly fails me when I try to describe the scene that followed. His old mother, his five sisters, and scores of friends and relatives, tore their hair, slashed their limbs with knives, till the ground where they stood was wet with hot human gore; they rent their garments, calling in a loud wailing voice upon the name of the lost son and brother.
"It was no time for negotiations. Not a time for anything, in fact, but silence and obscurity on my part; so, with my companion, I sought the seclusion of Sitting Bull's tepee, where we spent the night in fitful and unrefreshing slumber. Early in the morning, at the first faint dawn of day, I was awakened by a call from Chief Gall, whom I joined in a walk about the camp. He informed me that the twenty lodges he had promised me had silently taken their departure during the night, and that I would find them in the evening encamped about twenty miles down the Milk River. He said that five women and nine children belonging to the party, but who had no horses, had remained behind, and desired to ride in my wagon. He also informed me that Strong Hand would return with me to Poplar Creek. Accordingly, as soon as breakfast was over, we hitched up the mules, and were only too glad to get away from a place, where, to say the least, our experience had been very unpleasant. Strong Hand was returning afoot, and at his suggestion, I loaned him my horse, to enable him to traverse the river bottoms in quest of deer. The women and children climbed in the wagon with their meager effects, and we began moving out of the camp. Strong Hand riding just in advance of the mules, while I occupied a seat with the driver.
"It was nearly dark when we came up with the twenty lodges sent on ahead by Chief Gall. Strong Hand was there with plenty of good venison and we soon had a hot supper. We returned in safety to Fort Buford, where, I hope, with a pardonable degree of pride I turned over to Major Brotherton the first fruits of my labor, twenty lodges of the hostile Sioux, and submitted an official report to be forwarded to General Terry, of this, my visit to the camp of Sitting Bull."
A short time after this Scout Allison heard from an Indian who arrived from Sitting Bull's camp that an open rupture had occurred between Chief Gall and Sitting Bull. This was occasioned by the discovery of some of the adherents of Sitting Bull that Chief Gall had instigated the desertion of the twenty lodges who had come with Allison to Buford. Concealment being no longer possible, Chief Gall, characteristically prompt in action, had leaped into the midst of the camp, and publicly called upon all who acknowledged him as chief to separate themselves from the followers of Sitting Bull, and prepare immediately to follow him to Fort Buford. It was a bold thing to do, and the first time in the history of the reign of Sitting Bull that his authority had been set at defiance. It was clearly a test of supremacy, and Chief Gall came off victorious, taking away from Sitting Bull fully two-thirds of the entire band.
On July 20, 1881, Sitting Bull, with the remainder of his band, surrendered at Fort Buford. Two days later all the captive hostiles, numbering 2,829, were turned over to the agent at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
Ellis, in his "Indian Wars," informs us that "For a time the old chief acted like a good Indian. He exhibited himself for weeks in New York and other cities, where he naturally aroused much interest and curiosity. A striking scene was that observed in 1883, when, at one of the railway stations of the West, Sitting Bull sat on a windy eminence selling his autographs for a dollar and a half apiece. In the smiling group of purchasers gathered around him were Generals U. S. Grant and P. H. Sheridan, Carl Schurz, W. M. Evarts, a number of United States Senators and Congressmen, several British noblemen, besides Berlin bankers, German professors, railway presidents, financiers and journalists. The old chief did a thriving trade disposing of his signature, of which this is a facsimile:"
Sitting Bull's Autograph
"In July and August, 1888, Sitting Bull, at a conference at Standing Rock, influenced his tribe to refuse to relinquish their lands. He was as defiant as ever, and, but for his death, must have been the leading actor in the last outbreak."
Nothing more is heard of Sitting Bull until 1890, when that strange hallucination, the Messiah craze, took possession of some of the Sioux bands. This strong delusion seems to have had its origin in about the following manner, as we learn from a letter written to General Miles by an army officer stationed at Los Angeles, California, and bearing the date of November 28, 1890.
In it the officer says: "I know you will be surprised when I say to you, I have found the Messiah, and the story of my finding him is as follows: Last spring an Indian called and said he would like to speak to the commander. I took him into the room, and he gave me a history of himself. He said his name was Johnson Sides; that he was known as the Peace-maker among all Indians and whites of Nevada, where he lived.
"To substantiate his statement he showed me a medal which he carried strung around his neck, on which was a legend to the effect that he was presented with the medal by some Christian society for his efforts toward doing good to his fellowmen, whether white or red.
"He could talk very good English, was dressed like an ordinary laborer, but had the Indian's way of wearing his hair. He told me he knew the Bible; that he was desirous of making peace with every one, and that is why he was named Peacemaker. He said that Indians had come from far and near to see him, and he pulled out a pipe, such as are made by Northern Indians, which pipe was recognized as having come from either Montana or Dakota. Johnson Sides said it came from Dakota, and the kind of clay of which it was made could not be found in Nevada, and that the stem was of a peculiar wood, not found in Nevada or California. He mentioned the names of the Indians who had visited him, and the tribes to which they belonged; also gave the time they had called.
"I firmly believe that this is the good-natured Indian that has caused all this trouble; that he has taught the members of his tribe the story of Christ, or the Messiah, and the time when he will once more visit this earth, as it has been taught him by the Christian people interested in his welfare. He has told these visiting Indians of the paradise in store for all people when the Son shall once more visit the earth; and the Indian's paradise is whatever his imagination may lead him to believe, the same as the white man's. He has no doubt delivered the story in its true light, and the Indians, in retelling the story, have warped and woven it according to their understanding."
It is believed that some of the Sioux of the Standing Rock Agency were among those who visited Johnson Sides, and it is thought that the Messiah craze and ghost dance grew out of the excitement incident to their report of the visit, warped by an overwrought imagination.
While matters were thus shaping themselves, the wily old medicine man, Sitting Bull, bided his time watching for an opportunity to regain his former prestige. Vague traditions had always existed concerning the second coming of Christ. Pontiac, Tecumseh and Black Hawk were each in touch with a "prophet" who fired the imaginations of warriors and head chiefs to a frenzy.
So the sagacious leader believed that once more his hour had struck. Was not he, Sitting Bull, a great Medicine Man? A religious teacher? And shall he not lead his people in this? Clearly this was his opportunity, but in order to be an effectual leader, he must first see the Messiah. This he actually claimed to have done, and the story was related to Mr. Zook, a Montana ranchman, as follows:
"Sitting Bull was hunting one day near the Shoshone mountains, and as night came on he was seized with a strange feeling, and at first involuntarily, but finally with alacrity, he followed a star, which moved westward through the sky. All night the star guided him, and near morning he met the Messiah, clad in a white robe. His hair flowed upon his shoulders, his beard was long, and around his head shone a bright halo. When Sitting Bull beheld this wonderful apparition, he fainted and had a strange dream. A band of Cheyennes and Arapahoes, who had long since been dead, appeared to him and danced, inviting him to join them. Presently he was restored to his senses, and the Messiah spoke to him. He asked him if the Indians would not rejoice to see their dead kindred and the buffalo restored to life, and Sitting Bull assured him that they would be deeply gratified. Then the Messiah told him that he had come to save the white men, but that they persecuted him; and now he had come to rescue the long-tormented Indian. He showed him the holes in his hands, made by the nails when he was crucified, to convince him that he was the same Christ who had appeared nineteen hundred years ago. All day Christ instructed him and gave him evidence of his power. He said that the white men had come to take him, but as they approached the soil became quicksand and the men and horses sank. As evening came on, he bade Sitting Bull depart; and although he had been hunting away from his tepee for ten sleeps, he came to it in a very few minutes. He told his people his story and sent others to verify his statements, and they told the same tales."
When the Indians heard of this wonderful vision of Sitting Bull, they came in swarms and pitched their tepees around him. There, at his suggestion, they inaugurated the "worship dances," and forming a ring to the number of three thousand people, they danced around Sitting Bull and his chiefs, while chanting a monotonous accompaniment of weird strains. Thus they danced all night, or until they dropped down from sheer exhaustion, when others would take their place.
Sitting Bull soon became the acknowledged lender in this strange form of worship, which spread like wild fire among the Sioux of the reservations.
Indian Agent McLaughlin called on Sitting Bull at his camp on Grand River, forty miles southwest from Fort Yates, and had an earnest talk with the great medicine man, hoping to dissuade him and his deluded followers from their absurd action and unwarranted expectations.
Sitting Bull seemed a little impressed, but still assumed the role of big chief before his followers. "He finally," said McLaughlin, "made me a proposition, which was that I should accompany him on a journey to trace from the beginning the story of the Indian Messiah, and when he reached the last tribe, or where it originated, if they could not produce the man who started the story, and we did not find the new Messiah, as described, upon the earth, together with the dead Indians returning to reinhabit this country, he would return convinced that they (the Indians) had been too credulous and imposed upon, which report from him would satisfy the Sioux, and all practices of the ghost societies would cease; but if we found the Messiah, they be permitted to continue their medicine practices, and organize as they are now endeavoring to do.
"I told him that this proposition was a novel one, but that the attempt to carry it out would be similar to an attempt to catch up with the wind that blew last year, but that I wished him to come to my house, where I would give him a whole night, or a day and a night, in which time I thought I could convince him of the absurdity of this foolish craze, and the fact of his making me the proposition that he did was a convincing proof that he did not fully believe in what he was professing and he tried so hard to make others believe.
"He did not, however, promise fully to come into the agency to discuss the matter, but said he would consider my talk and decide after deliberation."
Nothing came of it, however, and when it was found that neither cajolery nor threats availed with Sitting Bull his arrest was determined on. It was held that his failure to send his children to the agency school, and to report in person, was a sufficient breach of peace to justify such a step.
The warrant for the arrest was sent in the form of the following telegram:
"Headquarters Department of Dakota,
St. Paul, Minn., Dec. 12, 1890.
"To Commanding Officer, Fort Yates, North Dakota:
"The division commander has directed that you make it your especial duty to secure the person of Sitting Bull. Call on the Indian agent to cooperate and render such assistance as will best promote the purpose in view.
"Acknowledge receipt, and if not perfectly clear, report back.
"By command of General Ruger.
"(Signed) M. Barber,
Assistant Adjutant-General."
After Colonel Drum, the commandant at Fort Yates, had consulted with Major McLaughlin, the Indian agent, it was decided that the arrest should be effected through the Indian police.
Accordingly, a band of police, under the command of Lieut. Henry Bull Head, was detailed to make the capture.
The Indian police, to the number of forty, set out to perform their errand, followed at some distance by two troops of cavalry under Captain Fetchet and a body of infantry, under Colonel Drum.
Five miles from Sitting Bull's camp, the troops and police held a consultation. It was agreed that the soldiers should station themselves within two or three miles of the Indian camp, where they could be readily signaled.
Lieutenant Bull Head now selected ten policemen, including Sergeants Shave Head and Red Tomahawk, and at their head entered the house about 5:50 o'clock on the morning of December 15, and arrested Sitting Bull. He occupied considerable time in dressing, and at first accepted his arrest quietly; but while dressing, his son, Crowfoot, commenced upbraiding him for agreeing to go with the police. On this Sitting Bull became stubborn and refused to go. After some parleying, the police removed him from the house and found themselves and prisoner in the midst of a howling mob of ghost-dancers, frenzied with rage.
Indian Villiage
In a letter written by Major McLaughlin we learn what happened at this time. Said he: "The policemen reasoned with the crowd, gradually forcing them back, thus increasing the open circle considerably; but Sitting Bull kept calling upon his followers to rescue him from the police; that if the two principal men, Bull Head and Shave Head, were killed, the others would run away; and he finally called out for them to commence the attack, whereupon Catch-the-Bear, and Strike-the-Kettle, two of Sitting Bull's men, dashed through the crowd and fired. Lieutenant Bull Head was standing on one side of Sitting Bull and Sergeant Shave Head on the other, with Sergeant Red Tomahawk behind, to prevent his escaping. Catch-the-Bear's shot struck Bull Head on the right side, and he instantly wheeled and shot Sitting Bull, hitting him in the left side, between the tenth and eleventh ribs, and Strike-the-Kettle's shot having passed through Shave Head's abdomen, all three fell together. Catch-the-Bear, who fired the first shot, was immediately shot down by Private Lone Man."
It is said that while reeling, Sitting Bull managed to draw a revolver, which exploded just as he fell, the ball entering Bull Head's thigh. At the same instant the second sergeant, Red Tomahawk, shot the old chief in the stomach.
The fight now became general, Sitting Bull's followers swarmed around the police and guns were clubbed. The ground was strewn with broken stocks and bent barrels.
The entire force of Indian police under Red Tomahawk now engaged in the fray, but were getting the worst of it and retreated to Sitting Bull's house. At this instant the white soldiers arrived and quickly formed for action.
The cavalry, under Captain Fechet, charged the Indians, while the artillery, under Lieutenant Brooks, began to shell them with their Hotchkiss and Gatling guns, and the hostiles fled in disorder.
Though badly wounded, Sitting Bull crawled into the bushes, and, like Custer before him, made his "last stand," fighting desperately with his Winchester. He was dragged forth and an Indian policeman sprang forward with a small pole, used on the sides of wagons, and beat in his head, while others broke his rifle over his head, and slashed his face horribly with their knives.
Lieutenant Slocum did all he could to prevent this brutality, but the Indian police were infuriated on account of their loss and beyond his control.
Thus died one of the greatest, and certainly the most famous, Indian since Tecumseh. He divides honors with Little Turtle, in having planned and gained the greatest victories ever achieved by the Indian over his white foe. Nor will any warrior of the future surpass Sitting Bull, for the last great battle between the two races has been fought. It will be remembered that three among the greatest of the Indian chiefs, Philip, Pontiac and Sitting Bull, were slain by Indians.
Many sensational writers profess to believe that Sitting Bull was murdered, and that when his arrest was arranged it was understood that an excuse was to be found for putting him out of the way.
We can not believe that our Government and military authorities would plot a deliberate and horrible murder. This has never been our record in disposing of vanquished foes. We firmly believe that had the great leader submitted to arrest quietly his life would have been spared. But it was Sitting Bull who alarmed the camp and ordered the attack, which was commenced by his own warriors.
The fight which resulted was brief but desperate, and there fell of the ghost-dancers, besides Sitting Bull, Catch-the-Bear, Black Bird, Little Assiniboine, Crow Foot (son of Sitting Bull, seventeen years old), Spotted Horse Bull, a chief; Brave Thunder, a chief, and Chase, badly wounded.
Of the police there were killed, Bull Head, the lieutenant in command; Shave Head, first sergeant; Little Eagle, fourth sergeant; Afraid-of-Soldiers, private; John Armstrong and Hawk Man, special police, and Middle, mortally wounded.
The bodies of the Indian police were all buried with military honors in the agency cemetery at Fort Yates a few days later. But the surviving police and their friends objected so strenuously to the interment of Sitting Bull among their dead that he was buried in the cemetery of the post, some distance away.
Hundreds of tourists go each year to see the last resting place of this truly great Indian; and, vandal-like, rob the grave and vicinity of whatever they can find, as relics.
Sitting Bull was an enigma, and never fully understood by white man or Indian. He prided himself, like all medicine men, in being mysterious; the fact that he was a true patriot, from the Indian's standpoint, none can question.
His old friend and fellow-chief, Rain-in-the-Face, was buried by his side. United during most of their stormy lives, it was appropriate that "in death they were not divided." Both sleep peacefully in the Indian cemetery of the Standing Rock Reservation. The name, Standing Rock, comes from a solitary stone which stands on the bank of the Missouri River at this point. Following is the legend:
Long years ago, probably before Columbus' caravels crossed to the western world, a Ree Indian took a Sioux squaw for his second wife. His first spouse, and mother of his child, could not brook the rival and daily pined in silence and sorrow. In vain her husband's assurances that she was still first in his heart and home. The sight of the usurper ate into her heart, and at last, with her babe on her shoulders, she fled as did Hagar with Ishmael, although in this case it was Sarah who left her husband's home. Her friends followed her, pleading with her to return, since only death and starvation awaited her, but she kept on her way until she reached the bank of the Missouri. There she sat with the child on her shoulders, paying no heed to her friends, until at last she broke her silence. "Leave me," she said. "I am turning to stone, and my child and I shall sit here forever." Even as she spoke the change came over her, and there the mother and child sit to-day. The Indians called the Standing Rock "wokan," or holy, and for centuries votive offerings were laid before it. The Government placed it upon a pedestal, and sphinx-like it looks toward the East, over the land from which the Indian has been driven forever.


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