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Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Ring Around The Moon: She Makes A Fire

A ring of light, or halo, appears around the moon. The planet Jupiter is visible within the arc of light. 
Wíačhéič’ithi: She Makes A Fire
A Ring Around The Moon
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS – It’s a clear cold night on the Northern Plains, following a cloudless icy day. A blanket of snow on the driveway had become compacted into crunchy ice over the past week. The sun bathed the land in silent golden light then he slipped over the horizon. The stars gradually blinked into their places in the vesper dusk. The full moon slid into the night sky and glided higher and higher. A vast gently glowing halo encircled the moon and altogether her milky white light spilled into the heavens.

I was standing beside my car one minute taking in the serene brisk scene. I imagine for a moment that another man stood here beside his horse in long ago days, outside the glow of his wife’s lodge, standing in the same snow, under the same sky, perhaps even breathing in the same air.

The part of my mind that has been educated and westernized says that the ring around the moon is probably caused by a light refracting through moisture in the atmosphere, and a quick internet search says pretty much the same thing. Science is beautiful in its own way as it questions and sometimes reveals the mystery of creation, but this explanation doesn’t endear me to the majesty of what I see above.

The Lakȟóta saw the natural world, the natural heavens and concluded that what happens here happens above. The thípi glowing in the evenings, filled with the smell of sweet cedar, earthy sage, or rich tobacco, and a mother or grandmother stirring her kettle of tȟaníǧa soup over the fire, now and then adding handfuls of shelled corn and dried thíŋpsiŋla. The way she stirred her kettle reminded the Lakȟóta of the phases of the moon.

A column of moonlight reflected on a body of water is called a "moonglade." The Lakȟóta call this "Mníyata Ožáŋžaŋ."

Kevin Locke, enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, recalled a meeting long ago with Mrs. Holding Eagle at her home on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, “She said the phases of the moon were caused by how hard she stirred her kettle.” Mrs. Holding Eagle referred to the moon, in this sense, not as Haŋwí, but as Hokhémi, an old woman bundled in layers of clothing. The phases of the moon are described as though she were standing at times, dipping, or lying down, and at the full moon she is at her kettle.

When a ring of light appears around the moon, it is Hokhémi building a fire. Wíačhéič’ithi, “She Makes A Fire.”

Mrs. Amanda Grass on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation explained that as the moon wanes, as the moon loses light, the moon itself is the lodge of Haŋwí, and a large mouse with a pointed nose would nibble at the edge of her lodge, going back and forth, gradually, until there was nothing left. When the moon waxed, it was Haŋwí patiently and persistently rebuilding her lodge until it shown full once more. Then the cycle continued.

The cold shakes me from my reverie and I walk across the compacted snow to my home. The horse beside me a moment ago, replaced now by a little silver car. The windows warmly aglow, smells of supper adrift from the door, different smells and different light but homey all the same. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Warfare On The Northern Plains: Interpreting The Pictographic Bison Robe

The Pictographic Bison Robe, Peabody Museum.
Warfare On The Northern Plains
Painted Robe Reveals Battle
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. – The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University in Massachusetts has a spectacular collection of Lewis and Clark related artifacts in the country. The artifacts have been determined to have been collected by the Corps of Discovery who did gather dresses, shirts, and various painted robes in 1804-1806, or by Lt. George Hutter in 1825-1826. In particular, both parties acquired a painted robe depicting conflict either with or against such tribes as the Sioux, Arikara, Hidatsa, and the Mandan.

Castle McLaughlin, Associate Curator of North American Ethnography, Peabody Museum at Harvard, carefully researched the “Pictographic Bison Robe” and has concluded that the robe is likely to have been collected by Hutter, not the Corps of Discovery. McLaughlin noted that another robe was collected by a Charles Wilson Peale in 1826, and that this robe was said to depict the Arikara War of 1823, the first American military campaign against Plains Indians. However, McLaughlin notes, “this is unlikely to be the Peabody robe, which does not depict Anglo-Americans.”[1]

In a telephone interview, McLaughlin offered an updated reflection about the painted bison robe, “The robe is likely to be Siouan in origin, and it was collected after the Corps of Discovery Expedition of 1804-06, maybe not by Hutter.” The Lewis and Clark Collection came to the Peabody Museum from more than one source and at different times.

There are about three major conflicts the Očhéti Šakówiŋ (Seven Council Fires, aka “The Great Sioux Nation”) participated in that fall within a thirty year window: a fight against enemy tribes in the 1790s, a conflict along the Grand River involving the Arikara and Ensign Pryor’s command in 1809, and the Arikara War of 1823.

Warfare At The Turn Of The Century
In the winter of 1794-95, the Dakota camped with the Mandan[2] perhaps to trade but the peace was short lived when a Mandan killed a Dakota with long hair and took his scalp,[3] however other winter counts recall that the Mandan killed a Crow instead, and that may be the case as White Bull recalled this particular conflict at Rawhide Butte.[4] The following year, the Mandan Chief Man-With-A-Hat became noted as a warrior[5], the Mandan knew this great leader by a different name in their own language, Shekek Shote (White Wolf).[6]

In summary, the Očhéti Šakówiŋ waged near continual warfare against such tribes as the Crow, Ponka, Assiniboine, Arikara, and Omaha. In particular, the Očhéti Šakówiŋ continued war against the Omaha until an epidemic of either smallpox or chickenpox struck the Lakȟóta in 1802.[7] The Omaha retaliated in a series of relentless attacks, but when the Lakȟóta recovered sufficiently, a warparty leader raised a pipe with a horsetail affixed to it and waved it over the people, a call to arms.[8] The Lakȟóta rallied together and launched an offensive that left seventy-five Omaha dead and fifty as prisoners.[9]

In 1803, there was one major battle of note, the Battle of Heart River. The northern Očhéti Šakówiŋ known then as Saúŋni, or simply as Saúŋ (White-Rubbed Shirts/Robes), who were made up of Huŋkphápȟa, Oóhenuŋpa, Sihásapa Lakȟóta in alliance with the Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna Dakȟóta[10] fought against the Assiniboine who were possibly allied with the Arikara who were then living at the mouth of Beaver Creek (south of present-day Bismarck, ND). [11]

Conflict At Grand River
A second possible interpretation of the Painted Bison Robe is of the 1808 conflict between Ensign Nathaniel Pryor’s command, the Saúŋ Lakȟóta, and the Arikara. This conflict has its roots in the Corps of Discovery’s visit a few years previous.

In 1804, the Arikara selected a leader, Arketarnarwhar, to descend the Missouri River with an escort provided by coterie from the Corps of Discovery who would escort and interpret his eventual meeting with President Thomas Jefferson back east. The Arikara leader never returned. Manuel Lisa, of the American Fur Company, was charged with delivering the missive of Arketarnarwhar’s death[12], which was found to be of natural causes.[13] The news was carried upriver in 1806 by two French trappers who in turn were detained by the Corps of Discovery on their return journey. The trappers having delivered the Corps news of civilization were dismissed.

When the corps passed by the Arikara villages going downstream they deliberately withheld news of their leader’s death, in fact, the Arikara didn’t hear word of Arketarnarwhar’s death until 1807.[14] The Arikara developed a hostility towards the United States thereafter, and harassed trappers and traders alike coming upriver, and actually halted Ensign Nathaniel Pryor’s expedition to return the Mandan Chief Shehek Shote to his people at Knife River in August 1808 with a war party of about 650 Arikara warriors.[15] Location: where the Grand River converges with the Missouri River near present-day Mobridge, SD.

The Saúŋ Lakȟóta, who had their own mixed history with the Corps of Discovery, were also present when the Arikara stopped the Pryor expedition. The Wapȟóštaŋ Ğí (Brown Hat) Winter Count records the event that a Huŋkphápȟa man named Red Shirt was killed.[16] No Ears recorded the year with the following text, “Ogle Luta on wan itkop ahi ktepi,” which translates a few ways, but essentially means that Red Shirt died in conflict.[17] Lone Dog’s pictograph indicates that Red Shirt died by two arrows[18].

It is possible that Oglé Lutá (Red Shirt), in the Lakȟóta tradition of great leaders, had a different name, Tȟatȟáŋka Sapá (Black Bull). It should be noted that in the Corps of Discovery’s encounter with the Thithúŋwan (Teton) along Bad River in 1804 ended when the Corps gifted a Lakȟóta leader, then Black Bufallo, a hat, a medal, and a red military coat.[19] Black Buffalo intervened on behalf of the Corps of Discovery when the Corps refused to pay a toll. Black Buffalo ordered the warriors to lower their bows. The Corps passed after throwing a twist of tobacco at the feet of the Lakȟóta.

The Arikara War of 1823
The third possibility is the Arikara War of 1823.

The Arikara War saw Colonel Henry Leavenworth ascend the Missouri River to defend the interests of the American Fur Company from the hostile aggression of the Arikara. Leavenworth led a command of six companies of the US Infantry, and an aggrieved William Ashley plus sixty men of the American Fur Company who were accompanied by about 750 Očhéti Šakówiŋ warriors.[20]

The Očhéti Šakówiŋ led the assault on the Arikara village at dawn on Aug. 9, 1823. The fighting consisted of an exchange of gunfire and hand-to-hand fighting until the Arikara retreated behind their stockade. The following morning Leavenworth ordered artillery to commence firing on the Arikara. The Arikara pressed for a cease-fire soon after and Leavenworth heard them out. Thirty Arikara were killed by the artillery in addition to the fifteen from the previous day’s fighting.[21]

Leavenworth negotiated peace with the Arikara. Unbeknownst to Leavenworth, the Arikara were preparing to abandon their village that very night. The peace talks were likely a diversion while the village made ready. The Arikara left that night under Leavenworth’s sleepy watch. The Očhéti Šakówiŋ warriors were anticipating a fight in which they’d get many war honors, but were ultimately disgusted with Leavenworth’s decision to treat with the Arikara. The Očhéti Šakówiŋ raided the Arikara cornfields. Ashley was also disgusted with Leavenworth in that the entire Arikara village wasn’t destroyed.

The Lakȟóta remember the Arikara War of 1823 as “The year of much dried corn.[22]” Many winter counts depict stalks of corn to remember 1823 and frequently reference conflict with the Arikara. It is interesting to note that while Leavenworth organized this punitive campaign against a Plains Indian tribe, and referred to his command, including the Očhéti Šakówiŋ, as the Missouri Legion, that three winter count pictographs actually mentions Leavenworth, his soldiers, or the trappers in his command.

The Swan winter count recalls 1823 as “US troops fought Ree Indians.[23]” The 1823 entry on The Flame winter count is “White and Dakotas fought Rees.” Cloud Shield reveals a little more, “They joined the whites on an expedition up the Missouri River against the Rees.” Lone Dog’s entry says, “White soldiers made their first appearance in the region.” Lone Dog does not mention the Corps of Discovery as his people, the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna Dakȟóta were stealing horses from the Crow in 1804. Had this band of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna been at Bad River in 1804, they certainly would have recorded white soldiers ascending the river as Blue Thunder,[24] also an Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, did.

The battle depicted on the Pictographic Bison Robe could represent the Arikara War of 1823. Because it does not include the representation of white soldiers or trappers does not mean without certainty that it isn’t. Why would it? The Očhéti Šakówiŋ did the actual fighting. The robe depicts warriors fighting warriors. Leavenworth refrained from ordering his infantry to engage in the fighting, but was still involved in the fight through use of his artillery.

Ken Woody (St. Regis Mohawk), Chief of Interpretation, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, reproduced the Pictographic Bison Robe for the National Forest Service’s Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Great Falls, MT. According to Woody, who examined the original, the green quills on the ends of the quilled strip are in fact bird quills. The Mandan and Hidatsa were well known for their quillwork involving the use of bird quills. The feathers would have been collected from sea gulls which came north in the summer to North Dakota. The feathers were stripped and treated for use in quillwork.[25] “The only thing on the robe which would hint of a Mandan or Hidatsa origin is the bird quills for the quilled strip, although if I remember right, most were porcupine quills and only the green quills at the beginning and end were bird quills,” remarked Woody.

It is entirely possible that the Pictographic Bison Robe represents other conflicts not recorded in winter counts or remembered in surviving oral tradition. There seems to be only one certain thing, that the robe was painted before George Catlin and Karl Bodmer for their visits among the first nations of the Upper Great Plains in the 1830s left such an impression with their art, that simple form pictography was transformed with elaborate flourish and became the high plains pictographic art of the middle nineteenth century.

[1] McLaughlin, Castle, Arts Of Diplomacy: Lewis & Clark’s Indian Collection, University of Washington Press, Seattle WA, 2003.

[2] The Rosebud Winter Count.

[3] White Cow Killer Winter Count.

[4] White Bull, Chief Joseph (translated and edited by James H. Howard), The Warrior Who Killed Custer: The Personal Narrative of Chief Joseph White Bull, University of Nebraska Press, London, 1968.

[5] The Flame Winter Count.

[6] The Big Missouri Winter Count. It becomes clear who The-Man-With-The-Hat is when Big Missouri mention that a Mandan chief descended the Missouri River in 1806 with some white men to go meet the Great White Father.

[7] Pp. 130-146, Howard, James H., Fourth Annual Report Of The Bureau Of American Ethnology, Washington DC, Smithsonian, 1886.

[8] The Blue Thunder Winter Count, State Historical Society of North Dakota, Bismarck, ND.

[9] Clark, Capt. William, journal, Sept. 25, 1804.

[10] The John K. Bear Winter Count, 1803.

[11] Pp. 20-58, Howard, James H., Yanktonai Ethnohistory And The John K. Bear Winter Count, Plains Anthropologist: Journal Of The Plains Conference, Memoir 11, 1976.

[12] Page 306, Jackson, Donald C., Journey To The Mandans, 1809: The Lost Narrative Of Dr. Thomas,” Missouri Historical Society Bulletin, Vol. 20, No. 3, April, 1964.

[13] Pp. 5-7, Innis, Ben, Bloody Knife: Custer’s Favorite Scout, Smoky Water Press, Bismarck, ND. 1994.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Page 144, Potter, Tracy, Sheheke: Mandan Indian Diplomat, Farcountry Press, Fort Mandan Press, Washburn, ND, 2003.

[16] The Brown Hat (Baptiste Good) Winter Count.

[17] No Ears Winter Count.

[18] Lone Dog Winter Count.

[19] Page 169, Ambrose, Stephen, Undaunted Courage, Simon & Schuster, 1996.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Long Soldier Winter Count, Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, ND.

[23] The Swan Winter Count, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC. The Swan Winter Count,

[24] Blue Thunder Winter Count, State Historical Society of North Dakota, Bismarck, ND.

[25] Woody, Ken, discussion with author, Nov. 26, 2014.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Apple Creek Fight And Killdeer Mountain Conflict Remembered

A painting of the Killdeer Mountain Conflict of 1864 by Carl Boeckman.
The Apple Creek Fight And
Killdeer Mountain Conflict Remembered
Dakota Conflict In Dakota Territory
By Dakota Wind
KILLDEER, N.D. - “Four Horns was shot in the Killdeer Battle between Sioux and General Sully’s troops…some time after the fight, his daughter cut out the lead bullet,” One Bull said to Colonel Alfred Welch on a hot July day in 1934 at Little Eagle, S.D. “The report [that] the soldiers killed hundreds of Indian dogs is untrue,” said One Bull, “because Indian dogs, half wild creatures, would follow the Indians or run away long before soldiers would come up within range.[1]

The Killdeer Mountain conflict occurred on July 28, 1864. Sully was under orders to punish the Sioux in another campaign following the September, 1863 massacre of Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta peoples at Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána (Dry Bone Hill Creek), also known as Whitestone Hill.[2]

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta knew Killdeer Mountain as Taȟčá Wakútepi (Where They Hunt/Kill Deer), Killdeer. The hunting there was good and dependable, and the people came there regularly, not just to hunt but to pray as well. The plateau rises above the prairie steppe allowing for a fantastic view of the landscape, and open sky for those who came to pray.

A hand-tinted photo of Matȟó Watȟákpe by Frank Fiske.
Matȟó Watȟákpe (Charging Bear; John Grass), led the Sihásapa (Black Sole Moccasin; Blackfeet Lakȟóta) on the defensive at Killdeer. The Sihásapa had nothing to do with the 1862 Minnesota Dakota Conflict. “In this surprise attack the Indians lost everything… soldiers destroyed tons of food, etc.,” Matȟó Watȟákpe told Welch, and added that great suffering followed the fight and hatred against the whites grew.[3]

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta saw General Sully’s approach from miles away, his march put a great cloud of dust into the sky. Sully formed his command in to a large one mile square, and under his command was a detachment of Winnebago Indian Scouts, traditional enemies of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Seven Council Fires; Great Sioux Nation). A war party of thirty warriors had tussled with the Winnebago two days before Sully’s arrival.

In Robert Larson's take on the Killdeer Mountain conflict, the Teton are overconfident and Inkpaduta was the chief who organized the defense against Sully.

Historian Robert Larson describes July 28, 1864, nearly perfectly, “…Sully’s five mile march to reach the large Sioux village was a tense and uncomfortable one. Even though it was morning, the day would be hot and dry; the tense summer heat had already thinned the grass and muddied the water holes. On every hill along the valley at the south end of the village were clusters of mounted warriors.”[4]

The Dakȟóta under ĺŋkpaduta (Scarlet Point) had been engaged with soldiers since the Minnesota Dakota Conflict of 1862. They had fled west towards Spirit Lake when General Sibley and his command caught up to them at Big Mound. The Huŋkphápȟa Lakȟóta under Phizí (Gall) had crossed the Mníšoše (Missouri River) to the east in search of game; the heat and drought had driven game from the traditional their hunting grounds. Sibley’s arrival and pursuit of the Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta towards the Mníšoše marked the first U.S. military contact against the Huŋkphápȟa.

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta pictured here in his B.I.A. police uniform. "Sitting Bull was my friend," he said, "I was under orders...I killed him..."

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta (Red Tomahawk), infamously known for his part in Sitting Bull’s death years later, recalled the Sibley Campaign, “There was a shallow lake south of the hills and about where Dawson now stands. That was fine buffalo country. The buffalo would get into this lake and mire down so they could not get out. We went there that time to drive them into the lake and get meat and hides. While we were there the Santees came along.”

Many of the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, who were already dwelling in their traditional homelands, advanced west at General Sibley’s approach and “went directly to the Missouri River opposite the Standing Rock and occupied the country between Beaver Creek [Čhápa Wakpána; Emmons County] and Blue Blanket Creek [Šiná Tȟó Wakpána; Walworth County].”[5]

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta referred to the Isáŋyathi (Santee) as “hostile,” but that the Huŋkphápȟa camped with them and joined together in the hunt. He didn’t detail how the fight began at Big Mound, only that Sibley pursued them to the Mníšoše. The warriors held the attention of the soldiers, which allowed the Lakȟóta two days to cross the river. The ĺsaŋyathi under ĺŋkpaduta and Wakhéye Ská (White Lodge) broke off upon their approach to Tȟaspáŋla Wakpála (Apple Creek) and turned north.

ĺŋkpaduta pictured here. After the Little Bighorn fight he went into exile in Canada and died there in 1881.

The Isáŋyathi moved their camps in an arc, first northerly, then back east and south, and kept a respectable distance between them and Sibley’s retreat.[6] Šákpe (The Six) and his Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ Dakȟóta broke from the main body of Isáŋyathi and crossed the Mníšoše  with Hé Núŋpa WaníčA (No Two Horns) and his band of Huŋkphápȟa. Then they journeyed to Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána to make camp and hunt with the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna the following month. Gen. Sully found the camp that and slaughtered as many as 200 and took over 150 captives, mostly women and children in both cases.

After the Dakȟóta split from the Lakȟóta, “we went to cross the river. We were not afraid,” explained Tačháŋȟpi Lúta, “We did not lose any of our people when we crossed.”[7] He admitted to being a part of the party who waited the night through and then attacked and killed two soldiers.

Here's a reconstruction of the Apple Creek conflict. The map comes from a survey of the Missouri River in the 1850s by G.K. Warren.

The late Delma Helman, a Huŋkphápȟa elder from Standing Rock, recalled the story of the Mníšoše crossing, “The soldiers chased us into the river. We cut reeds to breathe underwater and held onto stones to keep submerged until nightfall.” After sunset, they emerged from the river safely onto Burnt Boat Island (later called Sibley Island) and crossed the Mníšoše.[8]

Mike McDonald, a Dakȟóta elder from the Spirit Lake Oyáte, shared the oral tradition of the Wanéta Thiyóšpaye (The Charger’s Band) when they reached the Mníšoše, “The Wanéta band moved north and easterly in wide arc and settled near present-day Rugby, N.D. at Pleasant Lake. There they stayed until they were invited unto the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.” The Dakȟóta call this lake Wičíbdeza Mní, Pleasant Lake.[9]

Three days after Gen. Sibley’s departure from Tȟaspáŋla Wakpála, Šákpe (The Six) and his band of Isáŋyathi came back across the Mníšoše, accompanied by Hé Núŋpa WaníčA and his band of Huŋkphápȟa[10], and made camp at Čháŋğu Wakpála (Burnt Wood Creek). Six days later, a mackinaw descended the Mníšoše with miners from Fort Benton and landed on a sand bar. A Dakȟóta wičháȟčala (an elder Dakota man) they called Ištá Sapá[11] (Black Eyes; father of Hé Núŋpa WaníčA) tried to warn the miners away, they shot him. The Dakȟóta retaliated and killed all the miners, and cast their gold dust into the river, thinking perhaps it was gun powder which had gone bad.[12]

The Sibley campaign was the first military campaign against the Huŋkphápȟa, Sully’s assault at Killdeer was the second. Sitting Bull’s own pictographic record testifies to his own portrayal, not as a warrior but as a medicine man, counting coup and stealing a mule from Sibley’s wagon train in July, 1863.[13] The pictograph testifies that the Huŋkphápȟa were east of the Mníšoše and present at the Big Mound fight against Gen. Sibey’s command.

Sitting Bull pictographed his part in the Big Mound conflict in which he stole a mule from Sully and counted coup on one of the men.

Historian Robert Utley estimates that there were perhaps as many as 1400 lodges at Taȟčá Wakútepi. It was a sizable village consisting of Huŋkphápȟa, Sihásapa, Mnikȟówožu, Itázipčho, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, and Isáŋyathi. Utley paints the Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta in overconfident tones: “they did not order the lodges packed,” explains Utley, “nor did they order the village moved, “The women, children, and old men, in fact, gathered on a high hill to watch.”[14]

But the camp was moved. At least the Lakȟóta camp was, from the west side of Taȟčá Wakútepi to the southeast side, below Medicine Hole the day before Sully’s arrival,[15] in a movement which placed a fresh water creek between them and the approaching soldiers. The Lakȟóta had learned the previous summer that water slowed or stopped the soldiers’ advance.

"Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake," says Ernie LaPointe of Sitting Bull, "that's his name."

Ernie LaPointe, Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake’s (Sitting Bull’s) direct lineal descendant, a great-grandson of the Huŋkphápȟa leader, offers this retrospective, “If it had been possible, Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake might have accepted peace terms that simply allowed his people and him to continue to live their traditional lifestyle.” As it was, Sully’s assault left one hundred Lakȟóta dead,[16] though Sully’s reports have the count closer to 150.

A map of the Killdeer conflict as it unfolded, courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. This author is currently working on a map of the conflict from the perspective of the Lakȟóta.

The Lakȟóta camp had moved in a position which faced Sully’s left flank; ĺŋkpaduta’s camp faced Sully’s right. A hunting party, possibly a war party though all the men were as much prepared to fight as to hunt, skirmished with Sully’s Winnebago scouts earlier that day. Sully’s command, five miles away, approached Taȟčá Wakútepi for a showdown.

When the soldiers got closer, a lone Lakȟóta warrior, Šúŋka Waŋžíla (Lone Dog), decided to test the fighting resolve of the soldiers and boldly rode his horse within range of fire. The soldiers fired three times at him. Tȟatȟáŋka Ská (White Bull) believed that Šúŋka Waŋžíla lived a wakȟáŋ life, charmed some would say in English. “Šúŋka Waŋžíla,” explained Tȟatȟáŋka Ská, “…was with a ghost and it was hard to shoot him.”[17]

A map of the 1864 Sully campaign in Dakota Territory.

Lt. Col. John Pattee, under Sully’s command that day, said of Šúŋka Waŋžíla riding, waving, and whooping at the soldiers, that an aide from Sully approached him, “The General sends his compliments and wishes you to kill that Indian for God’s sake.” Pattee ordered three sharpshooters to bring down Šúŋka Waŋžíla. One shot, according to Pattee, sent Šúŋka Waŋžíla from his horse, though Sully claimed the warrior fell from his horse.[18]

According to the pictographic record of Šúŋka Waŋžíla, he was riding, armed with bow and arrows, carrying black shields as much for practical protection as for spiritual protection, and received one wound.[19]

The fighting continued north for the five miles it took for Sully’s command to reach the encampments. For those five miles, the Lakȟóta held the soldiers’ attention, at times in brutal hand to hand combat. The Lakȟóta managed to outflank Sully’s men, which threatened the wagons and horses, so Sully ordered artillery to open fire. When the fight approached the encampments, the women hastened to break and flee. Frances “Fanny” Kelly, a captive of the Lakȟóta said that as soon as soldiers were sighted, the women withdrew into the hills, woods, and ravines, around Taȟčá Wakútepi, for protection.[20]

Taȟčá Wakútepi (Killdeer Mountain), a view from the south looking north.

On the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Isáŋyathi side of the conflict, the fight for the Dakȟóta became a stubborn retreat back to the encampments at the base of Taȟčá Wakútepi. There the soldiers broke into heavy fire into the Dakȟóta protectors until they finally broke. White Bull told Stanley Vestal that the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Isáŋyathi were as strangers to the Lakȟóta, and that they lost thirty when their line of defense broke.[21]

In a dialog with Mr. Timothy Hunts In Winter, there was a woman, an ancestor of his, Ohítika Wiŋ (Brave Woman) who fought at Killdeer. “She was only 14 on the day of the Killdeer fight but she fought alongside her até (father). Her até was killed that day in battle,” explained Hunts In Winter, “she was named Ohítika Wiŋ because she was a woman warrior.”[22]

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta encampment lay on the other side of this coulee (the treeline in the middle ground). The Lakȟóta camp moved here from the southwest side of the plateau.

From the Lakȟóta camp there came a singer escorting a man known as The-Man-Who-Never-Walked, a cripple since birth. His limbs were twisted and shrunken and in all his forty winters, he had never once hunted nor fought. When the soldiers came to the camp, The-Man-Who-Never-Walked knew that this was his one chance to fight. He was loaded onto a travois and a creamy white horse pulled the drag. The singer led him to where Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake was watching the fight.

When the singer finished his song, he called out, “This man has been a cripple all his life. He has never gone to war. Now he asks to be put into this fight.” Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake replied, “That is perfectly all right. Let him die in battle if he wants to.” White Bull later said of Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake, “Sitting Bull’s heart was full that day. He was proud of his nation. Even the helpless were eager to do battle in defense of their people.”[23] The horse was whipped and drove The-Man-Who-Never-Walked straight into a line of soldiers, who shot the horse then him. They called him Čhaŋte Matȟó (Bear’s Heart) after that because of his great courage.

A closer look at the south-facing slope of Taȟčá Wakútepi, below Medicine Hole. They would have ascended the plateau going around the landmark and over.

Íŋkpaduta engaged in a counter-attack on Sully’s right flank to stall his approach and lost twenty-seven warriors in hand to hand fighting. The Isáŋyathi broke just as Sully’s artillery began to fire upon the encampment.

Women and children who hadn’t retreated into the hills and ravines west of Taȟčá Wakútepi were suddenly in the fight. The women gathered what they could before abandoning camp, and young boys shepherded the horses to safety. “Children cried, the dogs were under everybody’s feet, mules balked, and pack horses took fright at the shell-fire or snorted at the drifting smoke behind them,” according to Frances Kelly.[24]

The Badlands west of Taȟčá Wakútepi. Thousands of places to hide and rendezvous on top of generations of intimate familiarity with the land helped the Lakȟóta remain elusive.

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta turned west into the Badlands, and there evaded capture.

The smoke cleared and over a hundred Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta lay dead. Sully ordered troops to destroy everything left behind. Lodges, blankets, and food were burned. Dogs were shot. Children inadvertently left behind in the confusion were chased down by the Winnebago scouts and killed.
Čháŋğu Wakpála: Burnt Wood Creek, Burleigh County, ND

Čhápa Wakpána: Beaver Creek, Emmons County, ND

Čhaŋte Matȟó: Bear’s Heart (The-Man-Who-Never-Walked), a forty-year-old disabled Lakȟóta man who fought his first and last fight at Taȟčá Wakútepi

Hé Núŋpa WaníčA: No Two Horns, a warrior, artist, and historian of the Huŋkphápȟa; fought at the Little Bighorn

Huŋkphápȟa: Head Of The Circle, also known as “Hunkpapa,” one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna: Little End Village (Yanktonai), one of the seven tribes that make up the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, their language is Wičhíyena

ĺŋkpaduta: Scarlet Point, war chief of the Waȟpékhute band of the Isáŋyathi

Isáŋyathi: the general name of the four eastern tribes (Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute, and Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ), their language is Dakȟóta

Matȟó Watȟákpe: Charging Bear (John Grass), a war chief of the Sihásapa, one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

Mníšoše: Water-Astir (Missouri River)

Očhéthi Šakówiŋ: Seven Council Fires (The Great Sioux Nation), the confederation is made up of the Thítȟuŋwaŋ, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ, Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute, and Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ

Ohítika Wiŋ: Brave Woman, she fought at Killdeer Mountain alongside her father when she was fourteen years old

Oyáte: a tribe, a people, or a nation

Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána: Dry Bone Hill Creek (Whitestone Hill Creek), Dickey County, ND

Phizí: Gall, a war chief of the Huŋkphápȟa (Hunkpapa), one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes; led the Huŋkphápȟa at the Little Bighorn, later became a judge

Sihásapa: Black Sole Moccasins (Blackfeet) one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

Šákpe: The Six, a chief of the Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ (Dwellers At The Sacred Lake), one of the four Isáŋyathi (Santee; Eastern Sioux) tribes.

Šiná Tȟó Wakpána: Blue Blanket Creek, Walworth County, SD

Šúŋka Waŋžíla: Dog Only-One (Lone Dog), a Huŋkphápȟa warrior and a Waníyetu Wowápi (Winter Count) keeper

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta: Red Tomahawk , a Huŋkphápȟa warrior known more for being a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer and his role in the death of Sitting Bull.

Taȟčá Wakútepi: Where They Kill Deer (Killdeer Mountain), Dunn County, ND

Tȟaspáŋla Wakpála: Lit. Thorn-Apple Creek, Burleigh County, ND

Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake: Sitting Bull, a great leader of the Huŋkphápȟa

Tȟatȟáŋka Ská: White Bull, nephew of Sitting Bull, and a famous warrior

Thítȟuŋwaŋ: Dwellers On The Plains (Teton), the Thítȟuŋwaŋ is made up of the Huŋkphápȟa,Sihásapa, Mnikȟówožu, Itázipčho, Oglála, Oóhenuŋpa, and Sičháŋǧu, their language is Lakȟóta

Wakȟáŋ: With-Energy, often translated as “Holy” or “Sacred”

Wakhéye Ská: White Lodge, a chief of the Sisíthuŋwaŋ

[1] “One Bull Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers.
[2] Mr. Corbin Shoots The Enemy (Húŋkpathi, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna; Crow Creek Indian Reservation), in discussion with the author, September 2013.
[3] “John Grass Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers.
[4] Larson, R., Gall: Lakota War Chief (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 45.
[5] Waggoner, J., Witness: A Huŋkphápȟa Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of The Lakotas (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 41.
[6] Ibid. pp. 599. Šiná Dúta Wiŋ (Red Blanket Woman) account places Šákpe and his band of Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ at the Apple Creek conflict, and this fight.
[7] “Red Tomahawk Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers.
[8] Mrs. Delma Helman (Húŋkpapȟa, Thítȟuŋwaŋ; Standing Rock Indian Reservation), in discussion with the author, Mobridge, S.D., July 2013.
[9] Mr. Mike McDonald (Dakȟóta; Spirit Lake Oyate), in discussion with the author, Fort Yates, N.D., Nov. 2014.
[10] “No Two Horns [Hé Núŋpa WaníčA ] Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers, July 7, 1915.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Waggoner, J., Witness: A Huŋkphápȟa Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of The Lakotas (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 599.
[13] Vestal, S. (Campbell, W.), Sitting Bull: Champion Of The Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1957).
[14] Utley, R., The Lance And The Shield: The Life And Times Of Sitting Bull (Henry Holt And Company, 1993), 55.
[15] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[16] LaPointe, E., Sitting Bull: His Life And Legacy (Gibbs Smith, 2009), p. 49.
[17] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[18] Pattee, J., Dakota Campaigns (South Dakota Historical Collections 5, 1910), 308.
[19] “No Two Horns [Hé Núŋpa WaníčA ] Interview,” thípi with pictographic records, Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers, July 7, 1915.
[20] Kelly, F., Narrative Of My Captivity Among The Sioux (Mutual Publishing Company, 1871), pp. 274-278.
[21] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[22] Mr. Tim Hunts In Winter (Húŋkpathi, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna; Crow Creek Indian Reservation), in an e-dialog with the author, March 2014.
[23] Vestal, S., Sitting Bull: Champion Of The Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1932), p53-54; White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[24] Vestal, S. (Campbell, W.), New Sources Of Indian History (Gayley Press, 2008), p. 56.