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Sicangu Community Histories Fall 2012-Pt 5

December 11, 2012

Crook was making a concerted effort to win the confidence of Crazy Horse.  Crazy Horse was asked to join in the councils in Washington (by Crook) but he refused.  All he wanted was permission for his people to hunt Buffalo on the Powder River.

Crook learned that Crazy Horse had tried to convince the Miniconjous at the Spotted Tail agency to flee north with him, but the camp of Touch-the-Clouds refused.  Crook also heard rumors that Crazy Horse was planning a get-away during a hunt, “to revive the soldier’s lodge (Hyde, 1987: 283)”.  Crook, upon hearing these and other reports, went to see him. On the way, Crook was stopped by Woman’s Dress (a headman of Red Cloud) who told him that Crazy Horse had planned to kill him. Crook turned around and went back to Camp Robinson, where he summoned the agency chiefs and Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse en route to Surrender-Frank Leslie's Illus Newspaper, 1877, June 9, p. 236

Crazy Horse en route to Surrender-Frank Leslie’s Illus
Newspaper, 1877, June 9, p. 236

“The agency chiefs all came; Crazy Horse ignored the summons (Hyde, 1987: 283)”. After conferring with the chiefs regarding arresting Crazy Horse, Crook gave orders to General L. P. Bradley to arrest Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse fled to Spotted Tail’s camp.  Lieutenant Lee was to escort Crazy Horse to Fort Robinson.  “Crazy Horse rode a horse, and with him were Touch-the –Clouds, White thunder, Coarse Voice, Crow Dog, Four Horns, Crow Good Voice, Horned Antelope, and others… (Hyde, 1987: 285)”  He was arrested, then after a struggle, Crazy Horse was fatally wounded, and died.

The agency chiefs were supposed to move to the Missouri River, where supplies were already being sent from Washington, the people were not willing to move.  Even though this would mean they might freeze, starve, or worse. Although President Hayes promised that if they were to move they could choose a location within the new reservation boundaries, the people would not go the Missouri.  The agents, military, and chiefs had to move the people.  A portion of the hostile people chose to flee northward when the bands reached Wounded Knee Creek.

It was at this point in time a glimmer at the beginnings of what is now seen in our present-day reservation life began to rear its ugly head.  “Spotted Tail’s people were split into factions and were quarreling.  Part of the ‘progressives’ (squaw men, mixed-bloods, Loafers, and Corn Band)…left the winter camp and moved to or near the Missouri (Hyde, 1987)(288)”.

The progressives wanted to join the squaw men and mixed-bloods at Ponca, while the surrendered hostiles were planning to bolt to Canada.  The Missouri was filled with its usual measure of drunkenness, illness, disease and death. The Lakota camp on the Missouri was steeped in troubles.

Spotted Tail moved from Rosebud Creek to Ponca Creek, where he could still be near the agency and keep an eye on both the whites and mixed bloods. But, he could also be able to have better control of his own people within the encampment.

Come spring, the acting agent went to Washington and was able to obtain permission for moving the Spotted Tail camp westward. But, this was not to happen until mid-summer.  This wait caused major unrest in the Spotted Tail camp.  Then, a wire from Washington stated they were to not move until August. It was then that Spotted Tail advised the acting agent, Pollock, to hire 300 of his soldiers to police the camp. But even though the camp was not to move until August, the people broke camp and left by the middle of July 1878 to return to the Rosebud Agency area.

Those that fled to the north, to Sitting Bull’s camp in southwest Saskatchewan found that decline in game and conflicts with local tribes was no longer conducive to them remaining north.  They returned to the United States in the 1880s and to the reservation life they had avoided.

Mass Grave at Wounded Knee  1890

Mass Grave at Wounded Knee 1890

In 1890 an event which would forever change the emotional, psychological, and spiritual character of the Lakota people, was the massacre of Wounded Knee.  Big Foot’s band decided to move southward after the killing of Sitting Bull by members of his own band, acting as police, to arrest him.  A few days later the band was intercepted by a portion of the 7th Calvary, and brought to Wounded Knee Creek.  Accounts on both sides differ about what actually occurred, but the death count was upwards of 300 men, women, and children. For the intent of this paper, the details of this event is not necessary. It is understood that the losses there at Wounded Knee affected those relatives and descendents there-after.

Those that stayed in Lakota country attempted to adjust to life on the reservation.  Annuities were slim, its distribution often delayed and less than the  required amount written into the treaties. The cattle that was driven to the area had lost 30% of their weight on the way to the new reservation.

After awhile the government stopped delivering the cattle on the hoof.  This meant that the portions normally eaten, which were high in nutrients (intestines, heart, and liver for example) , were thrown to the dogs. By the 1890s the cattle delivered was pre-butchered.

The Lakota people would supplement rations by raising chickens, hogs, and cattle.  They also grew melons, corn, squash, and oats in their gardens. The Lakota also found every possible opportunity to hunt game. Although the Buffalo herds were scarce, there were still smaller game such as deer, pronghorn, and elk.

Meanwhile, another type of battle began.  This battle was over the spiritual life of the Lakota.  Spotted Tail desired that the people be taught to speak, read, and write in Lakota.  It was not due to the religion, per se, but that ‘black robes’ would help his people to speak English, and read and write.  When the missionaries were ordered to leave, Spotted Tail had presented a petition signed by important headmen, to request the ‘Black Robes’ to stay.

It was the mixed-bloods and squaw men who preferred the Episcopalian missionaries. But, in the four years that they had been at Spotted Tail’s camp, these missionaries had not taught anything about the English language, speaking, writing or reading. What was not considered, was the affect that this form of education would later have on the Lakota people.

Many Native American children were being sent off to boarding schools such as the Carlisle School. The Carlisle School was based upon Captain Pratt’s ideology of “Kill the Indian, save the man“. He was an officer in the 10th Calvary who based his concepts of education on military schools. He felt that Indian children would learn white ways better away from their homes.
Above: before and after photos; Below: students at Carlisle Indian School.

The education of Native children was laid into the hands of the priests in during an “era of forced acculturation that was to last from 1880-1934 (Douville, 1976, Rev. 2012: 2)”. The process of education was by regimentation, they children were educated in religion (Christianization), were to learn the basic Rs (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic), and industry (in the case of Rosebud, in farming).

Carlisle School 1890s

But, most importantly these children were forced to learn the English language.  The children were beaten for speaking or singing in their native tongue.  This caused fear, and shame, of speaking the native tongue as well as hindering the natural process of passing along the Lakota language to the next general (and the meanings behind the words and phrases in the language).

With this type of education, came the assimilation policies whereby the children were forced to wear clothing like the white people, and have their hair cut short.  When the government mandated that the children be sent to school, it not only broke-up families but made a huge wedge into the cultural education of those children.  There are adults today who still struggle with memories of what had happened to them in the boarding school system.

Before Assimilation

Before Assimilation

After Assimilation

After Assimilation

The next step in the process of assimilation was through the Act of 1889. It had begun the work of chopping the Lakota territory into apportioned allotments for the intent of dividing

…a portion of the reservation of the Sioux Nation of Indians in Dakota into separate reservations and to secure the relinquishment of the Indian title to the remainder… in quantities as follows: To each head of a family, three hundred and twenty acres; to each single person over eighteen years of age, one-fourth of a section; to each orphan child under eighteen years of age, one-fourth of a section; and to each other person under eighteen years now living, or who may be born prior to the date of the order of the President directing an allotment of the lands embraced in any reservation, one-eighth of a section.

(Charles J. Kappler. Washington : Government Printing Office, 1904)”.

Although written in 1889, it was not fully enacted until the 1900s.  The ‘surplus’ lands came to about eleven million acres. This land was then was then opened for settlement.

In 1911 Reuben Quick Bear headed a tribal council that wrote to Washington protesting the opening of land as surplus for settlement, by using the argument that the land was needed for “their children when they come of age (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 125)”.  The interests of the United States lay with the  needs of white settlers for land, not that of the Lakota.  For the Lakota, having already lost available hunting of the Buffalo and the Black Hills, the loss of land would become the demise of the traditional culture they fought so hard to retain.

It was recognized by officials within the territories that most of the land was not suitable for farming, but rather for cattle grazing.  In the 1880s, stock cattle were brought to the reservations for the Lakota people to become “the foundation for private herds (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 125)”.  In the 1900s many Lakota found work as cowboys, still others worked in the Rodeos.

The OIA[1] created “a mode of  dominance over the Lakota” that consisted of a variety of “technologies” that were used such as “agency courts and police forces, trust restrictions on …lands and funds, and the ration system (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 3)”.  The agency courts with juristiction over misdomeanors and civil affairs.  These would have included the religious aspect of Lakota life (such as, Sun Dances), family-life (new plural wives), intoxication and also alcohol trafficking. In practice, the agent would be the enforcer of these affairs, and had veto power over the judge’s decisions. Officers were “to serve the Great Father [the president] and him only (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 7)”.


[1] Office of Indian Affairs

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