Chapter 5 - THE CHIEF TELLS OF RED CLOUD|
Rested and refreshed, the old Chief desired to talk about the cause of the Custer troubles; he said that Red Cloud was one of their wisest men and knew what was best for his people; he had been their chief for a long time; he tried to keep peace with the whites but it was no use; they would not stay out of the Indian's country, but came and took their gold and killed off all their game. This started the trouble, and the long bloody war with the soldiers came. After the Custer fight, and when the Indians were starving, Red Cloud made a speech about it, he said, and asked to have it read to him now. His host brought from the library a volume containing the talk to which the Chief referred, and it was carefully translated to him by Thunderbull by way of refreshing his memory. On completing this interpretation of Red Cloud's famous address, the Chief directed that it be included in his story of the Custer fight so that people would know why they killed Custer and his troopers. Also, it would tell why there was ghost dancing, and of the massacre at Wounded Knee.
RED CLOUD'S SPEECH
"I will tell you the reason for the trouble. When we first made treaties with the Government, our old life and our old customs were about to end; the game on which we lived was disappearing; the whites were closing around us, and nothing remained for us but to adopt their ways,—the Government promised us all the means necessary to make our living out of the land, and to instruct us how to do it, and with abundant food to support us until we could take care of ourselves. We looked forward with hope to the time we could be as independent as the whites, and have a voice in the Government.
"The army officers could have helped better than anyone else but we were not left to them. An Indian Department was made with a large number of agents and other officials drawing large salaries—-then came the beginning of trouble; these men took care of themselves but not of us. It was very hard to deal with the government through them—they could make more for themselves by keeping us back than by helping us forward.
"We did not get the means for working our lands; the few things they gave us did little good.
"Our rations began to be reduced; they said we were lazy. That is false. How does any man of sense suppose that so great a number of people could get work at once unless they were at once supplied with the means to work and instructors enough to teach them?
"Our ponies were taken away from us under the promise that they would be replaced by oxen and large horses; it was long before we saw any, and then we got very few. We tried with the means we had, but on one pretext or another, we were shifted from one place to another, or were told that such a transfer was coming. Great efforts were made to break up our customs, but nothing was done to introduce us to customs of the whites. Everything was done to break the power of the real chiefs.
"Those old men really wished their people to improve, but little men, so-called chiefs, were made to act as disturbers and agitators. Spotted Tail wanted the ways of the whites, but an assassin was found to remove him. This was charged to the Indians because an Indian did it, but who set on the Indian? I was abused and slandered, to weaken my influence for good. This was done by men paid by the Government to teach us the ways of the whites. I have visited many other tribes and found that the same things were done amongst them; all was done to discourage us and nothing to encourage us. I saw men paid by the government to help us, all very busy making money for themselves, but doing nothing for us.
"Now do you not suppose we saw all this? Of course we did, but what could we do? We were prisoners, not in the hands of the army but in the hands of robbers. Where was the army? Set to watch us but having no voice to set things right. They could not speak for us. Those who held us pretended to be very anxious about our welfare and said our condition was a great mystery. We tried to speak and clear up that mystery but were laughed at as children.
"Other treaties were made but it was all the same. Rations were again reduced and we were starving—sufficient food not given us, and no means to get it from the land. Rations were still further reduced; a family got for two weeks what was not enough for one week. What did we eat when that was gone? The people were desperate from starvation,—they had no hope. They did not think of fighting; what good would it do; they might die like men but what would the women and children do?
"Some say they saw the Son of God. I did not see Him. If he had come He would do great things, as He had done before. We doubted it for we saw neither Him nor His works. Then General Crook came. His words sounded well but how could we know that a new treaty would be kept better than the old one? For that reason we did not care to sign. He promised that his promise would be kept—he at least had never lied to us.
"His words gave the people hope; they signed. They hoped. He died. Their hope died with him. Despair came again. Our rations were again reduced. The white men seized our lands; we sold them through General Crook but our pay was as distant as ever.
"The men who counted (census) told all around that we were feasting and wasting food. Where did he see it? How could we waste what we did not have? We felt we were mocked in our misery; we had no newspaper and no one to speak for us. Our rations were again reduced.
"You who eat three times a day and see your children well and happy around you cannot understand what a starving Indian feels! We were faint with hunger and maddened by despair. We held our dying children and felt their little bodies tremble as their soul went out and left only a dead weight in our hands. They were not very heavy but we were faint and the dead weighed us down. There was no hope on earth. God seemed to have forgotten.
"Some one had been talking of the Son of God and said He had come. The people did not know; they did not care; they snatched at hope; they screamed like crazy people to Him for mercy; they caught at the promise they heard He had made.
"The white men were frightened and called for soldiers. We begged for life and the white men thought we wanted theirs; we heard the soldiers were coming. We did not fear. We hoped we could tell them our suffering and could get help. The white men told us the soldiers meant to kill us; we did not believe it but some were frightened and ran away to the Bad Lands. The soldiers came. They said: 'don't be afraid—we come to make peace, not war.' It was true; they brought us food. But the hunger-crazed who had taken fright at the soldiers' coming and went to the Bad Lands could not be induced to return to the horrors of reservation life. They were called Hostiles and the Government sent the army to force them back to their reservation prison."
RED CLOUD, The Man of 200 BattlesA young Oglala chief of the Sioux nation dashed across the Dakota prairie, followed by a band of youthful braves who had chosen him as their leader. From the chief's shoulders waved a scarlet blanket. Some poetic onlooker, observing the foremost rider's fiery-colored shoulder covering, said: "He looks like a flying red cloud."
The speech pleased the young chief. From that time he was known as Maq-pelu-ta----Red Cloud.
Red Cloud was born in 1818. He was of obscure birth; but by sheer genius for warfare and leadership soon made himself a sub-chief. His early wars were waged against the Pawnees, Crows and other tribes, who hated the fierce Sioux. Then, in 1848,---already a noted warrior---he began a conflict with the white men that raged off and on for more than thirty years. During much of that period Red Cloud was practically the war lord of Nebraska, Dakota, Kansas and large parts of Iowa, Wyoming, Montana and Minnesota.
Pioneers began to invade his realm. Many of them were white men of the most daring, lawless sort and some did not scruple to cheat, rob or even kill any Indian who crossed their path. Red Cloud regarded these newcomers as a hostile tribe and treated them as such. The white man slaughtered the buffaloes and other game and trampled on their ancient customs. Red Cloud and his braves retaliated by slaying some of these "undesirable citizens" and declaring death-war upon the rest.
Fights Against Fearful OddsThe government rushed to the protection of its settlers. Red Cloud now found himself opposed to trained soldiers instead of lawless frontiersmen. But he fought on as fearlessly as ever against these greater odds.
A body of regulars was sent to garrison Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming. On December 22, 1866, Red Could, with a band of Sioux, attacked a foraging party from the fort. Captain Fetterman, with one hundred soldiers and citizens, was sent out to the party's rescue. Red Cloud's savages, in a terrific battle, killed Fetterman and every one of his men.
Encouraged by this feat, Red Cloud next attacked a detachment of soldiers under Major Powell, who were crossing the prairies with a consignment of metal wagon bodies. Using these wagon bodies for bullet-proof fortification, the troops defended themselves so gallantly that Red Cloud could make no headway against them. Again and again he led his warriors across the open ground in a wild charge against the wagon fort. And every time the soldiers' quick, unerring volleys emptied dozens of saddles and sent the Indians reeling back. Red Cloud lost more than 300 men in this fight before he would consent to withdraw out of reach of the deadly hail of bullets.
Some of the older Sioux chiefs wanted to yield to the government and to sign a peace treaty. Red Cloud was asked to join them. He replied furiously: "No! I want war!" The more valiant young warriors echoed his defiant shout. And war they had for years thereafter. Red Cloud kept the frontier ablaze with excitement.
Among the famous soldiers who fought against him from time to time were Generals Miles, Sheridan, Crook, Terry and Custer. More than once he proved too wily for the best of them. But one leader, be he ever so inspired, cannot with 6000 savages defy a whole country forever. So, in course of time, Red Cloud and his braves were cooped up on a reservation. But again and again they broke out, committing fearful ravages among the settlements, and were brought back to the agency only to burst forth again at the first chance.
Gives Up Unequal StrifeWhen Sitting Bull, in 1876, in the campaign which cost Custer's life, went on the warpath, Red Cloud prepared to join the renowned Medicine Man; but General Crook swooped down upon his band just as they were making ready to start, took away their ponies and made Red Cloud a prisoner. Later the government offered to pay $28,000.00 for these ponies and for other confiscated weapons if Red Cloud would sign a treaty.
This was in 1880. Red Cloud was 62 years old. His long, tireless years of warfare had resulted in the thinning out of his warrior band and the loss of thousands of miles of his territory. Whereas, the white men in the West were every year more numerous. He saw the bitter hopelessness of it all and consented to sign what he called a "peace paper".
The old savage had been in 200 pitched battles during his stormy career. Now---penniless, old, helpless---he laid down his weapons. Nor did he, outwardly at least, ever break the treaty he had so reluctantly made. In more than one subsequent Indian outbreak he was suspected of having stirred up the local braves to revolt; but nothing could be proven against him.
And so he lived on, at government expense, without a shadow of his former greatness, becoming at last blind, deaf and almost childish.
by Albert Payson Terhune
|Top - From left to right: LONE BEAR, AMERICAN HORSE (BEN), IRON TAIL,
IRON CLOUD, WHIRLWIND. All Sioux Chiefs, taken by the author in 1908.|
Below - In center, CHIEF BLACK THUNDER
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