EVERY age, every race, has its leaders and heroes. There were over sixty distinct tribes of Indians
on this continent, each of which boasted its notable men. The names and deeds of some of these men
will live in American history, yet in the true sense they are unknown, because misunderstood. I
should like to present some of the greatest chiefs of modern times in the light of the native
character and ideals, believing that the American people will gladly do them tardy justice.
It is matter of history that the Sioux nation, to which I belong, was originally friendly to the
Caucasian peoples which it met in succession-first, to the south the Spaniards; then the French, on
the Mississippi River and along the Great Lakes; later the English, and finally the Americans. This
powerful tribe then roamed over the whole extent of the
Missis-  sippi valley, between that river and the Rockies. Their usages and government united the various
bands more closely than was the case with many of the neighboring tribes.
During the early part of the nineteenth century, chiefs such as Wabashaw, Redwing, and Little Six
among the eastern Sioux, Conquering Bear, Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse, and Hump of the western bands,
were the last of the old type. After these, we have a coterie of new leaders, products of the new
conditions brought about by close contact with the conquering race.
This distinction must be borne in mind—that while the early chiefs were spokesmen and leaders
in the simplest sense, possessing no real authority, those who headed their tribes during the
transition period were more or less rulers and more or less politicians. It is a singular fact that
 many of the "chiefs", well known as such to the American public, were not chiefs at all according to
the accepted usages of their tribesmen. Their prominence was simply the result of an abnormal
situation, in which representatives of the United States Government made use of them for a definite
purpose. In a few cases, where a chief met with a violent death, some ambitious man has taken
advantage of the confusion to thrust himself upon the tribe and, perhaps with outside help, has
succeeded in usurping the leadership.
Red Cloud was born about 1820 near the forks of the Platte River. He was one of a family of nine
children whose father, an able and respected warrior, reared his son under the old Spartan regime.
The young Red Cloud is said to have been a fine horseman, able to swim across the Missouri and
Yellowstone rivers, of high bearing and unquestionable courage, yet invariably gentle and courteous
in everyday life. This last trait, together with a singularly musical
 and agreeable voice, has always been characteristic of the man.
When he was about six years old, his father gave him a spirited colt, and said to him:
"My son, when you are able to sit quietly upon the back of this colt without saddle or bridle, I
shall be glad, for the boy who can win a wild creature and learn to use it will as a man be able to
win and rule men."
The little fellow, instead of going for advice and help to his grandfather, as most Indian boys
would have done, began quietly to practice throwing the lariat. In a little while he was able to
lasso the colt. He was dragged off his feet at once, but hung on, and finally managed to picket him
near the teepee. When the big boys drove the herd of ponies to water, he drove his colt with the
rest. Presently the pony became used to him and allowed himself to be handled. The boy began to ride
him bareback; he was thrown many times, but persisted until he could ride without even a lariat,
sitting with arms folded and guiding the
ani-  mal by the movements of his body. From that time on he told me that he broke all his own ponies, and
before long his father's as well.
The old men, his contemporaries, have often related to me how Red Cloud was always successful in the
hunt because his horses were so well broken. At the age of nine, he began to ride his father's pack
pony upon the buffalo hunt. He was twelve years old, he told me, when he was first permitted to take
part in the chase, and found to his great mortification that none of his arrows penetrated more than
a few inches. Excited to recklessness, he whipped his horse nearer the fleeing buffalo, and before
his father knew what he was about, he had seized one of the protruding arrows and tried to push it
deeper. The furious animal tossed his massive head sidewise, and boy and horse were whirled into the
air. Fortunately, the boy was thrown on the farther side of his pony, which received the full force
of the second attack. The thundering hoofs of the stampeded herd soon
 passed them by, but the wounded and maddened buffalo refused to move, and some critical moments
passed before Red Cloud's father succeeded in attracting its attention so that the boy might spring
to his feet and run for his life.
I once asked Red Cloud if he could recall having ever been afraid, and in reply he told me this
story. He was about sixteen years old and had already been once or twice upon the warpath, when one
fall his people were hunting in the Big Horn country, where they might expect trouble at any moment
with the hostile Crows or Shoshones. Red Cloud had followed a single buffalo bull into the Bad Lands
and was out of sight and hearing of his companions. When he had brought down his game, he noted
carefully every feature of his surroundings so that he might at once detect anything unusual, and
tied his horse with a long lariat to the horn of the dead bison, while skinning and cutting up the
meat so as to pack it to camp. Every few minutes he paused in his work to
scrutinize the landscape, for he had a feeling that danger was not far off.
Suddenly, almost over his head, as it seemed, he heard a tremendous war whoop, and glancing
sidewise, thought he beheld the charge of an overwhelming number of warriors. He tried desperately
to give the usual undaunted war whoop in reply, but instead a yell of terror burst from his lips,
his legs gave way under him, and he fell in a heap. When he realized, the next instant, that the war
whoop was merely the sudden loud whinnying of his own horse, and the charging army a band of fleeing
elk, he was so ashamed of himself that he never forgot the incident, although up to that time he had
never mentioned it. His subsequent career would indicate that the lesson was well learned.
The future leader was still a very young man when he joined a war party against the Utes. Having
pushed eagerly forward on the trail, he found himself far in advance of his companions as night came
on, and at
 the same time rain began to fall heavily. Among the scattered scrub pines, the lone warrior found a
natural cave, and after a hasty examination, he decided to shelter there for the night.
Scarcely had he rolled himself in his blanket when he heard a slight rustling at the entrance, as if
some creature were preparing to share his retreat. It was pitch dark. He could see nothing, but
judged that it must be either a man or a grizzly. There was not room to draw a bow. It must be
between knife and knife, or between knife and claws, he said to himself.
The intruder made no search but quietly lay down in the opposite corner of the cave. Red Cloud
remained perfectly still, scarcely breathing, his hand upon his knife. Hour after hour he lay broad
awake, while many thoughts passed through his brain. Suddenly, without warning, he sneezed, and
instantly a strong man sprang to a sitting posture opposite. The first gray of morning
 was creeping into their rocky den, and behold! a Ute hunter sat before him.
Desperate as the situation appeared, it was not without a grim humor. Neither could afford to take
his eyes from the other's; the tension was great, till at last a smile wavered over the
expressionless face of the Ute. Red Cloud answered the smile, and in that instant a treaty of peace
was born between them.
"Put your knife in its sheath. I shall do so also, and we will smoke together," signed Red Cloud.
The other assented gladly, and they ratified thus the truce which assured to each a safe return to
his friends. Having finished their smoke, they shook hands and separated. Neither had given the
other any information. Red Cloud returned to his party and told his story, adding that he had
divulged nothing and had nothing to report. Some were inclined to censure him for not fighting, but
he was sustained by a majority of the warriors, who commended his self-restraint.
 In a day or two they discovered the main camp of the enemy and fought a remarkable battle, in which
Red Cloud especially distinguished himself
The Sioux were now entering upon the most stormy period of their history. The old things were fast
giving place to new. The young men, for the first time engaging in serious and destructive warfare
with the neighboring tribes, armed with the deadly weapons furnished by the white man, began to
realize that they must soon enter upon a desperate struggle for their ancestral hunting grounds. The
old men had been innocently cultivating the friendship of the stranger, saying among themselves,
"Surely there is land enough for all!"
Red Cloud was a modest and little known man of about twenty-eight years, when General Harney called
all the western bands of Sioux together at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for the purpose of securing an
agreement and right of way through their territory. The Ogallalas held aloof
 from this proposal, but Bear Bull, an Ogallala chief, after having been plied with whisky, undertook
to dictate submission to the rest of the clan. Enraged by failure, he fired upon a group of his own
tribesmen, and Red Cloud's father and brother fell dead. According to Indian custom, it fell to him
to avenge the deed. Calmly, without uttering a word, he faced old Bear Bull and his son, who
attempted to defend his father, and shot them both. He did what he believed to be his duty, and the
whole band sustained him. Indeed, the tragedy gave the young man at once a certain standing, as one
who not only defended his people against enemies from without, but against injustice and aggression
within the tribe. From this time on he was a recognized leader.
Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse, then head chief of the Ogallalas, took council with Red Cloud in all
important matters, and the young warrior rapidly advanced in authority and influence. In 1854, when
 was barely thirty-five years old, the various bands were again encamped near Fort Laramie. A Mormon
emigrant train, moving westward, left a footsore cow behind, and the young men killed her for food.
The next day, to their astonishment, an officer with thirty men appeared at the Indian camp and
demanded of old Conquering Bear that they be given up. The chief in vain protested that it was all a
mistake and offered to make reparation. It would seem that either the officer was under the
influence of liquor, or else had a mind to bully the Indians, for he would accept neither
explanation nor payment, but demanded point-blank that the young men who had killed the cow be
delivered up to summary punishment. The old chief refused to be intimidated and was shot dead on the
spot. Not one soldier ever reached the gate of Fort Laramie! Here Red Cloud led the young Ogallalas,
and so intense was the feeling that they even killed the half-breed interpreter.
 Curiously enough, there was no attempt at retaliation on the part of the army, and no serious break
until 1860, when the Sioux were involved in troubles with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes. In 1862, a
grave outbreak was precipitated by the eastern Sioux in Minnesota under Little Crow, in which the
western bands took no part. Yet this event ushered in a new period for their race. The surveyors of
the Union Pacific were laying out the proposed road through the heart of the southern buffalo
country, the rendezvous of Ogallalas, Brules, Arapahoes, Comanches, and Pawnees, who followed the
buffalo as a means of livelihood. To be sure, most of these tribes were at war with one another, yet
during the summer months they met often to proclaim a truce and hold joint councils and festivities,
which were now largely turned into discussions of the common enemy. It became evident, however, that
some of the smaller and weaker tribes were inclined to welcome the new order of things, recognizing
that it was the
 policy of the government to put an end to tribal warfare.
Red Cloud's position was uncompromisingly against submission. He made some noted speeches in this
line, one of which was repeated to me by an old man who had heard and remembered it with the
remarkable verbal memory of an Indian.
"Friends," said Red Cloud, "it has been our misfortune to welcome the white man. We have been
deceived. He brought with him some shining things that pleased our eyes; he brought weapons more
effective than our own: above all, he brought the spirit water that makes one forget for a time old
age, weakness, and sorrow. But I wish to say to you that if you would possess these things for
yourselves, you must begin anew and put away the wisdom of your fathers. You must lay up food, and
forget the hungry. When your house is built, your storeroom filled, then look around for a neighbor
whom you can take at a disadvantage, and seize all that he has!
 Give away only what you do not want; or rather, do not part with any of your possessions unless in
exchange for another's.
"My countrymen, shall the glittering trinkets of this rich man, his deceitful drink that overcomes
the mind, shall these things tempt us to give up our homes, our hunting grounds, and the honorable
teaching of our old men? Shall we permit ourselves to be driven to and fro—to be herded like
the cattle of the white man?"
His next speech that has been remembered was made in 1866, just before the attack on Fort Phil
Kearny. The tension of feeling against the invaders had now reached its height. There was no
dissenting voice in the council upon the Powder River, when it was decided to oppose to the
uttermost the evident purpose of the government. Red Cloud was not altogether ignorant of the
numerical strength and the resourcefulness of the white man, but he was determined to face any odds
rather than submit.
 "Hear ye, Dakotas!" he exclaimed. "When the Great Father at Washington sent us his chief soldier
[General Harney] to ask for a path through our hunting grounds, a way for his iron road to the
mountains and the western sea, we were told that they wished merely to pass through our country, not
to tarry among us, but to seek for gold in the far west. Our old chiefs thought to show their
friendship and good will, when they allowed this dangerous snake in our midst. They promised to
protect the wayfarers.
"Yet before the ashes of the council fire are cold, the Great Father is building his forts among us.
You have heard the sound of the white soldier's ax upon the Little Piney. His presence here is an
insult and a threat. It is an insult to the spirits of our ancestors. Are we then to give up their
sacred graves to be plowed for corn? Dakotas, I am for war!"
In less than a week after this speech, the Sioux advanced upon Fort Phil Kearny,
 the new sentinel that had just taken her place upon the farthest frontier, guarding the Oregon
Trail. Every detail of the attack had been planned with care, though not without heated discussion
and nearly every well-known Sioux chief had agreed in striking the blow. The brilliant young war
leader, Crazy Horse, was appointed to lead the charge. His lieutenants were Sword, Hump, and Dull
Knife, with Little Chief of the Cheyennes, while the older men acted as councilors. Their success
was instantaneous. In less than half an hour, they had cut down nearly a hundred men under Captain
Fetterman, whom they drew out of the fort by a ruse and then annihilated.
Instead of sending troops to punish, the government sent a commission to treat with the Sioux. The
result was the famous treaty of 1868, which Red Cloud was the last to sign, having refused to do so
until all of the forts within their territory should be vacated. All of his demands were acceded to,
the new road abandoned, the
 garrisons withdrawn, and in the new treaty it was distinctly stated that the Black Hills and the Big
Horn were Indian country, set apart for their perpetual occupancy, and that no white man should
enter that region without the consent of the Sioux.
Scarcely was this treaty signed, however, when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and the
popular cry was: "Remove the Indians!" This was easier said than done. That very territory had just
been solemnly guaranteed to them forever: yet how stem the irresistible rush for gold? The
government, at first, entered some small protest, just enough to "save its face" as the saying is;
but there was no serious attempt to prevent the wholesale violation of the treaty. It was this state
of affairs that led to the last great speech made by Red Cloud, at a gathering upon the Little
Rosebud River. It is brief, and touches upon the hopelessness of their future as a race. He seems at
about this time to have reached the conclusion that resistance could not
 last much longer; in fact, the greater part of the Sioux nation was already under government
"We are told," said he, "that Spotted Tail has consented to be the Beggars' Chief. Those Indians who
go over to the white man can be nothing but beggars, for he respects only riches, and how can an
Indian be a rich man? He cannot without ceasing to be an Indian. As for me, I have listened
patiently to the promises of the Great Father, but his memory is short. I am now done with him. This
is all I have to say."
The wilder bands separated soon after this council, to follow the drift of the buffalo, some in the
vicinity of the Black Hills and others in the Big Horn region. Small war parties came down from time
to time upon stray travelers, who received no mercy at their hands, or made dashes upon neighboring
forts. Red Cloud claimed the right to guard and hold by force, if need be, all this territory which
had been conceded
 to his people by the treaty of 1868. The land became a very nest of outlawry. Aside from organized
parties of prospectors, there were bands of white horse thieves and desperadoes who took advantage
of the situation to plunder immigrants and Indians alike.
An attempt was made by means of military camps to establish control and force all the Indians upon
reservations, and another commission was sent to negotiate their removal to Indian Territory, but
met with an absolute refusal. After much guerrilla warfare, an important military campaign against
the Sioux was set on foot in 1876, ending in Custer's signal defeat upon the Little Big Horn.
In this notable battle, Red Cloud did not participate in person, nor in the earlier one with Crook
upon the Little Rosebud, but he had a son in both fights. He was now a councilor rather than a
warrior, but his young men were constantly in the field, while Spotted Tail had definitely
surren-  dered and was in close touch with representatives of the government.
But the inevitable end was near. One morning in the fall of 1876 Red Cloud was surrounded by United
States troops under the command of Colonel McKenzie, who disarmed his people and brought them into
Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Thence they were removed to the Pine Ridge agency, where he lived for more
than thirty years as a "reservation Indian." In order to humiliate him further, government
authorities proclaimed the more tractable Spotted Tail head chief of the Sioux. Of course, Red
Cloud's own people never recognized any other chief.
In 1880 he appealed to Professor Marsh, of Yale, head of a scientific expedition to the Bad Lands,
charging certain frauds at the agency and apparently proving his case; at any rate the matter was
considered worthy of official investigation. In 1890-1891, during the "Ghost Dance craze" and the
difficulties that followed, he was
 suspected of collusion with the hostiles, but he did not join them openly, and nothing could be
proved against him. He was already an old man, and became almost entirely blind before his death in
1909 in his ninetieth year.
His private life was exemplary. He was faithful to one wife all his days, and was a devoted father
to his children. He was ambitious for his only son, known as Jack Red Cloud, and much desired him to
be a great warrior. He started him on the warpath at the age of fifteen, not then realizing that the
days of Indian warfare were well-nigh at an end.
Among latter-day chiefs, Red Cloud was notable as a quiet man, simple and direct in speech,
courageous in action, an ardent lover of his country, and possessed in a marked degree of the manly
qualities characteristic of the American Indian in his best days.