Washita Symposium: Past, Present, and Future
November 12-14, 1998
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Cheyenne Cultural Center

There is one tribe whose brave and courageous warriors stand out among other tribes to the extent that their prominence is unmatched. There is one tribe whose brave and courageous peace chiefs stand out among other tribes to the extent that their prominence is unmatched. The brave and courageous warriors are the Cheyenne warriors; the brave and courageous chiefs are the Cheyenne peace chiefs.

How can both statements be true? How can I claim that both groups stand out and state that their prominence is unmatched? Is that not a contradiction: warriors, peace chiefs, war, peace? The terms are dichotomous. How can the warriors of one tribe be as great as the peace chiefs, or conversely? How can the peace chiefs of one tribe be as great as the warriors? Do I dare advance the claim that the prominence of both is unmatched? My answer to both is a resounding "Yes." There are historical facts coupled with oral tradition from which I base my conclusions.

The brave and courageous actions of the Cheyenne warriors led to the military winter campaign of 1868. Detrimental as it turned out, the actual site of Black Kettle's village was consequent to the brave and courageous actions of the peace chiefs. The winter campaign in 1868 was initiated by Gen. Philip Sheridan. The campaign united a court martialed military officer with his former troops. Reduced in rank as a result of his court-martial, Col. George Armstrong Custer reunited with the Seventh Cavalry in Kansas and headed out to find the warriors who were making raids in Kansas. Custer came south to Camp Supply. After stocking up on provisions, the Seventh left Camp Supply on November 23 and headed south, camping along Wolf Creek.

Wolf Creek was a well-known stream of water to many tribes, but it was most recently remembered by the Cheyennes and the Kiowas as the scene of pain and sorrow when the two tribes fought each other in a bitter battle in 1838. A year later, Cheyenne bowstring warriors and four contraries were killed by Kiowa, Comanche and Plains Apache warriors. The Cheyennes named Wolf Creek homa-hee-oh-hee, Beaver River. There was a stream of water we named honeehee-oh-hee, Wolf River, but it was given to the North Canadian for the many wolves that were found there. (A side note to this is interesting: when Cheyenne language informants were revealing the names of all the streams of water, from the Rio Grande to the Missouri and beyond, to Rudolph Petter, a linguist studying the Cheyenne language, they indicated to him that gray wolves were abundant in the North Canadian River valley.)

The battle at Wolf Creek had taken place in 1838. In 1840 a great peace was concluded between the Kiowas and the Cheyennes. In 1868 both tribes were camping along the Washita, known by the Cheyennes as Hooxeeohe, Lodge Pole River. The scouts of Custer found the Cheyenne village on the evening of November 26 or perhaps in the very early hours of November 27.

The plan for the winter campaign was influenced by Cheyenne Dog Soldiers making raids in Kansas. The site of Black Kettle's village along the Pole River, the Washita, was the detrimental result of tensions between the Cheyenne warriors and the Cheyenne peace chiefs. The raids in Kansas by Cheyenne warriors—notably the Dog Soldiers—and the actions of the peace chiefs were occurring simultaneously, and they were the result of the Sand Creek massacre of November 29, 1864. The warriors held the peace chiefs accountable for the massacre. After Sand Creek the warriors, particularly the Dog Soldiers, no longer heeded the peace chiefs. It is always remarkable to me that the peace chiefs signed the treaty of Little Arkansas in 1865, less than a year after Sand Creek. Two years later the Cheyenne peace chiefs, together with some warriors, signed the treaty of Medicine Lodge in October, 1867. Most of the Cheyenne warrior societies never approved or were party to the 1865 and 1867 treaties.

In August of that year, Gen. Winfield Hancock burned the Cheyenne village at Pawnee Fork when he and his army were in pursuit of Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. The history of the Cheyennes during that period is intertwined with great deeds of warriors and courageous actions of peace chiefs. While Cheyenne warriors were fighting, Cheyenne peace chiefs were seeking peace. Many warriors attained honor; it is equally certain many peace chiefs attained esteem. Cheyenne warrior One Bear was killed by Hancock's troops in 1867, and became as well known as Lean Bear, who had been killed by federal troops earlier. Cheyenne warrior Roman Nose, killed at Beecher Island, became as prominent to Cheyenne people as peace chief White Antelope, killed at Sand Creek earlier.

Who were those Cheyenne warriors? There are many sources that can paint a picture of those great warriors. In the four years between Sand Creek and the Washita, the Dog Soldiers and the peace chiefs were often at odds. When the site of the winter camp was selected by the Cheyennes, Black Kettle and his band were not allowed to camp with the main village. He and his band were told to camp away, beyond the Arapaho, up the river. The band complied, and the village of fifty-one lodges was then not protected by a large number of warriors; the location of the camp was vulnerable. When found, its destiny was sealed.

There are many accounts of the attack. I wish to relate an account and include records from authorities such as George Bent, and include oral tradition and speak out of my own experiences. There were many brave warriors who immediately fought back during the initial charge through the village by the Seventh Cavalry. My story is of two. One warrior who camped near Black Kettle's lodge was Big Man. Big Man was close to Black Kettle. Big Man and his wife had a young boy named Magpie who was also in the camp. Big Man had a friend named Afraid of Beavers. Afraid of Beavers and his wife had a daughter, Walking Woman, born that very year. My grandmother, Corn Stalk, named my youngest daughter Walking Woman, after the Walking Woman born in 1868. Afraid of Beavers and his wife survived the attack, as did their daughter. In fact, it was Afraid of Beavers who took care of the body of Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman Later. Walking Woman had a brother born after the Washita attack. The young son of Big Man, Magpie, also survived. Many years later, Magpie and Walking Woman, the son of Big Man and the daughter of Afraid of Beavers, respectively, became husband and wife. I remember Magpie and Walking Woman from my very early age.

The little brother to Walking Woman was John Peak Heart, H-E-A-R-T, who eventually changed his name to John Peak Hart, H-A-R-T. He was born in 1872 and died in 1958. He was my paternal grandfather. John Peak Hart and his sister Walking Woman took their allotments in the same section along Quartermaster Creek three miles north of the Washita which flowed north of Red Moon, near what is now Hammon. My grandfather, John Peak Hart, became a peace chief and one of the principal chiefs in 1936, and his brother-in-law Magpie also became one of the chiefs and became an arrow-keeper later in that decade. My Cheyenne name was given by Corn Stalk, and it is Black Beaver, derived from Afraid of Beavers. Afraid of Beavers was my great-grandfather. I was placed on the chiefs' council, replacing John Peak Hart, as one of the Cheyenne chiefs and one of the principal chiefs forty years later in 1958. This brief narrative, based on historical materials, oral tradition, and my own experiences, is exactly what several members of our Cheyenne societies and chiefs hoped would happen when we became involved in the efforts to have the Washita site developed into a national historic site.

In the attack at Washita, the warriors Big Man and Afraid of Beavers fought courageously. Even young Magpie fired a shot at the troops from a cap-and-ball revolver. While many Cheyennes survived, Peace Chief Little Rock and Peace Chief Black Kettle, with his wife Medicine Woman Later, did not. In advancing the argument that the brave and courageous warriors and peace chiefs stand out among other tribes to the extent that their prominence is unmatched, what measuring instrument do I use? How can one measure the greatness of our warriors and our peace chiefs?

I could name numerous engagements, such as Beecher's Island, Summit Springs, the Hancock Campaign, Sully's Expedition, the Winter Campaign, the Red River War, among others, that would be a good measurement of the greatness of our warriors. I also could rattle off years and places: 1825—Mouth of the Teton; 1851—Fort Laramie; 1861—Fort Wise; 1865—Little Arkansas; and 1867—Medicine Lodge. Many historians will recognize those years and places as the times our peace chiefs signed treaties with the United States.

I believe that a critical way to gauge the greatness of the Cheyenne warriors and peace chiefs should include a measurement of the opposition. I want to enumerate a roster of army generals who, in their assignment, had duties that dealt directly with the Cheyennes; that is my measuring stick. The roll call of generals is: Elwell S. Otis, Samuel R. Curtis, Robert B. Mitchell, James G. Blunt, Henry W. Halleck, P. E. Connor, Grenville M. Dodge, Alfred M. Sully, Ulysses S. Grant, Henry B. Carrington, William Selby Harney, John B. Sanborn, William Tecumseh Sherman, Winfield Hancock, George A. Custer, Christopher Cohn Augur, Alfred Howe Terry, John Pope, George A. Forsyth, Eugene A. Carr, William B. Hazen, Philip H. Sheridan, Nelson A. Miles, James B. Fry, and Benjamin H. Grierson.

Two authorities, historians George Bird Grinnell and Donald J. Berthrong, are sources for twenty-four of the United States army generals I have named; I added Otis, which would make the total twenty-five. I submit there is no other tribe that has had more army generals commanding against them directly on the battlefield or issuing orders behind a desk or negotiating at a peace council than the Cheyennes. If one includes Joseph J. Reynolds, Ranald Mackenzie, George Crook, E. S. Godfrey, and W. H. Stouts, who engaged the Northern Cheyennes (for there were some southern warriors fighting side by side with our northern kin), the figure is thirty, but let us keep to the more conservative figure of twenty-five. Twenty-five United States army generals.

One can only imagine the number of troops; the generals were at the apex, below them were the colonels, lieutenant colonels, and majors, captains, and first and second lieutenants, and below them noncommissioned officers, and then below them, hundreds of troops. The number of generals and their troops is staggering, it is awesome, yet our warriors did great against those generals and their armies. Our warriors could win a fair fight; our warriors were so good that the Colorado militia and the United States army had to resort to a strategy of surprise attacks that had been developed many years earlier. According to historian David T. Courtwright in his book entitled Violent Land, the strategy of surprise attacks upon villages was developed in the 1620s and 1630s when colonists learned it was much easier to attack Indian villages than to go after bands of warriors. The tactic was used twice against the Cheyennes more than 238 years later.

I believe there is no other living tribe today that has experienced an attack on two of their villages where elders, women, and children were killed. There might be another tribe that suffered two or more such attacks, but they are likely extinct as a result. We Cheyennes are still here, thanks to the warriors and the peace chiefs.

Gen. E. S. Otis was an army surgeon who in 1860 ordered his army medical personnel in the field to collect human remains for shipment to the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C., for scientific study. For the next two decades over 18,000 human remains of Native Americans were collected by the army. In 1993 our tribal governing body, under the leadership of Chairman Edward P. Wilson, asked the Cheyenne societies to repatriate the remains of our ancestors collected as a result of Otis's order. During that horrendous chapter of history, there was a violation of basic human rights and, from my view, war crimes committed. That sad episode in history is being corrected by two congressional acts, the National Museum of the American Indian Act of 1989 and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. The repatriation of human remains has been a priority for many tribes.

The Cheyenne societies and chiefs, with four Cheyenne women, worked together following Chairman Wilson's directive to repatriate four of our warriors and one female adolescent killed at Sand Creek in 1864, four warriors killed at Fort Zarah in 1867, one warrior killed at the Upper Saline River in 1867, four warriors killed at Fort Parker in 1867 and 1868, one Cheyenne killed at Camp Supply in 1874, one warrior killed at Summit Springs in Colorado in 1874, and one Cheyenne warrior killed at Monument, Kansas, in 1878. We interred the remains of those eighteen ancestors at the Concho Cemetery on July 10, 1993, ending the repatriation term. Cheyenne societies and chiefs, with one Cheyenne woman, also repatriated the remains of White Antelope from the Putnam Museum of Natural History and Science in Davenport, Iowa, and we interred his remains on November 29, 1993, 120 years after he was killed at the Sand Creek massacre. White Antelope was one of the first to be shot, and his body was mutilated. The remains of White Antelope were repatriated, according to the wishes of Joe Antelope, one of the peace chiefs and a former arrow keeper. Joe Antelope was a lineal descendent of his great-grandfather, White Antelope, a great peace chief. I and many other contemporary peace chiefs hold him in the highest regard. Stan Hoig has called White Antelope a martyr to the cause of peace. I consider it one of the highest honors in my life to have facilitated the repatriation of his remains. Repatriation carried out by the Cheyenne societies, chiefs, and certain women was highly emotional. For many of us, it provided a connection to our ancestors, those warriors and chiefs in the period between 1864 and 1878. Those were fourteen hard years of history of the Cheyenne warriors and the peace chiefs and their people. That history included many engagements by our warriors, requests for peace by our peace chiefs, and the two massacres.

After Washita there was a united effort by several tribes in what has been termed the Red River War. Many Cheyenne warriors were involved, more than any tribe. When punishment came upon those warriors reportedly involved in the fight at Adobe Walls in 1874, they were sent off to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida, in April, 1875. Thirty-two Cheyenne men and one woman were chained and taken to Fort Marion to be imprisoned. Those thirty-three were accused and immediately sentenced; there was never a trial. The total of thirty-three was more than any other tribe.

A few years ago, I saw a traveling exhibit on Fort Marion art. One not familiar with that episode in history would have thought that the Cheyennes only had a few warriors and artists, for they were not featured as such. As a matter of fact, there were more Cheyenne warriors imprisoned at Fort Marion than any other tribe; moreover, there is more Fort Marion art drawn by Cheyenne warriors extant in distant places throughout the world than the art of other Fort Marion prisoners.

The most prolific artist at Fort Marion was Bear's Heart; his work was hardly featured. Bear's Heart distinguished himself for his ledger artwork and as one of the leaders of the warrior prisoners. Bear's Heart was chosen to carry an American flag at the 1881 inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. That is hard to fathom. In 1874 he was a warrior fighting the United States for the survival of his people; in 1881 he carried a United States flag as he led a battalion of students dressed in splendid uniforms at the inaugural parade for James A. Garfield. For this Cheyenne warrior it is an unmatched distinction. Bear's Heart took the first name James, influenced by James A. Garfield, the president.

Many other Cheyennes imprisoned at Fort Marion attained a special place in history. Howling Wolf's ledger art has been featured in many professional art magazines and in a recent book bearing his name, the second such book that singularly focuses on his ledger artwork. Henry Roman Nose, also known as Henry Caruthers, did limited ledger work. He went from Fort Marion to the Carlisle Indian School and when he came home, he became one of the Cheyenne chiefs. Part of his allotment north of Watonga is now Roman Nose State Park. The first American to be elevated to sainthood in the Church of England in the United States, the Episcopal Church USA, was not a Caucasian as one might expect; it was an American Indian. Moreover, it was one of the former Cheyenne warriors imprisoned at Fort Marion: David Pendleton Oakerhater. Released in April, 1875, he studied under Episcopalian mentors in upstate New York and then came home to the reservation and had a ministry at the Whirlwind Mission for many years. Oakerhater's feast day is the first Sunday in September. His signature on his ledger artwork is that of a man standing inside the Cheyenne Sun Dance lodge.

The Cheyennes produced a disproportionate number of singularly brave and dedicated warriors, willing to die to protect that which they loved and earning their reputation as the fighting Cheyennes.

Who are the peace chiefs? According to some scholars, the chiefs are at the apex of Cheyenne societal structure. Anthropologist John Moore holds the view that the makeup of the chiefs was from the four societies of the Cheyennes. Ten men were selected from each of the four societies for a total of forty. Four were then selected from within to serve as principal chiefs. The four vacancies were then filled to bring the total number to forty-four. I have two views of our chiefs. The first is from a tribal view, from the inside, as it were. A few years ago my esteemed colleague in this symposium, Dr. Henrietta Mann, wrote:

Chiefs were good respected men of the tribe who had already established their reputation for bravery, generosity, wisdom, and concern for the well-being of others. Even if a man ran away from his wife or killed his son in his presence, he could not exhibit anger, but instead reach over and pick up his pipe.

The second view is from the outside, but with information taken from informants to historian George Bird Grinnell. He characterized the role of a Cheyenne chief as follows:

In the Cheyenne view, the first duty of a chief, though not always first spoken of, was that he should care for the widows and the orphans, and the second, that he should be a peacemaker. He should act as a mediator between any in the camp who quarreled. The dignity of chief did not permit him to take part in any quarrel. He might not take personal vengeance for an offense committed against himself; to do so would result in loss of influence.

A very stringent requirement of chiefs was made by Sweet Medicine, who according to oral tradition appointed the first chiefs of the Cheyennes. "Listen to me carefully," Sweet Medicine advised:

and truthfully follow my instructions. You chiefs are peacemakers. Though your own son might be killed right in front of you, you are to do nothing. Pick up your pipe. Go out and talk to the people. If strangers come, you are the first to give invitations. When anyone asks anything of you, do not refuse, but give. You chiefs own the land and the people. If you abandon your soldier societies you will be scared and retreat; you are not to step back but take a stand to protect your land and your people. Go outside your tipi and sing your chief's song so all people will know that you have done something good.

It is amazing and indeed extraordinary that the Cheyennes have maintained an unbroken line of societies and chiefs to this day. Both groups meet frequently; generally the Elks and the Bowstrings meet together, as do the Dog Soldiers and Kit Foxes. The contemporary chiefs will often attend their meetings and sit at their assigned places when the societies meet, but as chiefs they meet frequently. Several meetings have been held by the chiefs over the last few years, primarily to initiate new chiefs. We have met on our tribal lands at Concho and Colony and on the Red Creek allotment east of Clinton.

Historically the many Cheyenne peace chiefs distinguish themselves as peacemakers, for they have inculcated into their lives those teachings given by Sweet Medicine. I have already mentioned Lean Bear who was killed by army troops as he carried a document toward them; the document indicated that he and his band were friends. Within a few months, these Cheyenne peace chiefs were killed at Sand Creek: White Antelope, Standing Water, One Eye, War Bonnet, Spotted Crow, Two Thighs, Bear Man, Yellow Shield, and Yellow Wolf. Our peace chiefs stand great equally as the warriors. By their work as peacemakers the peace chiefs solidify our sovereignty.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, NPS

As the Seventh Cavalry left Camp Supply on November 23, 1868, it was comprised of about 850 men, representing eleven of the twelve companies of the Seventh United States Cavalry. Lt. Col. George A. Custer was in command of the campaign. About 50 percent of the soldiers in the Seventh Cavalry were foreign born, principally from Ireland, Germany, and England; they had come to the United States during or just after the close of the Civil War. There also were Osage Indian scouts for the Seventh Cavalry. There also were twenty-four hand picked men, sharpshooters, under Lt. William W. Cook. Custer also had about forty wagons to carry all the provisions.

The objective for the Seventh Cavalry was to move down the South Canadian, cross it, and then probe the Washita in search of the Cheyennes and Arapahos targeted by the United States government as being the perpetrators of the conflict in western Kansas in the summer of 1868. On November 23 the command camped on Wolf Creek; it was snowing. Pvt. William Harvey of K Company reported that it was a miserable day, with a foot of snow on the ground, even though the temperatures were warming up. It was still brutally cold and large snowflakes were falling by the time they got into camp. Their wool clothing was soaked. Lt. Edward Godfrey, commander of K Company, noted that the horses had a terrible time because the snow balled up on their hooves.

The Seventh Cavalry continued up Wolf Creek until November 25, when they went into camp about a mile north of the South Canadian River along a tributary, probably Commission Creek. On the morning of November 26, as Custer was supervising the crossing of the South Canadian north of the well-known landmark, the Antelope Hills, Maj. Joel Elliott took three companies upstream to search for Indians. Elliott sent word to Custer that he had picked up the trail of 100-200 warriors. Custer ordered Elliott to continue to follow the trail, while he would take the balance of the command south from Antelope Hills. The two columns would make an intersection near the Washita about fifteen miles west of the site of Black Kettle's village.

During the early morning of November 27 a bright moon illuminated the landscape and the snow; the men saw pony tracks heading down the Washita. When the column came to a halt, they spotted the embers of a fire where Indian boys had been tending pony herds the evening before. They also could smell smoke. Osage scouts took Custer up a ridge, which is about one and one-half miles northwest of the present overlook, and informed him the village was below them. Custer could hear the tinkling of bells on the ponies and the dogs barking; then came the sound of an infant's cry. Custer knew he had located a village, but exactly whose he did not know.

The site of Black Kettle's village in November, 1868, was a favorite campsite for the Southern Cheyennes and other tribes. Black Kettle had been to Fort Cobb, about a hundred miles southeast of the Washita encampment, to ask Gen. William Hazen if he could bring his band of Cheyennes into Fort Cobb for protection. Hazen told Black Kettle he would not allow him to come to Fort Cobb. Black Kettle would have to see Gen. Philip Sheridan to make peace. Black Kettle went back to his village, which he reached on the afternoon of November 26. That night the council chiefs in the lodges on the Washita discussed what to do. They could not go to Fort Cobb; they must find General Sheridan somewhere to the north. Medicine Woman Later, Black Kettle's wife, insisted they should move immediately to join up with the Arapahos and the Kiowas and the other villages of the Cheyennes and Comanches who were camped downstream on the Washita. The council chiefs decided they would wait until morning to send emissaries to Sheridan to arrange a peace. That would be too late.

During the day of November 26, a Cheyenne warrior from Black Kettle's village, Crow Neck, accompanied a Kiowa war party in an attempt to strike the Utes. On their return, Elliott's column picked up their pony tracks and followed the trail to Black Kettle's village. When Crow Neck returned to the camp, he told Bad Man, "I think I saw soldiers to the west. What should I do? Should we tell the council chiefs?" Bad Man said, "You probably saw buffalo. Are you absolutely certain?" Crow Neck answered, "No, I was not." Crow Neck and Bad Man apparently said nothing to Black Kettle. In any event, Black Kettle probably was aware the soldiers were coming, but, like most of the council chiefs, he did not believe they would arrive by the next morning.

Black Kettle's village stretched out in linear fashion, probably one-quarter to one-half mile, on the south side of the Washita. By all accounts, there were fifty-one lodges in camp, forty-seven of them Cheyenne, two of them Arapaho, and two of them Lakota Sioux, in all approximately 250-300 Indians. Custer's Osage scouts tried to get a fix on the village, reporting there were about fifty lodges. Custer divided the Seventh Cavalry into battalions to strike the village from different directions. (The usual military practice throughout that period was to surround the village to keep its occupants from scattering.) Custer planned to send three companies, G, H, and M, under the second-in-command, Maj. Joel Elliott, along the north side of the Washita, back up into the bluffs to approach the village from the east. In the mean time, Capt. William Thompson with Companies B and F would cross the Washita to the west of the village and then strike it about where the overlook is today. Two more companies under Capt. Edward Myers would come in from the west. Custer and four companies, Companies A, C, E, and K, would gallop from the ridge top northwest of the encampment. The idea was to converge from different directions and keep the warriors from fleeing. The commands got into position around dawn.

Several accounts report that warriors fired a rifle to give an alarm; they saw the soldiers, or their silhouettes, in the murky distance. There was a bit of commotion as the warriors and women awakened to see what was going on. The soldiers burst into the village and for the first ten or fifteen minutes there was absolute chaos. People were running in every direction. They were pushed to the south, up toward the small knolls directly south of the village. A soldier came up to Magpie, but Magpie thrust his pistol into the man's stomach, shot him, and took his horse. Some accounts say the soldier was Capt. Albert Barnitz, but Godfrey found Barnitz's horse down in the lower end of the valley, so I believe he was an unidentified soldier. Magpie said he had soldier stripes on his sleeve which indicates a noncommissioned officer.

Meanwhile, in the village, Cheyenne accounts say that both Cranky Man and Statue died defending the women and children. Father Peter Powell learned from oral histories of the Cheyennes that the warrior named Cranky Man was the man who shot Capt. Louis McLane Hamilton, the grandson of Alexander Hamilton, at the beginning of the battle. Cranky Man himself was cut down. Statue was another of the Cheyenne warriors in the village that can be identified by name. The oral history that Powell put together in the 1960s and 1970s comments that Statue tried to rally the other fleeing warriors by telling them to stand and fight, to defend the village, to defend the women and children. Statue stood beside his tipi as long as possible before he was killed.

Women, children, and warriors were running in all directions, most without time even to put on moccasins to protect their feet from the snow. The warriors and non-combatants tried to use the Washita's heavily brushed banks to gain protection as they moved downstream. They knew that two miles downstream was the beginning of a large Indian encampment of about 6,000. Little Rock, one of the major chiefs at Black Kettle's village whose tipi was towards the eastern end of the encampment, and two or three other warriors started moving downstream. Following them were a number of women, including White Buffalo Woman and Little Beaver, and some of the other younger people, attempting to reach the safety of the other villages. Maj. Joel Elliott saw warriors and other figures moving to the east and he yelled to Lt. Owen Hale, "Here goes for a brevet or a coffin." Elliott and about seventeen men headed off in pursuit. They confronted Little Rock and shot and killed him. Elliott and his men also killed a small party of Indians made up of teenaged boys, among them Hawk and Blind Bear. Elliott captured White Buffalo Woman and several other women and small children and put them under the guard of Sgt. Maj. Walter Kennedy. Kennedy began to escort them back toward the village.

At that time, the soldiers did not know the existence of a series of villages downstream. The Arapahos under Little Raven arrived to surround Major Elliott and his command. The Cheyennes from the other camps also moved upstream. The Cheyennes and Arapahos killed Kennedy and surrounded Major Elliott and wiped out his contingent. Different sources give different views as to how Elliott finally went down. George Bent's papers said Tobacco was an Arapaho. Cheyenne accounts claim that Tobacco rode over the prostrate soldiers who were down on the ground with feet to the inside of the circle, firing out like the spokes radiating from a wagon wheel. Tobacco reportedly ran through them on his horse, but was killed on the opposite side as he exited the circle. The warriors then rose up and killed all of Elliott's men. Custer had control of the village, but he did not know Elliott had been destroyed.

After the warriors killed Elliott and his men, they congregated on the north side of the Washita attempting to entice the soldiers to come out, so they could cut them off. But Custer's men were more organized than Elliott's, and they did not take the bait. Custer received word from Lieutenant Godfrey that two miles downstream there were a series of Indian villages. Custer could see the Indians encircling the camp. He decided to burn all of the tipis. He captured fifty-three women and children and more than 900 Indian ponies. He did not want the ponies to fall into the hands of the Cheyennes. After allowing the captives to pick out horses for themselves to ride on the return to Camp Supply, his men herded the rest of the ponies up against the embankment, where they were shot and killed. After destroying the pony herd, Custer moved his column down the Washita, as if they were going to strike the next village, which would have been Little Raven's Arapahos. The warriors fell back, abandoned the villages, and moved farther down the Washita. As Custer and the Seventh Cavalry approached the Arapahos, the soldiers did an about-face and returned to what had been Black Kettle's village. Custer then returned to Camp Supply and reported to Sheridan they had struck a blow on Black Kettle, destroying his village.

The Cheyennes who escaped the Washita returned to the village to discover the bodies of both Black Kettle and his wife, which they buried somewhere in the Sand Hills, presumably north of the Washita. During the battle, Moving Behind, who was staying with Corn Stalk, held Corn Stalk's hand as they escaped, hiding in the brush. They talked about soldiers discovering them, but Moving Behind recalled later, "I suspect for some reason the soldiers pitied us and they did not kill us, and they let us go." Blue Horse, Black Kettle's only nephew, was not so lucky. Blue Horse had been a horse herder for Black Kettle; he ran into Capt. Frederick Benteen, who would later, of course, be at Little Bighorn. In his account of the Washita, Benteen said he tried to get Blue Horse to surrender, but Blue Horse shot at him three times, and finally Benteen himself killed the young boy in self-defense.

At the Washita, some of the dead were mutilated; some were women and children. Custer claimed they killed 103 warriors. Cheyenne accounts reported perhaps ten to fifteen killed, the rest being women and children. There was not, in my judgment, a wholesale attempt to kill all women and children, evident in the fact that fifty-three were captured.

All these accounts and perspectives must be analyzed, but the battle, or massacre depending on point of view, the defeat of Black Kettle, would not end in peace until March, 1869, when Custer induced the Cheyennes to surrender.

Historians must look at Washita as one of a series of events throughout the Southern Plains, events such as the Red River campaign and Soldier Springs, Sand Creek and Little Bighorn. They all have linkages; all have a thread of commonality. When we look at history, we cannot look at just one specific isolated site or event; these sites, these events are all interrelated, and we have to put them in context.

University of New Mexico

By its very nature, military history is not a very pleasant subject, but we must have a clear idea of how people at the time felt about the winter campaign of 1868, and how the campaign was essential within the changing attitudes toward war. One of the important aspects of the Washita as a national historic site—there are many—is that it represents a new mode of warfare that the United States was adopting from the Civil War, and which we still embrace today. It was what was called at the time "total war," and as it was waged in those years, it was considerably different from the way it is waged today. It was considerably more humane. We accept practices in warfare today that are far harsher, that are far more severe, that are far worse, than were applied in the 1860s and the 1870s or during the American Civil War.

What happened in the 1868 campaign was a sort of evolution in American thinking about war and an acceptance by Americans of the practices of war that they would have not found acceptable just a few years before. It was here at this place in 1868 that those changes began to occur. One of the key players in those changes was Gen. Philip Sheridan, who had just been removed from Reconstruction duty in the South, where he had raised the ire of the president of the United States, Andrew Johnson. He got himself fired because he was too harsh toward the southerners and was sent to the West to use his special talents on Plains Indian tribes. The United States was going through a period of incredibly rapid expansion at the time. Roads were being pushed into the West for highways, and of course there were the railroads; thousands upon thousands and then finally millions of people were pushing into the West from the East. More people from Europe were coming over every year than lived in the entire American West. More people from Europe came into the cities of New York and Boston and Philadelphia in any given six-month period during the 1870s and 1880s than the Native American population of the entire United States. We must put into perspective what was going on in terms of the great movement of people across the globe, and they were all coming into the American West. The generation living at that time, and certainly the generation in control of the government of the United States, was one that was accustomed to war and to using military power to achieve its ends.

The loss of life is always regrettable and every tragedy and every story carries its own power. Some of the magical aspects of a place like the Washita are the individual stories on each side that can illuminate the human condition, and we can certainly feel for the human tragedy that occurred at a place such as this. But that was a generation of Americans who had just engaged in a great Civil War in which 630,000 of them had been killed. It was a generation that was accustomed to violence, that was not worried about violence, that believed the use of power was a way to achieve the goals of government policy, and furthermore that there was nothing more dangerous than disunion and nothing more dangerous than anarchy, and that all of the nation must be welded together. They had just fought a war in which they had slain each other in incredible numbers to achieve that end, and they were certainly not shy about waging a war in the West to make sure the West was part of the union. Philip Sheridan was sent to the West in 1868 to take care of that job.

Even though there had been almost 1.5 million men in the United States Army in 1865, by 1868 the army was reduced to 25,000. Most of the troops were on Reconstruction duty in the South; that and garrison duty in the East were the prime duties of the army At no time in all the Indian wars of the West were there more than 5,000 troops situated in any one place to wage a war against any of the various Indian groups of the West.

On the Southern Plains, Sheridan had a force of about 1,200 cavalry and 1,400 infantry, composed almost exclusively of raw recruits. That was hardly sufficient to deal with the estimated 6,000 allied warriors roaming the area if hostilities commenced between the Plains tribes and the United States government. And indeed, hostilities had commenced, from the Platte River on the north to the Red River on the south, after 1864 when Gov. John Evans of Colorado Territory and Col. John M. Chivington of the Colorado volunteers began a war of extermination against the Cheyennes. Chivington's massacre of a peaceful Cheyenne village along Sand Creek near Fort Lyon in November, 1864, had enraged the Plains tribes. Public indignation over the Sand Creek massacre and a year of costly futile campaigns led the government to send a peace commission to negotiate a peace settlement with the Indians.

In all the dealings with the Indians that occurred in the Far West, government policy was kind of schizophrenic; the American people were at one in wanting the Plains tribes displaced and placed on reservations, segregated from white society. But they differed very dramatically in how that should be accomplished. Most Americans wanted a peaceful solution and did not want to wage war, some because of their humanitarian feelings, but most because it would cost too much and they did not want their taxes to go up (War is always more costly than peace). Some Americans, especially in the West, wanted war for two reasons. They want the Indians displaced as rapidly as possible so they could be secure in their person and their property, and they wanted the money that war would bring into their communities. Government military expenditures were good for business in the West during that time, and it was not beyond the actions of people in the West to start hostilities themselves, so the government would send in troops and the westerners would reap the benefit of the money need to transport large amounts of supplies and garrison large numbers of troops. Indeed, war was the fate of the West from 1864 on.

A peace commission, though, had met on the Little Arkansas and signed the various chiefs of the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Comanches, Kiowas, and Kiowa-Apaches as a group in October, 1865, whereby the Indians agreed to give up their lands in Colorado, cease warfare, and accept reservations in the Indian Territory, southern Kansas, and the Texas Panhandle. But the states of Texas and Kansas refused to allow any reservations within their boundaries, and Congress, which was more concerned with Reconstruction, dallied for two years with the treaties.

In the meantime, the tribes roamed across the Plains following the buffalo herds and grumbling over the ever-increasing numbers of whites that were there. Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, appointed commander of the Department of the Missouri in 1866, marched into the Indian country in April, 1867 with seven companies of infantry, eleven companies of cavalry, and an artillery battery to investigate rumors of Indian deprivations. At first the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers and their Oglala Sioux allies agreed to parley with Hancock, but when he approached their village on the Pawnee Fork of the Arkansas River, they fled. One Sand Creek massacre had been enough for the Indians and they were not about to allow soldiers to surround their camps again. Enraged, Hancock forwarded Lt. Col. George A. Custer to pursue the Indians with eight companies of the Seventh Cavalry.

Custer, who would lead the major strike forces for both Hancock and Sheridan on the Southern Plains, was the embodiment of the romantic cavalryman. It was a stereotype he sought and nurtured. He graduated from West Point with the golden class of 1861, but through good fortune and very effective work, he won a brigadier star at the age of twenty-three in 1863. The press labeled him "the boy general with the yellow curls," and they reported his wild charges from Gettysburg to Appomattox, where as a major general of volunteers he had helped to cut off Lee's retreat and had personally accepted the white flag. Custer was Sheridan's protégeé (but their age difference was only ten years) and the older general fondly remembered that "if there was any poetry or romance in war, Custer could develop it." But he also understood that Custer was "as boyish as he was brave, and always needed someone to restrain him." Custer found no reward in chasing Indians on the Smokey Hill trail in 1867. He marched and counter-marched himself into a court-martial when he took first leave to visit his wife. Indeed, Hancock, whose campaign was a disaster, made Custer into the scapegoat. Custer was convicted and suspended from rank and pay for one year.

With Custer's court-martial, Hancock's campaign came to a sorry close. The expedition had accomplished much, but none of it good from the government's point of view. Indian raids were on the increase, even against the army posts. Workers on the Union Pacific Railroad were constantly harassed, while a combination of high water and Indian raids stopped construction of the Kansas Pacific. The United States treasury was several million dollars poorer, and the bright reputations of Civil War heroes Hancock and Custer were tarnished.

An exasperated Congress responded by sending out another peace commission to negotiate a settlement with the tribes. While the work of the commission was in progress, Gen. William T. Sherman, the commander of the West, ordered a halt of all offensive operations. When the peace commissioners met with the southern tribes at Medicine Lodge Creek about seventy miles from Fort Larned, they signed treaties with the Kiowas, Kiowa-Apaches, Comanches, Cheyennes, and Arapahos on October 28, 1867. The tribes agreed to accept reservations in the Indian Territory, although they retained the right to hunt buffalo south of the Arkansas. The Cheyennes received permission to hunt north of the river until the buffalo were all killed off. But that provision was later changed without their knowledge. The Indians promised to give up their claims to all of their territory, cease opposition to the railroads, and stay away from the major roads and the settlements. In return, the government would provide them with specified amounts of food, clothing, and other provisions, as well as doctors, schoolteachers, and tradesmen. After the signing, the commissioners distributed presents and went back East, very satisfied with their good work.

Congress, of course, preoccupied at the time with the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, took no action on the treaties. So the promised annuities were delayed, and the proposed Indian Territory reservations were never opened. It was late July, 1868, before $500,000 were finally appropriated to fulfill the obligations of the Medicine Lodge Treaty. That congressional insensitivity led General Sherman, of all people, to take up the Indians' cause. He wrote to his wife:

The poor Indians are starving. We kill them if they attempt to hunt, and if they keep within the reservations, they starve. Of course, the peace commission recommended that they should receive certain food for a time, but Congress makes no provision and of course nothing is done. I wish Congress could be impeached.

Sheridan, newly arrived in the West, was far less concerned with congressional hot air than he was with Indian hotheads. Rumors of war abounded, and soon after his arrival in Kansas he went on an inspection tour of the posts within his district. At a council at Fort Larned, the Cheyenne chief Stone Calf told Sheridan, "Let your soldiers grow their hair long so that we can have some honor in killing them." That was not the kind of peace talk Sheridan had hoped to hear. As was his custom, Sheridan quickly gathered an intelligence-gathering system to keep him informed of Indian mood, plans, and movements. The best scouts were often men with Indian wives, such as Ben Clark, John Simpson Smith, and Amos Chapman. They lived among the tribes, but of course their sympathies were often more with the Indians than with their government employers.

At the time, some 200 Cheyenne warriors moved north to raid the Pawnees. They were joined by some Sioux and Arapahos, but the war party decided for some reason against going after the Pawnees and turned instead toward the white settlements along the Saline and Solomon Rivers in Kansas. Between August 10 and 12 they ravaged the countryside, killing fifteen men. After Sheridan learned of the attacks on the Kansas settlements and that one of his scouts, Will Comstock, had been killed, and another scout, Sharp Grover, wounded, he immediately began to prepare for a campaign. He was convinced, he told Sherman, "there was not the slightest provocation offered by the soldiers or citizens for the commencement of this war." The real provocation was all around him, but Sheridan was blind to it. The movement of Anglo civilization into the West was not considered provocation by the military authorities; it was of course an inevitability. To Sheridan's mind the only way to insure peace with the Indians was "that the Indians be soundly whipped and the ringleaders in the present trouble hung, their ponies killed and such destruction of their property as to make them very poor."

To oversee military operations, Sheridan transferred his headquarters from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Hays, a small post that was the rail-head of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. As soon as he could discern which bands were at war, he planned to send his cavalry out to attack them. He wanted to attack their families, kill their stock, "to break them up completely and effectively." He would make no concerted effort to pursue the small raiding parties that did all the damage against the settlers; instead, he would mass some troops to attack Indian villages and others dispersed around forts and along the railroads. The logic was simple: if people commit what the government perceived as crimes, and if people will not bend to the government's will, then the government will attack their families, until the people bend to the will of the government. It was that simple a policy, and it is the way we have waged war almost exclusively ever since. (I would point out to you today that the government is about to do it again in the middle east; if the government in Iraq will not bend to the will of the United States government, then the government will bomb their cities and kill their families. We say that we are doing so because Saddam Hussein makes us do it, and that is exactly what Sheridan said in the 1860s: we attack the Indian villages and it is the fault of the Indian leaders who are not doing what we tell them to do; it is not our fault, we are innocent of any guilt. My point is that sometimes we want to sit in judgment of the past, we want to act like we are morally superior to the past. I do not believe we are; I believe we are the children of the past and we follow today exactly the same policies that those people established so long ago.)

Sheridan's immediate concern was separating hostile, as he called them, from peaceful Indians. Indian campaigns by both state and federal troops had often been tarnished by accusations that peaceful Indians had been slaughtered while the more elusive guilty ones went unpunished. So Sheridan met with the various chiefs. He told the Southern Cheyenne bands they had to turn over those who engaged in the Saline and Solomon raids and they had to bring their people in and put them under the protection of the government. The chiefs were not about to turn over their young people to the so-called justice of the United States government—that was beyond the power of the chiefs anyway—and certainly they were not going to bring their people in and put them at the mercy of the government, which would just invite another Sand Creek. That is just what they had done in Colorado; why would they do that again?

All the chiefs realized the peace had been tenuous at best. After the raids in Kansas they fully expected a war with the whites. In the old days when the young men raided another tribe, retaliation came swiftly, and it did not fall only upon the guilty warriors; the Indians expected the whites to react in the same way. They would not willingly place themselves in the hands of the military or peacefully surrender their young men to the white man's laws. Furthermore, the Indians had absolutely no reason to assume that white retaliation could even reach them; Hancock's campaign, and Sioux victories in the Powder River country of Wyoming, had vividly demonstrated how weak the white government was. Loss of life at Sand Creek, loss of property at Pawnee Fork, was a result of trusting white promises of protection. Sheridan was asking the supposedly peaceful Cheyennes and Arapahos to gather under his protection; they quite logically, and probably wisely, refused to do so.

The noncompliance of the bands made the chore of "distinguishing hostiles from friendlies," as Sheridan put it, rather silly. All the Cheyennes and Arapahos were designated hostile. The Kiowas, Comanches, and Kiowa-Apaches who were not involved in the Kansas raids were considered friendly. The Kiowas, Comanches, and Kiowa-Apaches had been engaged in far more devastating raids in Texas, but the Yankee generals in Kansas did not much care or worry about raids in Texas.

In September, 1868, Sherman instructed Col. William B. Hazen to order the friendly bands of Indians to the Indian Territory, using Fort Cobb as their agency. Hazen would act as Sherman's personal agent. While Hazen sought to distribute supplies to the Indians who sought his protection, Sheridan busied himself with military preparations to drive the recalcitrants south of the Kansas line. He made his garrison assignments and then sent his personal aide, Maj. George Forsyth, with some fifty Indian scouts—fifty white scouts who fashioned themselves Indian fighters—off to meet the Cheyennes. Of course they ran into Roman Nose and the Dog Soldiers at Beecher's Island, one of the most celebrated fights, and got themselves shot to pieces. His other expedition under Col. Albert Sully moved through the Sand Hills country and accomplished absolutely nothing, except totally fail to find any Indians and ruin Sully's reputation. By summer's end, Sheridan's initiation to Indian campaigning had been a sorry one indeed.

Within the boundaries of Sheridan's command, since the Kansas raids of early August, 110 civilians had been killed, thirteen women had been raped, over 1,000 head of stock had been stolen; farms, stage buildings, and rolling stock were destroyed; unescorted travel stopped on all major roads; troops were engaged in numerous fights with the Indians, almost always being defeated. At no time had they inflicted any serious injury on the Cheyennes. Eighteen of his troopers were dead, forty-five were wounded; his own aide-de-camp was critically wounded; and his celebrated company of scouts from whom he had expected so much, had been badly shot up in their only engagement with the Indians. Sully went creeping back to Fort Dodge like a dog with his tail tucked between his legs.

It was obvious to Sheridan that if he was going to catch the Indians, he had to have more troops and he had to have a field commander who was aggressive enough to do the job. He got two of them. His main new offensive force would be the Fifth Cavalry, seven companies of which were ordered to Kansas from Reconstruction duty in the South; their commander was Maj. Eugene Carr, a Medal of Honor winner, one of the most aggressive and best soldiers in the army. Although confident of good results with Carr in command of the Fifth, Sheridan also sought another energetic field officer to lead the Seventh Cavalry. Maj. Joel Elliott, second-in-command of the Seventh, had not proven particularly effective. Sheridan wanted Custer, so he got Custer's court-martial sentence rescinded, and Custer was soon back on the plains having breakfast with Sheridan at Fort Hays by October 4. Almost immediately Custer had the Seventh Cavalry in a storm of activity He had scouting parties going out to whip men into shape and prepared for a major campaign.

Decisive action was essential; the war department was besieged by demands from western political and business interests to settle the so-called Indian problem. The military establishment, which had emerged from the Civil War with a proud self-image as one of the great modern armies of the western world, had suffered humiliation for two years at the hands of a few thousand poorly armed natives. On October 9 Sheridan received Sherman's permission to proceed. Sherman promised to do everything in his power to insure "that these Indians, the enemies of our race and of our civilization, shall not again be able to begin and carry on their barbarous warfare," and he endorsed a harsh winter campaign, even, he wrote, "if it ends in the utter annihilation of the Indians." Sherman extended complete freedom of action to Sheridan, promising to back him up. All Indians who did not join Hazen at Fort Cobb were to be outlawed and attacked, and Sheridan was to launch a race war of vengeance with no quarter asked and none given.

Sheridan assumed that most of the Cheyennes would be in the vicinity of the North Fork of the Red River, just south of the Antelope Hills. The movements of Maj. Eugene Carr and another column coming out from New Mexico under Maj. Andrew Evans would force Indians from that region in toward the Antelope Hills. Sheridan did not expect the two columns to do much damage, but he hoped the main column coming out of Kansas under Custer would strike the killing blow, with Evans and Carr acting as beaters, beating the Indians in, much like one would in a hunting party.

Winter campaigns on the plains were universally viewed as bold and innovative if not a bit reckless; Sheridan's campaign was not the first winter campaign but it certainly became the most famous. Sheridan himself had no experience with Great Plains winters; no amount of description could do justice, of course, to the sudden temperature changes and heavy snows that could accompany a sudden storm. The old mountain man Jim Bridger even came out from St. Louis to warn Sheridan that a winter campaign on the plains was folly. But the perils of winter campaigning were somewhat offset by its advantages; winter, with its numbing cold and heavy snows, limited the Indians' mobility which, of course, was their greatest advantage. No longer would their grass-fed ponies be able to outrun the larger grain-fed war horses of the troopers. The ponies would be weakened by scarce fodder, while their owners would seek the shelter of their tipis, lulled into a false sense of security by the weather. For years they had followed the same successful pattern of raiding throughout the warm months and then relaxing the winter away in some secluded camp, protected from all enemies by distance and by climate. But the railroad had wiped out the advantages of distance; supplies could be quickly shipped to depots, and troops had enormous mobility. Sheridan had devoted much of his time, in fact, to stockpiling supplies for his troops. He knew prolonged exposure would weaken his men and their horses, but if he could strike and strike fast, then he could be successful. So from the north and from the west, Sheridan's troopers began to move across the Southern Plains, accompanied by a strong cold wind that foretold a harsh winter to come. The Cheyennes, the Arapahos, the Kiowas, and the Comanches pulled in before the troops, retreating toward the Antelope Hills. As usual, they were seriously divided over what action to take.

Colonel Hazen arrived at Fort Cobb on November 7 to find some 1,700 Comanches, Caddos, Wichitas, Wacos, and affiliated bands camped nearby. Rations were low, for the government-promised rations had not arrived. By the middle of November most of the Kiowa and Comanche bands reached the vicinity of Fort Cobb and the principal chiefs, Satanta, Satank, and Lone Wolf, met with Hazen. He issued them the rations that he had and urged them to move in near the fort, lest they run afoul of Sheridan. Hazen offered the Kiowas and Comanches sanctuary, despite their Texas forays, because they had not been implicated in the Kansas raids. But he refused to give sanctuary to the Cheyennes, even when Black Kettle came to his camp in late November and asked for it. Hazen turned Black Kettle and Big Mouth away, telling them they had to make their peace with Sheridan. As the council broke up and the Cheyennes and Arapahos moved out of Fort Cobb, many of the young men with them were delighted. They did not want to make peace, and they urged the people around Fort Cobb to join them and make war on the white soldiers.

While Hazen struggled to gather in the so-called friendly Indians at Fort Cobb, Sheridan moved south to join the strike force in the field, a strike force led by Custer. A terrible snowstorm blew up soon after Sheridan's arrival, but Custer saw it as heaven-sent because he would be able to track his prey. He was like a hound on the scent, and there was nothing to dissuade him from the attack. At four in the morning reveille sounded, and the soldiers emerged from their scant camping shelters to find more than a foot of snow on the ground, and a storm continuing unabated. The Osage scouts took the lead, followed by the band playing the old military tune, The Girl I Left Behind Me. As the infantry cheered, the eleven companies of the Seventh Cavalry vanished into the blizzard and headed toward the Antelope Hills.

On the morning of November 26 Custer's column discovered the fresh trail of an Indian war party, estimated to number over 100. The heavy snow made following the Indians easy, and of course the trail led right to Black Kettle's camp. The Osage scouts halted the Seventh just above the Washita River. Custer divided his command into four columns and attacked. He and his men captured and burned as contraband of war enormous quantities of food and foodstuffs, clothing, shelter material, and weaponry. They slaughtered more than 800 Indian ponies, dealing a devastating blow to native mobility. According to Custer, Indians in the other villages up the river also had fought his troops at the battle of the Washita, as he called it, and with his supplies depleted and his men exhausted, he had to retire from the field. The victory had been a costly one for the Seventh Cavalry.

Sherman telegraphed Sheridan and Custer, congratulating them both on their decisive and conclusive battle on the Washita. It appeared the Indian war would be over by Christmas. But Sheridan was not satisfied. He fielded a force of about 1,700 men to chase down the Kiowas and Arapahos that had been aligned with the Cheyennes on the Washita, and in a famous confrontation Sheridan and Custer conferred with Satanta and Lone Wolf and a party of Kiowas on the plains and a major battle was avoided only by calm on both sides. The Kiowas, Comanches, Arapahos, and some of the Cheyenne bands moved into Fort Cobb, and it seemed as if the conflict on the Plains might well be winding down. Sheridan worked through local Indians and through his Indian scouts, such as John Simpson Smith, Amos Chapman, and Ben Clark, to persuade the reluctant bands to surrender. Because he knew the general location of the Cheyennes and Arapahos, he selected a local Apache chief, Iron Shirt, to carry a message to those bands to come in and join the Kiowas and Comanches,

At the same time, on the north fork of the Red River west of Soldier Spring Creek, 300 freezing troopers under Maj. Andrew Evans spent Christmas in a quite different manner than the troopers to the east. There they fought an engagement on Christmas Day with a large party of Comanches and dealt them a severe blow. Evans's men reported twenty warriors killed and one trooper mortally wounded. But still, twice the soldiers had struck a blow.

The Indian camp near Fort Cobb buzzed with rumors of what had happened out at Soldier Spring, and near midnight on New Year's Eve, a delegation of twenty-one Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors led by Chief Little Robe limped into Fort Cobb. Sheridan warned the chiefs that if any more murders or robberies were committed, all would be punished. He declared that there would either be a lasting peace, or he would make war until he killed them all. The chiefs listened quietly, offering no argument, and when Sheridan was finished, Little Robe sadly replied, "It is for you to say what we have to do."

The violent struggle with the Indians was a concept that Sheridan could understand, but in the East a new political war waged which left him baffled and embittered. The friends of the Indians had risen in unison to decry the so-called massacre at the Washita and the foul murder of peace-loving chief Black Kettle. The letters and editorials splashed across newspapers in the East—all carried the word "massacre." Superintendent of Indian affairs Thomas Murphy lamented, "I can not but feel that the innocent parties have been made to suffer for the crimes of others. Black Kettle was one of the truest friends the whites ever had among the Indians." Former agent E. W. Wynkoop of which the Cheyennes wrote, "Black Kettle had proceeded to the point at which he was killed with the understanding that it was the locality where all those Indians friendly and disposed to the whites should assemble." And the Reverend Henry B. Whipple, the famous Episcopal bishop of Minnesota, preached, "This shameless disregard for justice has been the most foolhardy course we should have pursued." Benjamin Tamplin declared, "I know the names of but three savages upon the plains: Colonel Chivington, Colonel Custer, and at the head of all, General Sheridan."

In the west Sheridan's campaign was viewed with enthusiasm, Custer was hailed as the greatest of the Indian fighters, and the Seventh Cavalry as the crack regiment of the plains. Sheridan acted quickly to counteract the sentiments in the East. He wrote that Black Kettle was indeed the leader of a band of murderers, which of course could not have been further from the truth. As the debate heated up, so did Sheridan's rhetoric. He could see sinister forces manipulating the humanitarian outcry, declaring that "the hue and cry was raised through the influence of the Indian ring." The "Indian ring" was a nebulous combination of crooked politicians, conniving federal bureaucrats, profiteering businessmen, and thieving Indian agents who, while never specifically identified, operated in the collective military mind as a grand conspiracy to defraud the government and the Indians. Far from being the murderers of helpless Indians, Sheridan saw Custer and his men as the defenders of white civilization, and he wrote, "Old Black Kettle and his murderers and rapers of helpless women met their just fate." Sheridan could not understand how anyone would dare criticize brave self-sacrificing soldiers who were combating, as he put it, "so hellish a foe," and he wrote, "I do not know exactly how far these humanitarians should be excused on account of their ignorance, but surely it is the only excuse that gives a shadow of justification for aiding and lauding these horrid crimes." Sherman attempted to calm Sheridan and his rhetoric, but made it clear to him that he was well satisfied with the attacks.

Custer, meanwhile, had marched on into the Texas Panhandle where he confronted Rock Forehead, one of the great spiritual leaders of the Cheyennes, and there he persuaded him to bring his people into Camp Supply to surrender. He rode into that famous confrontation with only an interpreter, because the Cheyennes held two women captives whose release he wanted to negotiate, so he held back his troops who were very anxious to attack. There in the tipi he met with Rock Forehead and, as they smoked the pipe, Rock Forehead took the ashes of the pipe and stamped them out on Custer's boot. Custer asked the interpreter what it meant and he asked Rock Forehead what it meant. The interpreter told Custer Rock Forehead had said that if Custer and the Seventh Cavalry ever attacked the Cheyennes again he and all his men would turn to ashes.

Not long after Custer persuaded the Cheyennes to come into Camp Supply, Colonel Carr and the Fifth Cavalry surprised the Dog Soldiers in Colorado at the Battle at Summit Springs in 1869, and there Tall Bull, the leader of the Dog Soldiers and the leading war leader of the Cheyennes, was killed and his village was devastated.

Sheridan had cleared the country through which the railroads and the main roads of travel went and had forced the Indians onto their reservations; indeed, it was perceived as a great victory. Sheridan had proven the feasibility of winter campaigning, and it became his favorite Indian war strategy after that. The Indians had been removed from the land between the Platte and the Arkansas rivers, the security of the railroads and the settlers had been assured, the Indians involved in the Kansas raids had been punished (if in a decidedly indirect manner), and the major Southern Plains tribes had been settled on the reservations as stipulated in the Medicine Lodge Treaty. Furthermore, the campaign had convinced the Indians not only of the ability of the white soldiers, but also of their ruthlessness, and that whatever policy they wished to pursue in the future they could be sure retribution would be swift, and it would be absolutely heartless and brutal.

Although it was a success, Sheridan's campaign was not decisive; it was the beginning of a war of attrition that by 1876 broke the power of the Southern Plains tribes. Another campaign, the Red River War of 1874-1875, would complete a harsh work that Sheridan had begun in 1868. But Sheridan received his reward, and he received it quickly. As soon as the campaign was over he received a telegram from Washington promoting him to lieutenant general in command of the entire West. There he would wage unrelenting campaigns against the Indians of the Northern and Southern Plains, of the Rockies, and of the Pacific Northwest until, indeed, the land within a generation would be filled with immigrants from Europe.

Kiowa Traditional Consultant

I stand here with great pride today. I am a full-blood Kiowa tribal member. I am a direct descendent, along with my brother and my sisters, of the two chief Kiowa signers of the Medicine Lodge Treaty. Ten Kiowa chiefs signed the treaty; however the two top chiefs were Set-tain-te (Satanta) and Set-ankeah (Satank) who are respectfully known as White Bear and Sitting Bear. As it was said in my uncle's obituary, we come from a family of royalty. My father was a direct descendent of both chiefs through his father. I come to you today because of my grandfather Eonah-pah, Trailing the Enemy, the only Kiowa that was involved in the battle of the Washita. There may have been others, but history tells us that he was the only Kiowa that was involved in some way.

For the Indian people, history is not recorded for us; we only learn, through oral history, things that have been handed down to us from generation to generation, things that have been told to us over and over. And as I stand here today I wish more than anything in my life I had listened more to what my father was relating to us. I am proud that I was raised in a traditional atmosphere in my family with my sisters and my brother. We were taught the traditional ways of life, and we are very fortunate to have been raised in that way, which is very uncommon now. Without use of television, radio, and CD players, there was storytelling for entertainment, and that is the time that we were told these type of stories, things that should be passed on to our children in the future. I come before you as a proud person today, a proud Kiowa, knowing that somewhere down in the lineage, somewhere, somehow, I will be able to pass the information on to my children, my grandchildren, and so forth. One of these days in the near future, with a new park, new setup, and new museum, one of them will be standing here, telling a future generation exactly what I am telling you.

The signing of the Medicine Lodge Treaty and Congress appointing a commission were meant to establish a lasting peace among the Indians. The commissioners demanded that the Indians retire and be assigned to reservations and to cease all warfare. In return the Indians were supposed to receive protection against the white hunters, to be issued certain annuities, to be provided with schools, churches, farming implements, and to talk and walk the white man's road. That was fine, until they gave the Indians a lot of implements with no instructions on how to use them. More than 5,000 Indians were at the Medicine Lodge Treaty signing, and a squadron of the Seventh Cavalry was there to protect the white settlers that were amongst the Indians. At that time the Indians were concerned about food, how they were going to feed their people. The buffalo was becoming very scarce because of the invasion of the white man. No provisions were made for food, so the young warriors began to retaliate. A lot of the young Cheyennes and Arapahos went to take war upon the white settlers. Col. J. H. Leavenworth, the "treaty man," became alarmed and asked for support, more military for his people. As we talked and learned about some of the things about Gen. Philip Sheridan and the reports that went back into Washington, we knew they were certainly over-exaggerated.

As the troopers were invited back to provide the protection for the white people, they also were ordered to kill buffalo to feed the troops. So instead of going out and killing just the sufficient amount to take care of the people, they would kill much, much more than they needed. That became a concern of the Indians. So they began attacking more and more upon the white settlements. At first the Indians were informed they would not get rifles and ammunition, so once again they began to retaliate; finally the guns were issued to them. The bad Indians that were caught were supposed to be punished and were punished by the army. That task was assigned to Sheridan. He began to lay his ground for his immediate campaign, and that is when he ordered the troops to come from all three directions into this area.

As we came in this morning, I looked into the Antelope Hills and tried to imagine the encampment area of the Cheyennes and Arapahos, and further on down the road, fifteen miles long, the camps of the Comanches and the Kiowas. The Kiowas were ordered to the Fort Cobb area and promised more food because their food had not arrived, but when it did arrive, they were given rations of rice, flour, and salt pork, with no instructions. They did not know how to use the rice; they did not know how to use the flour. They thought the rice was maggots; there was no one to tell them otherwise. They threw the salt pork away because it was too salty; they did not know it was being preserved. So they went out and they disobeyed, going wherever they wanted to go; they went to look for the buffalo for fresh meat.

These things are to be considered, to be thought of. I try to put myself into all this because I was trying to think about Sheridan's move into this area and the things that were taking place, as far as sending his scouts out. When my great-grandfather came into this area to hunt, he knew Black Kettle's encampment was there. Before nightfall—remember that it was snowing, the snow was deep—he built a lean-to up in the hills and prepared to spend the night. Then, when he had everything prepared, he went on into the village of the Cheyennes and the Arapahos where he was welcomed. At the time, ceremony dances were being planned, so a lot of them were practicing and getting into that mood of celebration. After eating his supper he was invited to stay, but he went back up into his lean-to and prepared to sleep. He got into his warm robes and his bedding, took off his moccasins, put his arrows and quiver aside. As he fell asleep, all of sudden, there was chaos: women screaming, guns going, people hollering, and babies crying. He jumped up, but did not know what was happening. He jumped up, grabbed his arrows, and took off without his moccasins. As he ran toward the sound and the noise, he saw everything that was going on—all the troops coming in on the women and children, and the men helpless at that time of the morning. He saw a group of women and children coming and he tried to help them. He told them to keep running, but he did not have any arrows. There came a little boy who had some arrows, and he began to hand them to him, and he began to ward off the troops that were shooting at him. As they were running and he was trying to get all the children and the women out of the way, two troopers came, grabbed each side of him, and began to drag him. Finally, they let him go, and he fell face forward, but once he landed into the snow his hand felt something; it fell against something. As he came up with it, there was a rifle or hand gun. I do not know if he really knew how to use it, but he began to point it and just began to fire it, and so that warned the troopers off and he was able to get away. He was instrumental in saving so many lives.

Years later, after the war, he became a United States marshal. In those days in the Wichita Mountains white settlers were coming in, understanding, hearing, knowing, thinking there was "gold in them thar hills." So the government said, "That is your reservation, you go down there and you protect it." So he honorably put that gun on, he honorably put that badge on, and he served as a United States marshal. After he was gone, a story came about among the Cheyenne and Arapaho people that there was a gentleman living in the little town of Colony who remembered what happened; he was the little fellow that handed him the arrows. To this day my family has not found out who that man was. These are just stories that were told to us, but there is a bond that makes us close to the Cheyenne and Arapaho people as a family. With great pride, I stand here and tell you this because we have been told the story over and over and over. The story is very close to one told in Carbine and Lance. W. S. Nye, the author of the book, relates that story very close, just as we were told.

It is an indescribable feeling to be here, to know that we are direct descendants of that gentleman, that warrior, that Kiowa man. I leave you with the thoughts that you think about the good words and think about the humble words that were requested when one of the chiefs of the Cheyennes and Arapahos, Black Kettle, went to Fort Cobb. He wanted to win the truce. He told them where his camp was; he told them how many lodges he was going to have there, and Big Mouth of the Arapahos went to ask that the soldiers please stop the fighting. That did not happen, and like Colonel Hazen said, he could not control General Sheridan; he was the great war chief.

University of Montana

Last night as I was rushing to Cheyenne, Oklahoma, from Thomas Deer Creek, I counted the number of times we crossed the Washita River; we crossed it four times. Four times to us, as Cheyenne peoples, as Indian peoples, is a number of completeness. So I have come back to this same site that constitutes my body as a Cheyenne person, to this very sacred ground for us as a people. And this morning I rode all of the ponies under the hood of my daughter's car. I have come back here to touch the earth, to see my relatives and friends, and I thought of the 130-year history since Washita. It was a foggy morning, just the same as it was on November 27, 1868, and we dropped down into the valley of the Washita and I could see and hear, in the collective memory of Cheyenne people, the atrocity that occurred here to the people to whom I belong.

I feel I have come back home—and I come in occasionally from my personal, but peaceful, educational war, a cold war. But it is a war against ignorance, racial intolerance, prejudice, and misunderstanding of the people and their past, to their very humanity, as the humble upright two-legged walkers. The war that I wage is a war for respect, but more importantly it is a war for establishing peace; it is also a war for cultural integrity.

I call the conflict at the Washita a massacre, not just a battle; how can a battle be fought against women and children, young and old alike? What happened at Washita was nothing more than a continuation of a nightmarish flight for the Cheyennes that was initiated with the Anglo contact in the year 1680. And it came fraught with more intense military aggression at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory on November 29, 1864, a war waged and led by an ordained minister of the Methodist church, a clergyman who had given up his ministerial duties for a fighting command.

I characterize these two events, Sand Creek in 1864 and Washita in 1868, as the killing fields of the nineteenth century. Sand Creek and caught in the crossfire of those conflicting cultural views, the original people of this land were viewed as obstacles to progress, as obstacles to that manifest destiny; they were looked upon as less than human and as savage barbaric heathen.

Our white brothers and sisters who had come to live with us denied our very humanity as a very deeply rooted spiritual people, a people who loved their children, their elders, their family, and who cherished life. All we have ever wanted to do and all we want to do today is nothing more than to just live, and be who we are as Cheyenne people. We are human; we possess the ability to experience joy and sorrow; we can laugh and we can cry. We succeed and fail; we are human beings in every respect, and we are the brownish-red color of this sacred ground that we were first to love, and still love, and will always love. When she gives us life, she sustains us; we honor her. We are her protectors. So these conflicts were over land.

The people of Kansas, the people of Colorado Territory, wanted to see Indian title extinguished in those territories. They wanted us removed from our hunting grounds, they wanted us to vanish, as the sun does every day at sunset. And this ground is very sacred, all of it. It becomes even more sacred in places like Washita where our beloved ancestors sacrificed their lives so that I can be here today, so that we Cheyenne can enjoy the beautiful sunlight and the beautiful sun, the water that flows in life. This ground at Washita really represents the blood of our ancestors, and like them, we believe in peace and justice and we strive to understand.

Several times this morning I have heard references to White Buffalo Woman. White Buffalo Woman was my great-grandmother, and she always told my father—whom she reared from an infant of about seven or nine months—that understanding is a wonderful thing. Today you have heard a historical view; you have heard a view from our peace chief; I want to give a very personal, cultural view of the Washita. One of the things that we have first to understand is that the victims here at Washita were Cheyennes, but they were more than Cheyennes. They were beloved ancestors who wanted nothing more than to live in peace and according to the ways with which the Great Spirit blessed them and blessed us. It was the same kind of peace that we look for today but seem unable to find in a world that unfortunately places as much emphasis upon manifest destiny. Even as we begin that walk into a new time, a twenty-first century, manifest destiny unfortunately is very much alive.

The people at the Washita saw their world changing dramatically around them, and they saw themselves being confined to an ever-diminishing land base where their once-large island holdings had been eroded to very small islands in the sea of white settlement and immigration. That ever-diminishing land base was affected by one treaty after another—five of them, beginning in 1825 with the Friendship Treaty, and ending with the treaty at Medicine Lodge Creek in 1867. The Medicine Lodge Treaty was the most significant of all treaties in which we as a nation, a sovereign nation, participated with the new United States government. But it was the beginning of the end for us, because in being confined to ever-smaller reservation areas, we saw our land, which at one time stretched from Saskatchewan in Canada down into Mexico, being diminished to small holdings.

Just one year after the treaty of peace and friendship at Medicine Lodge, however, there came a man named George Armstrong Custer. My dad said he was either called "Long Hair" or "Yellow Hair." He was a bold general in the Civil War; he was a risk taker, such a risk taker that he had had twelve horses shot out from under him, but unfortunately he had lost more men under his command than any other general of that time. He was such a good risk taker and lived to tell of it that many of the men in his command referred to him and his longevity as "Custer's luck." What about his competency as an officer, considering that he graduated last in his class at West Point? As humans we all have egos, but he wanted to make his mark in history.

In terms of this personal, cultural view of history, I want to recount what the late Dr. John Wooden Legs told me when I went back north to live in Montana twenty-six years ago. At the first meeting of the Montana Indian Education Association I ever attended, he welcomed me home. He said, "It took her a long time to get here, but she's back home." He did a lot of work for us at the University of Montana, and I went to work there in August, 1972. In that first semester the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan began a trek across the United States from the West Coast, and one of the legs of that caravan stopped at the University of Montana. They had called ahead and said they needed a place to stay and they wanted food, and asked if our Indian students could assist them, and of course they did. I happened to go down the next day to speak to them. When I went to a protest on the central part of campus, I heard Russell Means inviting the students to go with him. He said, "We'll get you credit." Having just come from my protest days at the University of California in Berkeley, I thought, "Well gee, I wonder who he's talked to; it's wonderful that our students are going to get credit." I did not know it was going to be left to me to do it.

Seventeen of our students accompanied the Trail of Broken Treaties east to Washington, D.C., and they got fifteen hours college credit for it. It became quite a controversial issue when the members of the Trail of Broken Treaties barricaded themselves in the Department of Interior building in the Bureau of Indian Affairs wing. I had just begun my first semester there at the University of Montana, and it was nearly my last because I was held accountable. I worried about the students as I watched on television the riot squad in riot gear getting ready to go into the building. I told my late husband, "I've got to go." "What are you going to do when you get there?" he asked. I replied, "I don't know, but I just want to be with my students; they're my students and I don't want to see them hurt."

We were so happy when they finally came back home and we had a welcoming home party and Dr. Wooden Legs made a speech of welcome:

You know, I see these young people as our scouts, and we have many scouts out there. We still use them; it's traditional for us to send our scouts to the front to ascertain what is out there, if there's any danger, if there's any good things like good water, good camping places. ... I hope when these young people got to Washington, D.C. they told the Bureau of Indian Affairs about this man called Custer. He was driven by ambition; he had political ambitions; he would have liked to become the president of the United States of America. I hear that when he left Washington, he told the government there, "Don't do anything about the Indian problem until I come back." Custer came out to the Little Bighorn; I don't know if the Bureau of Indian Affairs really knows what happened at the Little Bighorn in 1876, but I hope you, as young people, told the Bureau of Indian Affairs to start doing things about the Indian's situation in life, and you should have told them that Custer won't be back.

As humans, we all have egos. Custer wanted to make his mark in history, and Custer was carrying out the military policy of his time in which the prevailing philosophy was total extermination, which in actual practice included killing women and children. There were some words, like treaty words on pieces of paper, "spare the women, spare the children." Sometimes I believe in the end our practice and implementation are incongruent. Extermination included women and children, for after all, as one of those great soldiers said, "Nits make lice." I hate to think that my great-grandmother was viewed in that bare and dehumanizing kind of way, and yet, if I am that louse, I am glad I am a louse. That was the thinking of the time before Sand Creek, whether it was in Colorado Territory, Kansas Territory, or Indian Territory; Indians had to be displaced, relocated, and herded like animals to reservations, an unfamiliar territory and life.

I believe it would be absolutely horrendous if suddenly this earth was invaded by extraterrestrials with superior weaponry, laser guns, and all of the things we see in Star Wars, and they decided they were going to take this land. But before they took the land, we were to embrace their extraterrestrial language, wear space suits like extraterrestrials wear, live like extraterrestrials, think like extraterrestrials, and be educated in their schools, and to be named for them, whether it is "ET" or whatever. If we use that particular analogy and apply it to what happened to us as Cheyennes and as Arapahos, a very alien form and way of life was imposed upon us, with different cultural values and different views of the land. Not only would we resent the imposition of alien ways of life on us, we would be resistant; we would fight to the death to keep that from happening to us. And that was only what we, as Cheyenne people, as Arapaho people, as the indigenous people of this country, were all about. History books seem to forget that we were defending our homelands, our families, our elders, our children. Unfortunately, those kinds of attempts to protect our ways of life and our families are always referred to as "uprisings," and it was that "uprising" kind of mentality that goaded many individuals in Colorado and Kansas to take the kind of action they did. We were doing nothing more than protecting that which was ours. That is what any decent human being would do.

We should not be objectifying this history; we can say they were Cheyennes. What we need to look at, however, is that the people killed at Washita were human beings; they were grandfathers, they were grandmothers, they were fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and children. One of the things we have to remember if we look at history is that we as a people have been given life and we were planted here in this land to carry out our cultural ways. We were planted in the soil here every bit as a tree, a blade of grass, a flower. We know that the tree and the grasses and the flowers have roots; what you do not see about us are our roots, but they are there. Our roots are planted firmly in the soil of this ground.

I grew up only a few miles down the river from here, and I am this little girl who loves her people, loves their ways; it does not matter where I go, I carry them here in my heart; I can travel many places, but I know where my roots are, my spiritual roots, my roots as a Cheyenne person. I am so glad to be alive, and I am thankful that my great-grandmother White Buffalo Woman was not killed to count coup, and that I have an aunt who knew her and loved her and was held by her. We were planted here to carry on our cultural ways as a people. Long ago our great prophet told us about the spider white people who would come from the east and bring a new way of thinking and new ways of living. In our prophecies, they would describe to us an aggressive people, a numerous people with strange ways. So we knew about them before we ever met them; we should have listened closer to what we were told. And as prophesied, the spider white people lived by different value systems which, to our elders, seemed to place very little emphasis upon respect for life. Respect, peace, joy, happiness, good health, patience, generosity—all strong values that have helped us to withstand the aggressive assault of the United States government and its military might, the church, and the educational system.

The man that we know as Black Kettle was the most peaceable of all Cheyenne peace chiefs. He had led his people away from Sand Creek, and he chose not to join those who wanted and took revenge for the atrocities committed upon their people. He did not join in the raids at Jonesboro or any of the other conflicts; he instead chose to bring his people in their continued pilgrimage to this site. My great-grandmother White Buffalo Woman was a member of his band. She was twelve years old when Col. John Matthew Chivington attacked them at Sand Creek. She was sixteen-four years later at the Washita. Those two events alone left such an indelible mark in her memory that she never went to sleep without her moccasins on, for fear she would have to flee from another Sand Creek or another Washita. I am told that the one night she was convinced she had to take off her moccasins the Washita River flooded.

What I am telling you is not history that is dead and gone and past, to be forgotten. To me and to other Cheyennes it is a living history. In terms of my great-grandmother, I carry her DNA and I tell you this, and for all the others who were at Sand Creek or the Washita, it has made all of us as their descendants very brave-hearted, strong people. We are survivors. Because she was a medicine person, she, like all Cheyennes, revered the morning star. As Custer and his men were preparing to attack this peaceful Cheyenne village, he looked up and saw the morning star, the first star, brighter than it had ever shone or that he had ever seen. It was really a signal to Custer, but he took no notice. Whoever sees the morning star reaps blessings of wisdom, but it also brings a very new and sacred day. Our medicine people began their daily prayers when the star came out, the star that separates night from day, and ignorance from wisdom.

I conducted a lot of my research for my dissertation on education, and today I have heard many names used throughout the presentations. I sat in the back of the room and wondered what I could say after six eloquent speakers had said it all. I thought of a book written by an Omaha man, Francis LaFlesche, and the book he wrote was about his school days at the Presbyterian Church school in Omaha, Nebraska. The little children at the school formed alliances as support groups, and his particular group was called the "middle five," five young Omaha schoolboys. He wrote about the naming process that took place when those young Omaha children went to the school. The first things that went were their names; of course, that was very quickly followed by their languages. After the military assaults, languages bore the fundamental assault—and still do—in education in terms of the assimilationist orientation. So they were given new names and the Omaha names were put aside, and I reacted when I read that some of those little children were called Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip Sheridan, and on and on, to president's names and then on to biblical names. I revere the name of Black Kettle; I revere the name of Stands in the Water; I revere the name of White Antelope; I revere the name of Little Robe, White Buffalo Woman's brother.

After 130 years I am the fourth generation removed from Sand Creek, and I hope that we understand, along with whatever it is we learn, that Washita and Sand Creek both are stories of considerable human dimension. Washita is the story of tragedy and triumph when you read documents and hear stories about the brutality committed at those places. You will read about women lying in the grass to protect themselves and looking over to see a shape lying there, away from the battlefield, which they finally determined was a woman, a pregnant woman. They watched in horror as one of the soldiers cut her body open to reveal the fetus. That is tragedy. But there is also triumph there, too. There is the triumph of the Cheyenne spirit that lives in the hearts and the spirit of every Cheyenne who lives. It is a story of tragedy and triumph; it is a story of bravery and cowardice, of men with superior weapons and numbers attacking a peaceful Cheyenne camp, which they had to have known contained women and children and the infirm and the newborn. It is a story of bravery as in the story of Blue Horse, Black Kettle's nephew. It is a story of brutality and compassion. One of the two women who were hiding in the tall grass rolled over and looked up into the eyes of a soldier mounted on his horse. He looked down at them, then turned and rode away. She said, "He must have had pity on us." That is compassion. It is the story of people who were concerned for the welfare of their people, chiefs like Black Kettle and Little Robe. It is the story of human ego, the ego of people like Custer, Sheridan, Sherman, and what they represented, and their greed and desire for the land that we were first to love, still love, and will always love.

The story of Washita is the story of epic proportions; it is a living history. At least two episodes will be remembered so long as there are Cheyennes. And so long as we remember as a people our teachings and our history, we will make no change on our identity. Our teachings and our ways represent our shield of life. I close with a prayer from the late William Tall Bull who said it is the prayer of the Cheyenne shield makers, of peace chiefs Lawrence Hart and Gordon Yellow Man, of ceremonial women like Pawnee Heart and Montoya Whiteman. He prayed:

Oh sun, oh night light, morning star, oh all of you above us, listen and pity us this day. This shield that I am making this day, give it your sacred power so that it will keep the owner safe in his encounters with the enemy. To all of us, men and women, children, give all good life, good friends, help us overcome our enemies who are seeking to destroy us.

We were not destroyed. Our shield makers gave us the strong tenacity and desire to live and gave us our ceremonies as a people. We still have them and will always have them.

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Last Updated: 20-Jul-2009