History & Culture

Cook Gallery entrance
Lakota artist Dawn Little Sky's Running Water Winter Count chronicles the events that influenced the lives and times of James Cook and Chief Red Cloud.

NPS Photo

While the earliest paleontologists visited and worked at the Agate Springs Bone Bed quarries, other surprising friends of James Cook gathered at his ranch house, 3 miles west of the fossil beds. These visitors made a 150-mile wagon trip from the Pine Ridge Reservation. It was the legendary Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota, and other members of the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes, who had years earlier led his warriors and allies in raids and epic battles against U.S. encroachment onto their lands.

Tents and tipis were erected alongside the Niobrara River, where the Lakota and Cheyenne guests told stories, danced, tanned hides and exchanged the gifts which now make up the James H. Cook Collection here at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.

For decades after, residents and visitors to the region came to the Agate Springs Ranch to see the amazing craftsmanship and historical importance of these gifts. Red Cloud's chief shirt and his own personal moccasins, the magnificent large peace pipe from the Fort Laramie treaty negotiations, and American Horse's war club from the Fetterman Fight.

All these are now on display here at Agate Fossil Beds as part of the Cook Collection.

  • Black and white image of a woman in a white blouse and white sweater looking intently at camera
    Women of Agate

    Meet the women who built and protected the ranch, its fossils, and its families.

  • Man in light blue shirt and jeans sits on a stool holding a book against his knees, outdoors

    The Lakota passed on their history through stories, pictures, and gift giving. Learn their stories in their own words and art here at Agate.

  • Man on horseback, black and white photo
    People Behind the Paleo

    Meet the fascinating characters who discovered and excavated the Agate Bone Beds

  • Light brown hide with many small icons laid out in a spiral pattern
    Collection of Lakota Heritage

    One of the most surprising and compelling features of Agate Fossil Beds, the Cook Collection, has nothing at all to do with fossils!

Last updated: August 27, 2021

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

301 River Road
Harrison, NE 69346


308 665-4113

Contact Us