Magpie (c.1852-1936)

Chief Magpie, ca. 1924
Chief Magpie, ca. 1924

NPS Photo

Magpie (c.1851-1931)

Magpie was born to Big Man and Magpie Woman, of Stone Calf's band, about 1851. After the Sand Creek Massacre on November 29, 1864, Magpie and his family joined relatives in Chief Black Kettle’s Wutapiu band.

Magpie, a teenager by now, and his family were in Black Kettle's camp the morning of November 27th, when Lieutenant Colonel Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked. The lodge of his father, Big Man, was the last tipi on the west end of the camp. During the attack Magpie ran towards Plum Creek to the west, but his run was halted by soldiers, so he turned and ran east. He was shot in the leg and stomach while being chased by Captain Edward Myers during the fighting. When the fight was over he helped in the recovery of Chief Black Kettle’s body from the Washita River. Not long after, his family joined Medicine Arrow's band and surrendered at Fort Cobb in 1869.

Fearing a renewal of hostilities, his family left the reservation in the 1870s and joined the Northern Cheyenne in the Powder River country of Montana. On June 17, 1876, Magpie participated in the Battle of the Rosebud, during which he was wounded twice by General George Crook's soldiers. A week later, June 25, he participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn against Lt. Col. Custer.

Magpie returned to the reservation in 1878. He enlisted as an U.S. Indian Scout at Cantonment in 1879 and served as a sergeant through 1885. Magpie married Walking Woman, the daughter of Afraid of Beavers, who was a close friend of Magpie's father. They had three children.

In later years, ca. 1890s, Magpie was elected to the Cheyenne Chief's Council and converted to Christianity, becoming the first adult Indian in the Cheyenne Church at Cantonment. During the 1920s, Magpie was the Keeper of the Sacred Arrows that Sweet Medicine has given to the Cheyenne people. It is rumored that he was also part of a motorcycle club in Hammon, Oklahoma.

On November 27, 1930, he participated with Little Beaver and Left Hand in the reburial ceremony of the remains of Cheyenne warrior Hawk, south of the village area. As part of the ceremony, Chief Magpie said, ”I have forgiven General Custer for the part he has played in the Battle of the Washita, and I pray that God would forgive Custer.” Chief Magpie died in sleep on March 16, 1931, at Watonga, Oklahoma.


Hardorff, Richard. Washita Memories: Eyewitness Views of Custer's Attack on Black Kettle's Village. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008. (Pgs. 301-311)

Brill, Charles J. Black Kettle and the Fight of the Washita. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. (Pgs. 1-238)

Hinz-Penner, Raylene. Searching for Sacred Ground: The Journey of Chief Lawrence Hart, Mennonite. Tedford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2007. (Pgs. 45, 57, 84-86)

Up close photograph of Chief Magpie's face. He is around age 79. He has wrinkled, tan skin and dark silver hair. He is wrapped in a stripped wool blanket up to his neck.
Cheyenne Chief Magpie, Oklahoma, 1930.

Last updated: August 29, 2018

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