"Me [Riggs' mother] and my three sisters, Pipe Woman, White Buffalo Woman, and Red Feather Woman (Ma-wota), and one brother, Motavta (Black Kettle Jr.) left our village for Whirlwind's camp* where the river comes back to the east of our village. White Shield (Gentle Horse) had a vision that foretold this danger. White Shield said he had seen a big wolf, with a wound on the right side of its head, mourning for its little ones who were scattered and dead, by the mighty enemy, which we were unable to resist. White Shield told his older brother, but Chief Black Kettle answered, 'No, that wouldn't be right if I leave the village for safety. I am chief of this band and I am suppose to die first, before all of my people. Take our children to another camp for they are too young to scare.'
We went to Whirlwind's camp nearly at midnight and lay awake all night. I was thinking about our relatives we left behind. Wirlwind's camp was in hearing of the main camp at the Washita. I suddenly heard firing at the main camp before daylight. I jumped up from my bed and all my sisters were up at the same time and all went out to saddle our horses to go back to see the battle at home.
We went up Red Hill east of our village, looking down on our village...Some of our young men arrived in time to save some women and children who were hiding in the deep water in the creek below our village. White soldiers had followed them and kept firing on them as they fled for safety. Then we saw our young men charge fearlessly into battle. They cut the detachment of [Major Joel H.] Elliott's soldiers off from the main body of [Lt. Col. George A.] Custer's men as our young men kept arriving and charging the soldiers; but they were kept back by heavy fire. Then, an Arapaho youth named Tobacco and a Cheyenne youth named Roman Nose Thunder charged, and then all the other warriors rush to the soldiers, fighting by hand, and finish as we watched our village burn.
All our horses were killed south of our village, and soon the great smoke of the burning of the tipis and everything we had for our winter use was all we could see. We had a great herd of fine spotted horses. The white soldiers killed all of them except a few of the prettiest ones, which they took for themselves. We stayed on the hill where we could see our village until toward evening. We watched the soldiers march up the river with the band playing. After the soldiers left we took their overcoats which they had not used when thy were making the charge, and can't use in fighting. And our boys helped themselves to good warm overcoats, which they would not give back to Longhair because he destroyed our property. The snow was deep and it was covered with the blood of our people and our ponies.
My mother (Arapaho Woman) and aunts mourned and unbraided their long hair and cut it short. Their cousins and relatives were all gone, either killed or taken prisoners to Camp Supply. Some of our brave men followed the soldiers, who thought they had a chance to steal the prisoners in the night. But the guards watched them closely...Then we moved toward the south and our men chased buffalo to get hides for robes, shelter, and meat for food. We suffered very much, but soon after we reached Texas it got warmer and warmer, and we thought spring was approaching and so we moved back north towards our hunting grounds."
1. Richard G. Hardorff, "Washita Memories," pp. 318-320.
* Whirlwind was the Arapaho chief of the camp upriver from Black Kettle's encampment along the Washita River.
Last updated: April 18, 2015