DURING A STAY AT the new Red Cloud Agency a few days later, Secretary Schurz and his party one afternoon rode a dozen miles out into the country to visit the camps of Young Man Afraid of His Horses and Little Big Man. From the latter, John M. Carson wrote, “a few trinkets and curiosities were purchased.” Webb Hayes was the buyer of a large painting on muslin ten feet long and six feet wide on which Little Big Man had depicted some episodes from his life. The price was four dollars. Drawn in India ink and painted in red and yellow were several images of horses and men, some of them fighting. One of the men had two lines rising from his head to separate images: one of a man, the other of a bear. These were probably intended as name glyphs for the artist’s two names, Wicasa Tanka Ciqala (Little Big Man) and Matowakuwa (Chasing Bear). Later, after young Hayes brought the painting back to his father’s house in Fremont, Ohio, an explanatory note was attached saying, “Sketch of the life of Little Big Man, who killed Crazy Horse in 1877 and thus became a renegade Indian.”1
The word “renegade” suggests that Little Big Man found some lingering difficulty in explaining himself to the Oglala. With the help of Alfred Riggs, a missionary fluent in Lakota, he wrote to President Hayes in August 1878 seeking permission to travel to Canada to bring back his friend Big Road, who had gone north with the rest of the Hunkpatila band the year before. “In what I did in obedience to the President in regard to Crazy Horse,” Little Big Man said, “I did what was difficult.”2
But he was not ashamed of what he did. A white schoolteacher at Pine Ridge, Edith Sickels, opened “quite a friendship” with Little Big Man during the 1880s while teaching his daughter, Oohoola (Bones), also known by the Christian name of Maud. “He always took great satisfaction,” Sickels said, “in displaying his silver medal, on which was inscribed, ‘Given to Little Big Man for valiant services at the death of Crazy Horse.’ ” The medal had been given to Little Big Man in Washington by President Hayes.3
In a letter to Walter Camp in 1919, General Hugh Scott mentioned Little Big Man’s silver medal “received for service in the death of Crazy Horse … He was a nervy, earnest little devil that would take hold of your hand and would squeeze the blood out of it when he shook hands with you.”4
Little Big Man is thought to have died about 1887.
The great northern herd of buffalo did not last long after the Indians were confined to reservations. In the spring of 1881, Luther North, commander of the Pawnee scouts in 1876 with his brother Frank, came across a small herd of thirty-three buffalo while trailing a cow in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. That country had been criss-crossed for years by cowboys and hunters. “No one dreamed of seeing any buffalo there,” North wrote. But suddenly in the distance ahead of him he saw a herd lying down, including five new calves. “I almost fell off my horse with astonishment.” North quickly fetched his brother and a niece and nephew, staying at a friend’s ranch. “Ed had never seen a wild buffalo before,” he wrote of the nephew, “and of course wanted to kill one.” This he managed, but the rest of the herd escaped. North learned later that all had been killed by some Indians from the Spotted Tail Agency. “I think they were the last buffalo ever seen on the north side of the Platte River in Nebraska,” he wrote.5
At that time there were still plenty of buffalo in the north, but the hunting pressure was relentless. Seeking meat and robes over the winter of 1881–82, Baptiste Pourier rode up into the Black Hills “and hunted, just hunted,” he said many years later while giving a deposition to a lawyer.
And at that time every hill and every little place where you could put up a tent, there was two or three hunters there and just as soon as it would be light enough [the witness here clapped his hands several times] that is all you would hear all day until sundown. If the moon would shine, they would shoot all night. And they kept that up.6
What Lieutenant Hugh Scott found astonishing was the speed with which the great northern herds vanished.7 Lieutenant Richard Irving Dodge had seen the destruction of the herds south of the Platte. Passing through a favorite hunting ground one fall he found only the carcasses of dead animals. “The air was foul with sickening stench,” he wrote, “and the vast plain, which only a short twelvemonth before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary, putrid desert.”8
Now the smell of rotting buffalo carcasses moved to the northern plains. “There were about three thousand men on the range killing buffalo for their hides,” Scott wrote of the summer of 1883. That September, with a fellow officer, Scott rode five hundred miles looking for buffalo without finding so much as a fresh track. On the journey they met “an old Sioux Indian” who had been doing the same thing with better luck. He had killed one old scabby bull.
Scott was an accomplished sign talker and discussed the disappearance of the buffalo with the old man, who offered two theories. One was that the buffalo had gone up into Canada. His second theory was that the buffalo had gone back into the ground to rest, and would surely come again. But they did not come again. A year later, in August 1884, Scott killed a final buffalo. He never saw another.9
Twenty years after Scott’s last kill some Oglala came to visit the anthropologist Clark Wissler in his quarters at Pine Ridge. They had been told that Wissler owned an old-time buffalo robe. “A venerable man,” Wissler remembered, “asked to see and feel the skin.” Others followed. They touched the deep fur, knelt before the robe, prayed, and sang. Sometimes the sick were brought to see and touch Wissler’s robe. The depth of their feeling made Wissler ashamed. He had never seen a wild buffalo and had never tasted their meat. “The suddenness of the loss was the appalling part of it,” Wissler wrote.10
After rejoining his old outfit, the 2nd Cavalry, Lieutenant William Philo Clark caught the attention of General Sheridan. In November 1880, he joined Sheridan’s staff in Chicago, and followed him to Washington three years later when Sheridan was appointed general of the Army, replacing Sherman. In the fall of 1884 Clark was completing a dictionary of the Indian sign language which Sheridan had requested for military use on the frontier. In writing the book Clark made such heavy use of his diaries that the dictionary amounts almost to a memoir. Under the entry for “courtship” he mentioned the scout who feigned the wooing of an Indian woman “just outside of Crazy Horse’s lodge … while his quick ears took in every word that was uttered in the lodge.” What the spy learned, Clark wrote, “eventually led to the necessary killing of the chief himself.”11
Clark was loath to marry. He was irritated by the manners of the women of his day. He preferred the healthy, easy ways of Indian women, who did not, for example, “treat their sisters … who may have yielded their virtue … with that fine scorn, contempt, hatred and loathing which civilized women so cheerfully accord.” He thought that the corsets and stays of Victorian women’s dress distorted and weakened the female body, while Indian women “are strong and usually healthy.” He told several Indian friends, including Red Cloud, that he had taken no wife so he might be free to rise in his career.12
But in Chicago while stationed at Sheridan’s headquarters Clark was much in circulation, like any young bachelor officer. By the time he followed Sheridan to Washington he was engaged to a woman named Cornelia McAvoy. A wedding date had not yet been set when Clark fell ill on September 19, 1884. Three days later he died in his rooms. His hometown newspaper, the Carthage Republican of New York State, reported “inflammation of the bowels.” Peritonitis has been suggested as the probable cause. On his office desk at the War Department when Clark died were the final pages of his dictionary, wrapped and addressed for the post. The Indian Sign Language was published the following year in Philadelphia and has never been out of print. Clark’s diaries have been lost.13
Frank Grouard did not prosper after his eighteen months as General Crook’s favorite scout. He did odd jobs, worked as a meat hunter, lived off and on in Sheridan, Wyoming, and was sometimes attached to Fort McKinney. There in 1890 he was in charge of a detachment that recovered the bodies of some whites killed by Oglala at the outset of the Bozeman War twenty-five years earlier. At the end of the year he took a job at $10.50 a day to help count the dead at Wounded Knee, where he was photographed looking heavy and seedy. In 1893, he was reunited with his father, the Mormon missionary, for the first time in thirty-five years. The father had tracked him down to Sheridan after reading a newspaper notice of his son’s book of memoirs, written with Joe DeBarthe, which did not sell well. In 1902, trying to drum up a permanent job at the Pine Ridge Agency, he ran into trouble with the tribal police for getting Standing Soldier drunk.
Frank Grouard died on August 15, 1905, of alcoholism, according to a doctor who knew him in St. Joseph, Missouri. Friends raised money to pay for his funeral.14
Twice by the time he was thirty years old Billy Garnett made a conscious choice to live with the Oglala and to be an Oglala. Once was in the late summer of 1878 when the Oglala turned back from the Missouri and moved without permission to a new site on Big White Clay Creek in South Dakota. It fell to Garnett to tell the Oglala agent, James Irwin, that the Indians were going. “What are you going to do?” Irwin asked him.
“I’m going with them,” Garnett said.
“If you go with those Indians,” Irwin said, “I will have to dismiss you as interpreter.”
Garnett said he was going anyway. Young Man Afraid of His Horses, American Horse, Little Big Man, and others welcomed Garnett’s decision to join them in the move. In time, the Indian Department accepted the new site, and about a year later the new agent, Doctor Valentine McGillycuddy, gave Billy his old job back as interpreter. He held the job for the rest of his life.15
On at least one other occasion Garnett was also asked to choose between the white and Indian worlds. The moment may have come on the trip to Washington in 1877, or on a subsequent trip in 1885, the year Garnett turned thirty. Accounts agree that the moment came during a trip east. From time to time over the years members of his father’s family in Virginia had contacted Billy in a friendly way, and once, according to an often-repeated family story, asked him in a serious and formal way if he would like to move east, go to school, and make his home in the white world. These people were rich, his grandson, James Garnett, said; they held out the promise of a comfortable life and a position of respect as his father’s only child. The young Garnett asked for a night to think it over. The following day, according to James Garnett, Billy thanked these people for their kindness but said he guessed not.
“I’ve lived all of my life as an Indian so far,” he said, “and I guess I’ll die as an Indian.”16
Garnett spent nearly fifty years working with the Oglala. He was paid to interpret but he was involved somehow in almost every facet of reservation life, beginning in the 1880s with carrying out the government’s decision to require every Indian to adopt a Christian and a family name, and to stick with it in the manner of whites. To a clerk who recorded the names on the agency roll, Garnett spelled out first the Lakota version and then translated it into English. But he fell into difficulty, he once told a reservation storekeeper, with the name of Taku Oholasni. This he said was untranslatable. The clerk asked for an approximation. Garnett said it couldn’t be done. The clerk insisted.
“In Indian,” Garnett said, “it means ‘Don’t Give a Damn for Anything.’ ”
The clerk wrote down, “Respects Nothing.”17
Garnett worked closely with McGillycuddy when the agent organized a body of Indian police and he was often about the guardhouse where offenders were locked up for minor offenses or kept until they could be transported to Hot Springs or Deadwood for trial on serious charges. The fate of Crazy Horse came up in conversation one night in the late 1880s while Garnett was passing time in the guardhouse with Little Wolf, brother of Lone Bear, who had been out with Crazy Horse’s band until the last. Both of the brothers were employed as Indian police. Little Wolf was wondering why things had gone as they did. “Now we come in from the north with Crazy Horse,” he said, as Garnett remembered. “We intended to be peaceable with the white people, the same as the other Indians. I wonder why Crazy Horse was treated the way he was and finally died.”
Garnett was caught by surprise. He thought back ten years. It was all quite clear in his mind. “You killed him,” Garnett said to Little Wolf.
It was Little Wolf’s turn to be amazed. “I killed him?”
“Yes, you killed him.”
“I killed Crazy Horse?” Little Wolf said. “How can that be? I who fought with him all through the north—have always been with him—was his friend—How did I kill him?”18
“I told him that his talk killed him,” Garnett remembered. “ ‘You told your own brother, Lone Bear, that Crazy Horse was going to kill General Crook.’ ”
“I never told my brother any such stuff,” said Little Wolf. “I never knew that I had anything to do with this. I am going to see my brother.”
Little Wolf did not let the matter drop, and soon afterward he returned to see Garnett with Lone Bear in tow. Lone Bear said, “Billy, my brother scold me about Crazy Horse’s death. He says … that I told Woman Dress that General Crook was going to be killed. I never told Woman Dress any such thing.”
Some months later Lone Bear and Little Wolf confronted Woman Dress with Garnett’s story. Woman Dress called it a lie, and, taking his nephew Louis Shangreau along, made his way in an angry mood to find Garnett.
“You can tell as good a lie as any one I ever saw,” Woman Dress said to Garnett.
“Woman Dress, what am I lying about?”
“Me,” said Woman Dress. “I had a gray blanket on in this council and I heard Crazy Horse say ‘Tomorrow there is going to be a council on over at White Clay, the Indian village, and Crook is going to be there. I will catch Crook by the hand and pretend like I was going to shake hands with him and make quick work of him and whoever he will have with him.’
“Now that is what I heard Crazy Horse say. You said in the guardhouse that Little Wolf was the one who told Lone Bear, and Lone Bear told me. It was me, myself, that heard Crazy Horse, and now you tell lies about me and say that I got it from Lone Bear.”
While Woman Dress and Louis Shangreau were raking Garnett up one side and down the other he felt a tap from behind. Turning around, he found Baptiste Pourier. “You come here just in time,” Garnett said. He explained what the argument was about and Pourier said, “I will tell—I know exactly how it happened.”
Louis Shangreau was the audience. Pourier related the encounter on the morning of September 3, 1877, with Woman Dress outside the agency trader’s store at the Red Cloud Agency, how Woman Dress warned Pourier and Garnett the general’s life would be in danger if he went to the council with Crazy Horse. Pourier heard Woman Dress say that it was Lone Bear who heard Crazy Horse threaten to kill Crook, and Lone Bear told his brother Little Wolf, and Little Wolf told Woman Dress—that’s how Woman Dress knew. When Crook asked if Woman Dress could be trusted, Pourier vouched for him. While Pourier told the story, Woman Dress said not a word.
Shangreau was convinced. “You are a big liar,” he said to his uncle, “and you are the cause of a good man’s death and you are jealous of him.”
Pourier repeated the verdict, pointing his finger at Woman Dress. “You are a liar,” he said, “and you are the cause of a good man’s death.”
Woman Dress said nothing.
Lieutenant Clark died without being told of Woman Dress’s lie, but Crook lived to hear it. Garnett and Pourier told him the whole story when he visited the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1889 to persuade the Oglala to sign yet another piece of paper giving up land.
By the late 1880s, Crook’s fighting days were over. He was promoted to major general in 1888 and succeeded to command of the Military Division of the Missouri, the post once held by Sheridan. In Chicago, Crook took up residence in the city’s Grand Pacific Hotel, where Sheridan paid him a courtesy visit. An afternoon playing cards in Chicago’s Calumet Club was their last meeting. Their relationship, long strained, had ended in bitter disagreement when Sheridan more or less forced Crook to resign after a frustrating campaign against the Apache in Arizona.
But the break between the two men went back much further, to Sheridan’s hogging of credit, as Crook saw it, for Union victories in the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War. Crook long brooded on the injustice. During a stagecoach ride through a spring blizzard in 1887 Crook complained bitterly to an aide of his treatment by Sheridan.
Twenty years after the battles at Cedar Creek and Fisher’s Hill, Crook spent a day riding over the ground. He remembered Sheridan’s promise to give him credit and his failure to do so, first in his official report of the battle, then in the memoirs published shortly after Sheridan’s death in August 1888. By that time Crook detested Sheridan, who had grown chubby in his last years. A news correspondent noted the buttons were ready to fly off Sheridan’s coat, and his trousers “fitted very snugly to the general’s fat legs.” Sheridan’s doctors blamed a heart condition but Crook thought the fault lay with Sheridan himself, puffed up by the celebrated poem about his twenty-mile ride to save the day at Winchester.
“The adulations heaped on him … turned his head,” Crook wrote, “which, added to his natural disposition, caused him to bloat his little carcass with debauchery and dissipation, which carried him off prematurely.”19
It was in the summer of 1889, a year after Sheridan’s death, that Crook as one of a three-man commission progressed from one Sioux reservation to another arguing that the Sioux should vote to accept the terms of the Dawes Act. This scheme, passed by Congress, would divide the Great Sioux Reservation into six separate units and would allot each head of family a quarter section of land—160 acres. “Surplus” lands after the division would be sold. Everyone understood that the land would be taken whether the Sioux voted for the act or not, but feeling against it ran stubbornly high and Crook spent many days pushing the case for acceptance. At Pine Ridge in June 1889 he heard from Woman Dress that Little Hawk, uncle of Crazy Horse, “was talking very sassy” and was making trouble about signing the treaty. Crook sent for Little Hawk and asked him, “Why are you making trouble about this treaty?”
Little Hawk answered at length. When Crazy Horse came in to surrender, he said, the Indians had dressed up Lieutenant Clark with a warbonnet and war shirt in token of friendship. When they came back from Canada to stay for good they did the same thing with McGillycuddy—dressed him up in token of friendship.
“I have been faithful to you people,” Little Hawk said to General Crook. “Your Indians are telling lies about me like they told about Crazy Horse, and now are you going to kill me?”
Crook, brought up short by this question, sought explanation from Garnett and Pourier, who told him about the confrontation with Woman Dress. The news put the general into a thoughtful mood, Garnett recalled.
“Bat,” he said, “Billy knew more than you did, he did not recommend Woman Dress that time.” To Garnett it seemed that Crook was going over the meaning of this, making up his mind in a careful way.
“I ought to have gone to that council and I should not have listened to Clark,” Crook said. “I never started any place but I got there.”
Later, Crook assured Little Hawk that bad talk would not lead to his killing. “I found out about what made the trouble about Crazy Horse,” he said. “You Indians made the trouble. I felt sorry for that.”
He urged Little Hawk to sign the treaty.
“I am afraid of it,” Little Hawk said. “We sign for certain things, and after you people go away you get other things down in the treaty that were not there … In all of these treaties it is the same way … I am afraid to touch that pen.”
“All right, it is up to you,” Crook said. “It is better for you to sign, but you can sign or not, just as you wish.”
In the end, Little Hawk signed the treaty. Crook went away. Very soon afterward the Indian Department cut food rations in half, hunger soon reached a dangerous level, the reservations were swept by an Indian religious movement, and frightened whites called for the military to put down the ghost dancers who prayed for the return of the buffalo. It all ended with a big killing of several hundred Indians, mostly Miniconjou, mostly women and children, beside the creek called Wounded Knee in December 1890. Crook saw none of it. He had died before breakfast on March 21, 1890, in his rooms at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Chicago, exercising with the big wooden pins called Indian clubs. Crook was a leaner, hardier man than Sheridan, but he died the same way, of a heart attack.
After passage of a pension act in March 1917, Garnett helped scores of Indians to obtain a monthly stipend. This was a time-consuming task requiring depositions, hearings, and the submission of numerous documents, but Garnett made a point of helping every eligible scout or widow get a pension. He even helped many he had learned to dislike. Woman Dress was one of these. Like Little Big Man, Woman Dress was angrily shunned by many Indians who blamed him for the death of Crazy Horse. “He was like a two-edged sword against his own people,” said one of them in 1930. But Garnett had personally helped Woman Dress to enlist, translating his name for Lieutenant Clark. He knew for a fact that Woman Dress had been a scout and was eligible, so he helped him get a pension.
Woman Dress died on January 9, 1921.
William Garnett, after many refusals, was himself granted a pension of twenty dollars a month by special act of Congress in 1924. He died after a short illness on October 12, 1928, and was buried in the Catholic cemetery north of Kyle on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
The rancher James Cook, who had befriended Red Cloud in the early 1870s, was often visited in later years on his ranch in western Nebraska by Indians from the Pine Ridge Reservation. Red Cloud came frequently until his death in 1909, while others continued up until the 1940s. Among the visitors were Red Cloud’s daughter, Charging Girl, born about 1860, and her husband, John Kills Above. The agency rolls carried Charging Girl as Susie Kills Above. On their visits they sometimes sang old songs, which were translated by Joe Sierro. These songs were all short, no more than twenty or thirty words. They are notable for their directness and simplicity. Some were traditional songs, some were about well-known people or events, and some had belonged to noted figures, including Charging Girl’s father, Red Cloud. A tintype photograph of Red Cloud, taken on one of his trips to Washington, was one of Charging Girl’s prized possessions.
“These songs are sung without the words first,” Cook wrote in a memorandum transcribing a dozen of them, “then with words, then without the words again. This is repeated two or three times.”20
One night at Cook’s ranch in June 1937, Kills Above and his brother, Kills Chief, sang a very old warrior’s song which they said was from “the time before the white man came.”
I lie anywhere.
I fight and die anywhere.
On the ground or in the water I am ready to die, anytime.
No matter whether I am young or old.
Several songs were of the kind called “honor songs,” sung to commemorate a noted figure, and one was a death song. The words in this song, according to Kills Above and Knife Chief, were the words sung by Crazy Horse “after he was killed,” meaning after he had received a fatal wound.
My friends, have courage.
Me, I cannot do anything any more.
Me, I can no more go to war.
I am dead. I help no more.
Crazy Horse said so and died.
Charging Girl talked about her life at length that night, only a few months before dying on October 7, 1937. “I always can remember everything very good up until now,” she said, according to Cook’s typed notes. “I am very weak now,” she added. “Wherever I go I always take my picture of my father along.”
Charging Girl talked about the hanging of two Indians at Fort Laramie in 1865, when she was four or five years old. She told of her father’s trips to Washington, and about the hunger suffered during the tribe’s first year at the agency on the White River, when men had to bring food from Fort Laramie, a two-day ride each way. She spoke about the killing of Crazy Horse when she was sixteen or seventeen years old. “When he was stabbed,” Charging Girl said, “the Indians were holding him, and he said, ‘Leave me alone. I want to get revenge.’ ”
A few years earlier, when Crazy Horse’s wife was still alive, Charging Girl asked her where he was buried. “No, I’ll never tell,” answered Tasina Sapawin. “I have raised my hand and his relatives have raised their hands, that we will never tell.”
One night during the march to the Missouri, Charging Girl said, the tribe was camped near a hill when the family of Crazy Horse rejoined the people. They had gone off with the travois carrying his body, no one knew where. “All the camp cried and mourned,” she said. “In the night time they returned. The whole tribe sang and cried …
“When I tell these things I have a pain in my heart.”21