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The Last Days of the Sioux Nation

The Last Days of the Sioux Nation: Second Edition

Robert M. Utley
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 370
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  • Book Info
    The Last Days of the Sioux Nation
    Book Description:

    This fascinating account tells what the Sioux were like when they first came to their reservation and how their reaction to the new system eventually led to the last confrontation between the Army and the Sioux at the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek. A classic work, it is now available with a new preface by the author that discusses his current thoughts about a tragic episode in American history that has raised much controversy through the years.Praise for the earlier edition:"History as lively and gripping as good fiction.""One of the finest books on the Indian wars of the West."--Montana"A well-told, easily read account that will be the standard reference for this phase of the Indian 'problem.'"--American Historical Review"A major job . . . magnificently researched."--San Francisco Chronicle"By far the best treatment of the complex and controversial relationship between the Sioux and their conquerors yet presented and should be must reading for serious students of Western Americana."--St. Louis Dispatch (on the earlier edition)Winner of the Buffalo Award

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16094-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    (pp. 1-5)

    On New Year’S Day of 1891, a bright sun broke over the creeks that drained northward into White River. It glared on the three-inch blanket of snow and formed icicles on the scrub pines dotting the ridges that separated the valleys. Three days earlier, on December 29, 1890, the battle had been fought. The next day the first blizzard of the season had swept the Sioux reservations. It raged for two days before roaring southward into Nebraska and Kansas.

    Residents of the cluster of dingy frame buildings in the valley of White Clay Creek cleared the snow from porches and...

  7. 2. THE OLD LIFE
    (pp. 6-17)

    Sioux of the 1880s recalled with nostalgia the way of life that the white man had set out to destroy after the military conquest. It was a way of life, they seemed to think, that had endured changeless since antiquity and that had no place in it for white men. Actually, as the life span of a people is reckoned, the old life was not so very old. Paradoxically, it had been made possible by the white man, and the white man had played a continuing, vital role in it.

    There were many varieties of Sioux. This story is about...

  8. 3. THE NEW LIFE
    (pp. 18-39)

    Watched by the soldiers at Camp Robinson, Red Cloud Agency sprawled on the banks of White River near the modern town of Chadron, Nebraska. Here in 1877 Red Cloud lived with his Oglala Sioux followers. At Spotted Tail Agency, on a tributary of White River about thirty miles to the northeast, stood the tepees of the Brulé followers of the chief for whom the agency had been named. Together with other Sioux at Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Agencies, on the Missouri River to the north, these Indians had lived under the eyes of government agents while their wilder kinsmen...

    (pp. 40-59)

    The Tetons had signed many treaties with the United States, and each surrendered more land. The first was in 1851. The great covered-wagon migrations of the 1840s, followed by the acquisition of Oregon and California by the United States, suggested the desirability of clearing the Indian tribes from the Platte Valley route to the Pacific. After a lavish distribution of presents near Fort Laramie in 1851, the Tetons and other tribes of the northern Plains set their marks to the treaty. After 1851 these tribes continued to roam from the Upper Missouri to the Arkansas, for the treaty granted this...

    (pp. 60-83)

    The land agreement shook the Teton tribes with more violence that anything in their history, and it threw into sharp focus all the resentments and frustrations built up in a decade of reservation life. The winter of 1889–90—with unrelieved hunger, disastrous epidemics, the opening of the ceded lands, and the continued inaction of Congress on the recommendations of the Crook Commission—emptied the Tetons of hope.

    Then, in March 1890, eleven Indians returned to Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Cheyenne River from a long journey to the west. They told a wonderful tale. A Messiah had appeared on earth....

    (pp. 84-112)

    In Wyoming, Kicking Bear had watched the Arapahoes dance the Ghost Dance and go into trances that enabled them to see friends long dead and wonders of the world to come. Returning home, he stopped early in August for a visit with the Oglalas at Pine Ridge. His story of the miraculous happenings among the Arapahoes caught the Sioux at the climax of the terrible summer. They were ripe for just such miracles themselves. Kicking Bear fired the Oglalas with the faith and taught them the mechanics of the dance.¹

    Red Cloud shrewdly avoided committing himself. If the story were...

    (pp. 113-133)

    At dawn on November 20, 1890, Dr. Eastman was asleep in his quarters at Pine Ridge Agency. Suddenly his assistant rushed into the bedroom and exclaimed, “Come quick, the soldiers are here.” The Indian doctor threw off the covers and went to the window. The sun had just burst over the knifelike ridges dotted with stunted pine from which the agency took its name. The shafts of sunlight illuminated a cloud of dust rising from the road to Rushville. The agency sprang to life. Government employees gathered in front of the frame buildings, and the nearby camps of Red Cloud...

    (pp. 134-145)

    Pine Ridge Agency occupied a low plateau formed by the junction of Wolf and White Clay Creeks. The road running south to Rushville divided the village into commercial and official districts. East of the road stood the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches with their parsonages, three trading posts, and the low log structure that the correspondents dubbed the “Hotel de Finley.” West of the Rushville road stood the agency buildings—shops, warehouses, a day school and the rambling 180-pupil boarding school; employee apartments; the long edifice that housed the council room and offices of the agent, chief clerk, and police; and...

    (pp. 146-166)

    James McLaughlin believed that if the Standing Rock Indians were to continue their march toward civilization, Sitting Bull and a few other leaders with similar reactionary tendencies would have to be removed from the reservation. The old chief’s role in the Ghost Dance only gave the inevitable task a certain immediacy. Now the arrest would have to be accomplished before spring, when the dancers, daily anticipating the prophesied millennium, would rise to new heights of emotionalism, and when Sitting Bull’s presence in their midst would be most incendiary. In the balmy November of 1890, however, the arrest was not of...

  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  16. 10. BIG FOOT
    (pp. 167-186)

    News of Sitting Bull’s death swept the nation, for few Indian celebrities had enjoyed greater prominence. Westerners applauded his passing, and many of the eastern reform group, regretting the violence of his end, could not suppress a sigh of relief that circumstances had at last rolled this rock of reaction from the path of progress. Yet opinion was hardly unanimous. T. A. Bland, whose National Indian Defense Association waged constant war on the conventional reform theories of the day, led a swelling chorus of denunciation.

    “The land grabbers wanted the Indian land,” shouted a New York minister, follower of Bland....

    (pp. 187-199)

    General Miles’ anger over the escape of Big Foot is understandable. Consistent with his earlier assumptions about Big Foot, he logically assumed that the Miniconjous were running for the Stronghold, where they hoped to join Short Bull and Kicking Bear. It was an awkward time, for General Brooke’s latest peace effort was just getting under way. The friendly chiefs at Pine Ridge had met in council on the 16th and 17th and had decided to send 500 men into the Stronghold for one final, massive attempt at persuading the hostiles to avert bloodshed by giving up. This imposing delegation had...

  18. 12. WOUNDED KNEE
    (pp. 200-230)

    Col. James W. Forsyth had commanded the Seventh Cavalry since 1886. With square chin, piercing eyes under heavy brows, iron-gray hair, and neat mustache, he looked every bit a cavalry colonel. He brought to the regiment a distinguished record in the Civil War—major general of volunteers and a string of brevets in the Regular Army up to brigadier general—but he had very little command experience in Indian campaigning. During the heavy fighting of the 1870s, he had served on the staff of Lt. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, first as aide-de-camp, later as military secretary. As General Miles was...

    (pp. 231-250)

    It had been an eventful day at Pine Ridge Agency, too. At midmorning, the reports of Capron’s guns echoed faintly over the hills to the east, announcing to whites and Indians alike that a fight was in progress.

    The great camps of Sioux ringing the agency burst into frantic activity, and none more so than that of Two Strike, whose Brulés had so recently numbered themselves among the followers of Short Bull and Kicking Bear. About 150 warriors painted themselves and rushed to the sound of the guns. It was this force that collided with Captains Jackson and Godfrey on...

    (pp. 251-270)

    The battle at Wounded Knee changed the entire complexion of the Pine Ridge campaign. As we have seen, on the very day of the battle Short Bull and Kicking Bear, with the diehard remnant of the Ghost Dancers, were within a day’s march of the agency, where they planned to surrender. Wounded Knee not only reversed this intention but added to their ranks the frightened Bruits of Two Strike and the Oglalas of Little Wound, Big Road, and No Water—all of whom, with the unwilling Red Cloud, had stampeded from the agency at the time of the battle. The...

    (pp. 271-286)

    General Miles left Pine Ridge for Chicago on the evening of January 26. He took with him twenty-five Ghost Dance leaders, including Kicking Bear and Short Bull, whom he intended to confine at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, until passions had subsided enough for them to return to their people. Buffalo Bill Cody, who had turned up at Pine Ridge in the last days of the campaign as a colonel on the staff of the governor of Nebraska, asked to employ the prisoners as part of the troupe of his Wild West show, which was about to embark on a European tour....

  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-302)
  23. Index
    (pp. 303-314)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)