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Red Cloud, The Great Oglala Sioux Chief




"Whose voice was first sounded on this land? The voice of the red people who had but bows and arrows... what has been done in my country I did not want, did not ask for it; white people going through my country... When the white man goes through my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him... I have two mountains in that country-- the Black Hills and the Big Horn Mountain. I want the Great Father to make no roads through them. I have told these things three times; now I have come here to tell them a fourth time."

Mahpiua Luta ( Chief Red Cloud)



Red Cloud was said to be named for a streaking red meteorite that seared the sky on the day of his birth, circa 1822. Prophetic, for he was destined to lead his tribe in a war that would prove to be the only clear victory of the native peoples over the U.S. Government.

In violation of reservation boundaries, a short route to the gold fields of Montana was established through Sioux hunting lands. Red Cloud fought the Bozeman Trail, for the heavy traffic on this road scared away what game was left, and foretold of yet more settler invasion, pushing the Sioux and other tribes back even further up the Powder River Valley.




"We are on the mountains looking down on the soldiers and the forts. When we see the soldiers moving away and the forts abandoned, then I will come down and talk."



Red Cloud and his military strategist Crazy Horse launched a massive attack on U.S. troops in an ambush waged on December 21, 1866. After this the government in Washington was forced to take Red Cloud seriously, and a treaty was negotiated by General William J. Fetterman, to abandon the Bozeman Trail. As soldiers filed out of Fort Phil Kearny, Red Cloud rode triumphantly through the front gates, and proceeded to burn the fort to it's foundations.

This was not the end of the troubles between Red Cloud and the rapidly encroaching American citizenry, however. Rumors of gold and reports of fertile plowland brought regular expiditions into the Sioux Territory; obviously, the Sioux would soon be required to leave this land as well, relocated again to land with no real appeal to the white man... less fertile, less hospitable.

Red Cloud knew his people could not long survive this way; he also knew that the changes wrought by the arrival of the whites and the railroad were destined to eradicate the way of life his people had enjoyed for countless generations. The buffalo herds were thinning, droughts were increasingly common, and the whites, armed with bullets instead of arrows, were determined to take all the land, and leave nothing to the red man. Even if the whites could be driven out and kept out, the lives of the Sioux would be forever altered by the impact they had made on the land while they were there. Red Cloud sought a compromise in the face of the overwhelming European prescence in his land. He sought a way to allow them what they would ultimately take anyway, while carving out a place for the Sioux Nation to continue to peacefully co-exist among them.




Invited to Washington D.C., Red Cloud had these words for President Ulysses S. Grant:

"In 1868 men came out and brought papers--we could not read them and they did not tell us truely what was in them. We thought the treaty was to remove the forts and that we should then cease from fighting. When I reached Washington, the great Father showed me that the interpreters had deceived me. All I want is what is right and just."



Red Cloud won some temporary concessions, but subsequent political machinations in Washington would see Red Cloud's allies diminish in power; all the while the lands he so valiantly sought to preserve for his people were simply too valuable to be left unexploited. Many of the same interests in Washington who brought about the downfall of Red Cloud's allies were the very first to introduce legislation favorable to settlement and annexation.




In old age, Red Cloud had this to say about his dealings with the U.S. government and it's representatives:

"They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it."



Here are some links pertaining to Chief Red Cloud:


Many Hawks: A Tribute to the Oglala Lakota Sioux
This will take you directly to the above site's page about Red Cloud


This is a personal recollection of Red Cloud, by Ohiyesa

Morning Star, Red Cloud's Great-Granddaughter



The Oglala Homepage

Kicking Bear (Mato Wanartaka), who brought the Ghost Dance, a religeous movement, to the Oglala Sioux.



This is a map of the Battle Of Little Big Horn which Kicking Bear painted.

See also "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee", an excellent account of the settlement of the Western Territories told from the Native American perspective, culminating in the Wounded Knee Massacre.