The dirt on relatives

Red Cloud

Red Cloud

My relatives fought with their Oglala brothers and ended up splitting into separate bands.

We tore away after Bull Bear argued with Old Smoke.

The story is that Bull Bear threw dirt in Smoke’s face, and they considered our band “cut off” or Kiyaska.

Smoke’s face-full of dirt earned his group the name Bad Faces—the Itéšiča band.

The pissing match continued until 1841, when the Bad Faces got their revenge and Bull Bear was killed by Red Cloud.

Turns out Red Cloud is my connection to Crazy Horse.

More than three decades after Bull Bear died, the Oglala saw the buffalo dwindle and their lands trampled by settlers.

But their success at Greasy Grass (Little Big Horn) in 1876 resulted in the tightening of political and military reins in the Black Hills, particularly when it came to Crazy Horse, who fought at Little Big Horn.

Over the next months, Red Cloud and Spotted Tail decided it would be best for their people if they worked with the white settlers and military leaders to broker a truce with the Sioux.

But Crazy Horse wanted nothing to do with it.

He distrusted the whites intensely, according to Larry McMurtry. Crazy Horse was loved for his courage and charity, McMurtry writes.

Crazy Horse was honored as a Shirt Wearer, which meant he was responsible for the care of his tribe.

When I think of Crazy Horse, I see a deer-skin shirt laid out on a table in the archives at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

The shirt belonged to Crazy Horse, according to the experts I met. The leather is embellished with hand-painted geometric patterns of reds and blues and yellows.

A piece of ermine is tied to a shaft of human hair and the fringe was likely cut with a knife, rather than scissors.

We don’t know if Crazy Horse wore the shirt, but we know he was modest and lacked vanity.

After surrendering at Ft. Robinson a year after the battle at Greasy Grass, Crazy Horse was stabbed by William Gentles, a private. Gentles died a year later from asthma, McMurtry notes.

Thousands mourned Crazy Horse’s death. His family has never revealed to outsiders where he is buried.

Image of Red Cloud in the public domain


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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