Red Cloud
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Red Cloud
Red Cloud
Red Cloud3.jpg
Born Ma?píya Lúta
near North Platte, Nebraska
Died December 10, 1909(1909-12-10) (aged 86-87)
Pine Ridge, South Dakota, United States
Resting place Red Cloud Cemetery, Pine Ridge
43°4?38?N 102°35?1?W / 43.07722°N 102.58361°W / 43.07722; -102.58361 (Grave of Red Cloud (Ma?píya Lúta))
Residence Pine Ridge, South Dakota
Nationality Oglala Lakota
Known for Red Cloud's War
Most photographed American Indian of the nineteenth century
Title Tribal chief
Successor Jack Red Cloud
Pretty Owl
Children Wears War Bonnet Red Cloud (1850-?)
Louise Red Cloud (1854-?)
Jack Red Cloud (1858-1928)
Tells Him Red Cloud (1860-?)
Charges At Red Cloud (1861-?)
Comes Back Red Cloud (1865-?)
Parent(s) Walks As She Thinks, Lone Man

Red Cloud (Lakota: Ma?píya Lúta) (1822 - December 10, 1909) was one of the most important leaders of the Oglala Lakota. He led from 1868 to 1909. One of the most capable Native American opponents that the United States Army faced in its mission to subdue the western territories, he led a successful campaign in 1866-1868 known as Red Cloud's War over control of the Powder River Country in northeastern Wyoming and southern Montana. The largest action of the war, the Fetterman Fight (with 81 men killed on the US side), was the worst military defeat suffered by the US on the Great Plains until the Battle of the Little Bighorn ten years later.

After signing the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868), Red Cloud led his people in the important transition to reservation life. Some of his US opponents mistakenly thought of him as overall leader of the Sioux (Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota) groups. The large tribe had several major divisions and was highly decentralized. Bands among the Oglala and other divisions operated independently, even though some individual leaders, such as Red Cloud, were renowned as warriors and highly respected as leaders.

Early life

Red Cloud was born close to the forks of the Platte River, near the modern-day city of North Platte, Nebraska.[1] His mother, Walks As She Thinks, was an Oglala Lakota and his father, Lone Man (Chief Isna-la-wica Red Cloud Ma?píya Lúta), was a Brulé Lakota leader. He is grandson of Chief White Rabbit (Body Parts), Pte Oyate. They came from two of the seven major Lakota divisions.

As was traditional among the matrilineal Lakota, in which the children belonged to the mother's clan and people, Red Cloud was mentored as a boy by his maternal uncle, Old Chief Smoke (1774-1864). Old Chief Smoke played a major role in the boy's childhood. He brought Red Cloud into the Smoke household when the boy's parents died around 1825. At a young age, Red Cloud fought against neighboring Pawnee and Crow bands, gaining much war experience.

Red Cloud's War

Red Cloud's War was the name the US Army gave to a series of conflicts fought with Native American Plains tribes in the Wyoming and Montana territories. The battles were waged between the Northern Cheyenne, allied with Lakota and Arapaho bands, against the United States Army between 1866 and 1868. In December 1866, the Native American allies attacked and defeated a United States unit in what the whites would call the Fetterman Massacre (or the Battle of the Hundred Slain), which resulted in the most US casualties of any Plains battle up to that point.[2]

Red Cloud

Captain William J. Fetterman was sent from Fort Phil Kearny with two civilians and 79 cavalry and infantrymen to chase away a small Native American war party that had attacked a wood-gathering party days before. Captain Frederick Brown accompanied Fetterman; the two were confident in their troops and anxious to go to battle with the Native Americans. They disobeyed orders to stay behind the Lodge Trail Ridge and pursued a small decoy band of warriors, led by a Native American on an apparently injured horse. The decoy was the prominent warrior Crazy Horse. Fetterman and his troops followed the decoy into an ambush by more than 2,000 Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Combined Native American forces suffered only 14 casualties, while they killed the entire 81-man US detachment.

Following this battle, a US peace commission toured the Plains in 1867 to gather information to help bring about peace among the tribes and with the US. Finding that the Native Americans had been provoked by white encroachment and competition for resources, the commission recommended assigning definite territories to the Plains tribes. The Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, Arapaho, and other bands settled for peace with the US under the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The US agreed to abandon its forts and withdraw completely from Lakota territory.

Treaty of 1868

The treaty established the Great Sioux Reservation, covering the territory of West River, west of the Missouri River in present-day Nebraska (which had been admitted as a state in 1867), and including parts of South Dakota. Uneasy relations between the expanding United States and the natives continued. In 1870, Red Cloud visited Washington D.C., and met with Commissioner of Indian Affairs Ely S. Parker (a Seneca and U.S. Army General), and President Ulysses S. Grant.

In 1871, the government established the Red Cloud Agency on the Platte River, downstream from Fort Laramie. As outlined in the 1868 Treaty, the agency staff were responsible for issuing weekly rations to the Oglala, as well as providing the annually distributed supply of cash and annuity goods. The agent and Washington officials would determine how much of the annuity was to be paid in cash or goods, and sometimes the supplies were late, in poor condition, inadequate in amount, or never arrived at all. Red Cloud took his band to the agency (a predecessor of the Native American reservation) and tried to help them in the transition to a different way of life. In the fall of 1873, the agency was removed to the upper White River in northwestern Nebraska.

Great Sioux War of 1876-1877

Red Cloud settled at the agency with his band by the fall of 1873. He soon became embroiled in a controversy with the new Indian agent, Dr. John J. Saville.

In 1874, Lieutenant Colonel George Custer led a reconnaissance mission into Sioux territory that reported gold in the Black Hills, an area held sacred by the local Native Americans. Previously the Army had unsuccessfully tried to keep miners out of the region, and the threat of violence grew. In May 1875, Lakota delegations headed by Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, and Lone Horn traveled to Washington in an attempt to persuade President Grant to honor existing treaties and stem the flow of miners into their lands. The Native Americans met on various occasion with Grant, Secretary of the Interior Delano, and Commissioner of Indian Affairs Smith. He told them on May 27 that Congress was ready to resolve the matter by paying the tribes $25,000 for their land and resettling them into Indian Territory. The delegates refused to sign such a treaty, with Spotted Tail saying about the proposal:

When I was here before, the President gave me my country, and I put my stake down in a good place, and there I want to stay.... You speak of another country, but it is not my country; it does not concern me, and I want nothing to do with it. I was not born there.... If it is such a good country, you ought to send the white men now in our country there and let us alone.[3]

Although Red Cloud was unsuccessful in finding a peaceful solution, he did not take part in the Lakota war of 1876-1877, which was led by T?a?ú?ke Witkó (Crazy Horse) and T?at?á?ka Íyotake (Sitting Bull).

In the fall of 1877, the Red Cloud Agency was removed to the upper Missouri River. The following year it was removed to the forks of the White River, in present-day South Dakota, where it was renamed the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

His last days

Red Cloud became an important leader of the Lakota as they transitioned from the freedom of the plains to the confinement of the reservation system. His trip to Washington, DC had convinced him of the number and power of European Americans, and he believed the Oglala had to seek peace.

In 1884, he and his family, along with five other leaders, converted and were baptized as Catholics by Father Joseph Bushman.[4]

Red Cloud continued fighting for his people, even after being forced onto the reservation. In 1887 Red Cloud opposed the Dawes Act, which broke up communal tribal holdings, and allocated 160-acre plots of land to heads of families on tribal rolls for subsistence farming. The US declared additional communal tribal lands as excess, and sold it to immigrant settlers. In 1889 Red Cloud opposed a treaty to sell more of the Lakota land. Due to his steadfastness and that of Sitting Bull, government agents obtained the necessary signatures for approval through subterfuge, such as using the signatures of children. He negotiated strongly with Indian Agents such as Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy.

Outliving all the other major Lakota leaders of the Indian Wars, Red Cloud died on Pine Ridge Reservation in 1909 at the age of 87, and was buried there in the cemetery now bearing his name. In old age, he is quoted as having said, "They made us many promises, more than I can remember. But they kept but one -- They promised to take our land ... and they took it."[5]

Legacy and honors

Announcements of Red Cloud's death and recognition of his achievements were printed in major newspapers across the country. As had been typical of the US perception during Red Cloud's prominence in war, The New York Times' article on his death mistakenly described him as leader of all the Sioux bands and tribes, but noted his abilities as a leader and diplomat. While he was a prominent leader, the Lakota were highly decentralized and never had one overall leader, especially of the major divisions, such as Oglala and Brulé.[6][7][8]

Red Cloud was the most photographed American Indian of the nineteenth century.[9] He was first photographed in 1872 in Washington D.C. by Mathew Brady, just before meeting with President Grant. He was among the Indians photographed by Edward S. Curtis. In 2000, he was posthumously selected for induction into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. There are 128 known photographs picturing Red Cloud.[9] He has been honored by the United States Postal Service with a 10¢ Great Americans series postage stamp.

Theodore Sorensen wrote in Kennedy that President John F. Kennedy considered naming one of the 41 for Freedom ballistic missile submarines after Red Cloud, but apparently bowed to Pentagon concerns that the name could be misinterpreted as being pro-Communist.


Red Cloud's descendants have continued to be chosen as traditional leaders of the Lakota people:

  • Jack Red Cloud, (c.1858-1928) leader of the Oglala Lakota 1909-1928
  • James Red Cloud (1879-1960) leader of the Oglala Lakota 1928-1960
  • Charles Red Cloud (1888-1979) (brother of James Red Cloud), leader of the Oglala Lakota 1960-1979
  • Oliver Red Cloud (1919-2013), leader of the Oglala Lakota (1979-2013)[10] He was a fourth-generation direct descendant of Red Cloud. He was a Speaker of the traditional Lakota Sioux Nation and a Chairman of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council.

See also


  1. ^ "Red Cloud". New Perspectives of the West. PBS / WETA. Retrieved 2012 – via
  2. ^ Viola, Herman J. (2004). Trail to Wounded Knee: The Last Stand of the Plains Indians 1860-1890. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. ISBN 9780792282235.
  3. ^ Griske, Michael (2005). The Diaries of John Hunton. Heritage Books. pp. 64-69. ISBN 0-7884-3804-2.
  4. ^ Enochs, Ross (1996). The Jesuit Mission to the Lakota Sioux: Pastoral Theology and Ministry, 1886-1945. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 26. ISBN 9781556128134.
  5. ^ "Native American Words - Tsa-la-gi-ti-a-ye-li". Retrieved 2013.
  6. ^ "Red Cloud, Sioux Chief, Dead; Old Indian Warrior Caused The Massacre Of Fort Phil Kearney". The New York Times. December 11, 1909. Retrieved 2008.
  7. ^ "Red Cloud Gone to Final Rest". Boston Globe. December 11, 1909. Retrieved 2008. Famous Sioux Chief Lived to be 89. Rated as the Wiliest Enemy of Whites in Modern Times. Cornered in 1869, Friendly, as a Rule, Ever Since. Red Cloud, the famous old Sioux Indian chief, is dead, according to Supt Brennan of the Pine Ridge Indian agency, who is in Washington, attending the meeting of those interested in the education of the...
  8. ^ "Red Cloud Dead". Hartford Courant. December 11, 1909. Retrieved 2008. Famous Sioux Indian Chief Was 86 Years Old. Red Cloud the famous old Sioux Indian chief is dead. This information was received today by Superintendent Brennan of the Pine Ridge Indian agency, who is in Washington attending the meeting of those interested in the education of the Indian.
  9. ^ a b Broache, Anne (June 2005). "Chief Lobbyist". Smithsonian. pp. 21-22.
  10. ^ "Oliver Red Cloud Obituary". Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Associated Press. 2013. Retrieved 2018.

Further reading

  • Drury, Bob; Clavin, Tom (2013). The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781451654660.
  • Allen, Charles Wesley; Red Cloud; Deon, Sam (1997). Autobiography of Red Cloud: War Leader of the Oglalas. Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 0-917298-50-0.
  • Olson, James C. (1975). Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803258174.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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