Spotted Elk
Get Spotted Elk essential facts below. View Videos or join the Spotted Elk discussion. Add Spotted Elk to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Spotted Elk

Spotted Elk
He?áka Gle?ká
Joseph Henry Sharp - Chief Spotted Elk (1905).jpg
1905 portrait of Spotted Elk by Joseph Henry Sharp.
Miniconjou, Lakota Sioux leader
Lone Horn or
Personal details
Born 1826 (approx)
Died (1890-12-29)December 29, 1890
Cause of death
Resting place Wounded Knee Monument, Wounded Knee Creek
Parents Lone Horn (father)
Nickname(s) Big Foot (Si T?a?ka)

Spotted Elk (Lakota: U?p?á? Gle?ká, sometimes spelled OH-PONG-GE-LE-SKAH or Hupah Gle?ká: 1826 approx – ( 1890-12-29)December 29, 1890), was the name of a chief of the Miniconjou, Lakota Sioux. He was a son of Miniconjou chief Lone Horn and became a chief upon his father's death. He was a highly renowned chief with skills in war and negotiations. A United States Army soldier, at Fort Bennett, coined the derogatory nickname (Si T?á?ka) - not to be confused with (also known as Ste Si T?á?ka and Chetan keah).[1][2]

In 1890, he was killed by the U.S. Army at Creek, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Wazí Ahá?ha? Oyá?ke), South Dakota, USA with at least 150 members of his tribe, in what became known as the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Early life

Spotted Elk (Lakota: U?p?á? Gle?ká) was born about 1826, the son of Lakota Sioux chief Lone Horn (Heh-won-ge-chat). His family belonged to the Miniconjou ("Planters by the River") subgroup of the Teton Lakota (Sioux). He had three brothers: Roman Nose,[] Frog and Touch the Clouds (Ma?píya I?á?tagya), each of whom were to become leaders of Miniconjou bands.[3] In 1877, Spotted Elk became the chief of his tribe upon his father's death at the age of 87.

Chief Spotted Elk

Skillful diplomat

As chief, Spotted Elk (who later became known by the name of 'Big Foot' or Sit?á?ka), was considered a great man of peace. He was best known among his people for his political and diplomatic successes. He was skilled at settling mass quarrels and was often in great demand among other Teton bands.

Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse alliance

During the 1870s, Spotted Elk allied his tribe against the US Army, together with half-brother Sitting Bull (Lakota: T?at?á?ka Íyotake), nephew Crazy Horse (T?a?ú?ke Witkó) and brother Touch the Clouds (Ma?píya I?á?tagya). Spotted Elk saw no major action during the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. However, his tribe - the Miniconjou, Lakota Sioux - suffered during the war, after which they surrendered.

Reservation placement

Following the Sioux Wars, the government placed the Miniconjou on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, South Dakota. Spotted Elk encouraged adaptation to reservation life, by way of developing sustainable agriculture and building schools for Lakota children. He was amongst the first American Indians to raise corn in accordance with government standards. Spotted Elk also advocated a peaceful attitude toward white settlers.

Ghost Dance conversion and evangelism

New religious movement

Due to poor living conditions on the reservations, the Lakota struggled greatly to survive. In some cases, Indian agents were corrupt, undertaking fraud and stealing Lakota supplies/annuities. By 1889 they were in despair, and looked for change.

The radical solution came in the form of the Ghost Dance movement, a new religion initiated by Paiute prophet Wovoka. Spotted Elk and the Lakota became among the most enthusiastic believers in the 'Ghost Dance' ceremony when it arrived among them, in the spring of 1890. Although governmental reservation rules outlawed the practice of the religion, the movement swept like a wildfire through the camps and local Indian agents reacted with alarm. Some agents successfully suppressed the dancers, while others called for federal troops to restore order.

Chief Red Cloud offers refuge

After ( 1890-12-20)20 December 1890, when Sitting Bull was killed on Standing Rock Reservation, his followers fled for refuge at the camp of his former-ally and half-brother, Chief Spotted Elk. Fearing arrest and government reprisals against his band, Spotted Elk led his band south to the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, at the invitation of Chief Red Cloud (Lakota: Ma?píya Lúta). Red Cloud hoped that his fellow chief could help make peace. Seeking safety, flying a white flag and with no intention of fighting, Spotted Elk contracted pneumonia on the journey to Pine Ridge.

Death at Wounded Knee Massacre

Peaceful surrender

On December 28, 1890, Maj. Samuel M. Whitside's battalion of the 7th Cavalry intercepted the Lakota. Ill with pneumonia, Spotted Elk surrendered peacefully, with his band; the cavalry took them into custody, escorting them to a campsite near Wounded Knee Creek, Pine Ridge, where they were to set camp. The site was already established with a store and several log houses.

Wounded Knee Massacre

The night before the massacre, Col. James W. Forsyth arrived at Wounded Knee Creek and ordered his men to position four Hotchkiss cannons around the area in which the Lakota had been forced to camp.

On the morning of December 29, 1890, Forsyth's soldiers entered the camp and demanded that the Lakota give up their weapons. In the ensuing confrontation, a firearm was discharged. It was later believed to have been by a deaf man, Black Coyote, who presumably did not hear the command to put down his rifle. A large gun fight quickly ensued. The US forces killed 153 Lakota, mostly non-combatants (women and children) and Spotted Elk was among those killed.


  1. ^ "Big Foot: Ste Si Tanka (Oglala)".
  2. ^ Michno, 303
  3. ^ Hardorff, Richard G. (2001). The Death of Crazy Horse: A Tragic Episode in Lakota History. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. p. 48. ISBN 0-8032-7325-8.


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.



Top US Cities was developed using's knowledge management platform. It allows users to manage learning and research. Visit defaultLogic's other partner sites below: : Music Genres | Musicians | Musical Instruments | Music Industry