Crazy Horse Appearing

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above: A map of Native American Tribes

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by Judee Shipman

Chapter 2

For whites, 1849 was California Gold Rush time. For the people, it was the winter when a distinguished Minneconjou Chief named Humpback (not to be confused with Hump) was killed by Absaroka warriors in the Hills.7 

The year also welcomed the arrival of Crazy Horse's first sibling, a sister, born to Waglula and Red-Leggins. They named the baby Tasheena Pahnkeska - Shell Blanket.

She was born in a good home with a kind father, three loving mothers, a doting grandma, and a much older brother who adored her. Crazy Horse rocked his baby sister to sleep at night, and helped take care of her by day. All seemed right with the world. 

Then Waglula, in keeping with his fatally impractical nature, fathered three more children the following year. One was called Sacred Girl, born to Corn-Woman. The other two were twins, born to Gathers-Grapes.

Nobody expected the twins. 

Nor had they foreseen the arrival of another white man's mad dash for yellow metal, the second Gold Rush in two years. Both times, the wagon teams had eaten the grasses and chased away the game, diminishing the food supply of tribal villagers, and robbing them of hides they desperately needed to keep warm.

Worse yet, it was the year a band of Crow stole many hundred horses from the Brule camp. Once again, the people had very little food, and no immunity against white man's diseases. Many died of cholera that winter. 

All three of Waglula's new babies died within a year of being born. The family was devastated, but grieving was a luxury far beyond their means.

As the third one was hoisted high upon her tiny funeral scaffold, Red-Leggins was expecting another child.

The boy (later named Leo Combing) was born in 1851 – the Winter when a Minneconjou hunter killed a buffalo and found a fossilized fetus inside. The hunter mistook the fetus for the body of an old woman, having never seen a fossilized buffalo fetus before. 

Leo was the last sibling born to Crazy Horse when Crazy Horse was still a young boy. But Waglula and Red Leggins were yet to have four more children.

Crazy Horse's brother Bear-Pipe was born in 1856, brother Peter-Wolf in 1864, sister Iron-Cedar in 1865, and a boy named Comes-Home-Last in 1866.8 

For the rest of his childhood years among the Hunkpapas, Crazy Horse lived in a hide tipi with his father, his three stepmothers, his grandma, his younger brother, his little sister, and Little Hawk.

Yet his many older cousins were as brothers just the same. And Little Hawk he also called “brother,” though the boy was actually a younger sibling of Waglula's three wives. 

Waglula raised all his children in accordance with the highest spiritual ideals. Generosity, Fortitude, Bravery, and Wisdom were the mark of a true public servant. Public service was (and is) the highest Lakota standard of living.

Waglula's children were encouraged from a very young age to express these virtues to the best of their abilities. 

Above: Native American Tribes:

A very accomplished painting of a band of Shawnee

image credit:

Native American tribes Native American tribes Native American tribes

Crazy Horse was seven when he and his family attended the treaty signing near Fort Laramie in the summer of 1851, the year when a coin flip decided whether that new city in Oregon Territory should be named after Boston, Massachusetts or Portland, Maine. 

That year, Oglalas made peace with Absarokas under the leadership of Sitting Bull, and 20-year-old Sitting Bull was elected Chief of the Bad Bow Hunkpapas.

Peace with the Crows was short lived, but Sitting Bull would always be Chief. 

The Fort Laramie council was the first formal meeting of the Northern Plains tribes with U.S. Government officials. The people were eager to learn of the white man's latest intentions.

Villagers pitched their tipis in a circle of circles on the council grounds, with every entrance facing east to welcome the cool blue dawn. They spent the night before the meeting in exuberant celebrations featuring dog feasts, dancers, drummers, and the singing of sacred songs.

An ominously ignorant news reporter later described the festive, historic occasion as an “annoyance, so far as my personal comfort was concerned, for the sound of the drums and unmeaning chants of the Ogallahlahs made sleep impossible.” 

Come morning, ten thousand Indian villagers convened at the central arbor, with the Oglalas positioned closest to the U.S. Army tent. Never had Crazy Horse witnessed such an explosion of form and color and motion as seen at this council. It must have seemed to him like every tribe on earth was there, each one sporting its finest ceremonial attire, faces fully painted for the glorious event. 

Red-Leggins held Shell-Blanket on her hip. Corn-Woman carried Leo in a cradle board she wore like a backpack. Gathers-Grapes attended to Waglula. Crazy Horse scanned the scene with interest.

Waglula approached his oldest son and pointed out the various tribes in attendance. 

Oglalas are the largest tribe, son, so we are near the officers' tent. The Northern Cheyenne are our honored guests, so they are positioned next to us.” 

The boy looked to his people with pride. 

Arapaho.” Waglula said, pointing to a band of rugged men whose women wore dresses in salmon and teal, adorned with dark eagles and white morning stars. 

Ree,” stated Waglula, regarding a group of Arikara men in whitened buckskin robes with dark red stripes of dried blood across the back, each stripe representing an accomplishment in battle.

The dresses of their wives were accessorized with kernels of purple-blue maize, each one representing a successful autumn harvest. The Ree were the People of the Corn. 

Mandan.” said Waglula, redirecting his gaze westward. “And Kiowa.” 

The boy looked to the direction his father now looked and saw soft, golden leathers, embroidered with galaxies of tiny glass beads - star-white, sun-yellow, sky-blue. The Kiowa were prized for their bead work. 

Finally, Waglula gestured south to a group of tall, joyless men. 

Shoshone,” said Waglula. 

Browns and dark grays. White trim. Crimson edging. Familiar-looking garments. Too familiar, in fact. Crazy Horse eyed the Shoshones with an involuntary shudder and stepped instinctively nearer to his father.

At precisely nine A.M., two darkly clad U.S. Government officials ran a flag up a tree, as a cannon sent forth its booming thunder.

An impeccably decked marching band blew horns. Depending on who you ask, they were either playing a new hit song called Swanee River, or mimicking a herd of flatulent mammoths. 

The officers sang with off-key uncertainty, in some sort of bastardized negro-speak, whatever they could remember of America's most forward-thinking sentimental favorite about an escaped slave who misses his Master, and wishes he were back on the plantation. 

Wayyyyyyy down upon dee Swan-EEEE Ribb-AHHHH! 

fah, fah A-wayyyyyy... 

Dar's wha-ma-heart-be turn-IN' ebb-AHHHH! 

Dar's wha dee ol' folk stay.” 

Villagers looked in the direction of the marching band, then at the officers, then around at each other, then back at the marching band. Not even the English-speaking mixed-blood interpreters could identify the noise. Then the performance crescendoed to a droning chorus. 


Ebb-ree-wha-ah roammmmm 

uh… laaaa, daa da daa da da DAAAAAA... wearEEEEE … 

fah from dee ol' folk at hommmmmmme.” 

Some of the people smacked their hands to their ears and ran for cover, mistaking the horns for an alarm signal, and possibly the officers' singing for a death chant. Mothers held and hushed their wailing infants. But the panic was soon abated, for just as unexpectedly as it had begun, the “music” stopped. 

A resonating cymbal crash completed the look. 

The officers stiffly saluted the native crowd. 

That was it.

The people waited for further display, but no additional performance was forthcoming. The officers commenced shuffling papers and bickering over their seating arrangements.

Above: Native American Tribes: A band of Shoshone

image credit:

Once the council was assembled, representatives from every tribe approached the central arbor. Each performer was heavily painted and elaborately dressed, his entire body seemingly emblazoned with every colorful thing he ever found.

One by one, each group performed its own pre-rehearsed, carefully choreographed, superbly syncopated dance, attempting to communicate something of the cultural traditions of its people.

The grand finale was rewarded with a long, awkward silence. 

A news reporter, who wished to describe this unmistakably poignant and informative display, pulled a pencil and pad from his pocket and put, “such a combination of rude, wild and fantastic manners and dresses never was witnessed.” 


Among the military officials were Colonels, Captains, Commissioners, Lieutenants, and a priest. Nobody thought to bring a photographer. Nor did any well-known contemporary artists recognize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture this vivid scene on canvas.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but ten thousand Indian people were assembled there that day. To this day, the population of Fort Laramie does not exceed 250. 

The officers swiftly concluded that they couldn't keep track of all the different tribes, especially on learning that Indians do not all speak the same language, and are not all related to each other. 

Who knew? 

After giving the matter a mere moment's meditation, Colonel Mitchell got an idea. Addressing an interpreter, he said 

Ten thousand Injuns can't all sign a treaty. Treaty only got one Injun line at the bottom there. They have to pick one Chief. The Chief they pick will be Chief-of-All-Nations, and will be granted the power to make all decisions for all Injuns, everywhere, from now on. Treaty only got one Injun line at the bottom there.” 

The beleaguered interpreter raised one puzzled eyebrow, then issuing a shrug of resignation, dutifully relayed the officer's message to a nearby Oglala Chief. The Chief raised one puzzled eyebrow, then scanned the officer's face for a clue as to whether or not he was joking, although nothing in the white man's countenance revealed the slightest hint of mirth.

The Interpreter probably wondered if he'd heard the man correctly. The power to make decisions for others? For everyone?? How does a man achieve such a compelling, hypnotic power? Was there an herb they didn't know about? An incantation, perhaps? 

No follow one leader,” offered the Chief, in the English was rapidly learning. “Some band one Chief. Some two. Some three. Many bands. Many Chiefs. Chief not have power over people. Chief help followers. Chief speak wishes of followers.” 

They do not all follow one leader,” offered the interpreter. “Each band has one Chief, or sometimes two, or even three. There are many bands, and there are many Chiefs. A Chief does not have power over others. He only offers help to those who choose to follow him. A Chief speaks the wishes of his followers.” 

Again, I reckon I must insist that one man be selected to represent all Injuns,” said the Colonel, as if the Chief hadn't spoken at all. 

Again, the Chief begged to differ. Again, the interpreter tried to explain. Finally, after much murmuring deliberation among the army officers, Colonel Mitchell spoke again. 

Listen here, Chief. If you won't pick someone, we will. We pick... hmm... Let's see now... We... pick... that one. He's traded with us in the past and we done got some real sweet deals. He don't give us no trouble. He's a good Injun. Great friend of ours, actually... Can't recall his name at the moment.” 

He is Brule Chief Brave Bear,” said an Oglala Chief, “We call him 'Brave,' as he conquers fear.” 

The interpreter translated the sacred name of the chosen Chief (“Matȟó Wayúhi – Brave Bear) with reverent respect. 

Great!” said the Colonel, “We pick Conquering Bear.” 

Brave Bear,” prodded the Interpreter. 

Raising a bullhorn to his lips, Colonel Mitchell importantly announced, “Conquering Bear is Chief of All Tribes! I Repeat! Conquering Bear is Chief of All Tribes!” 

All eyes fell on Brave Bear, who had been distractedly straightening an errant eagle feather on his headdress, but now suddenly looked up, startled by the unexpected calling of his name (or something like it).

The Commissioner motioned grandly to the unassuming Brule leader, as if expecting him to bow and make a speech.

An Army officer applauded weakly, but stopped when no one joined in. 

As Brave Bear shifted awkwardly from foot to foot, some of the people relayed the Commissioner's message to others, who relayed it to others, and so on. Suddenly, everyone fell silent. 

Conquering Bear???” said about two hundred people, in baffled, gaping unison. 

Then Indian villagers from all walks of life buckled under the weight of their own silent, shaking laughter. Especially Brave Bear.

Not that the affable Brave Bear was such a poor choice for Chief-of-All-Tribes. It's just that there wasn't (and isn't) any such thing as a Chief-of-All-Tribes. What were these Washeechus even talking about? The notion of a Chief-of-All-Tribes, making all decisions on behalf of everyone in every tribe, was beyond ridiculous.

The people were as perplexed as you would be if the government called a meeting of African Americans from every state, then randomly designated one man Boss-of-All-Blacks. 

Some of the villagers at this council had no idea what the treaty was about, and immediately returned to their everyday lives, perhaps raiding an enemy encampment on the way home. Some had no idea what a treaty even was, but could fashion many fine and clever crafts from the “talking leaves” it was written on.

Not all who understood the treaty agreed to it.

Those who agreed to it (or seemed to, or pretended to) were showered with gifts for holding a pen, and marking a spot on a page with an X, then congratulated for their masterful penmanship and literary expertise. 

More or less, the conditions of the treaty stated that the “the Indians” maintain control of the Great Plains region forever and a day, in exchange for guaranteeing safe passage for settlers along the Oregon Trail, which from then on “the Indians” sarcastically referred to as “The Holy Road.”

The treaty further stated that “The Indians” would receive fifty thousand dollars per year for fifty years. 

Ten thousand Indians. Fifty thousand dollars. That’s five dollars per Indian, per year. Even by today's standards, that's less than a thousand dollars per year, per Indian.

What's worse, the figure did not account for the many more thousand tribal Sioux villagers who did not or could not attend the council.

No one bothered to do the math. Not that it mattered. No one showed them how to use these things called dollars, and anyway the dollars never arrived. 

But on that day, the people liked the presents the soldiers brought. Bolts of bright fabric. Cool cocked hats. Shiny metal buckles. Sweet raisins. White sugar. Table salt. Rich, delicious coffee. Men were mad about the coffee. Some drank it black with great gobs of sugar. Called it White Man's Black Medicine. 

The generous officers even provided every Chief with a lifetime supply of spirit water, known to the white man as Whiskey. This was always available to help kill the pain of those who wished not to know what awful thing was happening to them.

By day's end, that “Injun line at the bottom there” had X's spanning its entire length, with many more X's overlapping. 

In time, the people were reduced to hoping their grandchildren might someday learn to read and get that stolen land back.

The grandchildren are still trying to collect. This treaty is now “Exhibit A” of the longest running lawsuit in the history of the world. 

It was a year of tremendous technological advance that coincided with a total eclipse of the sun, visually immortalized for the very first time by a new invention known to whites as “camera.” 

Crazy Horse Appearing

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Told in the Drooling Ward, by Jack London

The Ransom of Red Chief, by O. Henry

The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter

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