Few Indian leaders were as embroiled in the key events
of their time as Red Cloud, the Oglala Sioux chief who
was born at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. On the day of his
birth, September 20, 1822, a red meteorite flashed across
the sky; some say that inspired his name. As an adult,
Red Cloud shared his people's anxiety over the mounting
traffic on the overland wagon trains carrying settlers,
gold miners, and townsfolk to the Montana gold fields
and beyond. Ultimately, his warriors closed down the
Bozeman Trail. When the federal government tried hiding
its intent to increase military forces and build more
forts under the cover of a peace conference, Red Cloud
was not taken in; increased Sioux skirmishing finally
forced the government to admit partial defeat.

In 1868 Red Cloud savored his greatest victory, the Fort
Laramie Treaty, which guaranteed white withdrawal from
the Bozeman Trail forts. Actually, he waited for the
stockades to stand empty before signing the document. But
then George Armstrong Custer broke agreements with the
Sioux by leading mining experts into the sacred Black Hills,
and the great Sioux War erupted.

Although Red Cloud counseled peaceful negotiation, his wise
advice was drowned out. Yet Red Cloud kept fighting for
Indian rights, mobilizing for the ouster of unfriendly
Indian agents, initially resisting consolidation on
reservations, and advising the non-Indian National Defense
Association on its assimilationist approach. But desiring
accommodation with whites while fighting mistreatment placed
Red Cloud in the midst of many controversies. In 1890 Red
Cloud reviewed his peoples treatment at government hands
as he tried to explain the Plains Indian Ghost Dance
movement of 1889.

"When we fisrt made treaties with the Government, this was
our position: Our old life and our old customs were about
to end; the game upon which we lived was disappearing; the
whites were closing around us, and nothing remained for us
but to adopt their ways and have the same rights with them
if we wished to save ourselves...We looked forward with hope
to the time when we could be as independent as the whites,
and have a voice in the Government.
"[But] an Indian Department was made, with a large number
of agents and other officials drawing large saleries...Then
came nothing but trouble. These men took care of themselves
and not of us...I was abused and slandered, to weaken my
influence for good and make me seem like one who did not
want to advance...You who eat three times each day, and see
your children well and happy around you, you can't understand
what starving Indians feel. We were faint with hunger and
maddened by despair...The Indian Department called for
soldiers to shoot down the [Ghost Dancing] Indians whom it
had starved into despair."

Background and buttons by Destiny's Lady

Arrow bar by Sam Silverhawk