How Native Americans Enforced Their Laws

Early 1800’s England

In London England during the 1700’s, a police force as we refer to one today did not exist. There were courts established by the British Home Secretary and many times the people chosen for these positions were political appointees. This was before Scotland Yard.

Ratcliffe Highway Murders Reward Poster

Justice could be quite subjective. As far as crime was concerned, it flourished, but usually at night when only the dim gaslights lit the narrow streets. At night in some of London’s most transient districts, the “watchman” would be stationed in one of the several booths established along the roadway. Hopefully he stayed awake and didn’t frequent the nearby pubs.

This system of civil protection in England would go on until 1811 when a series of murders called the “Ratcliffe Highway Murders” in the east section of London forced the Home Secretary to revise methods of crime prevention and detection and to upgrade the district courts. There is a very good book about this London incident, “The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811” by authors P.D. James and Thomas A. Critchley. The book is a great read and really offers a lot of insight regarding law enforcement in early 1800’s London.

Native American Governance

So how did the Native Americans govern themselves?

When you explore the subject of the American West in regards to law enforcement you might first assume that the rule of law was brought over to this continent by it’s European forefathers. The assumption would be that the very idea of law enforcement in the American West, the protection of personal property and the maintenance of order came from European concepts, at least the implementation of it here in the United States. The more you read about the subject, the assumption is not exactly accurate.

Cavalry and Indians

It can be argued that any organized society demands some degree of law enforcement. This was not something conceived only by European societies. Every Native American tribe had some type of system of laws. Some might be enforced by only a single leader, others by a council of perhaps a dozen or more chiefs. What is known is that many of the indigenous cultures had some type of police system with accepted powers and duties. These law and enforcement agencies within tribes were in place long before the Europeans migrated westward. It appears that the only problems with the rule of law when the two cultures, European and Native American met in the frontier, was just whose laws were to be followed?

What is Known About Early Native American Law Enforcement

When you research the history of the Western North American Natives and particularly before the years of massive European migration from the east you find that many of the Native American tribes had in effect their own security forces and laws (not codified) and their own style of a “court system”. The Cheyennes had a relatively sophisticated system set up for self governance. There was a “Council of Forty-Four” which was made up of four chiefs from each of the ten Cheyenne tribes plus an additional four elder chiefs.

Alfred Jacob Miller art of Hunting Buffalo, Indians chasing buffalo over a cliff

Along with this there was a select group of warriors chosen to put in effect whatever it was the Council decided upon. This law enforcement group would maintain discipline within the tribes and various bands and would supervise over buffalo hunts and provide military leadership. The warriors in this select group were considered the best of the warriors and in the case of the Cheyennes they were given the collective name of the “Dog Soldiers“. In fact, history ranks these Cheyenne warriors as the best fighters during the years of the American West Indian Wars. The Dog Soldiers would be the enforcement mechanism for the Council of Forty-Four. This of course included the protection of property which was important to the Cheyenne.

The Cheyennes also had a way with dealing with murder. In Cheyenne culture it really didn’t make much difference if the death of another tribe member was caused by accident or not. If the tribe member was deemed guilty of the act he was expelled from the tribe. In effect, he was banished from their society. As a historical side note, the Cheyenne’s still operate the Council of Forty-Four to this present day.

Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle

The Cheyenne Dog Soldiers

The Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, being independent by nature, eventually had a changing effect over Cheyenne society. Their militaristic make up changed the Cheyenne clan system which was deeply rooted in ancient Cheyenne culture. As an example, when a man married a woman he invariably moved to the females home or home tribe. This was the rule for as long as anyone could remember. The Dog Soldiers decided to do it the other way around and this did much to erode this centuries old custom.

When the whites entered Cheyenne territory and the military pushed treaties on the Natives, it was the Dog Soldiers among their ranks who resisted the most. The Dog Soldiers refused to sign treaties. These warriors were not prepared to move to a reservation and be ruled by the white Indian agent. It was this resistance and the wars that followed that further eroded the authority of the Cheyenne chief not to mention that many of the presiding chiefs at the time were killed in battle or massacre. An example was the death of Southern Cheyenne leader and chief Black Kettle during the 1868 Washita River Battle.

Links to three additional Trips Into History articles you’ll enjoy are the Comanche Indians , the Surrender of Crazy Horse and a visit to the American Indian Art Museum in Santa Fe New Mexico.

Indian Territory map

Law Inside Indian Territory

Most historians will point to the “Five Civilized Tribes“, those from the southern part of the country who were the first forced on to the Oklahoma Indian Territory during the early 1800’s, as having the most detailed structure of inner control.

These included the Cherokees and the Seminoles. At that time within the Indian Territory “the light-horse” acted as the primary security arm. They protected the area against whiskey traders, drove out encroaching livestock and in general maintained the order including protecting personal property. Drunkenness was a common problem and the “light-horse” would typically take the offender handcuffed to a tree and tie him up there until he sobered up. Each of the five Civilized Tribes had slight differences in penalties but each did have a structure in place to maintain social order.

There are several excellent museums around the United States that feature interesting art and information regarding the “Dog Soldiers”, the “Light Horse” and Native American societal structure in general. You may wish to add these to your next road trip planner. They include…the Koshare Museum in La Junta Colorado on the campus of Otero Junior College…the Black Kettle Museum in Cheyenne Oklahoma…the Crazy Horse Museum at the Crazy Horse Memorial four miles north of Custer South Dakota…the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.

The Westward Migration and American Law

Eventually, when America’s westward expansion grew, the two cultures, European and Native American would meet. The problems which ensued really had little to do with lawlessness as it had to do with possession of land. Land was the reason the Indian Wars were fought. The Indians attacked settlers to drive them from their land. The treaties that were signed and often broken had to do with the distribution of land. If Indians stole livestock, you could argue that this was a response to the immigrant encroachment on their ancestral lands.


Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 dividing Native American land

When you look only at the rule of law you could probably make the argument that certain Native American cultures were more civilized at times than some of the western gold rush towns. Some of these towns that literally sprang up overnight were lawless to the extreme. Drinking, gambling, theft and the occasional murder were not unheard of. Often the law was administered at the end of a rope. At this very same time neighboring Native Americans most likely had a more formal way already in place to keep the peace within their own society. The western lands were sparse and lawmen were far and few in between. Law and order, at least the European variety, did arrive. It just took time.

A History of Policing Their Own

As a final note, it should be pointed out that the western Native Americans were very effective in policing their own, even after their collective surrender to reservations in the late 1880’s.

The reservation police, who were Native Americans themselves, were usually supervised by the local federal Indian agent, but as the years and decades passed, the tribes gradually took over the administrative functions as well. Today, Native American reservations throughout the nation function as a quasi-separate government body and have their own trained police forces on the job with outside police involvement only in cases of certain violent crimes.

Excellent books regarding the subject of Native American governance and society include the Story of the Great American West published by Readers Digest, Ghost Dance by author David Humphreys Miller and The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways by author George Bird Grinnell.

(Indian Territory map from author’s collection. Remaining photos and images from the public domain)

Attend Indian Market Santa Fe


indian market santa fe

Indian Market Events

Once A Year Event in Santa Fe

Indian Market truly is a premier event for Santa Fe New Mexico and the largest event held there every year. There are dozens of Native American cultural events that take place during Indian Market week.  Indian Art of course means painting, drawing, weaving, clothes, jewelry, pottery and much more.

All of these are on display at Indian Market and I know you will enjoy the event immensely. You’ll also see many Native American booksellers with one of a kind items. It’s estimated that well over 100,000 people attend the event each year. These include gallery owners, collectors and simply fans of Indian Art.

Since 1922

Indian Market started a long time ago as a partnership between local pueblos and community leaders. It has been held in Santa Fe every year since 1922.  In 1922 the event began as the first annual Southwest Indian Fair comprising some 3,500 works, including pottery, baskets, textiles, silver work, bead work and paintings.Today, the event is known to be the largest of it’s kind in the world.

indian market new mexico

An event during Santa Fe’s 400 year anniversary

Currently half of the board of directors of the SWAIA ( Southwestern Association for Indian Arts) are Native Americans and most are participating Indian Market artists.

The artists are Native/Indigenous people from over 100 federally recognized tribes and First Nations tribes from Canada. Some artists have participated for over 60 years and often times you’ll find several generations sitting in the same booth. Indian market involves some 600 booths. Their artwork is actually a big part of their lives and it’s a unique way of communication that lasts a lifetime.

Indian Market Week precedes the weekend Indian Market exhibition.

Indian Market Events Held During the Week

During the week there are previews and awards handed out with about $100,000 in prize money..There are several functions that are tied into Indian Market such as the Friday night press reception, the best of show announcement, a sneak preview of award winning art and a silent auction. I would also look into the Indian market auction gala usually taking place at the La Fonda Hotel on the plaza. SWAIA also bestows lifetime achievement awards during the weekend event.

santa fe plaza

Event at the Plaza Pavillion

Another unforgettable Indian Market event is the clothing contest which is held on Sunday morning from 9A-Noon. Children and adults model contemporary and traditional Native clothing.

Bring your camera because this is the photographed event of the week. Entertainment is also presented on the Plaza Stage from 1-4P during the weekend.

In addition to the artwork displayed you’ll also be able to sample an array of Native American food such as fry bread, Navajo tacos, roasted corn and other Native treats.

Indian Market has grown to the degree that Native Americans throughout the United States are represented as exhibitors. It is probably the largest single event in this country for displaying Native American art.

Many of the participating artists have attended the Institute for American Indian Arts as well as other universities. The Institute for American Indian Arts offers degrees in Studio Arts, New Media Arts, Creative Writing, Museum Studies and Indigenous Liberal Studies. The IAIA has graduated more than 3,800 students and welcomes students from the 563 federally-recognized tribes. As many as  112 tribes are represented on it’s campus.

indian market art

Exhibit booths on the plaza

The dates for the 2014  Indian Market in Santa Fe is August 18th -24th.

Visiting the Santa Fe Area

Of course there are many more things to do in August in Santa Fe while attending Indian Market. One is the Santa Fe Opera which also draws people each year from around the country.

Several of our photo article links on our Western Trips site will give you some good ideas for side trips while in Santa Fe for Indian market. They include a drive on the Turquoise Trail just south of Santa Fe…A visit to the Puye Cliff Dwellings, a short drive north and the old Spanish Mission San Francisco de Asis in Rancho Taos.

new mexico rail runner train

New Mexico Rail Runner Train between Albuquerque and Santa Fe

Don’t forget to also visit the many galleries in Santa Fe including those on the famous Canyon Road. There’s nothing like the collection of art in Santa Fe. If you’re looking for great restaurants you’ll also find these in Santa Fe and there are very good restaurants available to fit any type travel budget.

The event is known throughout the world and you’ll no doubt see people in attendance from all over the world. Try to book your hotel early because it’s my understanding that many people book rooms a year in advance. If you’re planning on trying to attend this year’s event, it’s never too soon to book your accommodations.

Santa Fe hotels and Santa Fe restaurants are many and you’ll be able to locate lodgings and dining with little effort. The following site will give you a good list of accommodations and restaurants to choose from.

If you’ve already attended Santa Fe’s Indian Market, chances are you’ll be back again. If you haven’t attended in the past, I highly recommend adding Indian Market to your vacation or road trip planner. It’s a very unique annual event only found in Santa Fe.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

The Comanche Indians

The Horsemen of the Southern Plains

The Comanches emerged as a distinct tribe during the latter 1600’s. They are thought to have broken off from the Shoshone’s. Of all the Plains warriors none were as skilled horsemen as the Comanches. The Comanches are thought to have received their first horses from the Pueblo Indians after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

indian warriors

1834 George Catlin painting, Comanche Osage Fight

Comanche horsemanship started at a young age. From the time a Comanche child was perhaps four or five years old they owned a pony. Boys were known to drill every day with their horse. This daily drilling sharpened their equestrian skills to a very high degree. One type of practice a typical Comanche boy would work at was to ride his horse at a gradually higher speed while picking up objects off of the ground. At first, the objects might be small and light weight but gradually they would be larger and heavier. The boy would continue to drill with his horse and eventually be able to pick up a body from the ground while riding. This was considered an excellent trait to possess in the heat of battle. It was a skill excelled by the Comanche.

A Comanche’s horse was known to have great agility, speed and endurance. Likewise, the Comanche horse was noted for it’s alertness. These horses were known to respond instantly to word or touch. Some would say they could even anticipate their rider’s command.

How was it that the Comanches possessed such trainable animals? The answer was in their breeding. The Comanche was known to breed only the most fast and responsive stallions as studs.

The Horse Changed the Culture of Plains Indians

Since it were the Spaniards who introduced the horse in today’s western United States, there was a time when plains Indians lived without the benefit of these animals. Horses were brought into the southwest and the Plains grasslands with the Coronado Expedition of 1540. Prior to the horse, tribes lived a semi-sedentary life working the fertile soil along river bottoms. The buffalo, always an important animal to the Plains Indians, was hunted during the summer and fall.

indians buffalo hunting

1850's Paul Kane painting

It was the Indians of the Southwest, who were the first to come in contact with Coronado, who were the first introduced to the horse. At first, the Indians were only known to tend the horses for the Spaniards. As time progressed they owned their own herds. Toward the end of the 1700’s, most grassland tribes also owned horse herds.

When we see paintings today of Indian buffalo hunts we see the Native on horseback chasing and overtaking the herd. Before the horse, as mentioned above, the important hunts certainly took place but without the aid of a fast horse. When the horse was introduced to the Plains tribes, everything changed. The old village life suddenly seemed tame. Now the Natives could ride fast and dart and weave through the buffalo herds. Tribes that did not necessarily take to the horse immediately with the same enthusiasm nevertheless appreciated the freedom of being able to ride. As some would say, ride with the wind.

Plains Indians took to horses with such a skilled degree that it’s almost impossible to think of them without their mounts. Indian horses evolved from the half-Arab, half-Andalusian stock brought over by the Spaniards. By about 1800, this original stock evolved into the typical Indian pony with it’s relatively small size and shaggy coat. What’s interesting is that the Europeans who came west with their larger grain fed mounts didn’t have much respect for the smaller Indian ponies. As it turned out however, during buffalo hunts or in battle, the Indian mounts performed better than those of the Europeans.

Try our fun twenty-five question history quiz

Short History Quiz

comanches meeting dragoons

1835 George Catlin painting, Comanches Meeting Dragoons

Horse Warriors

The introduction of the horse also dramatically changed inter tribal warfare. Native Americans, like many groups, have always battled among themselves from time to time. The horse added a new dimension. A warrior was always known to keep his horse tied up near his tepee. The horse’s owner was it’s only rider. When preparing for battle a warrior would paint up his horse as well as himself. Multi-colored designs were the norm. In addition, a warrior would add adornments to his horse. This might include feathers, scalp locks and ribbons received from traders.

In the heat of battle, a Plains warrior might often drop down on one side of his horse. One leg would be over the horses back and an elbow in a sling on the horses neck. It was from this position that the warrior would operate his bow and arrow. Using the horse as a shield the warrior would shoot his arrows either from over the horses back or from under the horses neck.

map of comancheria

Comancheria area

Comanche Warriors

Many historians contend that the Comanches were the fiercest of all Indian warriors. Even more so than the Apaches. Their horsemanship skills no doubt added to this reputation.

Warfare was a big part of Comanche life. They developed methods for using traditional weapons while fighting on horseback. Their skill was apparent in Texas as well as across the border into Mexico. For decades, Comanches fought a rather running battle with Texas pioneers who were gradually moving westward from east Texas. The Comanches roamed the area called “Comancheria” as shown on the above map image. This was before and after Texas became a republic as well as during the Spanish occupation of the region. One of the main tasks assigned to the famed Texas Rangers was to protect settlers from Comanche raids. In addition to raiding white settlers, the Comanche was at various times, at war with just about every other Native American group residing in the Great Plains.

Noted battles involving Comanches against white settlers and buffalo hunters included the two Battles of Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle, the Battle at Plumb Creek in Texas, the Battle at Crooked Creek in Kansas. The final Comanche battle took place in 1875 at Palo Duro Canyon just southeast of today’s Panhandle city of Amarillo Texas.  This was the conflict that ended in the surrender of the famed Comanche warrior and half breed, Quanah Parker.

quanah parker photo

Comanche leader Quanah Parker

Comanche historians know that Quanah Parker’s mother was Cynthia Ann Parker, the young hostage taken during a bloody Indian raid on Fort Parker during the 1830’s in today’s east central Texas. Two interesting things about Quanah Parker was that he was arguably the most effective Comanche warrior in his tribe’s history, and somewhat surprisingly, after his surrender and move to the Indian Territory became a solid friend of the white man and adopted many of the white mans ways.

Parker went on to befriend many a Texas rancher as well. In 1905, Quanah Parker rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C. In addition, Texas has a town named after the Comanche warrior, Quanah Texas, on US Hwy 287 just northwest of Wichita Falls. Before his death in 1911 Parker had become a type of elder statesman for his people. Two thousand people attended his funeral.

Two additional articles on our Western Trips site you’ll want to see are A Visit to Quanah Texas and the Story of Colonel Ranald Mackenzie and Fort Concho Texas.

Sites to Visit

The Quanah Parker Star House– The Quanah Parker Star House was built around 1890 for the famous Comanche warrior. Quanah had 14 stars painted on the roof of his house, a smoke house and a summer house. Funding for the construction was provided by a Texas rancher and friend of Parkers, Samuel Burk Burnette.  In 1956 the house was relocated to Eagle Park fortunately saving it from destruction. Originally located near the Wichita Mountains, the house now resides in Cache Oklahoma. Much of the park today is a ghost town, the Star House however is still host to Comanche events.

Quanah , Acme and Pacific Railroad Museum– Located in Quanah Texas northwest of Wichita Falls, this museum is a treasure trove of regional information. This museum is in the former railroad depot for a Texas town that once was a key stop on the railroads, but no longer.

Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center– This museum located in Lawton Oklahoma offers visitors a glimpse of traditional cultural items and detailed history about the Comanche tribe.  Its purpose is to allow visitors a better understanding about the Comanche People. The museum opened in 2007 by a group of tribal members.

(Photos and images from the public domain)


Chief Crazy Horse / How His Surrender Was Achieved

There is no photograph of the Sioux Chief Crazy Horse. He didn’t allow them. The day after he was killed on Septemeber 5, 1877 at Fort Robinson in present day northwestern Nebraska, his body was turned over to his elderly parents. They took his body to Fort Sheridan where it was placed on a scaffold until the remains were moved, along with the Spotted Tail Agency, to the Missouri River. To this day, nobody knows for certain where Crazy Horse was ultimately interred.

little bighorn battle memorial

Little Bighorn Battle Memorial on Last Stand Hill, courtesy Durwood Brandon

The story of Crazy Horse’s months after the Battle of the Little Bighorn is one of both battles and retreats from the approaching cavalry forces. His surrender and subsequent killing at Fort Robinson may very well not have occurred had he not been persuaded to give up the fight by fellow Sioux leaders.

The Aftermath Of The Battle of the Little Bighorn

When the U.S. Cavalry answered the defeat of George Armstrong Custer, the Native Americans who had participated in that battle and others were on the run. The increase in troop deployments and pressure placed those Indians who had deserted the reservations over the prior year in a no win situation. Some did return to their reservations but many others didn’t. In the case of Sitting Bull, the overall leader and strategist of the 1876 war, he was not to be found and eventually fled north to Canada with several hundred followers. He obviously was a very wanted man but was out of the grasp of the U.S. military. The immediate aim of the the U.S. government was to somehow put the renegades back on their reservations. This seemed to be the plan as opposed to planning more retaliatory attacks.

chief red cloud

Chief Red Cloud who was instrumental in the surrender of Crazy Horse

When you research the legend of Chief Crazy Horse, you will find several different versions as told by more than a half-dozen Native Americans. Most of the stories come from Native Americans who actually knew Crazy Horse. These are thought to be reasonably reliable. I think some of the more unreliable sources might have come from the press of the era who embellished details of many a battle. Among the accounts from Native American witnesses, all pretty much agree that Crazy Horse was both a talented and brave warrior and was greatly respected by his fellow Indians. Where some of the differences lie are in accounts of battles and how involved or uninvolved Chief Crazy Horse was in any particular one. The fact that he was a proven warrior and was strongly against being put on a reservation seems to have the agreement of all who recalled him.

A Prelude To Surrender

The Great Sioux War of 1876 marked the turning point of what had been decades of conflict between the U.S. government and the Native Americans of the western plains. The Sioux uprising of that year had many causes and the battles that ensued, including Custer’s Little Bighorn defeat, set the stage for an all out effort to by the U.S. Army to once and for all place all Native Americans back on their reservations. The frontier line westward expanded with every year and the transcontinental railroad had been completed about eight years prior.

custers last charge

Custer's last charge illustration

With Sitting Bull in Canada, the priority was to capture Crazy Horse. At this point Crazy Horse represented the strongest and most influential anti-reservation hold out. While there were factions within the renegades that simply wanted to give up the struggle and return to the reservations, Crazy Horse would have been the galvanizing force for continued resistance and the U.S. military knew this. They knew it through discussions with those that did return including Sioux who were close to Crazy Horse. The key to putting an end to the standoff was to either outright capture Crazy Horse or somehow convince him to surrender.

Attempts at Surrender

Amazingly, there were several attempts made by both the U.S. Army and the Sioux themselves to surrender. The book, Crazy Horse, The Life Behind the Legend, authored by Mike Sajna, describes efforts made by General Nelson Miles, General George Crook and the renegade Indians to effect some sort of surrender at about the same time. Apparently, the relationship between Miles and Crook was not the best. Author Mike Sajna points out that there was a bit of a rivalry between Crook and Miles in as much as whoever effected the surrender would be thought of as arranging the end of the Indian Wars.

battle of wolf mountain

Battle of Wolf Mountain in 1877. The last major battle between Crazy Horse and the U.S. Cavalry. Photoprint of an illustration in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, May 5, 1877

While Chief Crazy Horse’s surrender would certainly be significant, it wouldn’t signal THE end of conflicts. Crook was working out of Omaha Nebraska with frequent trips to Fort Robinson in today’s northwest corner of Nebraska. General Miles and his troops were gathered north of the suspected Sioux encampment in the Powder River area. It was Miles troops who were in striking distance for any offensive action.

Native American couriers were sent to find Crazy Horse and offer surrender terms. The couriers were sent by both Miles and Crook separately. The terms were fairly the same however. Unconditional surrender and return to the reservation. The couriers were sent it was believed not only to deliver the terms to Crazy Horse and the leaders with him but also to pinpoint exactly where the Indian encampment was.

There is also a story in the aforementioned book regarding Crazy Horse where a small delegation of renegade Indians were dispatched to find General Miles as a feeler for surrender terms. Reportedly, the group encountered Crow Indians during their journey and were attacked. The Crows and Sioux had been bitter enemies for some time. Many of the Crows including the group involved in this attack were used by the U.S. military as scouts. Crows were used as scouts as part of Custer’s 1876 expedition. This was but one reason for the bad blood between the two tribes.

general nelson miles

General Nelson A. Miles

While General Miles deplored the action when he learned of it, in fact he had directed the Crow not to interfere with any Lakota messenger, the Sioux took this Crow attack as an invitation for more hostile action. What resulted were some relatively minor skirmishes but nothing like an all out war. For one thing, many of the remaining Sioux and Cheyenne were tiring of war. One battle that occurred after the Crow-Sioux clash between Miles’ troops and the Lakota Sioux was the Battle of Wolf Mountain on January 8, 1877. As was typical of most of these clashes, the Indians fought individually while the army troops fought more as a coordinated unit. The results were two soldiers killed, and on the Indian side, one Cheyenne and two Lakota slain.

From later accounts from Native American participants, by the spring of 1877 and after skirmishes like the one at Wolf Mountain, it was felt throughout the camp that a surrender would have to take place regardless of the terms set forth by the U.S. Army. It was a choice between starvation and constant moving or the reservation and food and clothing. This is essentially what was written years later by participants.

The Surrender of Crazy Horse

The actual surrender of Crazy Horse and thus of his followers would be plagued with fits and starts. The offer from the U.S. included of course food and supplies and relocation to a reservation. While the leaders within Crazy Horse’s group would meet and discuss the pros and cons, Crazy Horse himself was usually absent. He was a known holdout and wasn’t interested in the details, all of which he already quite knew. He was known to be agreeable to whatever the group decided although he personally struggled to accept it. It was only after much coaxing that he decided to go along with the vast majority but even after that he wavered to some degree. He was described by some later as being depressed. It was facing the inevitable that caused him grief. It would turn out to be a disgruntled surrender.

surrender of crazy horse

Illustration of Crazy Horse surrender

In the end it would be a negotiation as to where to resettle. Crazy Horse was known to have his opinions as to where a reservation should be located although the military was dead certain where it would be. Crazy Horse suggested a location near present day Gillette Wyoming. The military said that was out of the question. Crazy Horse dreaded the possibility of being resettled to the north near the Misssouri River.

The winter of 1876-77 took it’s toll on the starving renegades who at one time had to eat their ponies after they perished. Since April of 1877, the Sioux Chief Red Cloud had been in the Powder River region trying to convince Crazy Horse to surrender. This was the same Red Cloud who reigned over what was called “Red Clouds War” during the latter 1860’s and successfully caused the U.S. to close three forts along the Bozeman Trail. This was also the war that resulted in what is referred to as the “The Fetterman Massacre“. By the time the military asked for his assistance in 1877, Red Cloud had adapted to the reservation life. Red Cloud would have to solicit the help of other Sioux and Cheyenne leaders encamped with Crazy Horse in an effort to bring about a peaceful surrender.

The end for Crazy Horse as a free Indian came on May 6, 1877. Red Cloud’s efforts succeeded. On this day, about ten months after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, an army detachment from Fort Robinson traveled to meet up with Crazy Horse along with a forward cavalry group that had left the fort five days previous. The meeting with Crazy Horse was to be handled by a Lt. William Philo Clark. According to Crazy Horse, The Life Behind the Legend, by author Mike Sajna, along with Clark, who was known to the Indians as White Hat, were twenty Cheyenne scouts and a reporter from the Chicago Times. Lt. Clark found Crazy Horse sitting on a blanket at the meeting point. Also there were Red Cloud and He Dog, another Lakota Sioux leader.

chief he dog

Oglala Lakota Chief He Dog

After asking his command to stay behind a distance, Clark went up and sat down beside Crazy Horse, facing him. The meeting was actually opened by He Dog, a Sioux chief, who presented Lt. Clark with a shirt and war bonnet. Crazy Horse had already given his war shirt to Red Cloud. Some thought that in this way, Crazy Horse was surrendering in fact to Red Cloud and not the white men. This was most likely symbolic although important to Crazy Horse. He Dog was reported to also have given up his war-horse and saddle to White Hat. There was not a recording of what exactly transpired between the two men but according to Sajna the discussion would most likely have been about the location of the reservation. This was the point that was still somewhat unsettled. Crazy Horse was said to be agreeable to a site just east of Fort Robinson since his other choice in Wyoming had been turned down. The meeting with Crazy Horse lasted some five minutes and the Times reporter noted that all seemed to go well and appeared to be genuine. The only reported words from Crazy Horse at this meeting was that he uttered ” I have given all I have to Red Cloud”.

fort robinson nebraska

Fort Robinson 2003, photo courtesy of Phil Konstantin

The meeting was over by noon and the Chicago Times reported that the group began it’s march eastward toward the Red Cloud Agency. The Red Cloud Agency is about one mile west of the present town of Henry Nebraska. The troops and scouts led the way followed by Crazy Horse and his people about a quarter mile behind. The Chicago Times described it as an organized military march.

Two additional articles you’ll find interesting are the relationship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody and on our Western Trips site, the Battle of Slim Buttes that occurred after the Little Bighorn defeat.

While there is quite a story to tell about the developments months later regarding Crazy Horse at the Red Cloud Agency and the government’s insistence that he visit Washington D.C. as a ceremonial measure or most likely for political purposes, that is another interesting tale for another time. The story that developed after the surrender of Crazy Horse and his eventual killing in September of 1877, only about four months after his surrender, is about as complicated as was the historic surrender itself and quite controversial.

(Photos are from the public domain)



Indian Art Museum / Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

indian art museum in santa fe

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture / Santa Fe NM

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/ Laboratory of Anthropology is a gem of a museum located on Museum Hill in Santa Fe New Mexico. This fascinating Indian art museum hopes to inspire appreciation for and knowledge of the diverse native arts, histories, languages, and cultures of the Southwest. A museum highlighting and showcasing the American Indian gives us the opportunity to learn more about the first humans who occupied this beautiful part of the United States. After all, the Indians of the southwest were there thousands of years before the first Spanish explorers landed on the North American continent.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is part of the New Mexico museum system. This Santa Fe museum originally came about in answer to the unsystematic collecting by museums in the east. An anthropologist by the name of Edgar Lee Hewitt established the Museum of New Mexico in 1909. Hewitt’s goal was to collect Southwestern Indian materials. The second stage in the development of the museum occurred when John D. Rockefeller founded the Laboratory of Anthropology which had it’s goal of the study of Southwestern Native cultures. While all of this development was going on and artifacts collected, the exhibition of the material really wasn’t open to the public simply because there wasn’t sufficient space. Finally, in 1977, the New Mexico Legislature passed a bill providing $2.7 million for the building of a new New Mexico Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. The Indian art museum opened ten years later and has been a great addition to the list of Santa Fe museums.

museum hill in santa fe

Museum Hill banners

New Mexico tourism is highly connected to it’s excellent museums. Museum Hill, a very popular tourist site in Santa Fe, itself is quite a remarkable setting. Museum Hill is the site of four world class museums in one of the most picturesque sections of Santa Fe. In addition to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the Museum of International Folk Art and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture feature both permanent and rotating exhibits. In addition, the museum is the venue for many special events during the year. Artist demonstrations, workshops and lectures are scheduled throughout the year. To give you an idea of past exhibitions at the museum and the type of unique events scheduled, in the year 2009 the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture featured “Native American Picture Books of Change”. This exhibition featured original works by Hopi, Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo artists who illustrated children’s books in the 1920’s through the present. Based on the book of the same title by Rebecca Benes, the exhibition focused on illustrations in Native American children’s books of the last century. Emerging Indian artists illustrated the stories for Indian students based on Native oral traditions and narratives about everyday Indian life. Exhibitions and demonstrations of this type have helped this Santa Fe museum reach it’s world renown status.

southwest indian art sculpture

Sculpture on Museum Hill

Many people spend an entire day at Museum Hill. With four world class museums available at one site along with an excellent cafe and shops in each of the museums, spending the day touring all four museums is a touring day very well spent.

For those tourist visiting Santa Fe New Mexico, getting to Museum Hill is quite easy. If you have an automobile, Museum Hill is about one and a half miles southeast of the Santa Fe plaza. For those without an automobile, the museums located at Museum Hill can be reached by taking the “M” line operated in collaboration with Santa Fe Trails, the city’s bus line. Departures start at 7:15 am from the Sheridan Street station and continue throughout the day.

Another interesting article we’ve published is Santa Fe Palace of the Governors

(Photos are from author’s private collection)