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Miniconjous at the Little Bighorn

The Standing Rock Agency records are not nearly as detailed for the Minneconjou and Sans Arc (as they are for the Hunkpapa and Blackfeet) since they did not remain at the agency long. Each of the tribes were divided into two components based on where they originated at, shipped there in the summer of 1881. They were then transferred out in the spring of 1882.

The Minneconjou were divided in the records into Fool Heart's band, coming from Fort Buford, and Hump's band, coming from Fort Keogh. In the Sept. 1881 census, Fool Heart includes 26 families (112 people) while Hump's band consisted of 142 families (714 people). They were transferred to Cheyenne River Agency in April 1882.

The Sans Arc were also listed in two groups, based on their point of origin. Those coming from Fort Buford were listed under Circle Bear; and those from Fort Keogh under Spotted Eagle. Unfortunately, Spotted Eagle and part of his band (139 individuals) were transferred to Spotted Tail Agency between July and Sept. 1881 just before the census, so we do not have a list of their names. Part of Sans Arc from Fort Buford however joined Circle Bear and they are counted in the census, 85 families or 351 people total.

In early 1882, the remaining Sans Arc at Standing Rock are split between two bands, Circle Bear (with 97 people) and Black Wolf (with 245). Black Wolf and his band were transferred to Cheyenne River in April 1882; but it appears that Circle Bear remained behind at Standing Rock though his numbers continued to dwindle. By July, he was down to only 40 people. I will have to follow him through the census records to see what eventually happened to him.

As you may already know, no agency records come close to the detailed material that we have for Standing Rock. For the Hunkpapa, we can follow each of the bands for 10 to 15 years, showing changes in their composition and size. Cheyenne River Agency records, on the other hand, are mostly missing. We have the 1876-77 Army register but then nothing until the regular agency census begin in 1886. Regrettably, this is an important period for which we currently do not have documentation for the Minneconjou and Sans Arc. But I am still looking!

Charlie Bear Face (interview 1931 in Mekeel Mss.) noted that there were four shirt-wears among the Sans Arc:
1. Black Eagle of the Scarlet Cloth Earring band
2. Elk Head of the Bad One's band
3. Looks Up of the Bull Manure band
4. Blue Coat of the Eat Dried Venison Band.

Men by the first three name all appear in the Sept 1881 Standing Rock Agency census, all listed within Circle Bear's band. This would seem to be support the idea that the grouping represents several combined bands.
— Ephriam Dickson

In the period ca. 1880 missionary S. R. Riggs obtained the order of bands in the Sans Arc camp-circle. Starting at the south side of the east-facing camp-entrance (tiyopa) and running round clockwise to the north side or horn (hunkpa), the order is this:

1. Mini sala, Red Water, or Itazipco-hca, Real Sans Arc [formerly two separate bands]
2. Sina luta oin, Red Cloth Earring
3. Woluta yuta, Ham Eaters
4. Maz pegnaka, Metal Hair Ornament
5. Tatanka Cesli, Bull Dung
6. Siksicela, Bad Ones
7. Tiyopa Canupa, Smokes at the Entrance.

Having established this, I'm going to come at the Great Sioux War from the other end. The Stanley Vestal material indicates that in June 1876 the Sans Arc village on the Little Bighorn included the following leaders [with my hunch about their status in the village organization that summer]:

1. Spotted Eagle [War Chief?]
2. High Horse [Wakicunze, or Decider?]
3. Black Eagle [ " " ?]
4. Blue Coat [ " " ?]
5. Two Eagles [ " " ?]

Band affiliations: the Mekeel material cited by Ephriam explicitly identifies two of these leaders (Black Eagle and Blue Coat) with named bands: Black Eagle (surrendered at Ft Buford January 21, 1881) is explicitly identified with the Red Cloth Earring band. Spotted Eagle (surrendering at Ft Keogh October 31, 1880) was identified with the Bull Dung band in a contemporary Army report, as was Red Bear (leader of the main Sans Arc group to flee to Canada from Spotted Tail Agency in fall 1877). Blue Coat (surrendered at Cheyenne River Agency November 30, 1876) was identified with the Ham Eaters band.

Of the other leaders, I've noted that Vestal often links High Horse and Two Eagles with a third Sans Arc headman, Brown Thunder. My own contacts at Cheyenne River have identified Brown Thunder with the Metal Hair Ornaments band, and High Horse and/or Two Eagles may have belonged to that band. I'm continuing to research these matters, so treat this all as a work-in-progress.

Extending the interpretation, as I did with the Hunkpapa band data supplied by Glenbow, I feel that the Sans Arcs also comprised two primary divisions: the Red Water division had a more easterly distribution closer to the main stem of the Missouri River. It probably comprised band numbers 1, 2, 3, and 7. Band numbers 4 and 5 comprised a second division, to whom the name Saoni may have been in older times attached. The Real Sans Arcs may also originally have been identified with this division, which by the mid-19th Century had a more westerly distribution than the Red Water. The band name Plenty Horses, not otherwise recorded, was applied to this division by F. V. Hayden in ca. 1857 - a name reflecting western contacts to the world of horse trading (with the Cheyennes via the Oglalas and Miniconjous) and raiding (against the Mountain Crows).

The Bad Ones band fits in the camp-circle between these two primary bands. This is consistent with the account of one of my Sans Arc informants, who stated that the Bad Ones were originally a break-off faction from the Kiyuksa band among the Oglalas and Brules (Southern Tetons). Therefore they would have been guests in the Sans Arc hoop, assigned a camping place between the two primary host bands. Other Bad Ones offshoots were found among the Hunkpapa (see the Hunkpapa band thread) and the Miniconjou. — Kingsley Bray

Here is a listing of the major Miniconjou bands, in the order they took in the tribal camp circle. This is the list provided by No Heart to Rev. H. Swift in 1884. Once more band no. 1 is next to the east facing entrance or tiyopa, occupying the southeast segment of the circle. The other bands follow round to the north side of the tiyopa:

1. Unkche yuta, Dung Eaters.
2. Glaglaheca, Untidy, Slovenly, Shiftless.
3. Shunka yute shni, Eat No Dogs.
4. Nige Tanka, Big Belly.
5. Wakpokinyan, Flies Along the River.
6. Inyan ha oin, Musselshell Earring.
7. Siksicela, Bad Ones.
8. Wagleza-oin, Gartersnake Earring.
9. Wanhin Wega, Broken Arrow.

Bull Eagle gave a similar list/circle in 1880, but omitting no's 4 and 9 as being extinct.

From historical documents and information given me by Lakota consultants, we can match several of these bands up with chiefs and headmen in the period 1850-80.

1. Dung Eaters - not explicitly identified with a chiefly family; however I suspect that this is the band identified with the father and son chieftainship of White Hollow Horn and Little Bear. These men were present at Cheyenne River Agency through September 1876, being registered in the agency census on Sept. 24, but "all left to join Hostile Camp on Sept 25th". The main part of their band was therefore not at the Little Bighorn.

2. Glaglaheca is identified with the White Swan dynasty of Miniconjou hereditary chiefs. Most of this band was resident at Cheyenne River Agency by 1876. It would not have been collectively present at the Little Bighorn.

3. Shunka yute shni was seemingly divided into agency and non-treaty factions after 1868. The No Heart dynasty of chiefs was identified with the agency faction. Modern day elders all consistently identified Hump with the Shunka yute shni. As a key non-treaty leader, Hump's segment of the band was present in force at the Little Bighorn. My research strongly indicates that this band and the extinct Broken Arrow band were offshoots of a single parent band.

4. Big Belly band - if it was not already "extinct", the 1876 whereabouts of this band are not known. There is a possible link to the headman Roman Nose. He was present at Cheyenne River Agency through the summer of 1876, being one of the five Miniconjou leaders who left "immediately preceding" the census taken on Sept. 24.

5. Wakpokinyan - this is the band associated with the hereditary dynasty of the One or Lone Horn family. Lone Horn himself had died near the agency probably in the first few weeks of 1876. As the summer progressed leadership focussed on his son Touch the Clouds, who like Roman Nose was present at the agency until shortly before Sept. 24. Believing (correctly) that their ponies were about to be impounded, these two headmen and their bands plus those of Long Neck (Red Skirt No. 1), Bull Eagle, and Red Skirt No. 2, all left the agency to more or less reluctantly join the non-treaty alliance that had defeated Crook and Custer. A second leadership family in the Wakpokinyan was that of Lame Deer. The band had polarised in 1868 over the issue of that year's treaty. Lame Deer continued in 1876 to lead the non-treaty faction, and his followers were present in strength at the Little Bighorn.

6. Musselshell Earring - according to my consultants was the band of White Bull (Stanley Vestal's key informant) and his father Makes Room. The majority of this band was identified with the non-treaty faction of Miniconjous, and was present at the Little Bighorn.

7. Bad Ones - leadership not clear, although some statements may again align Roman Nose with this band.

8. Gartersnake Earrings - not explicitly identified with any chiefly family, but my hunch is that this band ties up with contemporary leader Flying By (not to be confused with Walter Camp's Miniconjou informant of the same name, born 1850, who was one of Lame Deer's sons). One of my consultants has identified Dog Backbone, the Miniconjou killed on Reno Hill on June 26, with what she called the "Wagleza-wila". I think that this band was also present in large force in the non-treaty coalition at the Little Bighorn.

9. Broken Arrow - this band was very important in the early 19th Century. It broke up about 1840, its members shifting to other bands and divisions (e.g. the Two Kettle). The residual members seem to have been extremely 'hostile' and were probably present in large numbers at the Little Bighorn. — Kingsley Bray

In “Warpath” White Bull said “the Minniconjou Sioux were governed by six hereditary chiefs or Scalp-Shirt Men. In 1866 these were Brave Bear, Makes-Room, White-Hollow-Horn, Black Shield, One Horn and White Swan. Lame Deer and Fire Thunder were then vice-chiefs.”

White Bull also said that White Swan hated the whites the most. He had fought them often and when he died he requested that his followers had to kill all white men. I wonder if and why his son, White Swan the younger, had neglected this mission, for he was at the agency in 1876.

I think Roman Nose was the son of One/Lone Horn and so the brother of Touch-the Clouds. Their bands must have had close ties. No wonder they were together at the agency. Lame Deer was also related to the Lone Horn family, being Lone Horns brother. But I remember his band shifted to the warlike Hunkpapa of Sitting Bull in the 1860s.

A third son of Lone Horn was Spotted Elk (later called Big Foot).

Another headman at LBH was the Miniconjou Red Horse. — Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

White Bull (in James Howard, The Warrior Who Killed Custer p. 31-32) lists the chiefs of the Mnicoujou, including all the names mentioned above by Kingsley and Dietmar except one. White Bull mentions six hereditary chiefs including their sons, then notes that there were two who rose to prominence as war leaders, much as Red Cloud did among the Oglala. These were Lame Deer and Black Moon (not to be confused with the Hunkpapa leader by the same name).

The Mnicoujou Black Moon (c1821-1893) had a small band at the Little Bighorn (Vestal, Sitting Bull, p. 143). He may have been with Lame Deer in May 1877 when that headman was killed. He led his band into Canada in 1877 and was one of the last to leave. My impression is that his band broke up during the 1880-82 period. As many of the northern or non-treaty bands came in and surrendered, Black Moon held out though many of his followers did not. His daughter married one of the Mounties at Fort Walsh, perhaps added incentive for him to remain. Black Moon finally left Canada with 11 lodges in April 1889. After being intercepted by troops, he made it to the Standing Rock Agency that July. He and his family were transferred to Cheyenne River to join other Mnicoujou in October 1890. Most of his family left Cheyenne River with Big Foot and ended up at Wounded Knee -- Black Moon's wife, daughter and son were killed there; another son and other family members were wounded. Black Moon remained at Cheyenne River for the remainder of his life. He does not appear to have been a band leader during this later period. I still cannot match Black Moon's band to any of the known bands listed by Kingsley above.

Unfortunately, as I noted earlier, the Cheyenne River Agency census records are not much help. I did find a few more records so that we have moderately good coverage of the Mnicoujou families from the fall of 1876 (with the Army's detailed census) through 4th Quarter 1881. These later records are just issue records. Unlike the 1876 census, the families are not listed in bands; rather, from 1877 forward the agent at Cheyenne River listed everyone alphabetically by tribe, thus erasing any evidence of band structure. The first full census for Cheyenne River came in 1886, but if you look closely at its structure, it preserves the alphabetical listing from the 1877-81 records with some additions inserted -- again, no evidence of band structure. So while Standing Rock, Pine Ridge and Rosebud census records provide some important clues as to the relationship of bands, the Cheyenne River Agency census records are disappointingly not very helpful. — Ephriam Dickson

Let's take the White Bull list of Miniconjou chiefs in detail. Actually there are two such published lists:
(a) printed in Vestal, WARPATH, p. 51, reading as follows:

Six Hereditary Chiefs or Scalp Shirt Men:
1. Brave Bear
2. Makes Room
3. White Hollow Horn
4. Black Shield
5. Lone Horn
6. White Swan

plus two "vice chiefs":
7. Lame Deer
8. Fire Thunder.

A similar list was printed in Jim Howard's THE WARRIOR WHO KILLED CUSTER: THE PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF CHIEF JOSEPH WHITE BULL, pp 31-32. It reads:

Six Wichasa Itanchan (Chief Men):
1. Makes Room
2. Black Shield
3. Lone Horn
4. White Hollow Horn
5. White Swan
6. Comes-flying [i.e. Kinyan Hiyaye, Flying By]

plus two "renowned" men who were accordingly "treated as chiefs . . . They wore shirts decorated with scalps":
7. Lame Deer

8. Black Moon

The lists are identical except that Howard's list replaces Brave Bear with Flying By, and Fire Thunder with Black Moon. From the treaty commission minutes of 1865, we know that Fire Thunder (recognized as one of the ten chiefs of the Miniconjou by Gen. Harney in 1856) had died by that year. Black Moon must have been seated as his successor.

Taking Dietmar's points, I have no proof, but my feeling is that Black Shield (also known as Breast) was associated with the Broken Arrow band or one of its split-offs.

In truth there were several men named Fire Thunder (Wakinyan Peta) among the Oglala and Miniconjou in this period. A younger Miniconjou of the name was listed in Makes Room's band (i.e. the Musselshell Earrings) in the Cheyenne River Agency census for 1875. Given the strongly hereditary nature of Miniconjou leadership, perhaps his namesake (possibly father?) had belonged to the Musselshell Earrings.

White Swan: the chief of 1876 was at least the third of this name. His father was implicated in the planning for the Fetterman fight, 1866, and died that same year. White Swan III brought his band, counting approximately 20 lodges, to the just-established Cheyenne River Agency in the fall of 1868. His Glaglaheca band augmented the permanent peace faction of Miniconjous that had been based around Ft Sully for several years: the bands of headmen The Hard (Eat No Dogs band) and One Iron Horn (not to be confused with Lone Horn). Apart from a lengthy visit among the non-treaty bands or winter roamers in the winter of 1869-70, White Swan was a fixture at the agency from that time forward, a key proponent of peace and a delegate to Washington DC in 1870, 1875, and 1888.

Roman Nose: Here begin problems with the standard secondary sources. I don't believe that Roman Nose was a biological son of Lone Horn. Take a look at the famous 1868 Ft Laramie group shot including both men, and the age difference is simply not possible! My wife, with no detailed knowledge of the controversy, but by the same token an objective reader of the pictorial evidence, thought that Roman Nose looked the older of the two men! I don't quite think that, but if Lone Horn was born about 1814-15 (his own statement), I think Roman Nose must have been born no later than the early 1820s. This is consistent with family descent information I'm beginning to accrue, which shows that he had children born in the 1840s. OK, Lakota kin terms are more extensive than ours - an ate (father) would include what we would call paternal uncles, etc. etc. Perhaps Lone Horn was even a hunka father to Roman Nose. I think that Hardorff - a great gatherer or data - made a misreading of a passage in George Hyde and considered the successors to Lone Horn (Touch the Clouds, Spotted Elk/Big Foot, and Roman Nose) as all Lone Horn's sons. Against my reading it is only fair to say that Lone Horn descendants today certainly do consider Roman Nose as a son of Lone Horn.

Spotted Elk/Big Foot: again I don't think that Spotted Elk was a biological son of Lone Horn. Census records indicate his birth about 1826 - when Lone Horn was 11 or 12. It is worth noting that several Lakota accounts - admittedly vague - indicate that Big Foot and Lone Horn were not father and son, but brothers. Frustratingly, I have not been able to clear up this problem with family descendants. One interpretation that I think is worthy of consideration is that one story about Big Foot identifies him as a nine-year old orphan on an Oglala war-party against the Pawnees - a raid dated by the 1833 Leonid shower When the Stars Fell. There are circumstantial details in the story that match up with a raid recorded in the fall of 1835. Since the elder One Horn was killed by a buffalo bull in July 1835 at Bear Butte - could Spotted Elk have been his orphaned 'son' subsequently raised by the younger Lone Horn? On bands, one of my consultants named Spotted Elk's band as the Hehepiya, meaning something like At the Foot of the Hills. This may be a reference to Big Foot's camp location on the Cheyenne River in the 1880s. Josephine Waggoner's brief profile names Big Foot's band as the Inyan ha oin (Musselshell Earrings), but this seems unlikely - at least in any sense of permanent residence.

Lame Deer: Continuing in iconoclastic vein, Lame Deer was not the brother of Lone Horn. They did belong to the same band, and may have been related, but this assertion is based on a misreading by Harry Anderson. Harry - one of the great pioneers of lakota history - thought that Elk Bellows Walking (indeed the elder brother of Lone Horn) was the same man as Lame Deer. The 1865 Treaty Commission minutes establish that this is not possible.

Red Horse: we don't know his band identity, although he surrendered in Feb. 1877 with Spotted Elk. My hunch would be that his outfit, and those of Red Skirt and Bull Eagle, were part of the Gartersnake Earring band.

Black Moon: my research has thrown up a number of band names in addition to the major bands listed in the camp-circle. This probably reflects Miniconjou population attrition through the 19th Century, with people steadily shifting to the bigger Teton divisions (especially the Oglala and Brule). A persistent name to crop up is Ashke, Lock of Hair. This may have been a sub-band of the old Broken Arrow band. Some of my consultants identified elements of Black Moon's family with the Ashke.

Of the chiefs listed by White Bull, three of the Wichasa Itancan
Makes Room
Flying By
Black Shield

and both of the "vice chiefs", Lame Deer and Black Moon, were listed by him as present at the Little Bighorn. Of the others, Lone Horn was dead, White Swan III and White Hollow Horn were at Cheyenne River Agency. Assuming a Miniconjou population of 270-300 lodges in 1876, I think this is consistent with a little more than half the tribe being at Little Bighorn on June 25. I've tweaked the figure up and down during writing my biography of Crazy Horse, but in the end I think John S. Gray's estimate of 150 Miniconjou lodges at Little Bighorn is pretty fair. As a round figure estimate of total Lakota lodges present I favour 850-900 (not including Cheyennes), right around one-third of the total Teton population. The other two-thirds were living at the agencies of the Great Sioux Reservation. — Kingsley Bray

Little Bear was a Miniconjou leader of this name active in the 1870+ period. He was the son of one of the six Wicasa Itancan or band chiefs of the Miniconjou, Helogecha Ska, White Hollow Horn. According to the statement of Lakota historian Josephine Waggoner Little Bear belonged to a band known as Maka-mignaka, meaning Skunk-Belt. This band name is nowhere else recorded. Because the Miniconjou were declining in numbers throughout the 19th Century, I suspect that this once autonomous group was absorbed by one of the larger bands. My supposition has been that White Hollow Horn's family were identified with the Unkche Yuta or Dung Eaters, one of the major bands of the Miniconjou tribe.

Little Bear was born about 1840. Beginning in 1875 he increasingly takes centre-stage in band affairs. His band (like Lone Horn's) was one that settled near Cheyenne River Agency in January 1875, having left the hunting gounds west of the Black Hills during the drought of the previous summer. The old way of life was perceived by such moderate bands as no longer sustainable in the long term. He was a delegate to Washington in May-June of that year, and represented them again at the September council at Red Cloud Agency. The band fled Cheyenne River Agency in Sept. 1876 when the Army took over. In the October parleys with Col. Miles White Hollow Horns gave himself up as a hostage, and Little Bear surrendered at Cheyenne River on Nov. 30.

Joseph White Bull gives an account (in Stanley Vestal's WARPATH) of the investiture of a new generational cohort of Wicasa Itancan at Cheyenne River Agency in 1880-81. Little Bear was formally seated to succed his father, invested with ceremonail shirt etc.

I am not sure when this Little Bear died. — Kingsley Bray


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