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Oglala Soreback Band

Here is some information about the Soreback band of the Oglala and its leading family:

He Dog's family was a large one. His father was Black Rock, a headman in the Tasnaheca or Ground Squirrel band of Oglalas. Synthesising census data with family traditions, I think the following were sons of Black Rock:
He Dog
Lone Man
Bad Heart Bull
Short Bull (all allegedly sons of one mother, Blue Day Woman, sister to Red Cloud).
Other sons were
High White Man
Eagle Hawk
Running Eagle
Little Shield
Little Spotted Horse
Soldier Hawk.

Short Bull is not the Ghost Dance leader - the latter belonged to the Wazhazha band of Brules but, according to Pine Ridge interpreter John Colhoff, the two Short Bulls were cousins.

There was at least one girl in the family: He Dog's family in the 1887 Pine Ridge census included his sister White Cow. In the 1881 tally of Oglalas from Canada enrolled at Standing Rock (the "Big Road Roster"), some thirteen lodges are included in the Sore-Back band. This was a typical size for an extended family band like the Sore-Backs. Several such groups would make up a strong band. The Sore-Backs were a sub-group within the larger Bad Face band. — Kingsley Bray

According to Lt. W. P. Clark, He Dog had fourteen lodges (not eight) with him in the Northern Cheyenne village when it was attacked by Gen. Crook’s troops in March 1876. As Kingsley noted, He Dog’s brother Short Bull (or Short Buffalo as Eleanor Hinman wrote it) was not the same individual as the Wajaje Brule man by the same name of Ghost Dance fame.

He Dog (Sunka Bloka) and Short Bull (Tatanka Ptecela) were both the sons of a prominent Oglala named Black Rock (either Inyan Sapa or Tunkan Sapa; both names are later known among the Lakota). Black Rock was from an influential family among the Tasnaheca (one of the larger bands within the southern Oglala or Kiyaksa Tiyospaye) and one source suggests that he may have been the brother of the noted Oglala headman Bad Wound.

He Dog gave his mother’s name as Blue Day, a sister of Red Cloud and a member of the Kuinyan band. Short Bull gave his mother’s name as Scatter the Feather. It is unclear with the current sources available if Blue Day and Scatter the Feather are different names for the same woman or if perhaps Black Rock had two wives.

Kingsley has noted in his research that there were a number of marriages between families from the Tasnaheca and Kuinyan Oglala bands, suggesting that it was out of these marriages that the Ite Sica or Bad Faces first arose, with Red Cloud eventually emerging as the most prominent leader among them. Black Rock and his young family appear to have left the southern Oglala and joined the Bad Faces as they came to prominence. While the Southern Oglala had shifted their primary hunting grounds to the Republican River region following the killing of Bull Bear in 1841, the Hunkpatila Tiyospaye or what later became known as the True Oglala remained in the Fort Laramie area, hunting to the north in the Powder River country. The Bad Faces grew during the 1850s and 1860s to become one of the most influential bands ("head band") among the True Oglala.

He Dog was born about 1840 on the head of the Cheyenne River near the Black Hills; Short Bull was born about 1852 near Fort Laramie. Black Rock died (or was killed) while Short Bull was young, perhaps in the 1850s, and the youngest boy was raised as an orphan. Short Bull, however, enjoyed a large extended family with a number of “brothers” like He Dog that “stuck together” as interpreter John Colhoff has noted. It is important to note that the Lakota word generally translated into English as “brother” actually has a more expanded definition in Lakota culture. In addition to Short Bull’s male siblings like He Dog, the term also refers to the male children of his father’s brother, part of the extended kinship system among the Lakota. So when we refer to the “brothers” of He Dog and Short Bull, it is important to bare in mind that these might include kin we would refer to as cousins. Colhoff and others have included Bad Heart Bull, Eagle Hawk, Running Eagle, Little Shield, High White Man and Soldier Hawk as some of those other “brothers.”

Together, these brothers formed a new band among the Bad Faces called the Cankahuhan or Soreback Band. You can think of the Sorebacks as either a smaller grouping (wicotipi) among the Bad Faces or as a split-off of the Bad Faces that maintained a close relationship with its parent band.

The Soreback Band’s role in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77 is well documented, in part from the interviews that He Dog and Short Bull gave to Eleanor Hinman in 1931. All or part of the Sorebacks were camped with the Northern Cheyenne in early 1876 when General Crook’s column launched its offensive and hit the village; He Dog and Short Bull both fought in this opening engagement of the war. They were also at the Rosebud and Little Bighorn Battles and their roles are well documented.

Members of the Soreback Band surrendered in the early spring of 1877, the last of them surrendering with Crazy Horse in May. Both He Dog and Short Bull were enlisted in Lieutenant William P. Clark’s Indian scouts at Camp Robinson, along with Crazy Horse. Short Bull was sent with other scouts to persuade Lame Deer’s band to come in and was not at the Red Cloud Agency when Crazy Horse was fatally bayoneted at Camp Robinson in September 1877.

Following the removal of the Red Cloud Agency to the Missouri River, a number of the recently surrendered “northern” bands fled north to join Sitting Bull (as recounted recently in Kingsley’s excellent article in Montana History). He Dog is recorded as having left the agency in January 1878; presumably his brothers in the Soreback Band left at this same time. They remained in Canada for two years, surrendering a second time at Fort Keogh in 1880. In June 1881, all of the surrendered Lakota, including the Sorebacks, were transferred to the Standing Rock Agency where they remained for nearly a year. They were transferred to the Pine Ridge Agency in May 1882 and settled in the White Clay District. In the 1890 census for the Pine Ridge Agency, the Soreback Band numbered 26 families or 94 people total.

He Dog received his "scalp shirt" at a different time than He Dog, Young Man Afraid of His Horses, American Horse and Sword (the elder brother of George Sword). The debate seems to be precisely when did he receive his shirt.

In the late 1860s/early 1870s, the Oglala appear to have been divided into the three main groups (tiyospaye): the True Oglala (originally known as the Hunkpatila), the Kiyuksa or Cutoffs (sometimes referred to as the southern Oglala) and the Oyuhpe. It appears that each of these three tiyospaye chose four individuals to serve as "shirt wearers", if in fact we are interpreting this office correctly. Crazy Horse and the other three young and upcoming leaders were chosen for the Hunkpatila, while older men such as Little Wound and Whistler were named as shirt wearers among the Southern Oglala. The Oyuhpe chose their own shirt wearers, including Big Road.

As noted above, Black Rock (He Dog's father) had shifted from the Southern Oglala to the True Oglala Tiyospaye when He Dog and his brothers were young, becoming part of the Bad Faces. By 1876, however, it appears the Sorebacks may have shifted a second time to join the Oyuhpe camp circle. Or at least, they were part of the True Oglala who became closely associated with the Oyuhpe and the core of the "northern resistance" against the Army. I suspect that He Dog, along with Big Road and others, were selected as shirtwearers for the Oyuhpe Tiyospaye but I am not certain precisely when.

At the time of his surrender at the Red Cloud Agency in May 1877, He Dog appears to have been a man of growing prominence, especially as a war leader. He married during the winter of 1875-76 and had a daughter, so his life was going through change as he matured from a young single warrior to a man of growing responsibility. During his time in Canada (1878-80), he appears to have taken a greater leadership role. In 1881 when he arrives at the Standing Rock Agency, he is shown in the Big Road Roster with a pipe and pipe bag, symbols of his status now as a civil leader. So I wonder if he received his scalp shirt while in Canada. — Ephriam Dickson


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