Home | Introduction | Links |  Message Boards | Tribal Circles | Photographers | Questions? | Search
Tribes of the Great Plains: Arapaho | Arikara | Cheyenne | Crow | Dakota | Lakota | Nakota | Osage | Ponca
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs:
Wasco | Tenino | Paiute

Red Cloth Earring Band, Sans Arc

From Scudder Mekeel's 1931 Field Notes (interview with Silas Afraid of Enemy), we know that this Sans Arc band was associated with the family of Black Eagle (Wambli Sapa), born ca. 1822, one of the last four shirt wearers seated by the Sans Arc tribal council.

The publication of Ephriam's landmark volume THE SITTING BULL SURRENDER CENSUS presents us with a wealth of new evidence on all the Lakotas who had fought in the Great Sioux War, after their final surrender and internment at Standing Rock Agency in 1881. The Sans Arc contingent of these 'Northern Nation' or non-treaty Lakotas was recorded on September 15, 1881 under the leadership of Circle Bear. His name in Lakota, Mato Kawinge, is better translated Turning Bear, kawinge being from the verb 'to turn, turn back'. His name leads off the Sans Arc roster, as head of Standing Rock family no. 246.

It is very interesting to compare the sequence of names immediately following Turning Bear/Circle Bear with the list of his followers compiled by Agent James McLaughlin three months later (December 1881) for annuity purposes. There are twenty-one families listed, starting once more with Turning Bear. I am struck by the high proportion of names that occur in the December list, and the opening section of the September census.

In the nineteen families beginning with Turning Bear, no. 246, and ending at no. 264, Black Eagle Jr., we get the following eleven unambiguous correspondences with the December tally:

Turning Bear
Crazy Thunder
Elk Thunder
Red Cloth
Dog Eagle
White Hair
Thunder Bull
High Lodge
Black Eagle
Running Elk
Black Eagle Jr.

Given the occurrence of Black Eagle and his son/namesake, it seems a fair working conclusion that this cluster of families within the surrendered Sans Arc village equates to the Red Cloth Earring band. This is confirmed further by the fact that Black Eagle and Turning Bear are both listed as headmen in the Sans Arc camp that had surrendered in early February 1881 at Ft Buford. This group was counted at 136 people in one army tally, equivalent to about twenty-two lodges.

The Black Eagle-Turning Bear camp surrendered at Ft Buford as part of a group of 325 people (approx. fifty-four lodges). The other main contingent was Hunkpapa, the named leaders including Crow King and Good (or Pretty) Bear, both associated with the Talonapin (Raw Meat Necklace) band of Hunkpapas.

These conclusions about the Red Cloth Earring band have significant implications for their activities during the Great Sioux War. Black Eagle and Crazy Thunder were among the five hostages given up to Col. Miles by the Sans Arcs and Miniconjous in October 1876. The hostages were interned until summer 1877. A group of 229 people from this village surrendered at Cheyenne River Agency one month later, but the Red Cloth Earring band as a body stayed in the war zone through winter 1876-77. In February 1877 most of the band chose to follow Spotted Eagle's Sans Arc contingent to seek exile in Canada with Sitting Bull. Turning Bear is named as one of the headmen at a council in early spring 1877, immediately before these irreconcilables crossed the border into Canada.

Black Eagle meanwhile, after being freed from internment in August, moved his family to join those Sans Arcs who had chosen to surrender in spring at Spotted Tail Agency. That fall the two White River agencies (Red Cloud and Spotted Tail) were relocated to new unpopular sites on the Missouri. Many of the surrendered Northern Nation people fled to join the exiles in Canada. I believe Black Eagle was among the Sans Arcs who fled from White River in January 1878. Coincident with that flight, the two other Sans Arc hostages, Crazy Thunder and Rising Sun, left Cheyenne River Agency. Their nominal destination was the new Red Cloud Agency, but they never appeared there. Their real intention was evidently to make a juncture with the fleeing Northern Nation people and seek exile in Canada.

It is interesting that there seems to be no indication that significant numbers of the Red Cloth Earring band chose to surrender at Spotted Tail. Only one name in the September 1881 tally appears in the June 1877 Spotted Tail Agency census, that of Paints Yellow. He is perhaps the same man as One paints his horse yellow, listed in Black Eagle's band in the January 1875 Cheyenne River Agency census.

In spring 1882 the interned Northern Nation people at Standing Rock were allowed to return to their home agencies (Oglalas to Pine Ridge, and so on). A part of Turning Bear's following elected not to go to Cheyenne River, but to remain at Standing Rock. Perhaps more information about the Red Cloth Earring band, its sub-groupings and their affinities with other Lakota people (especially the Hunkpapa) can be teased out of the post-1881 census record.

— Kingsley Bray


I agree that the grouping of names you are referring to are most likely the Red Cloth Earring band, however, I am not certain that Circle Bear should be included as a member.

When the Sans Arc first arrive at Standing Rock in 1881, they are divided into two broad groups on the issue record for July-August, based on where they surrendered. Those who came in at Fort Keogh are listed under Spotted Eagle (402 people by one count; 344 by another). Those who came in from Fort Buford are all listed under Circle Bear (105 people by one count; 180 by another).

This pattern changes on the issue sheets for Sept. 1881-Feb 1882 period. That fall, Spotted Eagle's band (139 people) were transferred to the Cheyenne River Agency. So all the Sans Arc at Standing Rock were listed under Circle Bear (369 people). This is close to the count you find in the Sitting Bull Surrender Census (354 people/85 families).

A change occurs in the Feb. to April 1882 period, when issue records now show two Sans Arc leaders: Black Wolf with the majority (245 people) and Circle Bear with just 97 people. This matches McLaughlin's annuity list, in which he has 21 families for Circle Bear, the rest under Black Wolf. Then in later April, all Sans Arc were listed under Black Wolf on the issue sheets.

When the Sans Arc were transferred to Cheyenne River Agency that spring, Circle Bear remained behind. From this point forward, he is listed with the Hunkpapa. On a June 1882 issue, he is recorded as leader of a band of 40 people. He has 15 families in Nov. 1883 and 18 families in 1885. He is listed as a Hunkpapa band leader at Standing Rock during the 1885-90 period.

This causes me to question whether Circle Bear/Turning Bear was a member of the Red Cloth Earring Band. Perhaps his wife was Sans Arc and he lived with his wife's people for a time? Need to do some more digging on this...


P.S. What is your source for Turning Bear being named a headman in the spring of 1877?

— Ephriam Dickson

My source for Turning Bear as headman in people who went to Canada in spring 1877 is Lt. R. H. Day/6th Inf. cmdg dtchmt at Ft Peck, to Post Adj./Ft Buford, April 14, 1877: 'Special Files' HQ Div. Missouri, NARS M1495 Roll 4. It says:

Day received intelligence from Yanktonai chief Black Tiger that he had been present at a council on April 10 "at a council of hostile Indians, held in their camp on Beaver Creek, some sixty miles north of west of here, . . . at which the following chiefs were present: Sitting-Bull, Pretty-Bear and No-Neck (head man) of the Uncpapas; Red-Skirt, The Man-that-flies and Red-Thunder (head man) of the Minneconjous; Elk-Head, The-Bear-that-turns, Sitting-White-Cow, and Spotted-Eagle (head man) of the Sans Arcs; and the Man-that's-afraid-of-his-horses, of the Ogallallahs."

The presence of Man Afraid of His Horse is presumably some sort of misunderstanding on someone's part. Elk Head's presence is also questionable, since he was listed in the census of surrendered Sans Arcs at Spotted Tail Agency two months later. Perhaps he was a late arrival at Spotted Tail? Not all Miniconjous-Sans Arcs arrived at Spotted Tail with the main group on April 14th.

I think I made an error in transcribing the numbers of Sans Arcs surrendering at Ft Buford. It's not 136 but 176.

And who is Sitting White Cow?

— Kingsley Bray

A little additional information about Turning Bear:

According to the census records, Turning Bear married about 1860 to Blue Cloud (also known as Black Cloud; Maria and Mary Turning Bear). They had five children by 1900, only two of whom were still living:

1. Lydia Turning Bear (c1867-d. after 1937); also known as Feather Woman. Not married; no children

2. Michael Turning Bear (c1879-1925). Also known as Owns Fight. Married Amelia. One child: Theodore Turning Bear (c1901-1932). Theodore died single, no children.

As noted above, Turning Bear and his family remained at Standing Rock through 1890. They then moved to the Pine Ridge Reservation, probably as part of the choas following the Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee. (These mass migrations in 1891-92 warrant further study). The family lived the remainder of the lives on Pine Ridge.

Turning Bear disappears from the census records between the 1904 and 1905 census, suggesting that he died at this time.

— Ephriam Dickson

Fascinating! I have a lengthy printed report from the Congressional Record, resulting from a Commission that visited Pine Ridge. I hadn't looked at it for years, but the first page I open features testimony from Turning Bear!

The source is 52nd Congress, 1st Session, Senate, Ex. Doc. No. 58. It contains extensive speeches and testimony taken at Pine Ridge and Rosebud. There is a list of 205 family heads "desiring to live on Pine Ridge Reservation". It includes Turning Bear (age 50).

On June 12, 1891 Turning Bear made a speech to the commission asking to be enrolled at PR, which was endorsed by another arrival from Standing Rock, Yellow Wolf. The latter said "At our agency we have two chiefs. Turning Bear who has just spoken is one of them. On account of jealousy the other one was killed, [a clear reference to Sitting Bull] and we started here with no bad intentions."

Looking at the lists of followers of Turning Bear at Standing Rock in 1885 and 1889 (embedded in the list of Hunkpapa family heads which LaDonna has put on the Standing Rock Tourism website), my guess is that Turning Bear may indeed be associated with the Raw Meat Necklace band of Hunkpapas. Your suggestion makes sense that his wife was from the Red Cloth Earring band of Sans Arcs. Hence why a significant part of the RMN band accompanied the RCE's to surrender together at Ft Buford in February 1881. Does that make sense from your vantage?

— Kingsley Bray

Great addition! Here is the link to the document that Kingsley mentioned above:


Turning Bear is mentioned in the Campbell interviews as a boyhood associate of Sitting Bull. They appear to have been closely aligned at Standing Rock as well, circa. 1883-1890 period. Viewed as traditionalists, Father Craft wrote in his diary (June 25, 1888): "[Sitting] Bull, [Running] Antelope, & Circling-bear kick, but the nation seems to have cast them off in good style." (p. 142). All of the details gathered above suggest that Turning Bear was Hunkpapa and briefly served as a Sans Arc leader 1877-81 period.

Regarding Turning Bear's wife, Blue Cloud, I found a mention in the Pine Ridge Reservation records from 1906 that she was the "sister of Pretty Plume, Plenty Horse and Good Boy." These three families appear in the Pine Ridge Agency census records beginning in 1892, suggesting that they probably also moved there in the aftermath of the Ghost Dance. I think they are: Joseph Pretty Boy (c1856-1925); Good Plume (c1863-1933); but there are a couple of possibilities for Plenty Horses. I am still working on tracking these families back before 1892 to figure out if they also came from Standing Rock, Cheyenne River or another agency; and if there is any connection to the Sans Arc, in particular to the Red Cloth Earring Band.

I also took a look at Black Eagle. As already noted, he surrendered at Fort Buford in 1881 and was transferred to the Standing Rock Agency that summer (appears in the Sitting Bull Surrender Census, Family #262). He probably is among the Sans Arc transferred to Cheyenne River in the spring of 1882. There is a gap in the records for Cheyenne River from 1881 to 1886 so we do not pick up the family again until the 1886 census. Both he and his son, Black Eagle #1, are listed at this agency through 1890.

Black Eagle and his wife Cane next appear at Pine Ridge by 1892. She disappears by the time of the 1895 census and Black Eagle continues up to the 1917 census. He may have died as part of the 1918 influenza epidemic that hit the reservations hard, but I do not know for certain.

There is another Black Eagle of roughly the same age at Cheyenne River during the 1909-12 period. I will have to do some further digging to see who this might be.

— Ephriam Dickson

That's remarkable, Ephriam. Can you identify which communities, or at any rate the larger administrative districts (Wounded Knee, White Clay, etc.) in which Turning Bear and Black Eagle settled?

That would give us clues about where these people had relationships. It's striking how Pine Ridge is the magnet after the Ghost Dance troubles, isn't it?

Regarding the hiatus in records between 1881 and 1886 at Cheyenne River: I have from the National Archives at Kansas City, Cheyenne R. Res. records Box 232, a list of people to whom issues had been made during the second quarter of the year, dated June 30, 1882. That includes the people transferred from Standing Rock, of whom Hump's band at least are noted (Agt H. Price to CoIA, June 17, 1882) as arriving at CR on May 3.

The June 30 1882 list enumerates the agency families for each tribal division - Sihasapa, Sans Arc, Miniconjou, Two Kettle - in alphabetical order of name. So no use for the sort of analysis we're trying to do. But the Standing Rock transfers are listed at the end of the relevant tribal division listing, in a different hand and not in alphabetical order. The Sans Arc list for instance continues after the alphabetical agency tally with a list of Spotted Eagle's band, identical to the one in your Appendix. After that the rest of the Sans Arcs from Standing Rock are added. And so on. It's an important even crucial list for comparison purposes because the sequence obviously reflects social realities. Lots of common ground with the SURRENDER CENSUS, but differences too.

Re the Red Cloth Earring band names we've identified: there's a little cluster running
Black Eagle
Crazy Lightning
Running Buck Elk
Black Eagle No 2.

Then there's a distinct cluster of about fifteen families that focuses on Red Hair, the Calf Pipe Keeper. After that appears another cluster of 16 families that include more of the 1881 RCE families, as follows:

Toe Nail
Charging Cloud
Scarlet Cloth
Long Hair
Iron Shield
Wolf Chasing
Dog Eagle
Brings His Choice
Bull Thunder
Dropped Two
High Lodge
Pretty Crow
Pumpkin Hill
Cattle Hunting
Woman in Sight
Red Water

That ends the whole Sans Arc sequence.

I shall start threads for the other main non-treaty Sans Arc bands, the Bull Dung and the Shikshichela/Tiyopa-Ochanupa camps.

— Kingsley Bray

This should be Black Eagle:

Black Eagle

Just a sidenote, but according to He Dog's account of the [Little Bighorn], it was Turning Bear´s (Sans Arc) brother who was found in the Lone Tipi before the Custer battle. He had died from wounds received at the Rosebud earlier.

Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

The above picture, Dietmar, might be of the younger Black Eagle, son of the Red Cloth Earring band shirt wearer. The older man would have been 80 or more when this photo was taken at Cheyenne River - and by this time living at Pine Ridge (see Ephriam's posting of May 21).

— Kingsley Bray

Silas Afraid of Enemy is my wife, Belva Hollow Horn-Emery's Great Grandfather. He survived the Wounded Knee Massacre after being shot 9 times. His sister Jenny Running Eagle also survived the WK Massacre despite being shot several times. Her name became Tasina Opi Win (Woman Wounded In Her Shawl/Blanket). See, MacGregor's Eyewitness Testimony of the Wounded Knee Massacre; it's been reprinted several times since it was published in 1940.

— matotanka

Back to the Top

©2008-2015 Diane Merkel & Dietmar Schulte-Möhring
All contributors retain the rights to their work.
Reproduction in whole or in part without prior written consent is prohibited.