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Low Dog




Low Dog (Sunka Kucigala) was a young Oglala at the time of his transfer to the Standing Rock Agency in the summer of 1881, giving his age as 34 [born c1847]. William Garnett refers to him as an "upstart". He surrendered in 1881, he lived on the Standing Rock Reservation (not Cheyenne River). He was still on Standing Rock as late as 1920. — Ephriam Dickson

I have a copy of a letter dated 1890, which tell of the arrest of Low Dog for supposedly trying to kidnap the young son of Big Foot, he did not want to attend school apparently, { some other notes hint that the two men may have been related,} as a result, he was subsequently and imprisioned at Fort Snelling. However, on the strength of a letter from the local Indian agent, he was released a few months later and escorted back to Cherry Creek where, and here I quote the letter, "he was to be returned to his own people.''

As you probably know, Cherry Creek was on the Cheyenne River agency. Richard Hardorff mentions him in several of his books, but in two of them, he talks of him living and dying at Cherry Creek, but frustratingly, gives two very different years for his death, off the top of my head they were 1896 and 1910, quite a difference i think you'll agree.
— David Shanahan

Hardorff, in his book, THE DEATH OF CRAZY HORSE, does say that Low Dog settled at Cheyenne River Agency and that he died in 1894 (p. 86). He cites two references: Graham's book CUSTER MYTH (which does not include this information) and a general reference to the Camp Collection at Indiana University (of which I do not have a copy to check). I assume that Camp's notes must be his source for this biographical information.

Low Dog is listed in the 1881 Standing Rock Census which shows the recently surrendered "hostiles" three months after their arrival at Standing Rock, including:

Sunka kucigala Low Dog M 34 [born c1847]
Pejuta Medicine wife F 35
Kokam corsica One Who Makes Disorder son M 11
Sunka kan Horse son M 2

I also have in my notes two references to a Joshua Low Dog (born about 1847-49) which I have assumed to be the same individual (though I might be incorrect here):

Low Dog, Joshua 52
Low Dog, Louise wife 53
Low Dog, Louise dau. 18
Low Dog, Luke son 15
Low Dog, Jessie dau 13

His wife, Louise's, Lakota name is given as Tiolutawin, which might translate as Red Lodge (I will have to check on that to be certain). This is from the 1900 Federal Census for Standing Rock Agency (p. 293).

Then, in the 1910 Federal Census for Standing Rock Agency (p. 78):

Low Dog, Joshua 61
Low Dog, Luke son 25
Low Dog, Regina dau-in-law 20
Low Dog, Louise dau 28
Low Dog, Willa gr-dau 5

In this census, Joshua Low Dog is listed as a widow, with the note that he had been married twice. Also, he lists himself as a Sans Arc, not an Oglala. (His first wife may have been an Oglala and he might have joined this tribe following their marriage, a common occurrence among the Lakota).

I could not find him in the 1920 federal census.

One way to document if this is the same Low Dog would be to follow him through the annual agency census records. I have access to those here, but have not gone through them looking for Low Dog. The first one for Standing Rock Agency begins in 1885 and continues into the twentieth century. According to my notes, there may not be census records for the 1894 to 1900 period for Standing Rock. When I have some time, I will go through them to see what I can find.

In the Standing Rock issue [of Donovin Sprague´s books], he includes a photograph from the Smithsonian of Low Dog, along with Crow King, Major Brotherton and George Fleury, taken in 1881. Sprague wrote the following about Low Dog: "Low Dog is always listed as an Oglala but is a Siha Sapa. His family went south and Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Carideo Low Dog of Dupree, SD is the great grandson of Chief Low Dog." (p. 56) — Ephriam Dickson

Three D.F. Barry photos of Low Dog:

— Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

Here's yet another picture of Low Dog, clearly from the same session as those above, but with the added bonus of Crow King. I scanned this from Paul Hedren's booklet, 'Sitting Bull's Surrender at Fort Buford':

— Grahame Wood

This photo certainly is the earliest portrait of Low Dog, the second one should be his latest likeness, depicting him as an older man with short hair:

The first image obviously depicts a younger Low Dog than those pictures taken shortly after his return from Canadian sanctuary. If not taken immediately before his Canadian sojourn (which potential photographer was around?), the portrait could well have been done in Canada - although somehow I am still inclined to slightly doubt this (photographer?). — Hans Karkheck

The second photo in the Minnesota Historical Society Visual Recources Database. It states the photographer is Edward Augustus Bromley (1848-1925). The picture was made in 1891. — Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

I guess what we need to know is did Low Dog surrender in 1877? With Crazy Horse? If so, he must have been using another name - and not White Guts - for he isn't in Buecker and Paul's 'Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger', so he doesn't appear to have been at Red Cloud (unless he's one of those listed as Guts) at this time. Did he then leave for Canada after Crazy Horse's death, or did he go straight to Canada with Sitting Bull after LBH?

In 'Indian Views of the Custer Fight', Hardorff suggests that Low Dog went straight to Canada with Sitting Bull, but in his book on the death of Crazy Horse, he says he surrendered in May 1877 then left for Canada later.

I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that he hadn't been at an agency prior to 1877 at least. If he initially surrendered in 1877, then the photograph could date from the brief time he was at the agency (but which agency???). Could be a Morrow, a Hamilton, a Mitchell, a Goff? Was it taken in Canada? There certainly were photos of Sitting Bull's people taken in Canada, but not many seem to have surfaced and there are some passed off as Lakota that clearly aren't. Was it taken almost straight after his surrender in 1881? A Haynes? A Barry? A Huffman? There looks to be more than 10 years between the two photos Hans posted, but then Sitting Bull's features aged noticeably during this period...

As I'm sure you know, when the reporter John Finerty visited Sitting Bull in Canada in 1879, he referred to Low Dog as 'brave and sullen. He had little to say, but was a man of considerable action when it came to blows." On the other hand, Finerty also refers to a man called White Guts, the other name by which he is referred in DeCost Smith's book, as "tall, thin, and gaudily dressed, young but hard looking, with the reputation of being a good fighter." — Grahame Wood

I would guess that the photograph of a younger Low Dog was taken some 5\6 years previous to those that we are all now so familiar with, those taken around the time of his surrender, the reason I say this is because to me, the face looks less lined, much less careworn.

Beside his face, there are a couple of things that indicate that the Photo was taken at some other time. The braid wraps he wears appear to be much thicker than those he wears in the surrender photos, although he does seem to be wearing the same neck choker and bone breastplate. But what on earth are those strange pieces of string or rope that seem to pass from behind his head, over his shoulder, and then link with those things he wears on his arms? I for one have never seen anything like them in any of the thousands of photographs of plains Indians I have looked at over the years.
With regard to the later photo, I wonder if it was taken either whilst he was a prisoner at Fort Snelling in Minnesota, { he had been arrested at the time of the Ghost Dance, as it was felt that he was one of the men fermenting trouble,} or, if not, then on his return to Cherry Creek. He was released in August 1891, and escorted by a non commissioned officer to Fort Bennet, and from there, he was given yet another escort that took him back to the Cheyenne river agency, for, as the order has it, " restoration to his people. What a long, strange trip that must have been for the men concerned.
— David Shanahan

Low Dog enrolled at Spotted Tail Agency with the surrendering Lame Deer village on September 4, 1877.
— Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

Edward Bromley took a good number of photographs at Fort Snelling over the years, which, I think, strengthens my case for him having taken that photograph of Low Dog when he was a prisoner there in 1891. — David Shanahan

I found an interesting statement about Low Dog in "Standing Rock Sioux - Images of America" (Arcadia 2004). The author Donovin A. Sprague is himself a tribal member of the Cheyenne River Sioux:
"Low Dog is always listed as an Oglala but is a Siha Sapa."!!!

He seems to have got this information from Carideo Low Dog of Dupree, South Dakota, who is the great-grandson of Low Dog. — Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

Here's a plate from the Dover reprint featuring the band leaders:

b - Low Dog
c - Long Dog
d - Iron Crow
e - Little Hawk

The pictograph of Low Dog with name glyph is to be found in Garrick Mallery's 'Pictographs of the North American Indians: A Preliminary Paper', 4th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington DC, 188m 6; pp 175-176, and the relevant plates. There is no information about him specifically; he's just listed as a band leader under Big Road. Mallery intially syas they represent the 84 heads of families in Big Road's band and were collected by the Rev S D Hinman in 1883 from agent James McLaughlin, who obtained them from Big Road when he was brought to Standing Rock and had to give an account of who was in his band. The originals were made with black and coloured pencils, with a few in yellow ochre water colour on single sheets of foolscap paper with materials acquired from the agency.

The first figure in each of the seven plates is a chief of the sub-band or head of 'family'. The leaders' rank is shown by the presence of a pipe and bag. The pipe bag of each leader is different; some of the leading figures don't have pipes or bags and Mallery feels this may because they all belong to the previous leader - which suggest the largest of the bands may have been Low Dog's. There is no suggestion that the individual Indians were responsible for their own images; in fact, they seem to be all by one hand (Big Road's, I assume) - although there are a few on plate which may be the product of a different artist.

Some of the drawings also appear in Garrick Mallery's Picture Writing of the American Indians; two volumes, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1972, which was a reprint of his 'Picture Writing of the American Indians', in the Tenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1888-89, by J W Powell, Director, originally published by the Goverment Printing Office, Washington DC, 1893. In Volume One, pp 420-423 and relevant plates, Mallery has reproduced the heads of the band leaders and the head soldiers (indicated by the presence of a war club and three transverse bands of red paint on their cheeks. Each of the chiefs have different designs of pipes and bags and at least three transverse bands painted on their cheeks. All he says about Low Dog is that the dog figure is represented as 'low' by the shortness of the legs as compared with the figure of Long Dog. — Grahame Wood

You may notice that in the 1885 annuity list that you mentioned, there are actually two individuals named Low Dog. One is in Bear Looking Back's band (Hunkpapa) and the other is listed in Charging Bear's band (Blackfeet). Both of these men are also listed in the 1885 Standing Rock Agency census. The Hunkpapa Low Dog gave his age as 46, suggesting he was born about 1839 (too early to be the Oglala Low Dog). I do not have a copy of the Blackfeet portion of that census here at the house, so will have to look up the other Low Dog's age on the microfilm.

Since we last corresponded, I can add a couple of details about Low Dog. As we all know, he was at Standing Rock Agency with his family in 1881, transferred there from Fort Buford. He appears in both the Big Road Roster and the Sitting Bull Surrender Census that fall. Low Dog's band is shown in the Dec. 1881 annuity list with 22 families.

In another ledger for the Pine Ridge Agency, Low Dog and most of the 22 families in the SRA annuity list are shown as transfers. This shows that Low Dog and his band were transferred with the other Oglala to Pine Ridge in May 1882. Unfortunately, there is a gap in the Pine Ridge records between 1882 and 1886, so we do not yet know when Low Dog left Pine Ridge. He is not listed in the Pine Ridge Agency census for 1886. But we have the two Low Dogs at Standing Rock in 1885.

Finally, I have some question about the identification of Low Dog surrendering at Spotted Tail in 1877. The Spotted Tail Agency ledger book does list the families that came in from the late Lame Deer's band in September 1877 and there is an entry for someone named Low Dog or Law Dog (page 64). However, this individual gives his tribal affiliation as Wajaje Brule. This person is gone by the time the next census at Spotted Tail was conducted in Dec. 1877. I am not convinced that this is him. — Ephriam Dickson

I looked up the Blackfoot Lakota Low Dog in the Standing Rock Agency census records. He appears every year between 1885 (the first year of the Standing Rock census) through 1891 (the last year I looked at today). This Low Dog was born about 1848 (or 1846 according to the 1890 and 1891 census). His family includes:

Two Horses, wife (born c1853-54)
Returns Last; later known as Thomas Low Dog, son (born c1870-71)
Uses His Bow, son (born c1879)
Comes Walking, daughter (born c1880-81)
Kill the Number or Kill Nearby, son, (born c1886)
Henry Low Dog, son (b.c1887)
Madaline Low Dog, (born c1889)

There is some correlation for this individual to our Oglala Low Dog who is recorded in the Sitting Bull Surrender Census for 1881:

Low Dog (born c1847)
Medicine, wife (born c1848)
One Who Makes Disorders, son (born c1870)
Horse, son (born c1879)
— Ephriam Dickson

I remain convinced that the famous Low Dog is the Low Dog (or "Law Dog") listed in the Spotted Tail Agency census as surrendering from the north on Sept. 4, 1877, with the advance guard of Fast Bull's camp (formerly Lame Deer's). This is because Wm. Garnett in his 1907 interview with Judge Ricker stated that Low Dog led the breakout for Canada during the agency removal to the Missouri River, Nov. 1877. Garnett stated: "Low Dog, a northern chief an upstart who belonged to the Lame Deer band and was a brave man, he led these Indians off." Granted that probably all these Indians had multiple names, but no one else in the Fast Bull camp is listed as Low Dog. Ephriam is right, the name seems to read 'Law Dog', but what I suspect you have here is the master census roll being copied from more rudimentary field entries. This particular census has many obvious misreadings or mis-spellings, often confounding 'o' and 'a'.

Incidentally, what is dramatic here is the fact that the bunch of people including Low Dog (the headman was noted as Shedding Bear, a Miniconjou) had joined the Northern village on Beaver Creek below Spotted Tail Agency late on Sept. 3. With three of the four Northern village Deciders they came up to the agency on the morning of the fourth to be enrolled. At precisely the same time the Army had marched from Camp Robinson in its bid to arrest Crazy Horse, who of course fled to the Northern village at Spotted Tail. My hunch is that Crazy Horse knew of the surrender of Fast Bull's camp, and hoped to tip the fragile balance in the Northern village and provoke a general outbreak. In this of course he failed.

We know nothing about Low Dog's parentage, so he may have counted Wazhazha/Brule antecedents. He seems to have been unusually well-travelled even by contemporary Lakota standards, having connections to the Hunkpapa and Miniconjou as well as the Oyuhpe band of Oglalas with whom he usually "ran". He seems never to have settled permanently at any one agency even after the final surrenders of 1881 - so I suspect he is the Low Dog counted as a Ghost Dance agitator at Rosebud. Clearly a lot more research waits to be done on his remarkable life. The astonishing photo of him with the short hair, side parting - and I don't think he looks remotely subservient or 'tamed' - is one more proof of the man's elusive, mercurial quality. — Kingsley Bray

I too am pretty sure that my man Low Dog is the same man as the Low Dog the Brule, mistakes are easily made by all of us. As an example, a piece of information I came across referred to a request to arrest a Lodog, probably Low Dog, Big Foot, Pretty Hawk and Hump, this being just prior to Ghost Dance outbreak, the reasons given was that they were thought to be potential trouble makers. Low Dog was eventually arrested almost immediately after the fighting, apparently because he tried to " kidnap a boy who had been brought from Pine Ridge as a prisoner, along with a few survivors. " Low Dog was eventually imprisoned at Fort Snelling, where incidentally, I think that photograph of him with short hair was taken.

Attached to this information, was a newspaper clipping about the arrest and its subsequent outcome, which mistakenly named the man arrested in this case as as Crow Dog. So as you can see that we have a little problem with all these various dogs, be they Low, Long, or Crow. — David Shanahan

Low Dog footnote: On the 1882 Pine Ridge Ration Roll, the recent transfers from Stending Rock are listed with the notation "North" against their names. Low Dog, ration ticket 1065, with 6 people in his household, has a further notation, which reads "[?] to Cheyenne Ag." This notation is then deleted. The mark indicated by my question mark may be a number. Underneath that notation is another: "2 to 576". The figure of 6 (people, total in household) is then deleted and replaced by 3 - or possibly 5 - quite possibly first by 5, then overwritten to 3. Ephriam might like to compare my reading of this difficult line.

Ticket no. 576 was held by Old Beaver, also notated as "North". The original number of people is written 4, deleted and replaced by 5. The notation "1 from 1065", i.e. from the Low Dog household, is added to the line. To complicate it all again, Old Beaver's name is deleted and replaced by One Man. Possibly this is Isna Wica, Lone Man, one of He Dog's brothers.

Unlike most households noted as "North", that of ticket no. 576 has a number indicating membership in one of the regular agency Oglala bands - in this case, no. 2, referring to Young Man Afraid of His Horse's band, the Payabya.
— Kingsley Bray

I heard Low Dog is laying along the Owl (Morrow) River. His last surviving direct descendant is living in Dupree. His name is Creedio Low Dog.
— Brock




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