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Shave Elk

also known as Thomas Disputed




Thomas Disputed was interviewed by Walter Camp, perhaps around 1910-11. The interview was published in Bruce R. Liddic and Paul Harbaugh (eds.), Camp on Custer (Spokane, WA: A. H. Clark Co., 1995; reprinted as Custer and Company, Walter Camp's Notes on the Custer Fight, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), p. 121-127.

Thomas Disputed was born about 1854-55 (though a couple of the census records put his birth at about 1858). In his notes, Camp noted that Thomas was Oglala, belonging to Big Road's band, which would put him in the Oyuhpe Oglala. He was in Crazy Horse's village in March 1876 when Crook struck the Northern Cheyenne village further south, and was in the Rosebud and LBH fights. From his account, it appears that he surrendered at the Red Cloud Agency in May 1877 with Crazy Horse, though his name (he said he was known as Shave Elk in 1876) does not appear in the Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger. Presumably he then left with Big Road when the northern Oglala fled the agency in late 1877 and early 1878, eventually making their way to Canada.

There is no record of Shave Elk/Thomas Disputing for the next ten years. If he surrendered with Big Road and was transferred to the Standing Rock Agency in 1881, he must have given a different name, for neither of these appear in the Sitting Bull Surrender Census or in the Standing Rock Agency issue and annuity records for the period.

My first record of him is in 1887 when he suddenly appears at the Standing Rock Agency, having just married the daughter of chief Gall. He appears in the annual census each year after that through 1911. He disappears in the 1912 census, suggesting that he may have passed away between late 1911 and early 1912.

Camp somewhat garbled Thomas Disputed's Lakota names. Shave Elk should be Hehaka Tasla (Hehaka = the male elk; sla = bald, bare; I am not certain what "ta" means, there are several possible meanings). The Lakota name translated as Disputed was Akinica, meaning "to dispute about something, claiming it as one's own". — Ephriam Dickson


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