Sitting Bull (His Last Days, described in original letters given to Col. A. B. Welch)

School Teacher Carignan’s warning that Sitting Bull and his entourage were about to pack up and leave his cabin site triggered the following unfortunate events


.Ghost Dance and ‘Messiah Craze:’ Porcupine visits Pyramid Lake and talks with the ‘Messiah,’ Is Wovoka the ‘New Christ?” and Welch conversations about this craze

.School Teacher Carignan’s Letter to McLaughlin warning of Sitting Bull’s imminent departure from Grand River

.McLaughlin’s order for the arrest of Sitting Bull

.McLaughlin’s initial advice to Washington, DC, about the resulting fight

.Descriptions of, and suppositions about,the fight in which Sitting Bull was killed       

.McLaughlin’s final reports on ‘The Sitting Bull Affair”

.Red Tomahawk’s story on the Death of Sitting Bull

.Welch’s thoughts about the Grand River and Wounded Knee Battles in his Address  before Reserve Officers Assn, Fort Abraham Lincoln, June 11, 1934

.Burial Sites of Sitting Bull and the Indian Police killed in the shoot-out



.Ghost Dance and ‘Messiah Craze:’ Porcupine visits Pyramid Lake and talks with the ‘Messiah,’ Is Wovoka the ‘New Christ?” and Welch conversations about this craze

The following interesting account of the visit of Porcupine in search of God, during the Ghost Dancing time in November 1889, was discovered among the papers of Major McLaughlin and given to me by Charles McLaughlin, his only son living.  A.B.Welch, Mandan, North Dakota, August 18th, 1926.

 U.S.Army Official Transmittal of Porcupine’s visit to Pyramid Lake:

3376. D.D. 1890.


St. Paul, Minn., June 25, 1890.

The Adjutant General U.S.Army

Washington, D.C.

Through Headquarters Division of the Missouri.


I have the honor to enclose, herewith, for information, copy of statement received from Major Carroll, 1st Cavalry, in command of camp at Tongue River Agency, of Cheyenne medicine man Porcupine narrating his travels in search of, and interview with, the Indian Messiah or new “Christ.”  A like copy has been furnished to the Commanding General Department of the Platte, in whose command the travels and transactions are mainly said to have occurred.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Thos. H. Ruger,

Brigadier General,



Note – The report of the appearance of a Messiah for the Indians has recently had quite a wide diffusion and excited much interest amongst a number of tribes, particularly the Arapahoes and Cheyennes and those nearly related to them.



“In November last I left the reservation with two other Cheyennes.  I went through Washakie and took the Union Pacific R.R. at Rawlins.  We got off early in the morning about breakfast, rode all day on the rail road and about dark reached a fort (supposed to be Fort Bridger). I stayed there two days, and then took a passenger train and the next morning got to Fort Hall.  I ground some lodges of Snakes and Bannocks there; I saw the Agent here, and he told me I could stay at the Agency, but the chief of the Bannocks, who was there, took me to his camp near by.  The Bannocks told me that they were glad to see a Cheyenne, and that we ought to make a treaty with the Bannocks.

The chief told me he had been to Washington; had seen the President, and that we ought all to be friends with the whites and live at peace with them and with each other.  He talked those matters over for ten days.  The Agent then sent for me, and some of the Bannocks and Shoshones, and asked me where I was going, – I told him I was just travelling to meet other Indians and to see other countries; that my people were at peace with the whites and I thought I could travel anywhere I wished.  He asked me why I did not have a pass.  I said because my Agent wouldn’t give me one.  He said he was glad to see me anyway and that the whites and Indians were all friends.  then he asked me where I wanted to pass to.  I told him I wanted to go further, and some Bannocks and Shoshones wanted to go along.  He gave passes – five of them – to the Chiefs of the three parties.  We took the railroad to a little town (station) near by, and then took a narrow gauge road – we went on this, riding all night, at a very fast rate of speed, and came to a town on a very big lake (Salt Lake).  We stayed there one day, taking the cars at night, rode all night and the next morning about 9 o’clock saw a settlement of Indians.  We traveled south, going on a narrow gauge road.  We got off at this Indian town.  The Indians here were different from any Indians I ever saw.  The women and men were dressed in white peoples’ clothes, the women having their hair banged.  These Indians has their faces painted with with black spots.  We stayed with these Indians all day.  We took the same road at night and kept on.  We traveled all night, and about daylight we saw a lot of houses, and they told us there were a lot more Indians there, so we got off, and there’s where we saw Indians living in huts of (tulle) grass.  We stopped here and got something to eat.  There were whites living close by.  We got on the cars again at night, and during the night we got off among some Indians, who were fish-eaters.  We stayed among the fish-eaters until morning, and then got into a wagon with the son of the chief of the fish-eaters, and we arrived about noon at an Agency on a big river.  There was also big lake near the Agency.

The Agent asked us where we were from and said we were a long way from home, and that he would write to our Agent and 1st let him know we were all right.  From this Agency we went back to the station, and they told us there were some more Indians to the south.  One of the chiefs of the fish-eaters then furnished us with four wagons.  We traveled all day, and then came to another railroad. We left our wagons here and took the railroad, the fish-eaters telling us there were some more Indians along the railroad who wanted to see us.  We took this railroad about 2 o’clock and about sundown got to another Agency, where there were more fish-eaters.

(From diagrams drawn and explanations given of them in addition to the foregoing, there seems to be no doubt that the Lakes visited are Pyramid and Walker Lakes, Western Nevada, and the Agencies, those of the same name.)

They told us they had heard from the Shoshone Agency, that the people in this country were all bad people, but that there were good people there. All the Indians from the Bannock Agency down to where I finally stopped danced this dance (referring to the late religious dances at the Cheyenne Agency), the white often dancing it themselves.  (It will be recollected that he traveled constantly through the Mormon country). I knee nothing about this dance before going.  I happened to run across it, that all.  I will tell you about it.  (Here all the Indian auditors removed their hats in token that the talk to follow was to be on a religious subject).

I want you all to listen to this, so that there will be no mistake.  There is no harm in what I am to say to any one.  I heard this where I met my friends in Nevada.  Its a wonder you people never heard this before.  In the dance we had there (Nevada) the whites and Indians danced together.  I met there a great many kinds of people, but they all seemed to know all about this religion.  The people there seemed all to be good.  I never saw any drinking or fighting or bad conduct among them.  They treated me well on the cars, without pay; they gave me food without charge, and I found that this was a habit among them towards their neighbors.  I thought it strange that the people there should have been so good, so different from those here.

What I am going to say is the truth.  The two men sitting near me were with me, and will bear witness that I speak the truth.  I and my people have been living in ignorance until I went and found out the truth.  All the whites and Indians are brothers, I was told there.  I never knew this before.

The fish-eaters near Pyramid Lake told me that Christ had appeared on earth again.  They said Christ knew he was coming; that eleven of his children were also coming from a far land.  It appeared that Christ had sent for me to go there, and that was why unconsciously I took my journey.  It had been foreordained.  Christ had summoned myself and other from all heathen tribes, from two or three or four from each of 15 or 16 tribes. There were more different languages than I ever heard before and I didn’t understand any of them.  They told me when I got there that my great father was there also, but I didn’t know he was.  The people assembled called a council, and the Chief’s son went to see the Great Father, who sent word to us to remain 14 days in that camp and that then he would come to see us.  He sent me a small package of something white to eat that I didn’t know the name of.  There were a great many people in the council, and this white food was divided among them  The food was a big white nut.  Then I went to the Agency at Walker’s Lake, and they told me Christ would be there in two days.  At the end of two days, on the third morning, hundreds of people gathered at this place.  They cleared off a place at the Agency in the form of a circus ring, and we all gathered there.  This space was perfectly cleared of grass, etc. Just-before dawn – – We waited there till late in the evening anxious to see Christ.  Just before sun down I saw a great many people (mostly Indians) coming dressed white mans clothing.  The Christ was with them.  They all formed in this ring around it.  They put up shoots all around the circle, as they had no tents.  Just after dark some of the Indians told me that the Christ (Father) has arrived.  I looked around to find him, and finally saw him sitting on one side of the ring.  They all started toward him to see him.  They made a big fire to throw light on him.  I never looked around but went forward, and when I saw him I bent my head.

I had always thought the White Father was a white man, but this man looked like an Indian. He sat there a long time and nobody went up to speak to him.  He sat with his head bowed all the time.  After a while he rose and said he was very glad to see his children. “I have sent for you and am glad to see you.  I am going to talk to you after a while about your relatives who are dead and gone.  My children, I want you to listen to all I have to say to you.  I will teach you, too, how to dance a dance, and I want you to dance it.  Get ready for your dance, and then, when the dance is over, I will talk to you.”  He was dressed in a white coat with stripes.  The rest of his dress was a white man’s except that he had on a pair of moccasins.  Then he commenced our dance, everybody joining in, the Christ singing while we danced.  We danced till late in the night, when he told us we had danced enough.  The next morning after breakfast was over we went into the circle and spread canvas over it on the ground, the Christ standing in the midst of us.  He told us he was going away that day, but would be back the next morning and talk to us.

In the night when I first saw him I though he was an Indian, but the next day, when I could see better, he looked different.  He was not so dark as an Indian, nor so light as a white man; he had no beard nor whiskers, but very heavy eyebrows;  he was a good looking man.  We were crowded in very close.  We had been told that nobody was to talk and even if we whispered the Christ would know it.  I had heard that Christ had been crucified, and I looked to see, and I saw a scar on his wrist and one on his face, and he seemed to be the man.  I could not see his feet.  He would talk to us all day.

That evening we were all assembled again to see him depart.  When we were assembled he began to sing, and he commenced to tremble all over violently for a while, and then sat down.  We danced all that night, the Christ lying down beside us apparently dead.

The next morning, when we went to eat breakfast, the Christ was with us.  After breakfast four heralds went around and called out that the Christ was back with us and wanted to talk with us.  The circle was prepared again; the people assembled, and Christ came among us and sat down.

He said he wanted to talk to us again and for us to listen.  He said: “I am the man who made everything you see around you.  I am not lying to you my children.  I made this earth and everything on it.  I have been to heaven and seen your dead friends and have seen my own father and mother.  In the beginning after God made the earth, they sent me back to teach the people, and when I came back on earth the people were afraid of me and treated me badly.  This is what they done to me (showing his scars).  I did not try to defend myself;  I found my children were bad, so went back to heaven and left them.  I told them that in so many hundred years I would come back to see my children.  At the end of this time I was sent back to try to teach them.  My father told me the earth was getting old and worn out, and the people getting bad, and that I was to renew everything as it used to be, and make it better.”

He told us that all our dead were to be resurrected; that they were all to come back to the earth, and that as the earth was too small for them and us he would do away with heaven and make the earth itself large enough to contain us all; that we must tell all the people we meet about these things.  He spoke to us about fighting and said that was bad, and we must keep from it; that the earth was to be all good hereafter and we must all be friends with one another.  He said that in the fall of the year the youth of all the good people would be renewed, so that nobody would ever be over forty years old, and that if they behaved themselves well after this the youth of everyone would be renewed in the spring.  He said if we were all good he would send people among us who could heal all our wounds and sickness by mere touch and that we would live forever.  He told us not to quarrel or fight nor strike each other, nor shoot one another; that the whites and Indians were to all one people.  He said if any man disobeyed what he ordered, his tribe would be wiped from the face of the earth; that we must believe everything he said that that we must not doubt him or say that he lied; that if we did he would know it; that he would know our thoughts and actions, no matter in what part of the world we might be.  When I heard this from the Christ and came back home to tell it to the people, I thought they would listen.  Where I went to there were lots of white people, but I never had one of them say an unkind word to me.

Ever since the Christ I speak of talked to me I have thought what he said was good.  I see nothing bad in it.  When I got back, I knew my people were bad and had heard nothing of all this, so I got them together and told them of it and warned them to listen to it for their own good.  I talked to them for four nights and five days.  I told them just what I’ve told you here today.  I told them what I said were words of God Almighty, who was looking down on them.  I wish some of you had been up in our camp here to have heard my words to the Cheyennes.  The only bad thing that there has been in it at all was this:  I had just told my people that the Christ would visit the sins of any Indian upon the whole tribe, when the recent trouble (Killing of Ferguson) occurred.  If any one of you think I am not telling the truth, you can go and see this man I speak of yourselves.  I will go with you, and I would like one or two of my people who doubt me to go with me.

The Christ talked to us all in our respective tongues.  You can see this man in your sleep any time you want after you have seen him and shaken hands with him once.  through him you can go to heaven and meet your friends.  Since my return I have seen him often in my sleep.

About the time the soldiers went up the Rosebud I was lying in my lodge asleep, when this man appeared and told me that the Indians had gotten into trouble, and I was frightened.  The next night he appeared to me and told me that everything would come out all right.”



(Sgd) S.C.Robertson,

1st Lieut. 1st Cavalry.

Camp Crook, Month.  :

June 15, 1890.             :

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

1st Endorsement.


Assistant Adjutant General’s Office,

Chicago, June 28, 1890.

Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant General of the Army.

R. Williams,

Assistant Adjutant General,

for and in absence of the

Division Commander.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –


The man he calls Christ, was without doubt, the man Wovoka who was responsible for the craze about the new Messiah.  His teaching did not advise any war or killing of any nature, but provided that all men should live in harmony.

Later then Porcupine, Chief Grass, Gall, Sitting Bull and perhaps others of the Sioux, went to visit him in Montana.  Grass and Gall repudiated him but Sitting Bull stayed and listened to his teachings for some time and after returning, he instituted the Ghost Dance and pretended to be, if not God himself, at least a Prophet of the Messiah.  He had his horses all prepared to travel to Pine Ridge to meet God, when his capture was attempted and which resulted in the death of Sitting Bull at Grand River, at the camp of the Ghost Dancers, December 15th, 1890.



Thomas Frosted, May 3rd, 1929:  Grey Eagle requested him (Sitting Bull) to drop the ceremonies of the Ghost Dance about 18 months before the fight.  But he would not, and so there was bad blood between the brothers-in-law about that thing.  That is why Grey Eagle was with the policemen at the fight.

Mrs. John Grass used the words “Wanage Wacipe” as the ghost dance when talking of Sitting Bull.

Kick the Bear:  They gave the first ghost dance at Sitting Bull’s camp on the Grand River upon the Standing Rock Reservation.  Sitting Bull was also present.

Crow Dog:  His was a fearless nature and when a treaty was made which cut down the reservation limits and rations to be issued, he fled with a desperate band of hostiles and joined the ghost dances in the Bad Lands, where they defied Gen. J. A. Brook’s entire brigade.  Some friendly Indians tried to persuade him to yield and he covered his face with a blanket so as not to see those of his band who caught up their rifles to shoot the friendly intercessors.  The troops still refrained from fire, however, and he, seeing the utter hopelessness of his position, led his followers back to the reservation in December 1890.

Short Bull:  A Sicangu or Brule, born on the Niobara River about 1845.  In 1890 he was appointed a delegate to visit Wovoka, the Piute Messiah, and went to Pyramid Lake, Nevada on that account.  On his return he represented himself to be the special vicar of Wovoka and after he had been imprisoned by the Army authorities, he said he was the “Messiah” himself on earth.  He was much followed by the people during the ghost dance craze, but finally fell in disrepute among them.

James All Yellow:  “I was there all the time, in Sitting Bull’s camp on Grand River.  My wife was a relation.  I made a photo of it while they were dancing and gave it to Major McLaughlin.  This is now in his book (“My Friend the Indian”).  I told what I saw to him.  He was the Agent then.  I will tell you all about it sometime.  Both women and men danced together in a circle like the women’s grass dance.  They went dead and talked with their dead relatives.  They would come back soon.”    Note by Welch:  This is corroborated.

Later Conversation by Welch with James All Yellow about Ghost Dance (Wanage Wicipe):  He said he knew all about this dance, that he was at the hostile camp of Sitting Bull every day and night during this disturbance.  That his wife had some people there.  He saw the dances, that it was a grass dance circle, one man then a woman and so on.  They did not dance fast around the circle but sometimes someone would fall down unconscious and remain that way for a long time.  While asleep his spirit would leave his body and travel away and talk with his dead relatives.  They told the people that they had seen their relatives and talked with them and told them of messages which the spirits had sent back to them.  Sometimes they would bring something back with them which the spirits had sent.  After a while all the white people west of the Missouri river would be gone away and the dead Indians would then come back and the buffalo would return then.  He took a photograph of this dance at one time, but they struck him and he went away.  He gave the photo to the Agent Major McLaughlin and told him, every day, what had taken place.

Chief John Grass:  Did not dance this dance, but he lived down there on Grande River, too.  All Yellow knew Big Foot the agitator.

Chief John Grass, August 1915:  Regarding Big Foot…”This man was another tribe.  He was a Piute.  He said that we should dance this thing and it was good…that he was God come back to earth again and he would give us good things.  He told us not to lie and not to hurt any white people until he told us to.” Welch pencilled comment: “Wrong.”

Kick the Bear:  This was a medicine man among the Indians at Cheyenne Agency and was generally spoken of as Kicking Bear.

American Horse:  Wasecu Tasunka or “American Horse,” was an Oglala Teton, probably the son of the American Horse who was killed at Slim Buttes in 1875, while on the war path with Sitting Bull.  He signed the treaty with General Crook in 1889 by which the Sioux Lands in Dakota were reduced one half.  The expected benefits of this treaty never realized by the Sioux.  Their cattle were stolen and with no crop in 1889, the government rations withdrawn, his band were in a state bordering starvation, when they went into the Bad Lands to follow the chimera of the Ghost Dance Messiah craze, under Sitting Bull.  In 1891 he headed a delegation of friendly Indians to Washington and upon the representations then made, the government rations were re-issued.








.School Teacher Carignan’s Letter to McLaughlin warning of Sitting Bull’s imminent departure from Grand River



Carignan letter, page 2


JOHN CARIGNAN’S LETTER, retyped by Welch




.McLaughlin’s order for the arrest of Sitting Bull












.McLaughlin’s initial advice to Washington, DC, about the resulting fight













.Descriptions of, and suppositions about, the fight in which Sitting Bull was killed       

Col. F. M. Steele, Fargo Daily Tribune, May 18, 1924: “Buffalo Bill foiled.  Bull Head killed Sitting Bull”



page 2, Col.Steele



 Chas. McLaughlin, Sioux County Pioneer, Nov. 1925: “Bull Head and Red Tomahawk killed Sitting Bull simultaneously”


page 2, Chadwick


 Frances Bull Head, Sioux County Pioneer, Dec. 31, 1925: “Bull Head killed Sitting Bull, not Red Tomahawk”


page 2, Frances Bull Head


page 3, Frances Bull Head


Page 4, Frances Bull Head



James McLaughlin, Sioux County Pioneer, Feb. 4, 1926: Copy of his Dec. 16, 1890 official report to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington, D.C. on the Death of Sitting Bull

McLaughlin, page 2


McLaughlin, page 3


McLaughlin, page 4


Geo. H. Drake, Minneapolis Tribune, June 20, 1926: Cites McLaughlin’s Dec. 16, 1890 letter reporting full details of the Death of Sitting Bull


Drake, page 2

Drake, page 3



 A. B. Welch letter, May 10, 1927 (retyped, original blurred):  One Bull’s participation in the fight which resulted in the death of Sitting Bull



 Frank Zahn, 1929 article (probably in Sioux County Pioneer):  Capsule review of the fight which resulted in the Death of Sitting Bull


Zahn,page 2




 Albert Bloom, Fargo Forum, Dec. 1, 1929:  Recalls guard over body of Sitting Bull




Circling Hawk was one of the Ghost Dancers present at the fight which resulted in the Death of Sitting Bull, Welch notes


November 3, 1925, at Little Eagle, S.D.:

….”I noticed that he wore three “wound marks” on his white shirt and asked him about those honors.  He would not tell me until I had also told him that I bore wounds received in war.  He said “I was the first Sioux shot by the Crow people that time.  One of those marks is that wound.  I also got the top of my right ear shot off.  Then another time I had all the tips of my fingers shot badly.  They are bent now, but I have them yet.  That time of the Crow fight was a bad one.  We killed them all (33).  But one was not dead.  He got away.  He walked away from us.  We let him go without killing him.”  And the old man got up and danced the pantomine of the Crow fight.”

The Crows were killed in the “Stone Fort,” a few miles upstream from the present Bull Head.  This old Circling Hawk was one of the ghost dancers with Sitting Bull, when he was killed December 15-1890, and survived the Wounded Knee affair a few days after that.  He was decorated with paint and a white painted circle was around his right eve orbit.  A very interesting trip and interesting Sioux there.”

Circling Hawk died about June 3, 1932.

Sitting Bull’s cabin as it looked on the morning of the fight which ended with his death. Undated newspaper photo.



.McLaughlin’s final reports on ‘The Sitting Bull Affair”







McLaughlin writes….”On October 17, 1890, I wrote the following letter:”

Standing Rock Agency, Oct. 17, 1890

Hon. T. J. Morgan,

Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

Sir: Referring to the subject of office letter “L” dated June 7 last, and my reply of the 18th of same month relative to rumors of a prospective outbreak among the Sioux, I have the honor to state that there is now considerable excitement and some disaffection existing among certain Indians of this agency.

I trust that I may not be considered an alarmist and believe that my past record among the Sioux will remove any doubt in this respect, and I do not wish to be understood as considering the present state of excitement so alarming as to apprehend any immediate uprising or serious outcome, but I do feel it my duty to report the present “craze” and nature of the excitement existing among the Sitting Bull faction of Indians over the expected Indian millennium, the annihilation of the white men and supremacy of the Indian, which is looked for in the near future and promised by the Indian Medicine men as not later than next spring, when the new grass begins to appear, and is known among the Sioux as the return of the ghosts.

They are promised by some members of the Sioux tribe, who have lately developed into medicine men, that the Great Spirit has promised them that their punishment by the dominant race has been sufficient and that their numbers, having now become so decimated, will be reinforced by all Indians who are dead; that they are driving back with them as they return immense herds of buffalo and elegant wild horses to have for the catching; that the Great Spirit promises them that the white man will be unable to make gunpowder in the future, and all attempts as such will be a failure, and that the gunpowder now on hand will be useless as against Indians, as it will not throw a bullet with sufficient force to pass through the skin of an Indian; that the Great Spirit has deserted the Indians for a long period, but is now with them and against the whites, and will cover the earth over with 30 feet additional soil, well sodded and timbered, under which the whites will all be smothered, and any whites who may escape this great phenomena will become small fishes in the rivers of the country; but in order to bring about this happy result the Indians must do their part and become believers and thoroughly organize.

It would seem impossible that any person, no matter how ignorant, could be brought to believe such absurd nonsense, but as a matter of fact, a great many of the Indians of this agency actually believe it, and since this new doctrine has been engrafted here from the more southern Sioux agencies, the infection has be wonderful and so pernicious that it now includes some of the Indians who were formerly numbered with the progressive and more intelligent, and many of our very best Indians appear dazed and undecided when talking about it, their inherent superstition has been thoroughly aroused.

Sitting Bull is high priest and leading apostle of this latest Indian absurdity; in a word, he is the chief mischief-maker at this agency, and if he were not here this craze, so general among the Sioux, would never have gotten a foothold at this agency.  Sitting Bull is a man of low cunning, devoid of a single manly principle in his nature or an honorable trait of character, but on the contrary, is capable of instigating and inciting others (those who believe in his powers) to do any amount of mischief.  He is a coward and lacks moral courage; he will never lead where there is danger, but is an adept in influencing his ignorant henchmen and followers, and there is no knowing what he may direct them to attempt.

(signed) James McLaughlin





Col. Cody ( Buffalo Bill) with 8 civilian companions left the agency at 11:00 a.m. on November 29 for Sitting Bull’s camp, which was 40 miles distant, and four hours after his departure a dispatch was received by the post commander of Fort Yates from Army headquarters directing the suspension of the arrest of Sitting Bull and other Indians, and couriers were at once sent after the party to notify them of the fact.  Cody and party returned to the post the following morning and immediately left for the East, and the following telegram was received by me the following day:

Washington, Dec. 1, 1890

To James McLaughlin, Agent:

By direction of the Secretary during the present Indian troubles you are instructed that while you shall continue all the business and carry into effect the educational and other purposes of your agency, you will as to all operating intended to suppress any outbreak by force cooperate with and obey the order of the military officers commanding on the reservation in your charge.

R. V. Belt, Actg. Commissioner

From the active movements of the military I foresaw that the arrest of Sitting Bull was liable to be ordered at any moment and such order might come at an inopportune time, so to avoid trouble I contemplated making the arrest on Saturday night, December 6, when everything was most favorable for it, and on December 5, sent the following dispatch.  Other dispatches on this subject are also given:

Standing Rock Agency,

December 5, 1890

To: Commissioner Indian Affairs:

Everything quiet at present; weather cold and snowing.  Am I authorized to arrest Sitting Bull and other fomentors of mischief when I think best?

McLaughlin, Agent


To: McLaughlin, Agent:

Replying to your telegram of this date Secretary directs that you make no arrests whatever except under orders of the military or upon an order from the Secretary of Interior.

R. V. Belt, Actg. Commissioner


St. Paul, Minn. Dec. 6, 1890

U.S.Indian Agent James McLaughlin:

Referring to telegram sent Colonel Drum, which he will show you, is there any change of condition recently which makes present action specially necessary?  As you know I am disposed to support you.  Some prior movements I would like to see completed.

Ruger, Brigadier-General, Commanding.


Standing Rock Agency, Dec. 6, 1890.

To Gen. Ruger,

St. Paul, Minn.

No change in condition except for the better.  Sitting Bull can be kept on reserve by Indian Police without fear of escape before arrest is required,  which can be made by Indian Police, but in my judgment there is no necessity for immediate arrest.  Postponement preferable, as every day of cold weather cools the ardor of the dancers.  This is beef-ration day and everything is quiet.  McLaughlin, Agent.



Headquarters Department of Dakota

St. Paul, Minn. December 12, 1890

To Commanding Officer,

Ft. Yates, N.Dak.

The Division commander has directed that you make it your especial duty to secure the person of Sitting Bull.  Call on Indian Agent to cooperate and render such assistance as will best promote the purpose in view.  Acknowledge receipt and, if not perfectly clear, repeat back.

By command of General Ruger

M. Barber, Ass. Adj.-General.

(copy furnished by commanding officer, Fort Yates)


The following report of occurrences following the date of Gen. Ruger’s dispatch made by me to the Indian Office December 24, 1890, will show what action was taken upon the receipt of that telegram, and its results.

Seeing in the public press of the country so many absurd reports and ridiculous accounts regarding the arrest and death of “Sitting Bull,” I feel called upon in justice to the Indians of this Agency, 90 per cent of whom are loyal and well-disposed, and in justice to the police force in particular, to give the following statement of facts which I desire given to the Associated Press or some of the leading journals of the country.  By way of preface I desire to say that “Sitting Bull,” who was constitutionally a bad man without a redeeming quality, has been growing during the past year, so that his authority, notwithstanding that every honorable means to change him from his imprudent course had been resorted to.

On or about the 15th of October last, while Kicking Bear, who came from Cheyenne River Reservation upon an invitation from Sitting Bull to organize a ghost dance at his camp, he (Sitting Bull) broke his pipe of peace, which he had kept in his house since his surrender as a prisoner of war in July, 1881.  When asked why he had broken that pipe, he replied that he wanted to die and wanted to fight.

I would have arrested him at his home on Saturday, the 6th instant, as the police officers had arrangements perfected and everything appeared favorable for it at that time, but an office telegram was received the previous evening which forbad the arrest until further orders.

On Friday afternoon the 12th instant an order to secure the person of Sitting Bull was received, but as I desired the arrest to be made without bloodshed, and knew the temper of his followers in the blind religious craze, the wisdom of attempting it at that time was contrary to my judgment, and in consultation with Col. Drum, post commander of Fort Yates, it was concluded to defer the matter until Saturday, the 20th, on which date the major portion of his supporters would be at the agency for the bi-weekly issue of rations.  In the meantime, I had him kept under close surveillance by Indian Police specially detailed for that purpose.

When the final order for Sitting Bull’s arrest was received on the afternoon of the 12th instant, I sent a courier for Shave Head and communicated to him and directed that he take such of the other policemen as he deemed proper and report to Bull Head at Grand River as early as practicable, but not to attempt to make the arrest until further ordered, unless it was discovered that Sitting Bull was preparing to leave the reservation, which must be prevented if possible.

The policemen on duty in the Grand River Settlements were engaged in procuring logs and forwarding them by teams to a point where the road crosses Oak Creek, about half way between the agency and the principle settlements on Grand River, where a shelter station (house and stable) was being erected for accommodation of persons passing over the road during the winter months, and on Saturday, the 13th, Sergt. John Eagleman left the agency with a detachment of 8 police for the Oak Creek station to commence erecting the buildings referred to, also to be within supporting distance of the force operating on Grand River, if necessary.  It was then the intention of the police not to make the arrest until Saturday morning, the 20th instant, as above stated, which was believed to be the most practical way to obviate excitement and trouble, as at that date most of the Indians would be in at the agency for rations; but on Sunday, the 14th inst, at 4 P.M. special Policeman Hawkman No. 1 arrived at the agency from Grand river with a letter to me from Lieut Bull Head, written by Mr. John M. Carignan, teacher of the Grand River School, dated at Grand River, December 14, 12:30 A.M., containing the information that Sitting Bull was preparing to leave the reservation, and that they (the police) wanted to arrest him without further delay, giving as their reason that he (Sitting Bull) had been fitting his horses for a long and hard ride and that, being well mounted, if he once got the start on them they would be unable to overtake him.

I had just finished the letter referred to, and commenced questioning the courier as to the disposition of Lieut. Bull Head had made of the additional force of police sent him, when Col. Drum remarked that, under his orders received the previous Friday, the arrest must be made the following morning, and for the salutary effect that it would have upon Indians I desired to have the arrest made by the agency police with troops to make a night march to Oak Creek, so as to be within supporting distance of the police, if needed, and to aid in bringing Sitting Bull safely to the agency, if pursued by his followers; also to let the Indians understand that the troops were ready to cooperate with the Indian Police and assist in putting down any lawlessness among them when necessary; but above everything else, I desired to have the arrest made without bloodshed, which I believed the police would be able to effect.

Before Col. Drum left my office I wrote two letters, one in English and a translation of it into the Sioux language, both of which I sent to Lieut. Bull Head by Second Sergt. Red Tomahawk, a very cool and reliable policeman, with orders to make the arrest.  I made known to Sergt. Red Tomahawk, the plan of arrest and also gave him verbal orders to take Sergt. Eagleman and his detachment from Oak Creek along with him and report to Bull Head with all possible dispatch.  I had previously impressed upon the Lieutenant and First Sergeant the importance of having a light wagon with them when they went to make the arrest so that they could put Sitting Bull into it as soon as they had made him Prisoner and to drive out of the village as rapidly as possible before his followers (crazed ghost dancers) had time to assemble, which would consume but little time; whereas if too much time were wasted, it would give them an opportunity to assemble round the house and a disturbance might be created.  But upon receipt of permission to make the arrest the enthusiasm among the police was so great that they neglected to take the wagon along, but went on horseback and rode boldly through the camp and up to Sitting Bull’s house, where they dismounted just as daybreak began to appear.

Sitting Bull had two log cabins a few rods distant from each other, the wagon road passing between, and 10 policemen entered one of the houses and 8 entered to other, so as to make sure of finding him.  They found him in the larger building of the two and announced the object of their mission, which was that he was their prisoner and was to accompany them to the agency (the police also took possession of 2 rifles and 4 hunting knives, found in the house).  Sitting bull said: “Alright, I will go with you; I will put on my clothes,” and then sent one of his wives to the other house for some clothing that he desired to went; he also requested that his favorite horse be brought from the stable and saddled for him to ride, which was done by one of the policemen.  While dressing , Sitting Bull caused considerable delay, and commenced abusing the policemen for disturbing him; all of which abuse they bore patiently.  During this time his followers began to congregate, and when he was dressed and brought out of the house the followers had the police entirely surrounded and pressed in close to the building.  Sitting Bull then became very much excited and positively refused to go with the police, and called upon his followers to rescue him.  The police force, in the meantime, were reasoning with the crowd to let them pass out unmolested and at the same time gradually forced the Indians back so as to get Sitting Bull away in safety.

Lieut. Bull Head and Sergt. Shave Head stood one on each side of Sitting Bull, with Second Sergt. Red Tomahawk behind him, to prevent his escape.  At this juncture, with the excitement at its height, Catch the Bear and Strike the Kettle, two of Sitting Bull’s main supporters, dashed through the crowd, and Catch the Bear fired and the ball struck Lieut. Bull Head on the right side.  Bull Head then fired at Sitting Bull, the ball striking him on the left side between the tenth and eleventh ribs (there was no exit).  Sitting Bull also received a gunshot wound in the right cheek just below the eye, and Sergt. Shave Head was at the same moment shot by Strike the Kettle, and all three fell together. Catch the Bear, who shot the Lieutenant, was immediately shot and killed by Private of police “Alone Man,” and the fight then became general.  In Fact, a hand to hand conflict, 39 policemen and 4 volunteers against 150 Indians.  The police soon drove the Indians from around the building then charged and drove them into the woods, about 20 rods distant; after which the police returned to the building and carried their dead and wounded into Sitting Bull’s house and held the buildings without further causalities, from about 5:30 A.M. to 8:30 A.M. when the cavalry command of 100 men under Capt. E. G. Fechet, Eighth United States Cavalry, came in sight when the ghost dancers who were hid in the adjoining woods fled up Grand River, but after going up a short distance turned south across the prairie and through to the Moreau River and Cherry Creek, on the Cheyenne River Reservation.


The following are extracts from the report of Capt. E. G. Fechet, Eighth Cavalry, commanding the detachment of cavalry, to his superiors with regard to this affair:

I can not too strongly commend the splendid courage and ability which characterized the conduct of the Indian Police commanded by Bull Head and Shave Head throughout the encounter.  The attempt to arrest Sitting Bull was so managed as to place the responsibility for the fight that ensued upon Sitting Bull’s band which began the firing.  Red Tomahawk assumed command of the police force after both Bull Head and Shave Head had been wounded, and it was he also, who, under circumstances requiring personal courage to the highest degree, assisted Hawkman to escape with a message to the troops.  After the fight no demoralization seemed to exist among them, and they were ready and willing to cooperate with the troops to any extent desired.


Extract from my official report to the Honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated December 16th, 1890, as to the affair on Grand River:

The details of the battle show than the Indian Police behaved nobly and exhibited the best of judgement and bravery, and a recognition by the Government for their services on this occasion is richly deserved and should be promptly given with a substantial allowance for the families of those who are dead, and also for the survivors, to show them that the government recognizes the great service that has been done for the country in the result of yesterday’s fight.

I respectfully urge that the Interior Department cooperate with the War Department in obtaining Congressional action which will insure to these brave survivors, and to the families of the dead, a full and generous reward.  Besides the Indian Police there were 4 volunteers, viz, Gray Eagle, Spotted Thunder, Otter Robe and Young Eagle, who participated in the fight, rendering good service and deserving light recognition.  Gray Eagle (Gabriel Wamdihotah) is one of the judges of the court of Indian Offenses, and his two sisters are Sitting Bull’s wives.  Until about 17 months ago he was Sitting Bull’s main support.

To this the office replied:

Washington, Dec. 30, 1890

To James McLaughlin,

U.S.Indian Agent:

Sir:  Your communication of the 16th is received, wherein you report in detail the arrest and subsequent death of Sitting Bull; speak of the bravery and good judgment of your Indian Police; recommend that the noble services of the survivors receive substantial recognition; that the families of those who were killed by amply provided for, and that this department and the War Department join in an effort to obtain Congressional action to that end, if necessary.

In reply, you are informed that this office will do all in its power to have Congress recognize and reward the praiseworthy and valuable service rendered by these men and to provide for the needs of the family of those who were killed, and, in the meantime, you will see to it that they do not suffer for the lack of any supplies or other requisites for their sustenance and comfort; and any specific recommendation you make in regard to them pending legislation in their favor will be carefully considered and promptly approved by me if practicable and proper.

I also desire you to publicly commend, in my name, the bravery and fidelity of the force and inform the survivors that, while I sincerely regret that the taking of any life was necessary, it is very gratifying to me to know that I have such reliable assistants in my efforts to promote the welfare of their people, that their noble conduct has been highly praised wherever spoken of.

Respectfully, T.J. Morgan, Commissioner


On March 3, 1891, I suggested to the Honorable Commissioner that a pension of at least $15.00 per month be given to each of the families of Bull Head, Shave Head and Little Eagle, and $10.00 per month to each of the families of Paul Akicitah, Hawkman No. 1 and John Armstrong, who were killed and also $10.00 per month to Alexander Middle who was severely wounded and will probably lose his foot.  Also that each of the 33 policemen and 4 volunteers, survivors of the engagement, receive a medal commemorative of their fidelity, and payment of the rate of $50.00 per head for the ponies they had killed and those that stampeded during the fight.

In conclusion, I venture to say that had the suggestion contained in my letter of November 19th, and afterwards repeatedly referred to in my correspondence, been adopted as to the separation of these Indians and the suspension of rations to the evil-disposed portion of them, that the dancing would have been broken up and Sitting arrested without bloodshed.

No uneasiness or disaffection now exists among the Indians of the agency.  All appear anxious to forget the late unpleasantness and progression is manifest among all classes.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant. James McLaughlin, U.S.Indian Agent.


Casualties in the Affair on Grand River December 15, 1890:

Indian Police and Volunteers:

1. Henry Bullhead, first lieutenant; died eighty-two hours after the fight.

2. Charles Shave Head, first sergeant; died twenty-five hours after the fight.

3. James Little Eagle, fourth sergeant; killed (Wamble Cixan).

4. Paul Akicitah (Warriors Fear Him – Akicitah Kokipopi), private; killed.

5. John Armstrong (Broken Arm – Isto Wasaka), special; killed.

6. David Hawkman (Chetan Wicasa), special; killed.

7. Alexander Middle (Hoco Kapayakan), private; wounded; will lose his foot.

Ghost Dancers:

1. Sitting Bull, fifty-six years old; killed.

2. Crow Foot (Sitting Bull’s son), seventeen years old; killed.

3. Blackbird, forty-three years old; killed.

4. Catch the Bear, forty-four years old; killed.

5. Spotted Horn Bull, fifty-six years old; killed.

6. Brave Thunder, forty-six years old; killed.

7. Little Assinaboine, forty-four years old; killed (Sitting Bull’s adopted son).

8. Chase Wounded, twenty-four years old; killed.

9. Bull Ghost; wounded; entirely recovered.

10. Brave Thunder, wounded; recovering.  (note:  there must have been two Brave Thunders)

11. Strike the Kettle; wounded; recovered.



Major James McLaughlin’s book “My Friend the Indian” states that Sitting Bull was shot in the cheek by Red Tomahawk and that this shot killed him instantly.  This statement has been authenticated by a personal interview with Major McLaughlin.

A careful search has been made of the records of the Indian and Pension Bureaus, Senate committee on Pensions and Library of Congress, and while bills appear to have been introduced in the 52nd Congress, there is no indication that any of them were ever passed.  The widow of Bull Head was finally granted a pension on showing that her husband had at one time served thirty days with the military forces of the United States.  Both Alexander Middle and Red Tomahawk made application for pension under the act of March 4, 1917 and both claims were rejected.









.Red Tomahawk’s story on the Death of Sitting Bull

Red Tomahawk interview with Welch, 1915

Told by Tacankpe Luta, a Hunkpapa, at Fort Yates, N.D. that he is the man who killed Sitting Bull, and the white man’s translation of his name is Red Tomahawk.  It really means Red War Club.

“I was a Sergeant of the Indian Police.  Sitting Bull was my friend.  I killed him like this.”

(With aid of a rough Indian Map, which I own, he followed the story)  (Note:  this map is lost)

“We went together with the soldiers.  They stayed away about a mile from the camp in the hills.  It was on the Grand River.  We police went toward the camp of the hostiles.  We came up behind a corral with horses.  No one saw us yet.  We went to a log house and I tied my horse to the corner of it.  We opened the door and went in.  Sitting Bull was there and he got awake then.  He had been singing and dancing and was tired and sleepy, I guess.  We told him to go with us.  I had hold of his left arm and I had my gun in my hand, too.  I told him not to make cry for his people.  We would kill him first.  We got outside and he made a loud cry as his son came around the corner of the house, and then the hostiles came.  His son, Crow Foot, came and was killed right away.  He went down these tracks and died.  (Pointed to the trail depicted on the map).  I shot Sitting Bull in the left side.  He fell with his face down.  I shot him again in the back of the neck then.  He was dead then.  There were lots of shots then.  We had a battle with the hostiles.  Bull Head, Shave Head, Warriors Fear Him, Broken Arm, Hawk Man were all killed.  They were police like I am.  Many hostiles were killed.  The soldiers came up fast and shot twice with a cannon.  They shot off the hind part of my horse tied to the house.  They wanted to kill the police, too, it looked like.  The soldiers took what Sitting Bull had on to keep for medicine.  One soldier hit him in the face after he was dead, with a neck yoke.  We piled him and the police dead into the wagons and went to Fort Yates with them.  He is buried there.  That is where he lies where I point.  I was under orders so I killed him.  He should not have hollered.”

Question: “Does his spirit ever come back here?”

Answer: “Yes, sometimes.  He rides in on an elk spirit.”

Question: “I want to go to his grave.  Come with me.”

Answer: “No. I do not go.  I am afraid.

There are mysterious flowers upon his grave every year. We do not know where they come from.  They are wankan.  They should bury him in a church yard.”

 Red Tomahawk’s story of the fight, told to Welch, Published in “The Clover Leaf,” February 1923



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LIEUTENANT BULL HEAD, Indian Policeman killed during the attempted arrest of Sitting Bull


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.Welch’s thoughts about the Grand River and Wounded Knee Battles in his Address  before Reserve Officers Assn, Fort Abraham Lincoln, June 11, 1934

Address given by A. B. Welch

before Reserve Officers Assn.

Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota,

 June 11th, 1934



There is nothing to be added to what has already been threshed over and over from one point of view or another and by hundreds of writers, regarding the advance of civilization west of the Mississippi.  Hundreds of fights of more or less importance have taken place between the representatives of Washington and the western Indians.  Thousands of lives have been taken, both white and red.  Helpless women and children have been murdered and their scalps have been danced in a thousand Indian ceremonies, and isolated Indian camps have been burned and old and sick and children have been killed by the hard-boiled soldiers of the western forces whose creed was that “the only good Indian was a dead one.”  Solitary trappers, groups of hunters, wagon trains with heavy guards, frontier towns and trader’s forts alike, have felt the merciless hands of worthy red-skinned fighters, in retaliation.

The picture many of us have is that of a skulking, snaky foeman with plenty of nerve in the face of a weak enemy, but of no fighting ability when up against an equal or superior force.  However, this is not a true picture, but one originating within the egotistical brain of white men.  No other aboriginal people have so tenaciously and stubbornly resisted the encroachments of others they did not want, than has the North American Indian, especially those west of the Mississippi.

Hundreds of volumes have been written about the campaigns in that territory, especially west of the Missouri river.  Some of these are very unworthy of a historian and others do not indicate or concede any right or worthy motive to either the white soldier nor the red warrior.

Pitched battles were not common, because the open warfare education of the plains Indian is to strike and retire and scatter until another opportunity presents itself for combined action.  In our own country – Chiefs Gall, Crazy Horse, Black Moon, Two Bears, Red Cloud and a dozen other Indian leaders were never crushed or even badly defeated; the stories of Captain Fetterman’s defeat; the fight at Slim Buttes; the scattered graves of Terry’s column under Custer, all bear witness to heavy and definite army defeats, and Generals Miles, Crook and Terry in the north could tell tales of how the fall of a gracious night which saved them from annihilation at various places between the Yellowstone and the Missouri.

The establishment of a line of army posts along the Missouri from Fort Randall to Buford, costly and most dearly paid for, indicate the fibre of the foe in what is now the two Dakotas.  Sully at Whitestone and Killdeer and Fort Rice; Sibley at the Big Mound, Dead Buffalo Lake and Apple Creek;  Terry along the Yellowstone; Gibbons in his Montana wanderings; General Miles who commanded the column which pursued Chief Joseph the Nez Perce in his masterful rear guard retirement  into what he thought was Canada – all of these officers learned to respect the fighting ability of the plains warriors, and Custer was the only one of them all who thought that his unit could walk through the entire Sioux Nation, and for that rash idea he paid the bitter price on the hills of the Little Big Horn that hot day of June, 1876.  Within thirty minutes of the first shot, the Sioux warriors swept over him with an impetuosity which could not be denied.

I might deviate here for just a moment.  The Big Horn debacle has been argued about for over 50 years.  Before any of you come to a conclusion regarding the mooted question of whether or not the Lt. Col., commanding the 7th Cavalry, did nor did not obey orders – please bear in mind that courtesy of phraseology in an order takes nothing from the force of the order itself.  The definite purpose of the Commanding Officer issuing the order being known, nothing, save the most dire necessity, will justify the subordinate in departing in any way from his instructions.  Even when some discretion and latitude of action is given to the subordinate to meet unanticipated events, in his own way and according to the circumstances which might arise, he still is responsible that his action at such times is in entire accord with the “spirit” of his instructions and as nearly as may be possible, with the expressed will and desire of the commander.  In the courteous custom of the service, the words “he desires” – “he thinks” have all the force that can be expressed by the words “he orders,” because those phrases clearly define the commander’s will.

While I am loath to mention my own opinions regarding these western tragedies of warfare, I am of the mind that many of these bloody affairs might have been averted.  You ask how?  In the second part of this paper I have recounted the experiences of the first punitive expedition into this part of the country.  In that, Col. Leavenworth included a force of 750 Sioux warriors, and this force was anxious to serve against their ancient enemies, the Arikara.  However, this entire body became disgusted with the spiritless attack of Leavenworth’s men at the time when they had the fate of the Arikara within the hollow of their hands.  The Sioux withdrew because Leavenworth stated that he did not trust them to be loyal to him, and thus he lost the finest opportunity ever presented, to make friends with that great fighting Nation of Indians and to bind them to the cause of the U.S.Army for future operations in the west.  That one episode caused a nation of native people to become a force who hated the white man because of mistrust, and a feeling of superiority grew among them right down the years until the white man and the Indians fought side by side along the Marne, the trampled wheat fields of Soissons, and the shot-up forests of the Argonne along the Meuse.  Then, and never until then, did they sing in honor of a dead American soldier.

An now we come to the year 1890, which experienced the last important clash of arms between the Indians and the Whites.  This episode took place in what is now North and South Dakota, as the principal characters lived upon the Standing Rock Reservation within an hour’s drive of this place.  A series of circumstances, coupled with a bad hangover from events which had taken place during the previous fifteen years, was responsible for the outbreak.

This trouble centered about the irreconcilable Sitting Bull, the Sioux-medicine-man leader.  This influential Indian had been brought back to the Standing Rock in May 1883 following his surrender in Canada on July 10, 1881 and appearance at Fort Buford July 19th ‘81.  On July 29th ‘81, he and his haggard followers, boarded the steamboat “General Sherman” and, three days after that, landed at Bismarck, N.D. on their way to Standing Rock.

However, Sitting Bull was taken on down and kept at Fort Randall, S.D. until May 10, 1883, when he was also turned loose at Fort Yates on the Standing Rock in North Dakota.  He built a log house on the left bank of the Grand River, about 75 or 80 miles directly south of Mandan, where many of his former wild adherents of past war experiences joined him.

The the Ghost Dance craze broke out and Sitting Bull nominated himself to be the proper person to spread the disturbing teachings of that religious frenzy to his superstitious followers.  During the fall of 1890, Bismarck, Mandan and other principal settlements along the N.P.Rwy route were crowded with settlers and families of pioneers, fleeing the places of safety from the expected Indian outbreak and attendant horrors.  Major McLaughlin was Agent at Fort Yates and Lt. Col. W.E. Drum was the Army officer in command of the troops at that army post.  Major McLaughlin received orders to bring in the person of Sitting Bull, with the cooperation of the military forces available.  He decided to use his U.S.Indian Police to that end and, on December 14th, 1890, he issued the following order for the arrest of Sitting Bull.  (Here is the original order in both English and Dakota).  By using the Police he hoped to be able to make the arrest without a battle with the hostiles.

Col. Drum ordered Captain E.G.Fechet, with Troops “F” and “G” Eighth Cavalry, with one Gattling, one Hotchkiss, and 4 horse wagon and one Red Cross Ambulance, to proceed under the guidance of Louis Primeau to a point within reasonable supporting of the camp of Sitting Bull.  Lieuts. Crowder, Slocum, Steele and Brooks and Capt. A.R.Chapin, Surgeon, accompanied the column.  The Police were to gather at the camp of Lieutenant Bull Head (Sometimes called Afraid of Bear) on the Grand River a few miles west of  Sitting Bull’s camp, and to make the arrest before daybreak the next morning, Dec. 15th, 1890.  The Police expected a fight and prepared for death with songs and supplications to Wakantonka.  They rode in a close body with a screen of several men ahead until they were close to the camp of several hundred Messiah-crazed hostiles.  They stayed there quietly until the dancers had gone to their lodges, then, in a close mass, they charged among the tipis and a picked detail of six or seven police dismounted at the log shack of Sitting Bull, quickly gained entrance, lit a match to locate Sitting Bull, blew it out and secured him.

The hostiles were quickly astir but as yet no shot had been fired.  However, when they allowed him to put on some clothes (he slept in the raw) and took him out and some police saddled the grey horse which Wm. Cody (Buffalo Bill) had presented to him – a hostile by the name of Catch the Bear shot Bull Head, the Lieut. of Police, and the fight was on.

In this hand to hand fight, within a very few minutes, Lieutenant Bull Head, 1st Sergeant Shave Head, Policeman Broken Arm, Little Eagle, Warriors Fear Him and Hawk Man were killed and Policeman Middle was severely wounded.  Of the hostiles, Sitting Bull, his son Crow Foot, Black Bear, Catch the Bear, Little Assiniboine, Chief Spotted Horn Bull, Brave Thunder, another Chief, were killed and many others wounded but taken away by their friends.

The command of the force of 42 Police and 3 volunteers, fell upon First Duty Sergeant Red Tomahawk, who sent through a horseman to inform the troops under Fechet, then gathered his forces with a log house and successfully stood off the hostiles until relief arrived.  The hostiles fled up Grand River under the leadership of Si-Tanka (Big Foot). The bodies of the dead policemen and Sitting Bull were then placed in an army wagon and delivered to the authorities at Fort Yates, where the Police were given military honors at burial, and the body of Sitting Bull was buried in a corner of the Military Cemetery, where it still is – a place of much interest.  The dead hostiles were buried sometime later, by Missionary T.L.Riggs at the place where they fell.

The hostiles were rounded up within a short time in the southern part of South Dakota and the attempt to disarm them met with disaster; a fight was precipitated and about 300 Indians and several soldiers were killed.  This was at Wounded Knee.  The least said about this fight, the better.  It is not a particularly bright page in army history.

With the death of Sitting Bull, quickly followed by the Wounded Knee affair, the backbone of Indian resistance was broken in the northwest and no cause for unrest nor danger of a border war has since then been experienced, and “All is quiet on the Western Front.”

Comments on Wounded Knee by Welch in his notes: “… attempting to disarm the warriors a fight was started and nearly the entire band, including Big Foot, was killed.  This fight was caused, so say the Indians, by a soldier firing on a young man whose rifle was under his blanket.  No attempt was made to draw the gun and it looked to the Indians as though it was a preconcerted signal to start the bloody deed.  This was Dec. 29th, 1890, and the weather was terribly cold.  The soldiers turned gatling guns upon the defenseless Indians and shot them indiscriminately.  The wounded laid on the frozen ground all night with no shelter or succor and many froze to death.  Women took off their dresses to wrap around their children and were found thus, dead.. Many terrible tales are told by the Indians of this fight, which they claim was revenge on the part of the 7th Cavalry.  The Indians call it a massacre.”



.Burial Sites of Sitting Bull and the Indian Police killed in the shoot-out

Welch Conversation with Father Bernard, Fort Yates, late teens/early 1920’s

“I was here when Sitting Bull was killed by Red Tomahawk.  After the fight in which he lost his life, together with his son, Crow Foot, and many other hostiles and six of the Indian Police, he was brought back here in an army wagon.  It was in the middle of winter.  Snow was on the ground.  Sitting Bull was killed on December 15, 1890.  They piled him into a wagon with the rest of the dead police men on top of him.  Some of the soldiers came with him.  Sitting Bull was a trouble maker and a bad man and a murderer and I did not approve of burying him in the consecrated ground of a Catholic church yard.  So he was buried outside.

“He was a pagan.  I knew him well.  The policemen killed were buried in a single grave from my chapel and I performed the last rites of the church over them.  We had dug a hole in the church burial place.  It was large enough for them all and they were laid side by side and buried.  All honor was paid to them.  They were policemen and had performed their duty.  I knew them all.  Afterward, we erected that shaft of marble over their graves, with their names upon its side.  We also put a small headstone to designate each one by name.  The burial place was already filled when we buried them so we buried them on top of someone else.  Our yard is too small.

“Sitting Bull was buried by the hands of Major McLaughlin who was Indian Agent at Fort Yates at the time he broke out on his last war path and followed the call of the Ghost Dance.  The box he was buried in was a rough board box.  Every soldier pounded a nail in it for good luck.  His face was badly pounded after he was killed.  I am told that a soldier hit him with a neck yoke.  He is buried out there about a half mile from our graveyard.  It is said that quick lime was put into his coffin with his body.  I do not know, but guess that is correct.  I am sure that his body has never been disturbed since he was buried.  He lived and died a pagan and a hostile Hunkpapa.  While he had influence it was all directed in the wrong path.  He lies in an unhallowed grave, where he was buried like a wild animal, without honor or Christian ministering.”

Welch Note: Told to me while standing at the grave of the policemen killed in the fight and within sight of the grave of Sitting Bull.  The inscription upon the weathered wooden head board is:


INDIAN   1915

Welch Note, no date: Mrs. Galpin, Mr. Perkins and the old medicine man, Goose, all have held that the body of Sitting Bull was not buried at Fort Yates.