Red Fish, Yanktonaise Sioux Chief (Col. A.B.Welch’s interviews 1910’s and 1920’s)

 Welch notes about Red Fish, probably mid 1920’s:

Hogan Luta (Red Fish), a son of the Red Fish who was an Oglala Chief in 1849 and who lost his influence and position on account of the failure of his war party against the Crows, lives on the Cannon Ball River on the Standing Rock, N.D., and has often come the entire distance to Bismarck and Mandan to see me and talk.

Red Fish Photo and Information on the Back



He is a chief of a small band, not easily identified now, but he has little power or direct influence, especially among the younger element but considerable among the older people.  On dance occasions I have frequently seen him with a buffalo head-dress, and he often dances on the extreme outside of the circle, and watches the distance and shades his eyes as he watches; at other times he glares scowlingly at the sun, because, as he tells me:

“I am the bravest man among them and so I have the right to dance on the outside of the circle so I will be the first to meet any enemies who may come around from men or spirits.”

Red Fish’s Warrior Shield and Interpretation of it’s Meaning



Red Fish had two wives in 1915, which the government allowed him to keep as he had them both a long time.  One died in 1919.

Welch asks Sam Halsey:  “Why does Red Fish wear the buffalo head-dress when he dances?”

Answer by Halsey:  “I do not know.  He did something big one time.  I am too young to fight then.  I do not know what all his feathers and the head-dresses mean.  They mean something though and the old people can read them.  Think sometime he did something big with some enemy with buffalo horns on his head.  The old people know what he did.  He is brave mans too.  He belong some war soldier society.  Think they make him President.  Maybe so.  He great dancer.  He wear buffalo to show something.  Maybe he tell you.”

Pictographs made by Red Fish, showing his bravery:

Number 1  – While Red Fish was on the war path with a party of Sioux against the Crows, a Crow warrior shot at him with two arrows.  Red Fish shot the enemy with a bullet in his breast and he fell down dead.  Red Fish made first coup on him and took his scalp.  In this picture Red Fish is represented in warrior’s clout and eagle feather buffalo head-dress and face and body painted red.  The Crow enemy has the regular pompadour hair and the dash of red paint shows his scalp was taken.  The two arrows are the one shot by the enemy.  The ‘first coup’ is taken by Red Fish in this instance, by the rifle.  The Crow has dark clout and leggings, while Red Fish is dressed in clout only.


Number 2  – Red Fish’s name is painted at the end of the line running from his mouth.  He is in buffalo head-dress with clout and medicine necklace of antelope hoofs.  He is armed with club and gun.  This depicts an incident of a war party against the Crows.  They clubbed eight of the enemy.  The rifle was not used as it is still upon his shoulder.  The squaw was captured.  There were three lodges in the enemy camp and they took the scalps of all the men.  Red Fish is seen making a stroke coup upon at least one of them.  There is some dispute about this incident.  Some old men say that he killed them all alone.  The pictograph so indicates as his stroke covers all of them.  Others tell me he did not do all of the killing but that other men were with him.  Red Fish claims that he was alone in this fight and counted coup eight times.


Number 3  – This is a story with real thrills.  Once in a fight with the enemy, another Sioux was unhorsed in the midst of the fighting.  His name was Shield Necklace, as depicted on his shield.  He was wounded but Red Fish went into the flying arrows as indicated and, after taking Shield Necklace upon his horse, escaped with him to safety. The feathers upon Shield Necklace’s head indicate that he was wounded with arrows, so I am told.  They are running swiftly as the backward flying arrows upon the shield indicate.  This took place a long time ago but it is often recounted in the circle of old men in the evening, as a very brave act of Red Fish.


Number 4  – Red Fish is here upon the war path against the Crows.  He is armed with a gun.  He shot a Crow enemy and the Crow ran a long distance as indicated by bloody foot prints.  But he was pursued by Red Fish upon his horse as indicated by the prints of the horse’s hoofs along the same trail as the bloody foot prints.  The three straight marks upon the leg of the Crow would indicate a pursuit or ‘use of the leg’ for three days.  Red Fish came upon him while still alive, as there is running blood; made first coup by stroke and took his scalp.



Today, June 8th, 1928, Mrs. Crow Ghost and Mrs. Iron Roads came to see me, and I took them to the house for dinner.  Mrs. Crow Ghost brought me an old trade tomahawk and a red stone pipe.   They also told me that Red Fish was buried yesterday.  I knew he was sick for his daughter, Mrs. Eva Little Chief, wrote me to that effect a few days ago, and I had then send him some meat for soup.  One of his wives was named Tatiopa Dutawin (Red Lodge Woman) and she is the mother of Eva Little Chief.


Eva Little Chief told me today (Feb. 14th, 1942) that her father’s first name was Mahpiya Howaste (Good Voice Cloud)  – but when he was made Chief his name was changed to Red Fish.  Red Fish’s father’s name was Black All Over.

Red Fish talks about the Flag of the Seven Fires Council,  early to mid 1920’s:

“We had a flag of our own a long time ago.  The man from Washington (Dr. J.Kossuth Dixon) was wrong when he told us and the people that we never had had a flag of our own, and that he was there to give us one.  We have always had a flag before we ever saw the white man’s flag.  It was often carried on long trips.  We like our flag better than the United States flag.  I want you to make a flag like our old one.  I will tell you how it is done.  I want to put it in front of my lodge.”

Flag of the Seven Councils

drawn by Red Fish for Welch


“I has the same white and red stripes your flag has.  In the corner where your stars are, is a black eagle.  He holds a pipe and tobacco pouch in his left foot and in his right he has a bow and some arrows.  Above him is a circle of seven stars.  These stars represent the ‘Seven Fires Council.’  The pipe is for peace and the arrows are for war.  So we can give either peace or war.

Chief Grass said that the field in the upper left hand corner is green.  The seven stars are white ones.  The eagle is black.  He said the pipe was held in the left foot because that was the weaker foot.  The strong one, the right, holds the weapons of war.

Visit by prominent Dakotahs, Chief Red Fish, Basil Two Bears, Jerome Cottonwood, Feb. 9th, 1923:

Chief Red Fish (Yanktonaise), Basil Two Bears (grandson of Yanktonaise Chief Two Bears), Jerome Cottonwood (son of Chief Cottonwood)…all of Cannon Ball

They were on their way to Fort Peck, Montana, to talk over Waanata Earth Dish.  Old Red Fish says:

“The high hill south of the flat lake, north of Steele, N.D., is called by us Canpakmiyan Iyeyapi (Finding Wagon).  We found a wagon there once so we call it that way.”  He said that this hill was right on the old trail from Yates and vicinity to Devils Lake Country.

“The River (James River) is called by us Can Sa-Sa; and it means that the wood there is reddish gray.” (Note: this is spelled sometimes Tchan-San-San, but is nothing but an effort to spell the Dakotah correctly.  Tchan  – Wood.  Correct spelling Can, the ‘C’ having the ch sound as in ‘chaw.’  San is correctly spelled Sa, the ‘S’ having a dot over it and sounded as ‘Shawl.’)

“The place where the city of Jamestown is now, we called Itazipa Okakse  – meaning Cut Bows.  We called it that because we went ther to get wood to make bows with.”  (Note:  this means to ‘Cut a bow by striking.’)

When I showed him pictures of the Arikara and Mandan villages, taken fifty years ago, he said:

Sacred Cedar Tree and Stone of the Arikara, 1872


“These are village people.  I went with a friendly number of visitors there one time long ago.  This is their Holy Tipi.  We went into that lodge.  They had a ceremony.  It was a medicine ceremony.  A woman covered with a white buffalo hide with horns on it.  The Medicine Man cut her arm off at the elbow with a knife and threw the arm and hand away,  on a pile of old buffalo feet and legs.  He covered her again and when he took the robe off, she had her arm again.  All right.  Then he shot another woman through her body.  Just above her hips.  The blood shot out of the two wounds and her nose and mouth.  She died then.  He breathed into her mouth.  The blood shot out again.  She got all right then.  He had a hot iron from a wagon.  He passed it clear through his head from one ear through the other.  It did not hurt him.  He chopped a man’s arm off against a post.  It did not hurt him.  He put it back on again.  He was a very Holy Man.  He talked with Spirits all the time.”

Red Fish’s Poetic Obituary