Red Tomahawk, “Sitting Bull was my friend, I killed him like this……..”

biog265 Red Tomahawk

Welch Biographical Summary of Red Tomahawk, August 1931:

Born  – “The winter when we found a dead Indian in a log House.”  My Winter Count shows this to be 1849-1850.

Age  – “I was 16 years of age when we ran off those cattle at Fort Rice.”  That was in 1866.

Father  – “Strikes the Earth (Maka Apape), a Sihasapa Sioux.”  Sept. 1915 he refers to his father as Iron Tail, a Sihasapa Sioux.

Mother  – “Was a Hunkpapa.”  Oct 9, 1915 he refers to his mother as a Sissetonwana.

Married  – “First wife was Blue Earth Woman (Maka Towin), a Hunkpapa.  She was of the family of Rain in the Face, being daughter of his youngest sister.  Her father was Red Thunder (Wahkiya Luta).”  But not the one who was father of Waaneta.

Family  – “13 children by at least three wives.”   Francis, his son, is the son of the first wife.  At this date, August 7th, 1931, there are three sons and three daughters left.

Died  – At Cannon Ball, August 7th, 1931.

Buried  – At Cannon Ball Catholic Cemetery, August 11th.  I made a speech and was a pall bearer.  White Horse Riders were in charge. Pall Bearers  – White Horse Riders Society (Col. A.B.Welch, John Gates, John Little Crow), Members of Tribal Council (Izaak Hawk, Paul Long Bull, John Iron Boulder, William Hawk).


Conversations with Red Tomahawk, Sept and Oct 1915 …

“I can show my fathers back for a long time.  Back to Waneta. So can Chief Grass.  So we were relatives a long time ago, the same as now.  My grandmother and the grandmother of Chief Grass were sisters.  I got my name from my grandfather after doing some deed once.  There was a fight between the Dakotah and the enemy close to the ‘Lake of the Broken Axe’ (now Painted Woods Lake) and a girl was taken away from the enemy and finally married into the family of Red Thunder  – from them I came.”


Red Tomahawk’s contacts with General Sibley after the 1863 Minnesota massacres:





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)  (Editor 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.”


Red Tomahawk’s pictographic signature drawn for Welch    biog266-red-tomahawk-signature

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.”



Welch notes about Red Tomahawk, undated:

I once saw Marcellus Red Tomahawk at the trial of his nephew, the younger Cold Hand, for unlawful cohabitation, before the Federal Court in Bismarck.  Cold Hand drew thirty days and a fine of $100.00.  While he was in the Marshall’s Office waiting to be taken to jail to begin serving his sentence, old man Tomahawk stood and looked at his nephew.  Not a movement of his face muscles took place, but great tears rolled down his cheeks and he afterward told me that that made him feel ’awful bad.’

Chief Joseph was a personal friend of Chief John Grass and Red Tomahawk.

When Sitting Bull was to be arrested by the Indian Police, Red Tomahawk rode to several different points along the river from Fort Yates, to collect the police together.  He rode the distance from the post to the camp on the Grand River, over forty miles, in four hours and a quarter.

The Story of Atlantis:  Marcellus Red Tomahawk was visiting me once in Bismarck, and asked me to tell him a long story for him to take home to tell to the people.  I told him the story of ‘The Lost Atlantis.’  When I had finished, he surprised me by saying that, ‘his people had known that story, always.’


July 4th, 1920 … Red Tomahawk conducts himself before old enemies:

….There were many Gros Ventre, Mandan and Arikara and one old man named Walking Sun and two other men and a woman, Pawnees from Oklahoma.  I told the committee to treat them kindly as they were afraid they would not be treated well as they were old enemies of the Dakotah.  So, shortly after I arrived, I was asked to go with Red Tomahawk to visit these people.  They were in a large ceremonial tipi belonging to Brave Bull and we entered and sat down.

The old Pawnee signified his desire to talk in the sign language and in that way told them that he had been a scout under General Miles when they took the ponies from Red Cloud (1876); that he had fought with the Sioux and that this was the first time he had ever been in a Sioux camp.

Tomahawk gave him ten dollars in money and told him that they would have meat; that the tipi was theirs to sleep and stay in; they would have bed clothing and should make themselves at home in the camp and ceremonies.  Soon, Basil Two Bears came in and we had an interpreter by him through the young Pawnee.  I introduced Tomahawk as the slayer of Sitting Bull and Two Bears as the son of the great Chief Two Bears who fought General Sully.

Tomahawk told them there had been a great Chief among the Dakotah.  His name was Mato Watakpe.  When he wanted to eat or smoke that was all right.  If he said to move camp that was all right.  If he went to war that was all right.  He was wise and they all listened when he spoke to them and treated him with great respect.  He had an adopted son.  He sat there (pointing at me).

Now that the old Chief had gone to Wakantonka, his son was now Chief.  What he said they would do.  He was a soldier and an orator.  He had said to treat the visitors kindly.  They would do that then.  No one would hurt them now.  They had been enemies.  He had fought them himself.  He thought they had not been very brave, that if he had coughed in the night time they would have run away.  They would have meat and tobacco and gifts.



Reception of Marshall Foch, Supreme Commander of Allied Armies, World War I, France, November 27, 1918



Reception of Marshall Foch, November 27, 1921




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

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





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