The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939


Famous Indian Chiefs

[illustration - Major-General O.O. Howard. Copyright, 1908, by B. Berker. Published by Permission. ]


Two of our States, as boys and girls know from their geography, are called Dakota,— one North Dakota, the other South Dakota, and this was also the name of Indian people of different tribes speaking the same language, who lived in the country north of the great Platte River, and between and along our two greatest rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi. The word Dakota means united by compact, and there were several united tribes who called themselves the Dakotas.

Sitting-Bull was a Dakota Indian. He was born near an old army station, Fort George, on Willow Creek, and his father was Jumping-Bull. The Indian chiefs are very fond of giving boys new names when they begin to do something which their friends notice. If a boy runs fast with his head up, they call him "The Elk," "The Deer," "The Wild Horse," or some such name. Or perhaps if he has quick or sly ways, they name him "The Fox," "The Wolf," or "The Coyote."

In North Dakota, at this time, there were great herds of buffalo, and the largest of them were the bulls. These were the leaders when a herd was running, swimming a river, or jumping across a gully. Even when a lad, Sitting-Bull's father could hunt for buffaloes, and quickly jump the deep gullies so frequent in that country, always with his bow in his hand, so his uncle, an Indian chief, named him Jumping-Bull.

His son was a strange boy. His hair was straight like an Indian, but of a reddish brown color. His head was very large and his features were more regular in form than that of the Indian. He was so odd in his looks and his ways, keeping much by himself, thinking and planning how best to have his own way, that his father named him when quite young, "Sacred Stand."

Once, at ten years of age, he went with some hunters on a wild chase for buffaloes and came back to his father's wigwam very happy and proud, for he had succeeded in killing a buffalo-calf; but he did not have a new name till four years later. At this time he frequently made drawings of his totem, what we might call his family coat-of-arms. This was a buffalo-bull settled back on his haunches in a sitting posture, and from it the boy was named "Sitting-Bull."

His second feat thought great by Indians was when he met a Crow Indian traveling along a trail claimed by the Dakotas. The Crow Indian was riding a horse, and had, on another horse, his wife, with a baby strapped to her back. Sitting-Bull, on an Indian pony, charged this little cavalcade, succeeded in killing all three without getting a scratch, and made a rough picture of the exploit which he showed to his companions.

Chief Red Cloud had led the Indians in 1868 at the time when a large number of our men fell in battle near Fort Phil Kearny, and after that trouble a scout picked up an old roster-book
which had once belonged to a company of our soldiers. On its blank pages Sitting-Bull had made skeleton pictures, and each picture showed some wicked deed. The pictures were ridiculous enough, but they made a fairly good diary, and the meaning could not be mistaken. Nearly every record in the book was a sketch of the cruel Sitting-Bull and his victims. Sometimes he was killing white men, sometimes Indians, sometimes stealing and driving off herds of horses. A man's figure with a tall hat was enough to mean a white citizen, an uncouth bonnet showed a woman, stiff out lines gave Indian war feathers or a soldier's costume, and the book was a curious record of years when Sitting-Bull was a famous brave and a cruel, bad Indian.

Uncle Sam was greatly disturbed about "The Black Hills" of South Dakota at this time. Some white men, roaming through the hills, found signs of gold. They began to dig up the surface of the ground in many spots and to make deep holes and were quite sure there were large mines of gold there. The Dakotas insisted that these Hills all belonged to them. But the white men said that the Indians did not own "the whole earth," and tried hard to have the Indians sent away. This made Sitting-Bull very angry. He hated the white men more and more. He brought together thousands of Indians who were full of discontent and wanted to drive all white men from their country. A new band of Indians he formed and named "Strong-hearts." These he brought from eight or ten tribes of the Dakotas to a queer place in Montana, called the "Bad Lands." There were such deep gullies in clayey soil all around that neither horses nor buffaloes could leap over them, and this was Sitting-Bull's stronghold. He, himself,did not often go out to battle, for he was a medicine man, not a warrior. He would shut the flaps of his wigwam and stay hours, and sometimes days, inside, doing what he called "making medicine." He told [illustration - The capture of Sitting-Bull. (See Next Page.)] the Indians that a powerful Spirit came to him at such times and gave him knowledge and orders.

He had influence with the wildest Indian chiefs because they had a strange fear of medicine men. They thought him a great prophet and teacher; with their bravest soldiers they
[illustration - Geronimo and his Indians surrendering to Unite States soldiers. (See page 1098.)]
went out from the Bad Lands as from a great fort, when he told them to, and fought many successful battles with our men.

At last in 1876 General Terry, General Crook, and General Gibbon, with forces, from three different directions marched against Sitting-Bull and his "hostiles," who, about that time, came down from the Bad Lands and camped in four or five large villages with men, women, and children. His own village was near the middle of the great multitude of wigwams. He declared that he had had a dream—vision, and that he had seen in the vision soldiers coming. This soon came true and first came General Crook's troops from the south, but the Indians were so many, the general stopped and waited for more soldiers. Next came some of Terry's and Custer's men from the east. The Indians were now much excited, the women and children were hurried off westward to safer grounds, and the warriers rushed pell-mell to meet the soldiers. The Indians wounded many, killed many, and drove the rest to the bluffs above the Little Big Horn River.

After this Sitting-Bull in his wigwam, "malting his medicine" and talking to the Spirit, heard the news of General Custer's rapid charge up the slopes toward the villages, and all Indian warriors say he was dreadfully afraid. He had his "Strong-hearts" all around him, but his own heart did not remain strong. They say as soon as he heard that "Long-Hair" Custer was coming fast and furious, in great haste he took his family, mounted them on ponies, and, jumping upon his own horse, galloped to the west, till he had reached a place of safety. Now he sent out many Indian warriors, ten to one, against Custer's brave men, and the Indians got around them and fought till not one soldier was left alive after the great battle called "Custer's Massacre." But Sitting-Bull was miles away. After a time he returned to his village because he had missed one of his twin-children, and when he reached his wigwam he found the child that he so much loved. The sounds of the fighting grew fainter and the conflict was over, but Sitting-Bull lost the good-will of his big chiefs because he was not there to share the danger and direct them when the battle was fiercest. His followers named the twins in fun "The-One-Taken" and "The-One-Left," and they long lived to remind the Indians of their father speeding away from his greatest battle-field.

After the battle the whole United States Army was sent to break up the Indian strongholds in and near the Bad Lands. The ablest warrior chiefs, Rain-in-the-Face, Spotted Eagle, Lone Wolf, Lame Deer, and Crazy Horse were at last killed or conquered. And it was not long before Sitting-Bull and his "Strong-hearts," full of hatred and discontent, fled across the Canada line, where they were safe from attack. The other Indians who had fought and been beaten now went to the nearest Indian reservation, and for a time there was peace among the Dakotas.

But, at last Sitting-Bull succeeded in getting back to the Grand River in North Dakota, where he had a rough, but comfortable, house with some of his family. It was not long, however, before the wide-awake Indian Agents and officers of the army found that Sitting-Bull was sending messages from camp to camp and getting ready for another defiance of Uncle Sam's great army.

In December, 1890, General Ruger was commanding the department of Dakota. He was living at St. Paul, Minnesota, where were his headquarters. Here he heard that Sitting-Bull was fretful, sullen, and secretly reorganizing the "Strong-hearts." Then General Ruger telegraphed the commander at Fort Yates, near Standing Rock, to have Sitting-Bull arrested. The Indian Agent asked it as a favor that his forty Indian policemen might make the arrest. They proceeded to his lodge, found him asleep, awakened him, and forced him to come out. He came out wild with anger and called for his warriors to join him, but one of the Indian policemen took his gun and ran toward Sitting-Bull. Then firing began. Bull-Head, the chief of the policemen, was shot in the leg. He turned and fired at Sitting-Bull and other policemen did the same. Sitting-Bull did not live to speak another word, but the warriors kept fighting till the soldiers, near at hand, rode up and put an end to the affair.

To look at Sitting-Bull one would say that he was always quiet and self-contained. In fact he did usually keep himself under control; but he was cruel and almost heartless. He had practised cruelty to animals and men from his childhood, and as long as he lived; he was full of passion, and often very angry. He was always imperious and insolent toward our generals, the Indian Agent, and other friends of the Great Father at Washington, whom he claimed to hate. He had great talent and ability to plan campaigns and battles, wonderful influence in bringing Indians together. Notwithstanding all this, he was afraid of death, and though he planned the greatest victory which the Indians ever gained over white men, Sitting-Bull himself was a coward, and disgraced himself even before his own people by running away in the very face of success.



FAR off in the Dragoon Mountains where Captain Red Beard took me to see Cochise in his stronghold, lived the chief of a band of Apache Indians, called Geronimo. His Indian name was Go-khla-yeh, but after his first battle with the Mexicans he was called Geronimo, and the name was pronounced after the Spanish fashion, as if it began with an H instead of a G—Heronimo. When this Indian was a young man he went to Mexico to trade furs and beaded belts and moccasins for things the Indians use, and with him went his wife and many Indian men, women, and children. The Indian men made a camp near a small Mexican city and left the women and children there while they went into the town to trade, but while they were gone some white people fired at those left in camp, and when Geronimo came back all his family were dead, and everything he had was destroyed. At first Geronimo was so sad that he could not eat or sleep, and wandered about in the woods as unhappy as any one could be; then he began to be angry and wanted to fight all white men, and that is how he first made up his mind to go on the war-path.

GERONIMO was a very quiet man and yet he danced with the other Indians, pitched quoits with them, or played the game of poles. This is called the pole fight. The Indians draw two lines on the ground twenty steps apart; then an Indian, taking a pole ten or twelve feet long, grasps it in the middle and, swinging it from right to left over his shoulders, runs from the first to the second line and casts the pole as far in front of him as he can. Geronimo was often the winner in games, for he played very well, especially a game called "Kah."

This is always played at night and a great fire gives light for it. Sides are chosen with four on a side; one side are called beasts, the other side birds. An old blanket or piece of canvas is propped up between the beasts and birds and on each side they dig four holes and put a moccasin in each hole. Then one of the birds is chosen by lot and while all the birds sing he hides a small piece of white bone in one of the moccasins. The beasts have clubs, and when the blanket is suddenly pulled away one of them points with his club to the hole where he thinks the bone is. If he is right his side is given a stick from a bundle like jackstraws held by an umpire. Those who win become birds and hide the bone. If they lose they remain beasts. When the jackstraws are all gone the game is over, and the side with most sticks wins.

Geronimo played games and danced, but all the time his mind was on war and he did not love his white brothers, so he lived in the mountains and planned battles. Often he had for his house a short, scrubby tree with a hollow in the ground near its trunk. Here he spread a deer-skin for his bed and some woolen blankets on a large stone close by for a seat. I am sure the friendly red men in the "Never, never, never Land," where Peter Pan lives, must have been Apache Indians, and that Peter Pan and the other boys learned from them to live in hollow trees. Perhaps Geronimo may have known Peter Pan, only I suppose he called him by some Indian name of his own. At any rate, this Indian chief lived very often in hollow trees, and liked that sort of a home very much.

Geronimo was one of the Indian captains who was with Cochise when he decided that the Great Spirit wanted the Indians to make peace with the white men and eat bread with them. At that time most of the Indians were very happy to have peace, and Geronimo seemed quite as pleased as the others, though I believe he was not yet quite sure that it was time for peace to come. At any rate the great Cochise said it was, so Geronimo was ready to ride with us to meet the soldiers, and, as I was willing, he sprang up over my horse's tail and by a second spring came forward, threw his arms around me and so rode many miles on my horse. During that ride we became good friends and I think Geronimo trusted me, although he trembled very much when we came in sight of the soldiers near Camp Bowie.

Most of the Apache Indians kept peace fairly well after that, but the white people and Mexicans were not good to them, and Geronimo did not love his white brothers, so he was on the war-path again before long.

Then Uncle Sam sent one of his officers to fight against Geronimo and his Indians, and they were made prisoners of war and taken far away from Arizona to the Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama. Here they were fed and clothed and guarded. Their children were sent to school and they were all treated kindly, but they were prisoners and could not go away.

In 1889 I went to Mount Vernon Barracks, and the first man I saw as I got out of the train was Geronimo. He had a bundle of canes of different sorts of wood, which he had peeled and painted and was selling them one by one. When he caught sight of me he passed his canes to another Indian and ran to meet me. I could not understand his Apache, but he embraced me
twice and called his Mexican name, "Geronimo," "Geronimo," many times so that I should be sure to know who he was. Then he got an interpreter and came to talk with me. "I am a school superintendent now," he said. "We have fine lady teachers. All the children go to their school. I make them. I want them to be white children." From among the Indians at Mount Vernon Barracks there were formed two companies of soldiers, each of fifty Indians. Geronimo was very proud of them and kept saying, "Heap big soldiers; heap good!" and he told them to do their best to keep their uniforms bright and clean, to make their gun-barrels shine and never have dust on their shoes. But though Geronimo tried his best to be happy and contented he was homesick for Arizona and begged me to speak to the President for him. "Indians sick here," he said, "air bad and water bad." I told him that there would be no peace in Arizona if the Indians went back to the Chiricahua Mountains, for the Great Father at Washington could not control the Mexicans and white people there and make them do what was right; and Geronimo tried to understand. He helped the teachers and did his best, but still he did not love his white brothers.

Geronimo was taken to the Omaha and Buffalo Exhibitions, but he was sullen and quiet, and took no interest in anything. Then at last all the Apache Indians were sent west again to the Indian Territory near Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The last time I saw him he was at the St. Louis Exhibition with the "Wild West Show." He stayed in St. Louis for several months, for people wanted to see him as much as they did the Filipinos from Manila, the Boers from South Africa, or the Eskimos from Alaska, and hardly any one went away without asking to see Geronimo, the great Apache war-chief. His photographs were in great demand, and he had learned to write his name, so he sold his autographs and made a good deal of money. He wanted to see other Indians, too, especially Indians who were not Apaches. He was very much interested in other people from all over the world, the strange things that showmen did, the animals he had never seen before—bears from the icy north, elephants from Africa, learned horses, and other things new and strange. Nothing escaped him, and everything he saw was full of interest to him. He was trying to understand our civilization and, at last, after many years, Geronimo, the last Apache chief, was happy and joyful, for he had learned to respect his white brothers.