Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
Kills Alive's Story of the Battle
KILLS ALIVE'S STORY OF THE BATTLE
AMONG SITTING BULL's visitors in the council lodge after the midday meal was a prominent young Hunkpapa warrior named Rain-in-the-Face. Though not yet a chief, Rain-in-the-Face had a wide following as a fighting leader among the Hunkpapa and Blackfeet Sioux.
He had a further distinction. Some months previously, an Army veterinarian and a post sutler had gotten lost from their command. Lonesome Charley Reynolds had guided a young Army captain to Rain-in-the-Face's camp near Standing Rock Agency, where the warrior was arrested by the captain for the murder of the missing whites. He was taken in chains to be confined in the guardhouse at Fort Abraham Lincoln. While troops held the Sioux prisoner, the captain slapped and kicked him into insensibility. One night, the young Hunkpapa broke out with several other prisoners and joined the hostiles. Rain-in-the-Face took a solemn vow, swearing eternal vengeance against the captain, remembering everything about his appearance, even learning that he was Tom Custer, the brother of Long Hair. In all the great camp on the Little Big Horn, no one, not even Sitting Bull, had a deeper hatred for the white man than Rain-in-the-Face.
Also in the council lodge that afternoon were Crow King, Black Moon, chief of the Fox warriors doing camp police duty that day, and a Blackfeot Sioux chief named Kill Eagle. Conspicuously absent was Gall, a Hunkpapa fighting chief better known throughout the tribe for his jealousy of Sitting Bull than for his courage. Also away from his usual place in the circle was old Four Horns, alone with his grief since early morning.
The business at hand centered about Sitting Bull's wily efforts to persuade Kill Eagle and his band to stay on with the hostiles. Although the Blackfeet Sioux chief had repeatedly stated his intention of returning to Standing Rock Agency, the bitter comments of Rain-in-the-Face about the white man's road had a telling effect. Numerous presents of ponies and fine buffalo robes had been received gracefully enough by Kill Eagle's people, but it was the evidence of the white man's brutality and injustice that held him and his twenty lodges on the Little Big Horn. For Sitting Bull, of course, it was another routine diplomatic coup. Under the pall of intense heat that hung over the camp, the crafty head chief of the Hunkpapas flicked at flies with his buffalo-tail switch as Kill Eagle decided at last to remain.
At that moment Fat Bear burst into the council lodge. Four Horns's grandson had stumbled into camp after a full fifteenmile run across country. Brown Back, returned at last, brought word of the killing of Deeds by white soldiers! For long hot hours the wiry lad had dog-trotted over hills and across ravines to spread the alarm back in camp. Once he had lain hidden for better than the time it took to run six miles when a column of soldiers rode past. The sun was high and hot before he felt safe to move on. By then the soldiers were between him and the camp. More precious time was lost when he was forced to make a wide circle to avoid them.
Black Moon sprang to his feet and hurried out to marshal the camp police upon whom the initial defense of the entire village might well depend. Sitting Bull followed, limping from a twelve-year-old wound-a soldier's bullet in his left hip.
Custer's Fall: The Indian Side of the Story by David Humphreys Miller, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE 1957 p 86 - 88
David Humphreys Miller said of this incident: "This council was described to me by One Bull, Kills Alive, and several other Hunkpapas. Kill Eagle, who was anxious to convey to the whites the impression that he and his band had been kept unwilling prisoners in the hostile camp, later denied having even seen Sitting Bull the day of the battle. His account was the first one gotten from any Indian who had been in the village at Little Big Horn and was included in a story datelined Bismarck, D.T., September 23, 1876, which appeared the next day in the New York Herald.
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Although not born into the Teton Sioux, David Humphreys Miller was adopted late in life by both Iron Hail and One Bull, and like the other Sioux, Cheyenne and Crow chroniclers in 100 Voices (Ohiyesa, John Stands In Timber, William Bordeaux, Pretty Shield, Bird Horse, George Bird Grinnell), he had unique access to important particpants in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, some of whom left no other record, such as White Cow Bull and Drags The Rope.
Miller frequenlty made pastel sketches of the Sioux survivors of the Battle of the Little Bighorn whom he interviewed. Some of Miller's portraits are exceptionally fine evocations of the historic personalities in their own right, such as his portraits of Lazy White Bull and Old Eagle and Black Elk late in life.
Click here for information of David Humphreys Miller's sources among the Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, Arikara and Apapaho.
-- Bruce Brown