Manataka American Indian Council


 

 

 

 

Cheyenne
Dog Soldiers

Richard S. Grimes

This is the history of the bravest, most noble warriors who ever lived.  No one but their people will ever know if they truly were wiped out as the U.S. Army claimed back in the 1860's. 

This article by Richard S. Grimes is taken from several accounts and the "Dog Soldier Societies of the Plains" by Thomas E. Mails who provides detailed information on the military societies of the Plains Nations, including their regalia, fighting tactics, history, traditions and ceremonies.  We have added side bars with interesting facts and notations.

"Modern Spartans" on the Great Plains: The Ascent of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers ~ 1838-1869 ~

 

 

The awesome warriors were "armed to the teeth with revolvers and bows . . . proud, haughty, defiant as should become those who are to grant favors, not beg them."

With these words, an Ohio reporter covering the critical negotiations at Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas described the arrival of over 500 Cheyenne Dog Soldiers on October 27, 1867. Their proud arrival at the treaty grounds, some seventy miles south of Fort Larned, left a lasting impression on all of those who witnessed their grand entrance. As the Dog Soldiers came within sight of the camp, they gave chilling war cries and fired their rifles into the air. Their ponies whipped through the high weeds, and they brandished their feathered-lances and rifles high over their heads as they rode into the lodge circles.

Henry M. Stanley, a young British journalist who later would gain world renown for his adventures in Africa, accompanied the United States Army to Medicine Lodge Creek as a war correspondent for the St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat. He was as impressed with the entry of the Dog Soldiers as his fellow journalist. Stanley acknowledged that the "vaunted Kiowa, the terrible Comanche [sic] and the redoubtable Arapaho paled before the . . . Cheyenne, the Scourge of the Plains." Billy Dixon, a scout and buffalo hunter who as another witness, was in a state of awe as he watched "resplendent warriors, armed with all their equipment and adorned with all the regalia of battle [who] seemed to be rising out of the earth." He surmised that this militant posturing was an effective way to "create as profound an impression as possible, and inspire us deeply with their power."

Though the Dog Soldiers never approached the political and military power they once had, they remained revered by other Cheyenne. They are still held in respect today. Young Cheyenne are still recruited into this soldier clan. During the twentieth century, Dog Soldiers have served with the United States military in two World Wars and in the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf region.

The rise of the Dog Soldiers demonstrated the dynamics of change among the Cheyenne and their ability to respond to a national crisis. The defeat at Summit Springs ended their prominence as a major force in opposition to United States expansion across the Great Plains. As Peter Powell succinctly stated, "With the defeat, the power of the Dog Men all but disappeared, blown away like wind blows the buffalo grass. "The People," Powell continued, "never forgot their bravery."

According to Stanley, the Dog Soldiers remained alert and imposing throughout the  treaty negotiations: "Sitting astride their ponies, watching with fierce eyes every movement that is going on, heads adorned with nodding plumes, their faces painted red, blue, black or yellow, they present in my mind the safe-guard of a nation, the forlorn hope of the Indians. In this band, haughty and obstinate, are to be found the best representative of the American aboriginal, who are still extant." He concluded that the Dog Soldiers were "Modern Spartans, who knew how to die but not to be led captive."

The treaty talks between the Southern Plains Indian nations and the United States began at the camp of the federal commissioners. Thousands of Southern Cheyenne, Southern Arapahoes, Comanches, Kiowas, and Kiowa-Apaches met with the government representatives to discuss a treaty that would restrict Indian movement north of the Arkansas River. In return, whites would be forbidden from hunting south of the Arkansas. The reserved area would be protected as the exclusive domain of the Indians for as long as bison herds roamed on the southern Plains. There were both positive and negative aspects to this treaty. However, even had the treaty totally favored the Indians' interests, the Cheyenne present would have refrained from immediately signing. Only 150 Cheyenne were in attendance, mostly chiefs. The majority of the Southern Cheyenne remained camped farther to the west on the Cimarron River. In this camp were the Dog Soldiers, the military elite of the Cheyenne nation [Tsistsistas]. The Cheyenne leaders at Medicine Lodge Creek would not sign the treaty until the Dog Soldiers considered the matter and gave their approval.

The treaty was ratified by the Cheyenne only when the Dog Soldier leaders came forward to sign their names. Journalistic accounts concerning the Dog Soldiers may have been embellished with a dramatic and romantic flair, but they illustrated the vivid impressions left upon whites who witnessed the intimidating presence of these Cheyenne warriors. Significantly, the Dog Soldiers displayed what Cheyenne considered to be the ultimate expression of their manhood and tribal identity. It was only fitting that at the Medicine Lodge talks the members of this fraternal society asserted their martial potency to the alien people who were threatening Cheyenne existence. But the warriors represented more than simply a means of defense of the Cheyenne nation. The Dog Soldiers had transcended their original responsibility and duty as a soldier society and risen to a position of military and political dominance among the Cheyenne people.

The Cheyenne lived in an area penetrated by wandering war parties of enemy nations and occupied by swift and dangerous game. A selfish hunter who proceeded on his own during a communal hunt risked chasing away a bison herd, thus jeopardizing the food supply of an entire village. There also had to be coordination between individuals and the military societies on camp duty in order to successfully conduct war. In addition, there was a perceived need to have camps policed to insure compliance with Cheyenne demands for self-control. Among the Cheyenne, as in most Plains nations, there was a need for "authoritative officialdom," a sanctioned, authoritative body or bodies which could "hold in check" unrestrained members, but would do so without being too coercive or dictatorial. Military societies. fraternal warrior clubs, were sanctioned by Cheyenne governmental structure to counter the actions of individuals who threatened the communal welfare of the Cheyenne people.

The power and necessity of military societies was especially evident when, in times of major armed conflicts, they forbade the individualistic pursuit of glory. All Cheyenne military action had to be sanctioned by war leaders. Despite this, many young men from different societies would try to leave and go out on independent excursions against the enemy. For this reason, the soldier societies would conduct a police watch. It was quite an accomplishment for a warrior to avoid detection and escape camp.  

One example of such security enforcement occurred in June of 1876, when some Cheyenne joined the Lakota Sioux on the Little Bighorn to form a massive village. The war leaders of the Cheyenne soldier societies there were willing to wait and see if the white soldiers attacked them. These authorities ordered the young Cheyenne men to stay put and "leave the soldiers alone unless they attack us." The military societies worked day and night patrolling the Little Bighorn on both banks to make sure that young men did not creep out to be the first to fight the approaching cavalrymen. This was an example of a case where insistence on the welfare of the whole people could supersede the desire of "eager young men" seeking to obtain status.

The role of the soldier societies is to this day honored in Cheyenne oral history and folklore. According to tradition, in the distant past bands of Cheyenne people lived in disorder and chaos.

 

There was chronic theft and murder among members. To find a solution to these social problems, Sweet Medicine, the Cheyenne's central cultural hero, ventured into the heart of the Black Hills country. When he reached the sacred mountain known by Cheyenne as Noahvose (today's Bear Butte), he encountered a group of old men and old women. These elders instructed Sweet Medicine on how to solve the problem of Cheyenne anarchy. He was told to implement "good government" by forming a council of forty-four chiefs and by organizing military societies to maintain a "good system of police and military protection." Both Cheyenne civil councils and Cheyenne military organizations were, as the story suggests, structured on the basis of tradition and protocol.

There were eventually six military societies: the Kit-Fox Men (Woksihitaneo); Red Shields (Mahohivas); Crazy Dogs (Hotamimasaw); Crooked Lance Society (Himoiyoqis), known by the ethnohistorian George Grinnell as the Elks; Bowstring Men (Himatanohis); Wolf Warriors (Konianutqio); and the Dog Men or Dog Soldiers (Hotamitaneo). Though this list contains seven names, many scholars accept the view of George Bird Grinnell and his chief informant George Bent that the Bowstring Men and Wolfe Warriors were the same society. The Bowstrings were Southern Cheyenne while the Crazy Dogs were found exclusively among the Northern Cheyenne. The most militant and elite society was that of the Dog Soldiers. Though the last group to emerge, it became the most important, rising to unique prominence and power. The ascension of this society by the mid-1850s demonstrated the ability of the Cheyenne to respond to the national crisis created when United States citizens poured into the Cheyenne homeland. The Dog Soldiers evolved into a political and military juggernaut in response to the assault.

Soldier societies provided martial training, socialization, and preservation of tradition among the men who joined the groups. Each Cheyenne fraternal organization had its sacred symbols, decorations, dances, and songs. This made members of each club different from those of other groups as distinct from Cheyenne society as a whole. Red Shield soldiers carried red shields that had the tail of a bison hanging from the base. Wolf Soldiers were well known for both their military prowess and also for their elaborate social gatherings, which were complete with "noisy songs… effusive dances and the sparkling and varied colors of their outfits."
Crooked Lance society members wrapped their lances in otter skins, while each member of the Dog Soldiers wore on his chest a whistle made of the bone of a bird. Four of the bravest Dog Soldiers were chosen to wear sashes of tanned skins called "dog ropes" into battle.

HISTORICAL NOTE: 

Attached to each dog rope was a picket-pin [used to tether horses]. The pin was driven into the ground as a mark of resolve in combat. When a Dog Soldier was staked to the ground in order to cover the retreat of his companions, he was required to remain there even if death was the consequence. The Dog Man could pull the pin from the ground only if his companions reached safety or another Dog Soldier released him from his duty.

The societies illustrated the "competitive nature of [Indian] warfare." A fierce contest existed between the various Cheyenne military organizations. Each society formed its own war parties and tried to "exceed the military accomplishments of rival societies." Wooden Leg, who as a seventeen-year old warrior helped to defeat Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's command at the Little Bighorn, recalled that "the warrior societies competed with each other for effectiveness" in war and in status within the community. If an enemy party was small in number, soldier leaders selected only a few certain members of a society to do the fighting.

"If this appointed segment of our fighters did well they were acclaimed. If they did not do well, especially if other warriors had to go to their assistance, the original combatants were discredited."

Theoretically, the societies were to maintain order without resorting to crushing a person's individualism through excessive punishment. However, on many occasions the members resorted to extreme measures to maintain discipline. Colonel Richard Dodge observed the duties of the Dog Soldiers when it was their turn to police a camp. The colonel noted that "they supply the guards for the camp, designate the hunting parties and the ground they are to work over . . . and they select the keen-eyed hunters who are to go in advance. A violation of the Dog-Soldiers rules is at once met by a sound beating."

HISTORICAL NOTE:

While violations were generally at the individual level, there were occasions when entire bodies chose to conform to the mandates of the soldiers. Cheyenne bands were occasionally summoned by leaders to meet at a central location in preparation for war or a communal hunt.

In one instance, six Cheyenne were sent to locate a Pawnee camp that was to be attacked. The soldier society leading the raid instructed the scouts to kill any enemy found along the way who might alert the Pawnee camp of the impending attack. The Cheyenne "wolves" (i.e., scouts) came across one Pawnee who stood his ground, wounded one Cheyenne, and drove the rest away. As they returning to the main camp, the wolves decided not to tell the members of their soldier society that they had been beaten by one Pawnee. A wounded scout named Wolf Mule, however, "unfolded under questioning" by members of the society and confessed. The soldiers whipped the other scouts with pony quirts, but they did not harm the informer.

Some bands would occasionally dawdle on the way. A band of Cheyenne once refused to move camp quickly to answer a summons. The group was in a safe area with ample game so the members decided to enjoy the surroundings before moving on to the main tribal location. After a few days, they were "suddenly pounced upon by an overwhelming force of dog-soldiers." The soldiers went directly to the women and "ordered [the women] to pack at once." Those who did not move quickly were "beaten with a rod." Within hours the camp was packed and the women and children, who bore the duty of packing, followed the soldiers to the new location. The "lovers, husbands, and fathers could do nothing but sullenly follow." The Dog Men thwarted this temporary rebellion, the guilty suffered humiliation in front of the rest of the tribe, and Cheyenne order and Dog Soldier authority were reestablished.

As the examples above indicate, the Dog Soldiers or Hotamitaneo asserted their dominance in many areas. They and the members of the other soldiers clubs maintained order in both the civil and the military spheres of Cheyenne life. However, there had been traditional distinctions between civil and military authority among the Cheyenne. This tradition is reflected in the story of Sweet Medicine's creating a council of forty-four chiefs that was distinct from the soldier societies. The ascension of the Dog Soldiers marked a breakdown of the separation between the civil and military elements of Cheyenne society.

The Dog Soldiers evolved into a political and military power as United States citizens poured into the Cheyenne homeland in the mid-1800s. As was their right in times of conflict, the military societies gained more control over their nation since its total mobilization was required to counter the assault. As the cultural and military crisis deepened, the soldier societies responded by becoming more assertive. As their influence increased, the societies at times became arbitrary and dictatorial in their relationship with civil leadership and the community.


The Dog Soldiers in particular came to exercise enormous influence and power.  Yet the rise of the Dog Soldiers was not originally inspired by some momentous event in Cheyenne history. Instead, their ascent began with a sordid incident years earlier that freed them from many of the constraints of Cheyenne tradition and protocol. Early in the winter of 1838, the Dog Soldier leader Porcupine Bear and a few of his warriors were traveling from camp to camp to recruit other societies to join them in a raid against the Kiowas. One village, located on the South Platte River in Wyoming, had just obtained whiskey from the American Fur Company post at Fort William (the future Fort Laramie). According to Grenville Dodge, the "whole camp went to drinking that night." Porcupine Bear and his men became drunk, and during the celebration, his two cousins Little Creek and Around became embroiled in a brawl. Around, getting beaten, begged Porcupine Bear to help him.

Porcupine Bear paid no attention. He sat alone in a corner of the lodge, singing to himself in a low voice. He was very drunk and was singing Dog Soldier songs. Presently Little Creek rolled on top of Around, and drawing his knife raised his arm to strike: but at that moment Porcupine Bear leaped up in a sudden rage and springing upon Little Creek he wrenched the knife from his hand and stabbed him two or three times. He then forced the knife into Around's hand and standing over him compelled him to finish Little Creek.

For this crime, Porcupine Bear and his followers were deemed outlaws by the tribe. They were forbidden to camp with other Cheyenne and banned from all national functions. Ostracized from society, Porcupine Bear and his men could only set up their lodges "near the village--a mile or two from it." The Dog Soldier Society in general "was also disgraced" and it was relieved of any future police responsibility. Porcupine Bear and his warriors still kept contact with other Cheyenne camps and fought on their behalf. In a battle at Wolf Creek with the Comanches and Kiowa, his men counted first coup and Porcupine Bear singularly killed twelve Kiowas. However, the Dog Men were still outlaws and could bison counts and the conditions of the Cheyenne who were "in abject want of food half the year."

This alienation from the main camp, instead of chastening the warriors, led to the Dog Soldiers' independence. Instead of being under the traditional band chiefs, the Dog Soldiers were now governed by their own band chiefs, all of whom were war leaders. Men who became Dog Soldiers did so with the understanding that they would have to move their families and take up full-time residency among the Dogs. Instead of chastening the warriors, their alienation from the main camp led to the Dog Soldier society becoming independent from the rest of the Cheyenne bands. John H. Moore has described this as an "extraordinary feature endowed the Dog society with a unique cohesiveness and gave rise to [the] . . . possibilities of governmental formation."

The distinction between being a military society and being a band of the Cheyenne became blurred as the Dog Soldiers became a separate division of the Cheyenne people.

Despite their alienation, the defiant and elite Dog Soldiers had no difficulty attracting young warriors. Petersen notes in the thoughtful study of Cheyenne military societies that after the banishment, recruitment into the society "snowballed until it comprised half of the fighting force of the tribe." The Dog Soldiers lured the most militant of warriors into their ranks for their members would not give an inch to accommodate whites because they offered an alternative to the failed peace policies of civil leaders who were unable to prevent encroachment on their territory.

By the 1850s, the Cheyenne, like most Plains tribes, were entering a state of national crisis. A few farsighted whites predicted the coming catastrophe awaiting tribes such as the Cheyenne. Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick was a veteran plains man who represented the Cheyenne and Arapaho as their agent. He became deeply concerned for the welfare of these people when he noticed the thinning out of the massive southern bison herds. In 1853 Fitzpatrick addressed the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the severity of the situation. He claimed that as "startling as it may appear . . . the Cheyenne and Arapahoe, and many of the Sioux, are actually in a starving state." The agent noted the drastic decrease in bison counts and the conditions of the Cheyenne who were "in abject want of food half the year."

Other warnings came from Indian trader William Bent. He contacted the bureau in 1859, stressing the danger of allowing gold seekers to migrate into the mountain regions of Colorado. Bent believed that the intruders were disrupting the winter domain of the Cheyenne.

HISTORICAL NOTE

"A smothered passion for revenge agitates these Indians," warned Bent, "perpetually fomented by the failure [to find] food, the encircling encroachments of the white population, and the exasperating sense of decay and impending extinction with which they are surrounded."

John Moore has analyzed the rise of the Dog Soldiers as part of a "military imperative" that existed among the Cheyenne in the 1860s and 1870s. The Dog Men represented a "reorganization of Cheyenne society, a geographical movement, and . . . a strong position on a political question" in a disastrously changing world.   The Dog Soldiers attracted all those who were unequivocally hostile to the "encroachments" and who chose war as the means to repulse this invasion of Indian country.

As the Dog Soldiers increased in members, they established a new domain for themselves. Dog Soldiers roamed east of the other Cheyenne bands, residing near the headwaters of the Republican and Smoky Hill between the Platte and Arkansas Rivers. In this region they camped and intermarried with Republican River Brule and Oglala Lakotas. By the 1860s, bands of Lakota warriors and Cheyenne Dog Soldiers became fused into a single unit. The "restless and warlike elements" of Brule and Oglala Lakotas were attracted by the defiant and obstinate nature of the Dog Soldiers, and vice versa. Together, the Cheyenne, their Arapaho associates, and the Lakotas would often form an informal alliance in the 1860s and 1870s to bar Euro-American settlement and fight the United States military on the central and northern Plains. Cheyenne warriors also rode with Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanches on the southern Plains to resist the intrusion of whites into their hunting grounds there as well.

While most Cheyenne continued to honor the the civil chiefs for their wisdom and senior standing in society, young warriors gravitated toward militant factions such as the Dog Soldiers, for these were "men of direct action." They preferred the leaders of the Hotamitaneo over those leaders who advocated peace, even though there was still much sentiment for it among both the Northern and Southern Cheyenne. Elbridge Gerry, a rancher and a representative of the United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs who was friendly towards the Cheyenne, believed that increasing numbers of warriors "were determined to sweep the Platte and the country as far as they could" of settlers. He noted that the civil leaders were becoming increasingly powerless, for the "young men could not be controlled." Gerry witnessed an unusual example of the "young men's" militancy in 1863. In that year the Dog Soldiers "forbade" one of their own principal leaders, Bull Bear, from attending a Southern Cheyenne treaty council with Gerry.

The Dog Soldiers feared that Bull Bear might be swayed by the influence of the peace chiefs there. They were determined to prevent the cession of more of the Republican River and Smoky Hill River country through the signing of another disastrous treaty like that made at Fort Wise, Colorado, two years earlier.

Many observers during this time believed that the Dog Soldiers had taken control of the Southern Cheyenne. While the civil chiefs attempted to carry out their traditional authority, white officials steadily recognized the Hotamitaneo as the main source of tribal power.

Historical Note:
Territorial Governor John Evans of Colorado in 1865 testified to Congress that the Dog Soldiers "took the control of the tribe mainly out of the hands of the chiefs." Civil chiefs such as Black Kettle, White Antelope and Spotted Horse could not restrain the Dogs from warrior activity, even after the council of chiefs had agreed upon peace, for this "vigilance committee [i.e. the Dog Soldiers] . . . managed the tribe instead of the chiefs." The army scout and interpreter Ben Clark maintained that the Dog Soldiers enjoyed superiority over the other Cheyenne bands. The Dog Soldiers, because of their numerical strength and "prestige of their leaders... practically ruled the tribe.... When the Dog Soldiers wanted war the whole tribe warred."

George Bent, the son of trader William Bent and Owl Woman, his Cheyenne wife, also contended that the Dog Soldiers were "wild and reckless" and hard to control. However, he credited them with being excellent raiders and premier warriors. During the 1860s, the Dog Soldiers struck rail stations, wagon trains, and settlements and temporarily held off further expansion into Cheyenne country. Unfortunately because of the Dog Soldiers activities (as well as those of other soldier societies), peaceful Cheyenne became the target of territorial militias and the American military. The most tragic case of this came with the slaughter of the peace chief Black Kettle's people at Sand Creek, Colorado, in November of 1864.

The destruction of Black Kettle's village had two significant impacts on Cheyenne warfare. First, other warrior societies than the Dog Soldiers, such as the Elks, Kit Foxes, and Bowstrings became alienated from the civil chiefs and their peace efforts. They would increasingly ride out and fight as unrestricted autonomous bands. Second, many Cheyenne became convinced that when fighting the United States they needed to be constantly prepared for war. In earlier decades, Cheyenne wars had usually been with other Plains peoples. These affairs were a seasonal activity. War parties generally fought in the warmer weather and ceased their martial activity during the winter months. But the surprise attack on the encampment at Sand Creek in the dead of winter changed all of this. In the words of a study by John H. Moore, "Cheyenne society was transformed onto a war footing," and thus military leaders came to the forefront of hierarchy. The Dog Soldiers set a trend of soldier societies maintaining a "permanent residence" in camp rather than being appointed by civil leadership on a seasonal basis. Military leaders were now firmly in control of the Cheyenne hierarchy.

Warriors who fought as members or associates of the Dog Soldiers were the Cheyenne nation's hope of repelling invasion. One such warrior was Roman Nose (Woo-Kay-Nay or "Arched Nose"). Roman Nose was a Northern Cheyenne who had distinguished himself among his people to such a high degree that the United States military misidentified him as the chief of the Cheyenne nation. Roman Nose was not a chief at all, but an influential member of the Crooked Lance warrior society. He was considered to be a "superb specimen of Cheyenne manhood," and was known by George Bent, who was also a member of the society. Bent describe Roman Nose as a "man of fine character, quiet and self-contained." At the same time, Roman Nose was a dangerous fighter who counted many coup and gained great prestige and high status in Cheyenne society. According to Bent, "All the Cheyenne, both men and women, held him in the highest esteem."

Roman Nose established himself as a warrior following the Sand Creek Massacre. To avenge the deaths of the Indian women and children at Sand Creek, an allied force of Cheyenne, Arapahoes and Lakotas began in the early part of 1865 to lay waste to 400 miles of settlement. They burned ranches, farms, and telegraph offices and drove off cattle. Denver was cut off from supplies and was virtually besieged. Roman Nose had come south to participate in the raids and rode with the Dog Soldiers, leading retaliatory strikes along the North and South Platte rivers in the early part of 1865. The Dog Soldiers and Roman Nose's own followers created such destruction on the Smoky Hill Road that it disrupted travel through though Kansas to Colorado. The government demanded that the Cheyenne cease the raiding or face extermination.

A peace parley between the Dog Soldiers and the United States Army was arranged for April 1867 at Pawnee Fork outside of Fort Larned, Kansas. Major General Winfield Hancock refused to talk with the Cheyenne until Roman Nose personally conferred with him. During the course of negotiations, Hancock moved his headquarters close to the Cheyenne lodges. This angered Roman Nose. Given the recent memory of the Sand Creek Massacre, the Cheyenne constantly feared for the safety of the women and children in camp. Roman Nose informed Hancock that the warriors were not afraid of his soldiers, and he bitingly remarked that Hancock's men looked "just like those who butchered the women and children" at Sand Creek. Hancock in turn became alarmed when the women and children fled the village, claiming that this might indicate the Cheyenne were preparing for a fight. Hancock's response was to destroy the village. This only created further enmity between the Dog Soldiers and the United States.

On September 17, 1868, Roman Nose was killed while riding with Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, Sioux, and Arapaho warriors in an assault on a party of civilian scouts besieged on a small island in the Arickaree branch of the Republican River in eastern Colorado. The scouts, under the command of Col. George A. Forsyth, shot Roman Nose "in the small of the back as he passed" by their defense lines. His companions dragged him to safety, but he died within hours. The Dog Soldiers lost a great hero and patriot for the cause of Cheyenne freedom.

Despite several military setbacks, the Dog Soldiers continued to clash openly with Cheyenne peace advocates. By 1869, the most influential proponent of compromise, a Southern Cheyenne chief named Little Robe, felt that the militant Dog Soldiers were detrimental to the welfare of the Cheyenne people. He banished them from his camp. Little Robe was not a coward, but as a civil leader he felt it was his duty to pursue peace and preserve lives. He, like most peace chiefs of the Southern Cheyenne, was a realist and saw the futility in resisting the westward movement of settlers. He believed that the future of the Cheyenne rested in their ability to coexist peacefully in the same country with citizens of the United States. In 1874, during the Red River War, the Dog Soldiers quarreled with Little Robe once again. When the chief wanted to move his camp to the safe confines of the Darlington (Cheyenne-Arapaho) Indian Agency in [Oklahoma] Indian Territory, the Dog Soldiers voiced their opposition to this decision and shot Little Robe's horses.

During the period 1865-1877, the Cheyenne were in continual conflict with the United States military. By the latter 1860s, the tide was slowly turning against the Cheyenne nation as the army gradually wore down Indian resistance. In early 1869, Cheyenne Dog Soldiers inflicted severe punishment on the Kansas frontier. This was partly in retaliation for the attack of George Custer and the Seventh Cavalry on Black Kettle's village on the Washita River in Indian Territory in November 1868, as noted above. During this assault on this peaceful Cheyenne encampment, Black Kettle and his wife were killed. Over one hundred Cheyenne (mostly women and children) were killed or taken prisoner. Dog Soldiers also raided the frontier in response to an attack by Maj. Eugene A. Carr and seven troops of the Fifth Cavalry (led by William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody) against a Dog Soldier hunting camp on the Republican River in May of 1869.

Throughout the rest of May and June 1869, the Dog Soldiers led by Tall Bull and White Horse attacked white settlements in Jewell County, Kansas and along the Solomon River in that state. They were aided by their Lakota allies, led by Whistler of the Oglalas and Two Strikes and his Brules. The raiders burned farmhouses, stole horses and mules, and attacked teamsters. They also derailed a train on the tracks of the Kansas Pacific Railroad.

Units of the Seventh Cavalry under Custer were dispatched to Kansas to punish the Dogs but "caught only quick glimpses" of the Dog Soldiers, who moved too fast for the pursuing cavalrymen. The Dog Men broke camp on the bison-rich Republican River and headed for the South Platte River, where they believed they would not be pursued. However, they postponed crossing to the greater safety of the far bank. On July 11, 1869, Carr's Fifth Cavalry, with three companies of Pawnee auxiliaries led by Capt. Luther North, caught up with Tall Bull's Dog Soldier band as they were camped at Summit Springs, Colorado. Tall Bull was killed during the battle and Carr's command thereafter destroyed the village.

Two Dog Soldiers in particular died in the courageous tradition of Cheyenne warriors. Little Hawk, a fifteen year-old, had a chance to escape. Instead he held his ground and fought a rear guard action, which allowed many of the Cheyenne women and children to escape. It was said of him later that he threw "his life away for the People, as a brave man should" when the Pawnee scouts struck him down. Another young Dog Soldier named Wolf With Plenty of Hair "staked himself out with a dog rope" in traditional fashion at the head of a ravine. The fighting around this man was very intense: "no one had time to pull the picket pin for Wolf With Plenty of Hair." He was found dead in the place he had pinioned himself, having not retreated an inch.

The Dog Soldiers lost over sixty men at Summit Springs , including a great leader. More seriously, they never regained their prominence as a separate political division of warriors. Survivors trickled north to the camps of the Northern Cheyenne and Lakotas, while other Dog Soldiers joined the militant faction of the Southern Cheyenne located on the South Fork of the Canadian River in the Panhandle region of Texas. These Cheyenne in Texas would join forces with the Kiowas and Comanches in the Red River War of 1874. In September of 1874, Colonel Nelson Miles and eight companies of the Sixth Cavalry, together with Colonel Ranald Mackenzie and seven troops of the Fourth Cavalry, invaded the Panhandle. The commanders launched a brutal winter campaign against the Southern Cheyenne and their Comanche and Kiowa allies. Pursued by troops and unable to establish a winter camp, these Indians and their ponies faced starvation and were unprotected from the freezing cold. By early 1875, the hostile elements of the Southern Cheyenne, including the remnants of the Dog Soldiers, were forced into submission and surrendered to Mackenzie. They agreed to live in exile and peace with other Southern Cheyenne and Arapahoes at the Darlington or Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation Agency in Indian Territory.

Historical Note:
At the Little Big Horn, it was Crazy Horse,  Lakota who defeated Reno's column, and it was the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers who led the attack against Custer's column. While the Lakota destroyed Reno, the Dog Soldiers decimated Custer. After Crazy Horse and the Lakota annihilated Reno, they, and the Arapaho, joined the Dog Soldiers against Custer and exterminated the U. S. 7th Cavalry.

 

 

In the North, the annihilation of George Custer's command at the Little Bighorn in June of 1876 was the last major triumph of the Lakotas and Northern Cheyenne. In retaliation, the Northern Cheyenne were relentlessly pursued by eleven companies of cavalry under Mackenzie, along with his Pawnee and Shoshone scouts. The pursuit ended when they located and leveled the encampment of Dull Knife on November 26, 1876, in the Powder River country of Northern Wyoming on November 26, 1876. The Northern and Southern Cheyenne were forced onto reservations.

Several Indian agents asked the military societies to help keep the peace  among the Cheyenne.   The Dog Soldiers were particularly sought out by reservation officials to carry out this duty. But their obstinate nature and continued influence would pose a threat to government intentions. The Dog Soldiers reemerged during the reservation period of the 1880s as a force in opposition to the assimilation programs of agency officials. At Darlington Agency, Dog Soldiers at times harassed and humiliated those who tried to accept the government's policy of imposing the conquerors' social and economic systems.

Though the Dog Soldiers never approached the political and military power they once had, they remained revered by other Cheyenne. They are still held in respect today. Young Cheyenne are still recruited into this soldier clan. During the twentieth century, Dog Soldiers have served with the United States military in two World Wars and in the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf region.

The rise of the Dog Soldiers demonstrated the dynamics of  change among the Cheyenne and their ability to respond to a national crisis. The defeat at Summit Springs ended their prominence as a major force in opposition to United States expansion across the Great Plains. As Peter Powell succinctly stated, "With the defeat, the power of the Dog Men all but disappeared, blown away like wind blows the buffalo grass. "The People," Powell continued, "never forgot their bravery."

CREDITS

Mike Gauldin - Dog Soldier Figures

Public Broadcast Stations (PBS)
Andrew Masich -- Cheyenne Dog Soldiers

Sam Silverhawk Creations


                             

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