A Powerful Oglala Sioux Leader

Red Cloud was one of the last of the mighty Sioux Chiefs from the Indian Wars of the 1800’s to survive. He was a powerful leader of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) and spent his final years at the Pine Ridge Reservation continuing to lead his people in the transition of the freedom of the plains to reservation life.

Follow me now on a journey back to a time when the First Nation People were forced off of their lands and were deceived over and over again by treaties that were never meant to be kept by encroaching white men.

Early Years Of Red Cloud

There is some discrepancy of the actual birth date of Red Cloud. Some places state that he was born in 1819 and other say 1822. He was born somewhere close the forks of the Platte River in what is now Nebraska. His mother was Oglala and his father was Brule.

It is said that Red Cloud was a strong swimmer in his youth, swimming across the Missouri and Yellow Rivers. He also was very talented in breaking horses. It is said that as a young boy he trained his horse so well that he could ride without a lariat and control his horse just by the movement of his legs.

At a young age, Red Cloud gained strong military skills by fighting against neighboring Pawnee and Crow over land and hunting rights.
Chief Red Cloud

You will hear Chief Red Cloud referred to as an Oglala Sioux and sometimes as a Lakota Sioux and it might confuse you. The Oglala Sioux are a band of the Lakota or Teton Sioux which in turn is one of the 3 divisions of the Sioux Nation.

Red Cloud’s War

The United States government met with a formidable opponent when they came up against Red Cloud. It is said that he was one of the most capable rivals that the U. S. Army ever faced.

During 1866 and 1867 there were a series of conflicts between the Lakota Sioux and the U. S. military over the rights of the land of the Wyoming and Montana territories. These conflicts have become known as Red Cloud’s War.

Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and about 2,000 Arapaho, Sioux, and Cheyenne defeated Captain Fetterman and his troops in December of 1866. This victory of the Lakota made the government take notice of the situation. There was a peace commission created and it was found that the whites were the cause of the problems and a treaty was signed at Ft. Laramie with the whites promising to leave the land forever.
red cloud chief

Later Years Of The Chief

It didn’t take long for the treaty to be broken as gold was found in the Black Hills and the white men started moving in.

Red Cloud had worked for his people and had even visited Washington D.C. by 1870. His mission was to get the government to send rations to the Lakota and shortly thereafter the Red Cloud Agency was formed.

General George Armstrong Custer moved troops into the Black Hills by 1874 due to the gold rush. This didn’t sit very well with the Sioux nation and trouble began again. Red Cloud refused to cede this territory to the whites as did the other leaders. The Great Sioux war was lead by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull in 1876 and 1877. Red Cloud did not participate in the war.

His people were moved to what is now the Pine Ridge Reservation. Red Cloud continued to try to take care of his people as they had to transition into reservation life. He died at the age of 87 on December 10, 1909. He is buried at Pine Ridge.

Educating the Children

Red Cloud Indian School was formed on Pine Ridge Reservation in 1888 at the request of Red Cloud. He continually asked that the “Black Robes” be allowed to come to the reservation to form a school. The Holy Rosary Mission was formed by the Jesuits and the Franciscan Nuns and a school was established.

Red Cloud had begged for the Sina Sapa (black robes) come to the reservation “so that our children may be as wise as the white man’s children”. He was a man of foresight as he could see that the Red Man’s way of life would be no more. He understood that the best way for his people to survive was for the children to be educated.
indian school

Red Cloud Quote: They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.

Chief Red Cloud was an honorable man and a great protector of his people. He was said to be a great orator.

He married only one woman in his lifetime and was said to be quite the gentleman. He was a devoted father to his children.

He was loved by his people and was continually disappointed in the white men’s deception. He lived his last years a blind man on the reservation at Pine Ridge.

Words From The Chief:

I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.

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