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Little Wolf

Little Wolf was born in Montana in about 1820. He was a war chief of the northern Cheyenne. He gained his reputation for military ability during his battles against the Comanche and Kiowa, and led a military society called the Bowstring Soldiers.

By the time Little Wolf was 30, he had become a prominent chieftain of the northern Cheyenne, leading a group of warriors called the "Elk Horn Scrapers" during the Northern Plains wars.

At the age of about 31, Little Wolf had quit fighting against the invading whites in exchange for an Indian agency and annuities. Although the agency was never established and annuities rarely came, Little Wolf continued to counsel peace.

Even as he endeavored to live in peace with the invading white settlers, U.S. military operations against his people and allied tribes often constrained him to act as a warrior, fighting for their way of life and their culture. As a war leader, Little Wolf played a part in a retaliatory response to the military’s massacre of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne at Sand Creek in 1865. In protecting Native American ancestral homelands, Little Wolf’s Cheyenne warriors along with Sioux, and Arapaho, fought together in the War for the Bozeman Trail, which was also known as Red Cloud's War, from 1866 to 1868.

As a chief of the Northern Cheyenne, Little Wolf signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 that required the United States to vacate forts along the Bozeman Trail. When the whites broke the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1876, he was under Sitting Bull's leadership during the War for the Black Hills. Although Little Wolf’s warriors did not fight with Crazy Horse at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, they later fell victim to U.S. military retaliatory attacks.

Little Wolf’s warriors came to the aid of Dull Knife when the U.S. Army destroyed his village. Little Wolf was shot seven times, but survived. Following the attack on Dull Knife’s camp by Colonel Ranald Mackenzie in the winter of 1876-77, Little Wolf and the starving Cheyenne bands were forced to surrender to General Nelson Miles and were promised a reservation on their native lands.

Once they had surrendered, General Miles did not keep his promise and the Cheyenne, led by Little Wolf and Dull Knife, were deported to a reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). They had come from the high, dry country of Montana and North Dakota, where buffalo and other game were still plentiful, to the hot and humid Indian Territory, land where the game had been exterminated.

Straight away on their arrival, they were infected by a condition in which there were alternating periods of chills, fever, and sweating, a condition that was new to them. Food was in short supply, the beef provided them had little meat, and they began to starve. They never received enough food to survive for more than nine months a year. Half of the Cheyenne in Oklahoma had died by the summer of 1878.

An appeal to the Indian Agent had been their first step to save the Cheyenne people before taking any desperate measures. Little Wolf and Dull Knife had gone to the agent and pleaded that Oklahoma was a place of sickness, that they wished to return to their home in the mountains, where they were always well, that they be allowed to return to their homeland, but they were refused.

The outrage increased when the Indian Agent, John Miles, demanded that the chief surrender hostages until troops could round up some Cheyenne runaways. Little Wolf refused. The Indian Agent threatened to starve the entire tribe into submission if they did not surrender the hostages. Little Wolf tried to explain to him that if the Cheyenne men, did not want to be found they could hide so that the army could search and never get these men back.

{What hostages?} Following needs editing...

Seeing no satisfaction was forthcoming Little Wolf bid a civil goodbye to the agent stating that he was a friend of the white people, that he had been so for 27 years. He was going north to his own country and did not want to see bloodshed at the agency. He requested that if they were going to send soldiers after them to fight that they give his people a head start that if they really wanted to fight, that they would make the ground bloody at that place as he would not surrender and would do battle with them there.

These simple people had agreed to friendly cooperation with the white men and came upon the reservation willingly, believing that they get fair treatment and could leave at any time. They did not understand that they were prisoners.

They had military troops there, but did not order them to prevent the Indians' going away. Early the Next morning they struck encampment quickly. Without further words, they left the agency to which they had come and started north. With his friend, Dull Knife, another Cheyenne chief, he led his people, of about 70 warriors and almost 230 Cheyenne consisting of old men, women, and children, out of the reservation near Fort Reno, Oklahoma in 1878.

The War Department set 13,000 troops into operation scouring the country attempting to capture or kill the refugees fleeing from the death camp in the Indian Territory, yet they kept on, in the face of every obstacle, they steadily marched northward. The fugitives pressed constantly northward undaunted, while orders were flying over the wires, and special trains were carrying men and horses to cut them off at all probable points on the different railway lines they must cross.

With plans to cross through Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakota Territory into the Montana Territory, the Cheyenne began their journey home, back to their ancestral home. Little Wolf was the War Chief who largely guided and defended them in their legendary flight to freedom from the Indian Territory to their northern home.

Toward evening of the second day, the scouts signaled the approach of troops. Almost as if he was following the “Rules of Engagement," Little Wolf ordered his men that under no condition were they to fire until fired upon.

The Army sent in a scout ahead to relay to them the terms of surrender that if they were to surrender now, that they would get their rations, and receive fair treatment. Little Wolf responded that they were going home and that they wanted to leave in peace. Once the soldiers began firing, the Cheyennes made a cavalry charge and succeeded in stopping the advance of the army troops for two days. During this engagement, the Cheyenne suffered only light losses, five men wounded and no deaths. When the army withdrew, the Indians began their long northward journey home bringing their wounded with them.

Repeatedly the army would attack and then withdraw again. Utilizing their superior field craft during the journey, the Cheyenne were often able to elude the U.S. cavalry, which was sent after them. When ever possible, they tried, and with some success, avoided skirmishes with the army. If they could not elude the army and troops attacked them, they stood their ground and fought until the soldiers retreated, and then began the trek home again.

When they reached the North Platte River in Nebraska, Dull Knife’s Followers separated from those of Little Wolf. As Dull Knife and his band began their journey to the Red Cloud agency in Nebraska, Little Wolf led his band to the Nebraska Sand Hills to hide. Little Wolf remained all winter in the Sand Hills, where there was plenty of game and no white men.

A long-term friend, First Lieutenant William Clark, persuaded Little Wolf to surrender and On March 25 1879, Little Wolf surrendered to General Nelson Miles at Fort Keough. After his surrender, Little Wolf became a scout for the army under Gen. Nelson A. Miles. Little Wolf’s band of Cheyenne were allowed to stay on the Northern Plains near their home on the Tongue and Rosebud rivers in Montana until they were finally reunited with Dull Knife and their remaining people on Northern Cheyenne Reservation at Lame Deer, Montana, and there he spent the remainder of his days until his death in 1904. Little Wolf is buried beside his friend, and fellow freedom fighter, Dull Knife near his home in Montana.

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