Title: The Future of the Red Man. An Interview with Red Shirt. How the Indian Chief Met Buffalo Bill.

Periodical: The Umpire

Date: December 25, 1887

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THE FUTURE OF THE RED MAN.


AN INTERVIEW WITH RED SHIRT.


HOW THE INDIAN CHIEF MET BUFFALO BILL.

"I should like to meet Red Shirt if it can be arranged and have a little chat with him."

"Certainly," replied Major Burke, and accordingly the other morning I was introduced to the Sioux chief. Red Shirt, who only left the Indian reservation last March, looks every inch a man born to command. He has a singularly fine intelligent face, and the peculiarities of Indian physiognomy are less remarkable in his case than in that of the other members of the tribe at present with the Wild West Show in Manchester. Arrayed in a red woollen shirt and moccassins, the inevitable blanket thrown round him so as to leave the right arm free, he looks an ideal Sioux. As he converses his large, bright eyes flash as he gets more and more deeply in earnest, but his countenance, save for an occasional flickering smile that plays about the corners of the mouth, remains as stolid as that of the Sphinx. Red Shirt, whose intelligence is of a very high order, is evidently a shrewd observer, and his good common sense is clearly demonstrated in his replies to any questions put to him.

As is usual at these palavers, Broncho Bill acted as interpreter, and succeeded admirably in conveying the questions and replies. Major Burke, however, explained that it is almost impossible to reproduce the similes drawn from nature, and the often poetic imagery of Indian oratory, unless the interpreter has a corresponding command of graceful English diction. My first question was how Red Shirt, an Indian chief, came to be a member of Buffalo Bill's company, and I was told that he only agreed to join the combination after the United States Government had given special permission and a grand council of the Sioux nation had been held.

THE DEATH OF YELLOW HAND.

"But did you never see Buffalo Bill until you joined this show?"

"Yes, I saw him long ago, but we never spoke until a little while since. All the men of the Sioux nation know Buffalo Bill by reputation. The first time I saw him was at the fight at War Barnard Creek, [1] when the white men were too many for the poor Indians. It was twelve or thirteen years ago, but (and here his eyes twinkled ominously) that fight I can see now. Buffalo Bill in the struggle killed Yellow Hand, a great Indian brave, and took his scalp. I tried to fight my way to the white man to revenge my brother, and although we got very near I could not reach him. Had we met one would have died; but the soldiers were encircling us; five of our men were shot down, and we fled. Then we would have killed each other, but now we have the same heart, and we are brothers. Yes, Colonel Cody is very good to me and my people."

A GREAT INDIAN BATTLE.

"Will you tell me another fight in which you were engaged?"

"Yes, I will tell you of a great fight of the Sioux nation with the Pawnees, who were always bad Indians. They had met our people on the hunt and killed them; they had attacked our villages and carried away our squaws and children, and their young braves came, like serpents in the grass, and stole away our horses. The Sioux nation offered to make a treaty of peace with the Pawnees, but the bad Indians refused, and the Grand Council of the Sioux sat down to discuss how we should punish these bad people, and every chief there spoke for going on the war path. Then we made ready to fight. It is fifteen years ago, and I was a young chief then; but my father, who was a great chief, was on the war path, and I was eager to prove myself a great warrior in his eyes. I collected my young men, and we set out, altogether 1300 strong, under 16 big chiefs. The most experienced warriors were sent on two days' march in advance to scout, and scouts were thrown out on every side to guard against surprise. For eight days our braves marched against the enemy, and then some spies came back and told us that they had found the Pawnee village. This made the hearts of our young men glad, for we felt that we should punish the wrong-doers. Our scouts told us that many of the Pawnee braves were on a big hunt, but that nearly all the remainder of the tribe were [missing] the village. We gathered round the camp without being discovered, and the great chiefs [?] the young men how the battle was to fought.

THE ATTACK.

Not till the signal was given for attack did the Pawnees find out their enemies were near. Some of the Pawnees were cowards, and ran before we got into the village, but the majority stayed to fight for their wigwams, and to die for them. They were surprised, and in one great dash we cleared their lodges and wigwams. I was armed with a long spear; nearly all our braves had spears and bows and arrows, but many had guns too. I ran to a young chief who stood to guard his lodge. He was brave and a good warrior, but he fell before my spear, and his scalp adorned my belt. Near by four Pawnee braves stood in a bunch, and made a great fight against the attacks of some of our young men. I joined them, and with my long spear I killed each one of those four braves, and their scalps I added to the one already on my belt. Then the fight was almost done. The Pawnees left alive tried to get to their fast horses, but our young men were too quick for them. It was a running fight, and they were scalped almost as they ran. I met three women running for the horses. Two were armed with knives, and one with a club, but I killed all three. I did not take their hair. A brave never boasts of killing women, and a woman's scalp adorns not a chief's lodge. There was no hesitation about killing their women and children. They had killed ours, and revenge is sweet to the red man.

THE RESULT OF THE FIGHT

All, however, were not killed, for we took 36 squaws prisoners, and carried them back to the Sioux camp, where we were hailed with shouts of victory, for we had brought back with us over 500 scalps to show that these bad Indians had been punished. Besides we had all their horses and stores and trophies to make glad the hearts of our squaws. That fight took place in the southern country of the Big Beaver, [2] but the white man holds that land now, and the Indian has gone nearer the setting sun. Another Grand Council was held on our return, when we agreed to send the 36 prisoners back to their tribe—for we felt some pity for them then—mounted on our best horses and loaded with presents, and the message we sent with them was that we had tried to make a treaty with them, but they would not listen to our words, and they continued to attack our people and steal our horses. Now we had killed all we could find except the women, and those we sent back to tell them how we punished bad Indians who interfere with the Sioux nation."

I may here remark that the Chief of the Sioux nation is Red Cloud, who has, I am told, a pretty clear idea of the fate of the Indian. He is the third chief of the tribe, is a born orator, and great in the councils of the nation. Red Cloud is the Chief over all the Sioux, while "The Young Man afraid of his Horses" stands second to him in power and influence, while Red Shirt comes next.

THE FUTURE OF THE RED MAN

"I Suppose, Red Shirt, that you have formed your idea of the future of the red man?"

"Each season brings a change for the red man," was the reply. "The Indian of the next generation will not be the Indian of the last. Our buffaloes are nearly all gone, the deer have entirely vanished, and the white man takes more and more of our land. But the United States Government is good. True, it has taken away our land, and the white men have eaten up our deer and our buffalo, but the Government now give us food that we may not starve. They are educating our children, and teaching them to farm and to use farming implements. Our children will learn the white man's civilisation, and to live like him. It is our only outlook in the future. Now we are dependent upon the rations of the Government, but we feel we are fully entitled to that bounty. It is a part of the price they pay for the land they have taken from us, and some compensation to us for having killed off the herds upon which we subsisted."

"In case the United States Government decided to refuse to continue this payment in kind, what do you believe would be the direct consequence?"

"The red man would certainly starve. The tribes are yet far from self-supporting. For myself, I know it is no use fighting against the United States Government. I accept my fate. The red man cannot kill all the white men, who live in villages as big as the largest forests. But some of our young men do not know this, and they may, perhaps, elect to die, like their fathers, with their tomahawks in their hands, rather than to starve to death like dogs upon the prairie.

A NEW DAWN.

I understood these things a little before, but how much clearer it is to me now. I started from my lodge two moons ago knowing nothing, and had I remained on the Indian Reservation I should have been as a blind man. Now I can see a new dawn. The great wooden houses which cross the mighty waters, the great villages which have no end, where the pale faces swarm like insects in the summer sun. The White Man lodges for the great Spirit, whose pinnacles reach the sky, and which have stood for more seasons than the red men can reckon all strike me with a terrible wonder. And the Great Spirit speaks to me sometimes since I have been here. When I was in the Great Spirit lodge, where the great kings are buried (Westminster Abbey), I laid my face upon my hands. The words of the preacher I did not know, but they sounded like the soft winds through a leafy forest, and my eyelids were heavy. Then I heard soft music and sweet voices, and a great cloud came down towards me, and when it nearly reached me it opened, and I saw in a blaze of light the girls with wings, and they beckoned me; and I was so certain that what I saw was true that I called out to my young men who were with me to "Come and see what this is," and the young men replied, "You have been dreaming." But what I saw was true, for when I looked round the great lodge afterwards I saw on the walls the same girls with wings as I saw in my dreams.

"FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL TO ALL MY GREATNESS."

Our people will wonder at these things when we return to the Indian Reservation and tell them what we have seen. It will all tend towards that white man's civilization, which is the Indian's only hope. But oh! to think that the red man, whose fathers could roam from place to place and hunt the buffalo and deer, should be compelled to dig the ground that he may live. Before, the red man was free, he killed the meat he wanted, and fought his foes with the weapons of his fathers. Sorrow (sickness) was unknown, and the squaws mated with the braves of the tribe. Now, we are bound to eat the white man's food, and sorrow falls upon us; we are kept to lands from which we must not roam, and the squaws of our tribes are mating with the white man, and their offspring are not of our people. The Red man can live, but only like the white man, and by mixing with him. Indians may survive and eat what they make to grow from the ground, but the Red man who lived by the hunt, who lived as free as air, whose delight was in the fight with his enemies, is rapidly passing away, and in fifty years hence will be known no more."

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THE ATTACK ON THE DEADWOOD COACH.

Note 1: Warbonnet Creek, located in northwestern Nebraska, was the location of the Battle of Warbonnet Creek in which William F. Cody fought, killed, and scalped Yellow Hair. [back]

Note 2: Big Beaver is not identified. [back]

Title: The Future of the Red Man. An Interview with Red Shirt. How the Indian Chief Met Buffalo Bill.

Periodical: The Umpire

Source: McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West , MS6.3679.30.01a-c (Stroebel scrapbook)

Date: December 25, 1887

Topic: European Tours

Keywords: American Indians Great Sphinx (Egypt) Historical reenactments Horses Indian blankets Indian children Indian weapons Indian women Indians of North America--Clothing Pawnee Indians Sioux Nation Stagecoaches Tipis Translators United States--Politics and government Warbonnet Creek, Battle of, Neb., 1876 Westminster Abbey

People: Red Shirt, 1845?-1925 Yellow Hand, 1850?-1876

Place: Manchester (England)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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