Wild West

NO PEACE FOR OLD MEN

In 1851 at a council meeting on Horse Creek, down the North Platte River from the U.S. Army garrison at Fort Laramie, the influential Minneconjou Lakota Chief Lone Horn and other tribal leaders accepted in concept a peace between all peoples in the region encompassing present-day western South Dakota, eastern Montana and parts of Wyoming. For six years the signatories respected the Horse Creek Treaty (aka 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie), proving largely able to keep Plains Indians from killing other Plains Indians, even during times of conflict between the Sioux and the Army.

But a wanton, never explained murder shattered Lone Horn’s dream of Indian chiefs working together to maintain the peace between the Sioux, their Cheyenne and Arapaho friends, their formidable Crow enemies, the Assiniboines, the Gros Ventres, the remnants of the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa farmers, and elements of other tribes who sometimes traded but more often clashed with one another. When the intertribal armistice collapsed, the stage was set for the 1866 Fetterman Fight and other clashes of Red Cloud’s War, the Little Bighorn and other battles of the Great Sioux War of 1876, and also the sad Indian wars finale at Wounded Knee in 1890.

was the son of Chief Red Fish, a Minneconjou elder who in 1848 had occasion to change his mind about his Crow enemies. That year after Crows kidnapped his daughter, Red Fish had appealed to roving Jesuit missionary Father Pierre-Jean De Smet for prayers. Among some tribes horse-stealing and girl-stealing was a rite of manhood. Indians dreaded incest, and kidnapping a bride from a different tribe was a sure way to prevent inbreeding as well as to demonstrate one’s courage and skill. Soon after the “Black Robe” joined Red Fish in prayer, the chief’s daughter returned home unharmed. Thus in 1851, when Father De Smet approached Red Fish and son Lone Horn with a peace proposal, they listened respectfully. (According to some historians, by 1840 Lone Horn had already worked out a peace agreement between

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