Mellette County, South Dakota
By Harold W. Schunk, Superintendent of Rosebud Agency
(transcribed from the Mellette County 1911-1961 book published August 15, 1961 by the Mellette County Centennial Committee)
I am very happy to have the opportunity to write the preface for the Indian Section of this history
of Mellette County, more especially as the year 1961 is the 100th anniversary of Dakota Territory.
Being a native South Dakotan, I have been very interested in its history for many years. I have been
a member of the State Historical Society for many years and an active member in promoting the
preservation of South Dakota history.
I have always been an admirer of the leadership and statesmanship qualities of Spotted Tail. This
chief had much to do with the Rosebud country in the early days. I feel it is only fitting and proper to
relate a short history of Spotted Tail for the readers of Mellette County history. During the year 1961,
a number of communities are honoring Spotted Tail's memory.
Spotted Tail was born in 1823 or 1824 somewhere on the White River Valley. He rose to warrior
fame in the raids and fighting with the Pawnees and other enemies of the Sioux in the early 1850s,
which was the beginning of the great Sioux wars. Spotted Tail played an important role in these events.
In 1855 the Gratten Massacre took place. This incident had its beginning in the killing of an immigrant cow (a cow belonging to an immigrant train near Fort Laramie.) Troops were sent into the Indian village to arrest the Indian who killed the cow, but the Indian would not give himself up. The troops opened fire and attempted to use force, and as a result Gratten and about 30 soldiers were wiped out by the Indians. Spotted Tail was one of the warrior leaders in this fight, and in addition, his cousin who was head chief of the Brule Sioux at that time named Conquering Bear, was killed.
In retaliation for this killing, in November, 1854, Spotted Tail and four others carried out one of the most spectacular stage coach robberies in the history of the west. They held up the overland mail coach just east of Fort Laramie, killed the passengers and crew and escaped with $10,000 in gold. No one has ever discovered what happened to the gold, at least the stage coach company never got it back. In all probability, it found itself in the hands of French traders, like Bordeaux.
These events resulted in 1855 in the Harney Expedition being sent to punish the Sioux. General Harney attacked a Brule Sioux village at Ash Hollow on the Platte River under Chief Little Thunder. The village was destroyed in the fighting, and the warriors fought a delaying action to permit the women and children to escape.
Spotted Tail was one of the leaders in this fighting. He received two pistol wounds and two severe saber cuts. His bravery was so noticeable that when reports were sent back to the St. Louis newspapers of the battle, his name was mentioned as being an outstanding Indian.
Later the same year, General Harney at Fort Laramie demanded that the five Brules, Spotted Tail and four others, be surrendered, or else the war against the Sioux would be continued. If they gave up General Harney said they would have peace. In November, 1855, Spotted Tail and his companions surrendered at Fort Laramie and were taken east as prisoners of war.
This imprisonment had a marked influence on Spotted Tail and his experiences were developed in later years with even more frequent contact with white people. The main lesson that he learned as the result of this imprisonment was the eventual futility of trying to stem or obstruct the white tide of advancing civilization into the west. He became acquainted as no Plains Indian had ever done before him, of the true strength and power of the American
people, but at the same time he did not become a complete pacifist or as some people have stated, a quizzling or traitor prominent warrior and leader of war parties against the traditional enemies of the Sioux.
For instance, in 1864, an army lieutenant who was stationed in the Sioux country, wrote a book about his experiences, and he said that at that time Spotted Tail was considered to be the greatest war leader of the western Sioux. He had to his credit at that time 26 coups which he had gained in warfare against Indian tribes and the white soldiers.
In 1868, the year that the Sioux came on to the reservations, it led these Indian people into an entirely new situation and a new way of life. It was this transformation that gave Spotted Tail the opportunity to show his abilities as a leader and foresight of things to come for the Indian people and his concern for the entire Sioux nation. More and more he was brought into contact with white officials from the President of the United States on down. He counseled with them, negotiated with them, and more often than not, came out on top or got the better of the bargain.
In reading transcripts of these councils, it is truly remarkable to note the wisdom and foresight, and even the moments of humor and good naturedness that were evident in his character.
Spotted Tail's goal throughout his dealings with the white people, from 1868 on, was to gain time for his people to adjust to new conditions and to make the transition from the wild hunting life they were used to for generations to the ways of white civilization. The government and individuals interested, supposedly, in Indian welfare, were intent upon transforming the Sioux into civilized people in as short a period of time as was possible. Spotted Tail
realized this could not be done effectively, and attempted to bring his people into civilized ways in a slow but steady way which would assure some permanent results.
As head chief, he had plenty of opposition, not only from whites but from factions from within the Brule tribe itself. This political opposition eventually resulted in his death in 1882 when he was shot and killed by Crow Dog, who represented his opponent within the tribe. Today, I am told, to a certain extent, this rivalry still exists among some of the Rosebud people. There are anti-Spotted Tail groups and pro-Spotted Tail groups.
With respect to this rivalry, and this holds true for white politicians and statesmen as well as Indian leaders, opposition is good. It keeps the people who are in leadership and authority on their toes, but at the same time it should not obscure the fact that Spotted Tail was truly a great leader of his people, and incidentally, one of the early statesmen in the state of South Dakota as well. We should not forget Spotted Tail and his accomplishments for the Sioux.
Today, among the Indians and white people, the "wilder fellows" who were the hostiles of the Indian wars like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull and getting the most attention, are best remembered because of the parts they played in the spectacular Indian wars. Always keep in mind that Spotted Tail was equally concerned for the future of his people and his goals were long range in nature to try and prepare his people for the task of living in a new civilization, and it was to this purpose that he dedicated his life.
In conclusion, I wish to thank the Mellette County citizens for the privilege of being a part of this fine publication.
Spotted Tail, Sioux Chief
Reuben Quick Bear
(transcribed from the Mellette County 1911-1961 book published August 15, 1961 by the Mellette County Centennial Committee)
When the masses of Sioux were moved from Wyoming to the first reservations in South Dakota in 1870, two young Indian children traveling with their parents viewed badlands, creeks and hills as their new home on the Rosebud.
Reuben Quick Bear and Mary Butler were both born at old Fort Laramie, Wyoming, in the 1860's. They brought with them to South Dakota memories of the last big buffalo hunts with their families in great encampments.
Married at the Rosebud Indian Agency in 1890 by an Episcopal minister, Reuben and Mary lived out their lives in Mellette county. Personal acquaintances have described them as honest, conscientious, hardworking and respected citizens. When Mellette county was opened to settlement, Quick Bear ran and was elected for commissioner in 1911 on the first slate of county officers. He had previously attended Carlisle Indian school in Pennsylvania for several years and was well qualified for the job. He also bought and operated the Blackpipe trading post in what is now Norris and served as postmaster for two years. He was clerk at the Rosebud Indian Agency for some time, and contributed in various ways to both the society of his own people and that of the whites.
John Tripp, son of the first teacher at Blackpipe Indian day school in 1891, described Reuben Quick Bear to Will Spindler in an article that appeared in the Rapid City Daily Journal in 1957. He remembered him as an intelligent man, taller than the average Indian, well-dressed and the only Indian who desired to speak English.
"In 1891," Tripp said, "Reuben was the only Indian man in the entire Blackpipe community who wore his hair short. All the rest were 'long hairs.' He was the first Indian I knew of who took his father's name instead of selecting another family name. His father was the head man in the Blackpipe camp... had three wives, all sisters."
Frank Ferry, White River pioneer, recalls, "He (Quick Bear) was a great friend of our family while my father and mother were stationed as teacher and housekeeper in the Upper and Lower Pine Creek day schools in the Indian Service."
Perry continued, "I can recall years ago when an Indian delegation went to Washington, D. C. on tribal business. This bunch, as nearly as I can recall, consisted of Reuben Quick Bear, Clement Whirlwind Soldier, Ralph Eagle Feather, Silas Standing Elk and Hollow Horn Bear. That was the trip on which Hollow Horn Bear got pneumonia and died there in Washington. He was quite a noted Indian and his likeness is on some of our nickels today." These quotes appeared in another Will Spindler article.
Mrs. Quick Bear was the eldest daughter of Gustavus and Emily Butler. She completed her education at Genoa Indian School at Genoa, Nebr., in 1885. A member of the Episcopal church, she was an active auxiliary member.
Quick Bear and his wife sold their allotments three miles southeast of Norris to A. C. Kaufman. Reuben died in 1918 and is buried in the Episcopal cemetery in Parmelee. Mary lived on her land until 1950 when she moved to White River. She died there in 1953 at the age of 81. Mrs. Kaufman remembers her as a good neighbor and a very kind-person.
The Album of Native Americans
Submitted by Lionel Bordeaux
(Transcribed, with permission, from "Mellette County 1911-1986" published by the Mellette County Historical Society)
History of the Rosebud to the Opening of Mellette County to Settlement
The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 set aside that part of the United States which the Lakota people considered as their homeland for their use. In 1876 the United States government removed the Black Hills from that territory, thus permitting and influx of settlement in what had been the land of the Sioux.
The Rosebud Sioux Reservation encompassing the current counties of Mellette, Todd, Tripp and parts of Gregory and Lyman Counties was created by agreement with the Federal government in 1889. The regional boundaries believed used by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe vs. Kneip decision in the mid-1970’s to Todd County and whatever Indian lands there are within the original boundaries.
The Dawes Act or General Allotment Act of 1887 called for the allotment of Indian reservation lands to individual Indians who would, after a period of 25 years, be granted title and private ownership to their land. Unallotted lands were ceded to the United States government. The 1889 agreement paves the way for implementation of the Dawes Act on the Rosebud Reservation. An estimated 90 million acres of land or two-thirds of the entire reservation land base were lost as a result of this act and later opening of the counties to settlement by non-Indians. Mellette County was opened in 1910, Gregory in 1904 and Tripp in 1907.
Early social life on the Reservation was severely hampered by government policies which forbade gatherings previously considered integral to the Lakota lifestyle. This included social events such as pow-wows and giveaways as well as religious gathering such as the Sundance. Many of these activities went “underground” in order to survive the restrictions placed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The economic conditions of the reservation in its early days were primarily based on provision of rations and annuities promised through treaties and other agreements on the development of an economy based on cattle ranching and horse breeding. The governmental activities associated with the establishment of the Rosebud Agency Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1878 also created a source of wage income not previously available to local people.
Education on the Rosebud Reservation was primarily provided for by missionaries from Episcopal and Catholic Churches, particularly right around the Agency in Rosebud. Education was seen as a force which encouraged conversion to Christianity as well as providing skills for the future. With the establishment of the Agency came the provision for boarding school education provided by the Bureau. Later many counties and towns established public day schools as an alternative to the mission and boarding schools.
Conditions on the reservation were very poor and oftentimes barely tolerable during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Provisions for annuities and rations were inadequate to serve the needs of the Lakota population. Conflict in the Federal government over how the “Indian problem” should be handled hampered collecting and delivery of adequate provisions. People traveled for days and hundreds of miles to pick up provisions during issue day at the Agency.
Housing was also very inadequate during this time. Previously the Lakota people were able to provide for their housing and their clothing needs through the hides they acquired by hunting and trading. Settlement on the reservation hindered such hunting and trading, thus creating clothing and housing shortages and inadequacies.
There have been many changes on the Rosebud Reservations since the early 1900’s. In 1934 the Indian Reorganization Act formally established and recognized Rosebud Sioux Tribal Government as it currently is a operating. The nineteen fifties and sixties during the Eisenhower new deal to administration sought the development and implementation of many innovative and progressive activities on the reservation. The nineteen seventies and nineteen eighties had been characterized by the self determination self sufficiency adverts rides and their supporters.
Further information about the Reservation can be acquired by contacting the Lakota Studies Department at Sinte Gleska College, Box 490, Rosebud, South Dakota.
Quick Bear (aka Fast Bear)
Contributed and written by Shaw-lee Haynes
(Descendant of Quick Bear via his son Reuben Quick Bear's daughter, Eva Quick Bear)
My gg grandfather was Quick Bear (aka Fast Bear) 1827-1916. He was a sub chief to
Red Leaf who was the principal chief of the Wazhazha Band/Brule Nation. He later became a
representational "chief" of the Black Pipe district upon Rosebud's then transitional process to
select leaders to represent Rosebud's Local Districts in the late 1880's.
There are many photos of Quick Bear (Mato Ohanko) in his later years; however, since
both his Indian and English name was earlier mistranslated as "Fast Bear' (Luzah Mato) we
were unable to discern that both were the same person much earlier. In fact the Indian name
"Luzah Mato" actually belonged to Chief Swift Bear of the Corn Band/Brule Nation. Un-
fortunately their names were documented incorrectly in the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty.
However, fortunately both names were later corrected to their rightful owners.
Quick Bear (aka Fast Bear) is shown in three photos with Spotted Tail at Ft. Laramie in
1868. Quick Bear was considered an influential warrior of his band as well and when Spotted
Tail was asked in 1870 to choose someone to attend a Washington DC event with him to
meet high officials he chose Quick Bear--as documented in various books referencing Spotted
Because the Quick Bear family was not aware that Quick Bear was "Fast Bear" and only
found it in our probate records recently, we were not in a position to convey that Quick Bear
was known as "Fast Bear" in his earlier life due to a mistranslation of his name.
Oral history conveys, which Archie Fire Lame Deer affirms in his book: Gift of Power, that
". . . Quick Bear was a great warrior. As a young man he earned his eagle feathers fighting
white soldiers who were trying to build a road through our ancient hunting grounds, in violation of treaties that bore Quick Bear's thumbprint. This was the "Bloody Bozeman Trail," which the Indians called "The Thieves Road."
Quick Bear had plural wives due to his position as a sub-chief and, as a result, there are many descendants today.
In the photo you will see that there is a pipe under the blanket (note the eagle down feathers to the right). This pipe, according to author, Claes H. Jacobson's Rosebud Sioux, was, along with the pipes of "Red Cloud, American Horse, Hollow Horn Bear, Two Strike, William Spotted Tail, Stranger Horse, Quick Bear, Little Bald Eagle and High Horse," featured at the "1939 San Francisco exhibition and World Fair." I'm not sure where the collection is today. (The photo is part of Dietmar Schulte's collection submitted to the Quick Bear's as a gift.)
Quick Bear (aka Fast Bear)
by Stanley J. Morrow, Fall 1876
Group of Sioux Indians "Spotted Tail" (photo c. 1875) Standing: Joe Merrivale; Young Spotted Tail; Antoine Janis; Seated: Touch-the-Clouds; Little Big Man; Black Cool; last two are rapoves[?] identified by George E. Hyde 4229 Dangler[?] St. Omaha, Neb. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)
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