Red Cloud (Lakota: Maȟpíya Lúta) (1822 – 10 December 1909) was one of the most important leaders of the Oglala Lakota (Oglala Sioux) from 1868 to 1909. He was one of the most capable American Indian opponents that the United States Army faced in its mission to seize control of the western territories.
Three Years on the Plains Observations of Indians, 1867-1870
- All the promises made in the treaty have never been fulfilled. The object of the whites is to crush the Indians down to nothing. The Great Spirit will judge these things hereafter. All the words I sent never reached the Father. They are lost before they get here. I am chief of the thirty-nine nations of Sioux. I will not take the paper with me. It is all lies.
- I have tried to get from my Great Father what is right and just. I have not altogether succeeded. I want you to believe with me, to know with me, that which is right and just. I represent the whole Sioux nation. They will be grieved by what I represent. I am no Spotted Tail, who will say one thing one day, and be bought for a fish the next. Look at me! I am poor, naked, but I am chief of a nation.
- We do not ask for riches; we do not want much; but we want our children properly trained and brought up. We look to you for that. Riches here do no good. We cannot take them away with us out of this world, but we want to have love and peace. The money, the riches, that we have in this world, as Secretary Cox lately told me, we cannot take these into the next world. If this is so, I would like to know why the Commissioners who are sent out there do nothing but rob to get the riches of this world away from us.
- I was brought up among traders and those who came out there in the early times. I had good times with them; they treated me mostly always right; always well; they taught me to use clothes, to use tobacco, to use fire-arms and ammunition.
- This was all very well until the Great Father sent another kind of men out there, men who drank whisky; men who were so bad that the Great Father could not keep them at home, so he sent them out there.
- I do not want to go that way. I want a straight line. I have seen enough of towns. There are plenty of stores between here and my home, and there is no occasion to go out of the way to buy goods. I have no business in New York. I want to go back the way I came. The whites are the same everywhere. I see them every day.
Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains (1918)]
Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains(1918), by Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa)
- We are told that Spotted Tail has consented to be the Beggars’ Chief. Those Indians who go over to the white man can be nothing but beggars, for he respects only riches, and how can an Indian be a rich man? He cannot without ceasing to be an Indian. As for me, I have listened patiently to the promises of the Great Father, but his memory is short. I am now done with him. This is all I have to say.
- Friends, it has been our misfortune to welcome the white man. We have been deceived. He brought with him some shining things that pleased our eyes; he brought weapons more effective than our own: above all, he brought the spirit water that makes one forget for a time old age, weakness, and sorrow. But I wish to say to you that if you would possess these things for yourselves, you must begin anew and put away the wisdom of your fathers. You must lay up food, and forget the hungry. When your house is built, your storeroom filled, then look around for a neighbor whom you can take at a disadvantage, and seize all that he has! My countrymen, shall the glittering trinkets of this rich man, his deceitful drink that overcomes the mind, shall these things tempt us to give up our homes, our hunting grounds, and the honorable teaching of our old men? Shall we permit ourselves to be driven to and fro—to be herded like the cattle of the white man? He died in 1909
Quotes about Red Cloud
Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains (1918)
- Red Cloud was a modest and little known man of about twenty-eight years, when General Harney called all the western bands of Sioux together at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for the purpose of securing an agreement and right of way through their territory. The Ogallalas held aloof from this proposal, but Bear Bull, an Ogallala chief, after having been plied with whisky, undertook to dictate submission to the rest of the clan. Enraged by failure, he fired upon a group of his own tribesmen, and Red Cloud’s father and brother fell dead. According to Indian custom, it fell to him to avenge the deed. Calmly, without uttering a word, he faced old Bear Bull and his son, who attempted to defend his father, and shot them both. He did what he believed to be his duty, and the whole band sustained him. Indeed, the tragedy gave the young man at once a certain standing, as one who not only defended his people against enemies from without, but against injustice and aggression within the tribe. From this time on he was a recognized leader.
- In this notable battle [Little Big Horn] Red Cloud did not participate in person, nor in the earlier one with Crook upon the Little Rosebud, but he had a son in both fights. He was now a councilor rather than a warrior, but his young men were constantly in the field, while Spotted Tail had definitely surrendered and was in close touch with representatives of the government.
- One morning in the fall of 1876 Red Cloud was surrounded by United States troops under the command of Colonel McKenzie, who disarmed his people and brought them into Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Thence they were removed to the Pine Ridge agency, where he lived for more than thirty years as a “reservation Indian.” In order to humiliate him further, government authorities proclaimed the more tractable Spotted Tail head chief of the Sioux. Of course, Red Cloud’s own people never recognized any other chief.
- I once asked Red Cloud if he could recall having ever been afraid, and in reply he told me this story. He was about sixteen years old and had already been once or twice upon the warpath, when one fall his people were hunting in the Big Horn country, where they might expect trouble at any moment with the hostile Crows or Shoshones. Red Cloud had followed a single buffalo bull into the Bad Lands and was out of sight and hearing of his companions. When he had brought down his game, he noted carefully every feature of his surroundings so that he might at once detect anything unusual, and tied his horse with a long lariat to the horn of the dead bison, while skinning and cutting up the meat so as to pack it to camp. Every few minutes he paused in his work to scrutinize the landscape, for he had a feeling that danger was not far off.
- Suddenly, almost over his head, as it seemed, he heard a tremendous war whoop, and glancing sidewise, thought he beheld the charge of an overwhelming number of warriors. He tried desperately to give the usual undaunted war whoop in reply, but instead a yell of terror burst from his lips, his legs gave way under him, and he fell in a heap. When he realized, the next instant, that the war whoop was merely the sudden loud whinnying of his own horse, and the charging army a band of fleeing elk, he was so ashamed of himself that he never forgot the incident, although up to that time he had never mentioned it. His subsequent career would indicate that the lesson was well learned.
- His private life was exemplary. He was faithful to one wife all his days, and was a devoted father to his children. He was ambitious for his only son, known as Jack Red Cloud, and much desired him to be a great warrior. He started him on the warpath at the age of fifteen, not then realizing that the days of Indian warfare were well-nigh at an end.
- Among latter-day chiefs, Red Cloud was notable as a quiet man, simple and direct in speech, courageous in action, an ardent lover of his country, and possessed in a marked degree of the manly qualities characteristic of the American Indian in his best days.
Three Years on the Plains: Observations of Indians, 1867-1870
- Red Cloud is regarded as the head chief of the Sioux nation, and for over twenty years has been thus venerated. He is fifty-three years old, and claims to have fought in eighty-seven battles, often wounded, but never badly hurt. Red Cloud is about six feet six inches in his stockings (I mean moccasins), large features, high cheek bones, and a big mouth, and walks knock-kneed, as others do. His face is painted, and his ears pierced for gaudy rings, which men and women have an equal pride for. His and other chiefs' robes were beautifully worked with hair, beads, and jewels. His leggins were red, handsomely worked with beads and horse-hair and ribbons, and his moccasins were fit for a prince to wear.
- He has encountered the Utes, Pawnees, Snakes, Blackfeet, Crows, and Omahas. Thirty-three years ago, while he was the youngest of the braves, he engaged with a party of one hundred and twenty-five warriors of his tribe, and only twenty-five escaped alive. Twice was he wounded, and so distinguished by his daring that he was made a chief for his skill in fighting. Then he rose in rank to the highest station, and he holds it to-day. His people regard him as one of the greatest warriors on the plains, being skilled with the tomahawk, rifle, and bow and arrow, and in councils of chiefs, his wonderful sagacity and eloquence have stamped him, in the eyes of all Indians, as worthy of veneration and implicit obedience.
- Many of the Sioux now actually believe that their nation is more powerful than the United States, and Red Cloud a greater warrior than Grant, Sherman, or Sheridan. One of Red Cloud's party said, "If you are so strong and have so many warriors, why did you not keep your forts on the Powder River?" The delegation to Washington will go back and tell the people not how many men, women, and children they saw, as evidence of our power and greatness, but how many horses, soldiers, guns, and corn they saw. For thus they estimate the power and glory of a nation.
- Red Cloud won great glory among all the Indians on the plains by his skill in manœuvring in getting us to give up four hundred miles of rich territory, pulling down three forts, and retiring back to the Platte River. No chief since King Philip or Red Jacket has achieved such a feat and a reputation as Red Cloud.
- The citizens of Washington have now and then seen Indian delegations at the Capitol. But these... fellows, such as Red Cloud, Swift Bear, and others, at once attracted attention.
- Their large size and well-developed muscle, tall and graceful in action, especially when speaking in their native eloquence, mark them as objects of surprise and wonder. Their faces were painted in red, yellow, and black stripes. Their ears were pierced, men and women, for large ornaments of silver and bear's teeth. They wore magnificent buffalo robes, ornamented and worked with beads, horse-hair, and porcupine quills. Red Cloud wore red leggins beautifully worked and trimmed with ribbons and beads, and his shirt had as many colors as the rainbow. His robe—made to tell by characters his achievements in battle—was quite rich, and worked with seal-skins. His moccasins pronounced the handsomest ever seen there.
- Red Cloud said that the pale-faces are more than the grass in numbers. He had come to see the Great Father, and to see if the peace-pipe could not be smoked on the big waters of the Potomac.
- The appearance on the balcony of the hotel of the whole party, watching the crowds of pale-faces going to and from the Capitol, created much curiosity, and the Indians remarked to one another that the horse-thieves in the Indian country had a good many brothers in Washington!
- After the Indians had got comfortably seated and had passed the pipe around among them a few times, Commissioner Parker, with Secretary Cox, entered the council-room, and were introduced to each Indian of Red Cloud's band, having previously seen Spotted Tail and party. As Indians never speak first, but will sit for hours, Commissioner Parker opened the meeting, saying: "I am glad to see you to-day. I know that you have come a long way to see your Great Father, the President of the United States. You have had no accident, have arrived here all well, and should be very thankful to the Great Spirit who has kept you safe...
- Stepping up quickly to the table, and shaking hands with the officials,[Red Cloud] spoke up in a firm voice, "My friends, I have come a long way to see you and the Great Father, but somehow after I got here, you do not look at me. When I heard the words of the Great Father, allowing me to come, I came right away, and left my women and children. I want you to give them rations, and a load of ammunition to kill game with. I wish you would blow them a message on the wires that I came here safe, all right."
- Secretary Cox said he would now only welcome them again, and would telegraph Red Cloud's message, and for the rest, he would see what could be done. Tomorrow he would show them what was to be seen about the city. On the next day (Sunday) white people did no business, and on next day evening the President would meet the Indians at the Executive Mansion.They were invited to have their photographs taken, but Red Cloud declined.
- Authors Tell Untold Story Of Sioux Warrior Red Cloud. NPR.org (November 18, 2013). Bob Drury and Tom Clavin about the book, The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend
- Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains, By Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa) 1918
- "Chief Red Cloud's Great-Great Grandson on Native American Issues", video interview, 30 September 2010, Democracy Now!