This image of Little Wolf and Dull Knife was taken in 1873.

Native History: Chief Little Wolf Surrenders, Establishes Reservation

Christina Rose

This Date in Native History: On March 25, 1879, Chief Little Wolf, Northern Cheyenne, surrendered but succeeded in bringing his people home.

According to the Cheyenne prophet Sweet Medicine, light skinned men with beards would come, so many they could not be counted. They would kill the buffalo and introduce cattle and horses, and disease. They would take the children and enforce new ways. The prophecy would be remembered and Sweet Medicine’s medicine bundle would be carried for years to come. One who carried that bundle was Chief Little Wolf.

In 1877, after more than a decade of wars, bands of Northern Cheyenne and other tribes straggled into the Red Cloud agency and Fort Robinson in Nebraska to surrender. There, the tribes were pressured to relocate to Indian Territory, in areas now known as Kansas and Oklahoma. The Northern Cheyenne were against the move, and vowed to remain in their homelands.

There was shock and surprise among the Northern Cheyenne when the elected spokesman, Standing Elk, announced to U.S. officials that they would indeed move to Indian Territory. Though they saw the announcement as a betrayal, they agreed to go.

On May 28, 1877, 937 Northern Cheyenne left the Red Cloud Agency and began their 77-day trek to Indian Territory. Only two months after their arrival, two-thirds of their people fell ill with a coughing sickness, and 40 had perished by the end of the first winter. The attending physician had no medicine, and the government sent only enough food to last nine months of a year. Without buffalo or game to hunt, their numbers dwindled from sickness and starvation.


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