Chief Charles Little Coyote at a Peace Treaty Parade in Medicine Lodge, Kansas.

Traditional Cheyenne Chief Walks On But Memories Remain

Carol Berry

He was known in childhood as Mouse Trail and later, when a veteran, as Morning Killer. But he was more than the names he was given.

Charles Little Coyote, 86, a traditional Cheyenne chief who passed February 9 in Wichita, Kansas, is remembered as a modest man with an abiding sense of humor who believed it was important to teach the Cheyenne language and culture to young people.

He was a great-great-grandson of Black Kettle, the renowned Cheyenne peace chief who survived the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, signed the peace Treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867, and then was killed by the Army the next year in the Washita Massacre.

A century later, Little Coyote, in full regalia, depicted Black Kettle in a triennial pageant held at Medicine Lodge, Kansas memorializing the  treaty that was to have provided safety for settlers headed westward and that was signed by the U.S. and the Kiowa, Comanche, Kiowa-Apache, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal nations.

Little Coyote was, according to Jeff Campbell, who interviewed him in 2008, “honest and truly unassuming, this descendent of chiefs” and “a humble man.”  Little Coyote was a chief in the Cheyenne Council of Forty-four, he recalled.

Campbell, a non-Native retired lawman and independent historian, spent two days with Little Coyote in 2008, and found that “not once was he boastful and arrogant, maybe not what one might expect from a man so honored and asked to take the place as a venerable traditional leader.”

Others who talked with, worked with, fought alongside, or rode with Little Coyote in a Wild West show are gone, but the achievements of his life remain.

After enlisting in the Navy at age 15 (with his father’s permission), he fought in World War II and later enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving in the Korean Conflict. Campbell recalled that Little Coyote made light of his second enlistment, saying that he and a friend got a meal pass from the Marines in Oklahoma City—which must have constituted a commitment—and “I ended up in the Marine Corps for quite awhile, for one meal.”

He rode for a time with a Wild West show, worked in the gypsum mines and mills near Medicine Lodge, Kansas and later had a job in the oil fields.

But perhaps his proudest accomplishment was working with youth, teaching them about the traditional Cheyenne ways that marked his early childhood. He was born in a tipi in rural Oklahoma and, according to custom, spoke Cheyenne and was raised by his grandparents before he attended boarding school.

It may be that words spoken to Campbell during an interview sum up Little Coyote’s desire to teach young people and to pass on values that were central to his life: "What would you tell the Cheyenne kids?" Campbell asked, recalling that Little Coyote hoped his knowledge of the Cheyenne ways of old would be taken up by the people. “I would tell them they're still Indian," Little Coyote replied.

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fayeseay's picture
Submitted by fayeseay on
I Wish I had known Him.

Morning Killer's picture
Morning Killer
Submitted by Morning Killer on
Charlie Little Coyote was my Adopted Dad. He adopted me in 1991. He gave me his name in 1993 in Medicine Lodge, Kansas....the name in Cheyenne is Mayo Hahn. I went thru 4 ceremonies in all and in all of them he spoke cheyenne, I did not understand the language but I could feel them and felt transformed...I had the joy of being in a Sweat with him in a sweat lodge, it was a wonderful experience as he lead a number of us thru it. They talk about his military career...he was 16 years old and was a navy Frogman...a forerunner of todays Navy SEALS. At 18 he was a code talker....there were from what he told me Cheyenne codetalkers....there must have been because he never lied...he did not talk about any of his wartime experiences good or bad as he said that things like that should not be talked about....I had offered to get a military Historian to come down and interview him about his military career at that time. I live in California and whenever I would visit him which was as often as I could we would be up half the night talking about things and he would teach me things, I would call him on the phone all the time.....I miss him very much...I feel very blessed that he came into my life. Mayo Hahn