SPOTTED TAIL

( Sinte Galeska )

 

 

Brule (Sioux) Chief

1823 -1881

 

 

Spotted Tail, a major Sioux leader in the Plains Indian wars, was born along the White River of South Dakota (some say near Laramie, Wyoming) to a father named Cunka (Tangled Hair) and a mother named Walks with Pipe.

Known as Jumping Bufalo in his youth, Spotted Tail got his adult name from a striped raccoon pelt that was given him by a trapper.

Spotted Tail won his laurels as a chief by merit in battle and diplomacy. His title was not hereditary.

He came to be known as an extremely valiant man.

On one occasion, about 1855, Spotted Tail and two other men gave themselves up at Fort Laramie to spare the rest of the tribe after an unidentified Brulé was charged with murder.

During his imprisonment for a crime he did not commit, Spotted Tail learned to read and write English.

During the early 1860s, after his release, Chief Little Thunder died; the tribal council ignored the hereditary line and selected Spotted Tail to succeed him.

He refused to sign a treaty with the United States in 1865 but did sign the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.

In 1871, Spotted Tail served as guide on a buffalo hunt with the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia.

In 1875, Spotted Tail was among Lakota chiefs who traveled to Washington, D.C., to negotiate the sale of the Black Hills.

Following General George Armstrong Custer's expedition into the Black Hills in 1874, which violated the terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, Spotted Tail played a central role in negotiations with government officials in which all offers to buy the Black Hills were refused.

The Sioux have still refused to sell, even though one of the Black Hills' tallest mountains was turned into a shrine for four U.S. presidents and is known as Mount Rushmore.

It was Spotted Tail who declined the original offer.

Even as he spoke, more than ten thousand miners were swarming into the hills in search of the gold that Custer's expedition had found there.

As the Sioux were confined on reservations following the Custer battle, dissension rose among some of their leaders.

Spotted Tail was an unusually strong-willed administrator; he maintained a police force to keep whiskey merchants off the reservation, and he deplored threats by the army to relocate the Lakota to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

Spotted Tail forbade young warriors to raid white settlements, and when a white man was murdered, he turned the perpetrator over to white authorities, then hired a lawyer to represent the man and paid for the defense out of his pocket.

Throughout the 1870s, Spotted Tail was accused by Red Cloud of pocketing the proceeds from a sale of tribal land.

Possibly as part of this dissension, Spotted Tail was shot to death by Crow Dog, a Sioux subchief, on August 5, 1881.