The Story

Over the years there have been so many people who have become obsessed with Custer, Crazy Horse, and the Lakota, that it has become common practice to overlook the story of Bill Rowland, Little Wolf, and the Northern Cheyenne. The Cheyenne Story: an Interpretation of Courage is the opening passage of a three-part odyssey. It presents a period of time and a group of people that are often used in an ancillary fashion to tell the history of the Plains Indian War.

Little Wolf is the Cheyenne Sweet Medicine Chief, the principle leader of the Cheyenne, but is by no means their sole decision-maker. When news comes that a large group of soldiers has been located in the prairie below their main winter camp, and that they’re likely out looking for a fight, he tries to convince those in the camp that they should go in to the Red Cloud Agency where they would be safe. He had recently made a trip to the east where he had the opportunity to witness the vast numbers and the technology supporting the soldiers, and knows the devastation that could happen should a fight take place.

            What happens instead, is Last Bull, the prideful head man of the Kit Fox, a Cheyenne warrior society, declares a type of Cheyenne martial law and refuses to allow the camp to move out of harm’s way. He is confident that the Cheyenne can defeat the soldiers should they come, just as they defeated the soldiers who had twice attacked them over the last summer.

Site of the Attack on the Cheyenne Camp

We find Bill Rowland riding with the US Army in search of the camp of Crazy Horse, five months after the battle at the Little Bighorn. He had married into the tribe twenty-six years earlier, and is the Cheyenne interpreter for the column. He has just listened to the report of a Cheyenne spy who has returned from the north after shared information on the whereabouts of what the army called the hostile bands. Bill translates for General Crook, the expedition leader, telling him that the Lakota leader, Crazy Horse, has caught wind of their presence, and their intent, and has moved farther north to avoid a run in. What Bill hesitates to add is that the spy also told him that the main winter camp of the Northern Cheyenne is located somewhere in the Bighorn Mountains, just to the west.

            Lieutenant Clark, Crook’s aide-de-camp, knows just enough sign language to catch the news about the Cheyenne and presses Bill for details. Upon hearing the news, Crook opts to attack the Cheyenne camp which is full of Bill’s Cheyenne family and friends. The events that follow change not only the lives of Bill, Little Wolf, and the Cheyenne People, but also the entire course of the Plains Indian War.

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