Last of the Great Scouts
The Government's Indian Policy
VERY glad was the sad-hearted father that the theatrical season was so nearly over. The
mummeries of stage life were more distasteful to him than ever when he returned to his
company with his crushing grief fresh upon him. He played nightly to crowded houses,
but it was plain that his heart was not in his work. A letter from Colonel Mills, informing
him that his services were needed in the army, came as a welcome relief. He canceled his
few remaining dates, and disbanded his company with a substantial remuneration.
This was the spring of the Centennial year. It has also been called the "Custer year," for
during that summer the gallant general and his heroic Three Hundred fell in their unequal
contest with Sitting Bull and his warriors.
Sitting Bull was one of the ablest chiefs and fighters the Sioux nation ever produced. He
got his name from the fact that once when he had shot a buffalo he sprang astride of it to
skin it, and the wounded bull rose on its haunches with the Indian on its back. He
combined native Indian cunning with the strategy and finesse needed to make a great
general, and his ability as a leader was conceded alike by red and white man. A
dangerous man at best, the wrongs his people had suffered roused all his Indian cruelty,
vindictiveness, hatred, and thirst for revenge.
The Sioux war of 1876 had its origin, like most of its predecessors and successors, in an
act of injustice on the part of the United States government and a violation of treaty
In 1868 a treaty had been made with the Sioux, by which the Black Hills country was
reserved for their exclusive use, no settling by white men to be allowed. In 1874 gold was
discovered, and the usual gold fever was followed by a rush of whites into the Indian
country. The Sioux naturally resented the intrusion, and instead of attempting to placate
them, to the end that the treaty might be revised, the government sent General Custer into
the Black Hills with instructions to intimidate the Indians into submission. But Custer
was too wise, too familiar with Indian nature, to adhere to his instructions to the letter.
Under cover of a flag of truce a council was arranged. At this gathering coffee, sugar, and
bacon were distributed among the Indians, and along with those commodities Custer
handed around some advice. This was to the effect that it would be to the advantage of
the Sioux if they permitted the miners to occupy the gold country. The coffee, sugar, and
bacon were accepted thankfully by Lo, but no nation, tribe, or individual since the world
began has ever welcomed advice. It was thrown away on Lo. He received it with such an
air of indifference and in such a stoical silence that General Custer had no hope his
mission had succeeded.
In 1875 General Crook was sent into the Hills to make a farcical demonstration of the
government's desire to maintain good faith, but no one was deceived, the Indians least of
all. In August Custer City was laid out, and in two weeks its population numbered six