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Wolf Ear the Indian

A Story of the Great Uprising of 1890-91

400 pages
Library of Alexandria
Before relating to my young friends the incidents which follow, I think a few words of explanation will help them. Perhaps some of you share the general mistake that the American Indians are dying out. This is not the fact. There are to-day more red men in the United States than ever before. In number, they exceed a quarter of a million, and though they do not increase as fast as the whites, still they are increasing. It is true that a great many tribes have disappeared, while others that were once numerous and powerful have dwindled to a few hundreds; but on the other hand, tribes that were hardly known a century ago now include thousands. The many wars between the United States and the Indians have been caused, almost without exception, by gross injustice towards the red men. They have been wronged in every way, until in their rage they turned against their oppressors. The sad fact at such times is that the ones who have used them so ill generally escape harm, while the innocent suffer. The Indian reasons that it is the white race that has wronged him, so he does them all the injury he can, without caring whether the one whom he slays has had a hand in his own persecution. The Indian, like all savages, is very superstitious. He loves to think over the time, hundreds of years ago, when the red men roamed over the whole continent from ocean to ocean. He dreams of those days, and believes they will again return—that the pale faces will be driven into the sea, and the vast land become the hunting ground of the Indians. Some years ago this strange faith took a wonderfully strong hold upon those people. The belief spread that a Messiah was coming in the spring of 1891, who would destroy the pale faces and give all the country back to the red men. They began holding wild dances, at which the dancers took hold of hands and leaped and shouted and circled round and round until they dropped to the ground, senseless and almost dead. These "ghost dances," as they were called, were carried on to please the new Messiah. When the dancers recovered, they told strange stories of having visited the other world. All who listened believed them. The craze spread like wildfire, and before the Government understood what was going on, the Indians were making ready for war. They were well armed, eager to attack the whites. The principal tribe was the Dakota or Sioux, the most powerful on the American continent. The leading chief or medicine man was Sitting Bull. He was a bad man who had made trouble for more than twenty years. He could not endure the white men, and, when not actively engaged against them, was thinking out some scheme of evil. As soon as the new Messiah craze broke out, he turned it to account. He sent his friends among the tribes and urged them to unite in a general war against the whites. The officers and soldiers were very patient, and did their best to soothe the red men, but matters grew worse and worse. Trouble was sure to come if Sitting Bull were allowed to keep up his mischievous work. So it was decided to arrest him. In the attempt several people were killed, among them Sitting Bull himself. Danger still threatened, and many believed that it would require a great battle to subdue the Indians. Now, if you will look at your map of the United States, you will notice that the Missouri River runs across the middle of the new State of South Dakota. On the southern boundary of the State, a large tract of land, reaching one-third of the way westward to Wyoming, and with the White River forming in a general way the northern boundary, makes what is known as an Indian reservation.