Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

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Summary and Analysis Chapter 14: Cheyenne Exodus

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Dull Knife: Northern Cheyenne chief who argued that the tribe should settle down and go to Red Cloud’s agency.

Little Wolf: Northern Cheyenne chief who led a band of Cheyennes north to the Tongue River valley.

As Crazy Horse is surrendering his Oglalas at Fort Robinson in 1877, about 1000 Northern Cheyennes, including chiefs Little Wolf, Dull Knife, and Standing Elk, are also surrendering at the fort. Of those Cheyennes, 937 journey from Fort Robinson to Fort Reno on the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservation. They are displeased by the land at Fort Reno, and so in the fall of 1877, they decide to go north to hunt buffalo and thereby improve their health. In the spring of 1878, the Northern Cheyennes return from their unsuccessful hunt, and back on the reservation, they suffer from measles, fevers, and chills, with a measles epidemic killing many of their children. Some chiefs, including Little Wolf and Dull Knife, decided to go north. These Cheyenne and Army soldiers fight running battles in Kansas and Nebraska, and in the fall, Little Wolf’s band, now numbering 130, goes north to the Tongue River, while Dull Knife’s band, now numbering 150, goes to Red Cloud’s agency. Dull Knife's band discovers Red Cloud’s agency has been moved to the Dakota Territory and is redirected by the Army back to Fort Robinson. In January 1879, they rebel against the order for them to be sent back to their reservation in the South because there are no buffalo in the South. In the ensuing battle at Fort Robinson fought in resistance of the order, over half of Dull Knife’s warriors die, 65 Northern Cheyennes, most of them women and children, are taken prisoner, and 38 escape. They move north under Army pursuit. Of those 38, a party of 32 are trapped in a wallow, and all but 9 are killed. Meanwhile, Dull Knife’s party of 6 goes north to Red Cloud’s reservation at Pine Ridge. Little Wolf eventually surrenders in 1880, only to be subsequently transferred to Fort Keogh, then on to a reservation on the Tongue River.

The Cheyennes who surrendered with the Sioux were, like many other tribes, placed on a dismal reservation, and although receiving the freedom to go hunting buffalo in the fall, they found there were too few buffalo to support the hunters themselves, much less bring back any meat for the rest of the tribe. When the Cheyennes decided to flee, they found the whites’ superior technology, particularly the railroad, too much to overcome. Again, Brown is telling the readers the story of a tribe being slowly driven into the ground. The sympathy shown to the Cheyennes by the soldiers at Fort Robinson may or may not have an entirely unique kindness toward the Indians, but it was too little, too late, as the chapter closes by describing the Cheyennes being shuttled from reservation to reservation.

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