Friday, September 12, 2008

Native American Warriors: Red Cloud

Red Cloud was born around 1822, close to the forks of the Platte River near the modern-day city of North Platte, Nebraska. His mother was an Oglala and his father was a Brule Indian. Red Cloud was partly raised by his maternal uncle, Chief Smoke. At a young age, he fought against neighboring Pawnee and Crow, learning valuable military experience.

He became the Chief of the Oglala Sioux Indian Tribe. One of the fiercest enemies the U.S. Army ever fought, he led the successful Indian Campaign known as Red Cloud's War between 1866 and 1868. He fought the army for control of parts of Montana and Wyoming.

He started Red Cloud's war in 1866, which was the most successful war an Indian nation ever waged against the US Army. The military was building forts along the Bozeman Trail straight through the Lakota Territory of Wyoming and Montana. As miners and pioneers started encroaching on Lakota Land, Red Cloud feared the end of the Indian way of life there.

Red Cloud's military success forced the U. S. to make treaties with the Indians. The army abandoned its forts on the Bozeman Trail, and gave the Lakota possession of much of what is now South Dakota. In particular, the Lakotas were given the Black Hills of Montana and Wyoming. Peace was short-lived. In 1874, General Custer attacked Red Cloud. Red Cloud did not take part in the Lakota war of 1876–77 with Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and other war leaders.

Throughout the 1880's Red Cloud struggled with the Indian Agent who had been assigned to the Pine Ridge Reservation on the White River in South Dakota where he was forced to live. He complained to the government about the awful way food was given to the people that lived there and about who should control the reservation’s police force. He was eventually successful in getting the agent fired from his job. Red Cloud also worked with whites back East who wanted to see a better life for Native Americans on reservations and he even with to Washington D.C. to meet the President.

Red Cloud became an important leader of the Lakota as they transitioned from the freedom of the plains to the confinement of the reservation system. He outlived the other major Sioux leaders of the Indian wars and died in 1909 at the age of 87 on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where he is buried. An Indian school on the reservation was later named in his honor. Find out more about his life at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here's one of my poems riding side-saddle:

The Correct Way To Drive An Abu Ghrib

In this scenario I marry the blue dress and
end-up smiling with an ice pick in my skull.
Every dusty highway is lined with blinking
neon signs that declare "No Vacancy" or the
motel is a version of heaven for the affluent.
There's fire in the winter stars. The murky
water in roadside ditches hum Motown tunes.
A guardrail that likes to hug. A dim railroad
crossing that prefers bow ties. Miles and miles
of Route 66 with someones fingers tightening
around its throat. A dirty windshield with
telepathic eyes. Either way, it all depends on
the price of gas and whether we can move the
furniture around enough to have the room
we need to dance to The Supremes...

and the flicker of the candle grows imperceptibly
taller as it burns.

Poem first publised at:
Poem Copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.


Rethabile said...

And now I know who Red Cloud was.

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