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Dull Knife - 1810-1883

One of the principal chiefs of the Northern Cheyenne, the famous leader was called Morning Star by the Cheyenne, but Dull Knife by the Lakota. He was active in the Cheyenne-Arapaho War in Colorado in 1864-65, the Sioux Wars of the Northern Plains in 1866-67 and joined Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull during the War for the Black Hills in 1876-77. Many of his warriors fought with Crazy Horse at Rosebud and at the battle of the Little Bighorn.

In November of 1876, General George Crook attacked Dull Knife’s camp on the Red Fork of the Powder River in Wyoming while searching for Crazy Horse. The four hundred warriors were badly beaten and the survivors made a desperate attempt to reach Crazy Horse’s camp. Eleven children died, and the Cheyenne were forced to eat almost all their horses in the trek.

Dull Knife finally surrendered in the spring of 1877 and the Cheyenne band was forced to go to a reservation in Indian Territory in Oklahoma. The Darlington Reservation had little game, the buffalo were gone and the smaller animals had been hunted to near extinction by those who had been sent to the reservation earlier. Fever, probably malaria, infected the susceptible Cheyenne. Many who didn’t die of the fever starved to death.

Along with Little Wolf, Dull Knife pleaded with the Indian agent to allow the Cheyenne to return to Montana. The request was refused so Dull Knife and Little Wolf fled the reservation with the 300 remaining members of the tribe in 1878. They set out on a 1000-mile journey toward their homeland with the Army in pursuit. The Cheyenne repelled several attacks and at White Clay Creek in Nebraska, they split into two groups. Dull Knife and 150 of the Cheyenne went to the Red Cloud Agency to surrender, while Little Wolf and the others hid in the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

Finding the Red Cloud Agency abandoned, Dull Knife pressed on to Ft. Robinson where he and his followers spent two months waiting for the fort’s commander to receive orders. When the orders came, they were to send the Cheyenne back to Oklahoma. Dull Knife refused and the commander locked the group in a freezing barrack for 3 days without food or water. In January of 1879 Little Shield, a Dog Soldier Society leader led a breakout from the barracks. Soldiers chased them from the fort shooting them. The surviving Cheyenne, now fewer than 100 were herded back into Ft. Robinson.

Dull Knife and his wife and son were among the few who escaped the carnage and forced incarceration. They walked for eighteen days to Red Cloud’s Pine Ridge Reservation, subsisting mainly on tree bark. Dull Knife’s small band was allowed to stay at Pine Ridge until in 1884 when the Northern Cheyenne were granted the Tongue River Reservation in Montana. Dull Knife died the year before the Cheyenne were finally granted a reservation and was buried on a high butte near his home.