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Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password. New Password. Password Changed Successfully Your password has been changed. Even though Grass, who could speak English, was his most reliable ally, McLaughlin touted Gall's credentials the most. Because Gall was a major participant at the Little Bighorn and during the Yellowstone expeditions of the early s, he was regarded as a hero by many of his people.
Gall: Lakota War Chief – By Robert W. Larson
Grass, on the other hand, had a questionable war record against the U. Army, even though he had fought against his people's traditional Indian enemies. Gall also wore his prestige and authority with more tact and modesty than Grass. Sitting Bull's nephew, the respected warrior White Bull, resented the articulate Grass, insisting that he could "always say yes [to the government] but never no.
Sitting Bull's decidedly subordinate role in the politics at Standing Rock, however, would not be indefinite. The intervention of the Edmunds Commission would affect all of the agencies of the Great Sioux Reservation in one way or another. Newton Edmunds, a former governor of Dakota Territory, had been authorized by Congress in November of to visit the reservation, which remained massive even after the federal government had acquired the Black Hills in in retaliation for the Lakota role at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Most Lakota leaders liked the idea of each major tribe having exclusive ownership of its new reservation, uncomplicated by the old concept of common ownership by all Sioux people. Not clearly articulated by the commission was its primary motive: it wanted to open up to white settlement those lands not allotted to individual Indians. Fortunately for the Lakota Sioux, the U. Senate, largely influenced by Senator Henry L.
Sioux Chief Gall
Dawes of Massachusetts, refused to ratify the Edmunds agreement because it had been ratified by only a few chiefs and not by three-quarters of all adult Lakota males as required by the Treaty of Fort Laramie. Senator Dawes, however, did believe in the partition of the Great Sioux Reservation and the opening of the reservation's unallotted acreage to white settlement. His new legislation called for the allotment of tribal reservation lands in which each head of the family would receive acres, each single adult male, 80 acres, and each minor, 40 acres.
Cognizant of the problems caused by covetous white speculators, Dawes inserted a provision in his measure specifying that the title to each land allotment received by an Indian would be held by the government for 25 years. Most significant was Dawes's provision that those Indian lands not allotted could be opened up to white settlement.
In fact, from to , those unallotted lands, coupled with the land sold by Indians after the year protection period had ended, reduced the total acreage for all Indians throughout the country from million to 55 million. Eager white landowners had been salivating over the prospect of acquiring lands not allotted to the Indians, which would amount to more than nine million acres. To obtain the necessary three-quarters approval from all adult Lakota males, a three-man commission was sent to the Great Sioux Reservation.
It was headed by Capt. Richard H. The Pratt Commission decided to go to Standing Rock first, as most of the Indian leaders there had given their approval to the Edmunds plan. By this time, however, Gall, Grass, and other leaders of the more cooperative Indians were aware of the potential loss of land that would occur if they agreed to the Sioux bill, which embraced most of the provisions of the Dawes Act.
Also opposed to the bill were Sitting Bull and even McLaughlin, who thought the bill was unfair. The Pratt Commission therefore encountered unexpected opposition to its efforts. Even though the overbearing Pratt kept pushing the Indians for more than a month in a series of prolonged hearings starting on July 23, the opposition could not be budged.
On August 21, in what became the last day of these futile hearings, Gall urged his compatriots to leave the meeting at once so they could return to their now neglected farms. Instead he allowed one of the commission's members, the Reverend William J. Cleveland, a cousin of President Cleveland, to adjourn this final meeting in a face-saving way. The Pratt Commission did not fare well at the other agencies either and eventually concluded that the bill should be put into effect without achieving Indian consent.
A compromise was definitely needed to resolve this stalemate, and a trip to Washington by Sioux leaders seemed the best way to achieve it. As a result, a large delegation of Sioux leaders was assembled for the railroad journey to the capital. Most of the delegates, like Gall and Grass, were from the more cooperative factions. One curious aspect about Standing Rock's group was the inclusion of the intransigent Sitting Bull. The Indian delegation was lodged in the upscale Belvedere Hotel and was given tours to such Washington landmarks as the Smithsonian Institute and the National Zoo.
Much more important to the negotiators from each side was their meeting with Secretary of the Interior William F. Surprisingly, most federal negotiators were happy, too, because they saw Sitting Bull's proposal as an important breach in the ranks of the Sioux, which could result in some kind of compromise. Secretary Vilas's staunch support for keeping the payment to Indians at 50 cents an acre for unallotted reservation lands became meaningless when the Republicans came to power in the November election.
The strengthened GOP congressional delegation, supported by the newly elected President Benjamin Harrison, apparently wanted to partition the Great Sioux Reservation more than the Democrats had. New concessions, along with those made in the bill, were added to sweeten this controversial land acquisition.
A new commission was established, headed by George Crook, now a major general. The Crook Commission's charge was to convince three-quarters of all adult Lakota males from the six agencies to support the Sioux bill. Given the still-strong opposition to the Sioux bills at Standing Rock, this agency would be the last visited. The Crook Commission had 25, dollars to use for generous feasts, which it hoped would make the Lakota Sioux more receptive to the new bill's proposed compromises.
Overall, this commission was much more effective than the Pratt Commission. Prior to reaching Standing Rock, the Crook Commission won approval for this measure in every agency except for Pine Ridge, where Red Cloud and his allies were able to block the bill. When the commission convened its hearings at Standing Rock in July, leaders such as Gall, John Grass, Mad Bear, and Big Head were prepared to speak out against the second Sioux bill as they had for the first.
Gall - Lakota War Chief (Hardcover)
There would, however, be one significant difference in Major McLaughlin had switched positions on this controversial issue, apparently believing that the Lakota Sioux could not get anything better from the federal government and might even do worse if they continued their resistance. He persuaded the more pliable Grass to use his oratorical skills to push for the new federal concessions included in the measure first and then make the difficult transition to support the new Sioux bill. After convincing Grass of the wisdom of this new strategy, McLaughlin asked him to persuade Gall to support this controversial switch in what had been an almost solid Indian position against these two Sioux bills.
Grass, who feared Gall's volatile temper, absolutely refused to lobby Gall in behalf of the bill. But the persuasive McLaughlin was able to convince Gall, who had become accustomed to following his agent's advice for the past seven years. Other Standing Rock Indian leaders followed suit. Grass, "with the facility of a statesman," argued convincingly in behalf of the new position. Gall, Mad Bear, and Big Head gave shorter, but nonetheless influential, talks in behalf of the Sioux bill.
These leaders compelled many undecided agency Indians to vote for the new bill, fearing to be left out if they did not. But Gall, fearing bodily harm by Sitting Bull and his enraged Hunkpapas, hesitated long enough for the Yanktonai Sioux chief Big Head to step in and win the "coveted distinction" of being the third signer. Instead, in the official roster of those Indians affixing their mark to the bill, the reluctant Gall was number of signers.
The result was a humiliation for Gall, as more was expected of him, and a bitter disappointment for Sitting Bull, who said after the vote: "There are no Indians left but me. The ratification by these confused Sioux reservation Indians was followed by a number of disappointments, if not tragedies, for them.
Congress failed to deliver on some of the promises made to the Sioux during the ratification process, and President Benjamin Harrison, on February 10, , accepted the new agreement reached in the Sioux Act of even before the necessary land surveys were made. The growing resentment of Lakotas living on the six new reservations created by this controversial new law was compounded by the severe winter of —, which was followed by a hot and dry summer that caused serious crop failures.
The subsequent decline in agricultural production, accompanied by the cut in beef allowances, drove some Lakota families toward starvation. Sicknesses often associated with food shortages, such as influenza, measles, and whooping cough, even caused death in a number of cases. Most of these setbacks occurred during a disturbing new Native American movement, which terrified many white farmers living near the six new reservations.
He had a vision in which the regenerated ancestors of the Indians would return to life, along with the vanishing buffalo, while whites would be pushed back to their original homes across the ocean. To hasten the process, Wavoka stressed the frequent performance of a mournful circle dance, which many settlers called the Ghost Dance. The new Ghost Dance religion attracted many of the now disillusioned Lakotas, a number of whom lived in the newly created Pine Ridge Reservation. The Ghost Dance was not a war dance, but many whites characterized it as such. When Sitting Bull agreed to leave Standing Rock with many of his Hunkpapa followers to visit Pine Ridge in order to understand better the nature and purpose of the Ghost Dance, panic occurred at Standing Rock, with Gall and Grass asking McLaughlin for weapons so they and their people could defend themselves against the Ghost Dancers.
Sitting Bull's death while being arrested by Indian police under McLaughlin on December 15, , profoundly worsened the crisis. Many of the old chief's followers accompanied Big Foot and his Miniconjou band members to Pine Ridge, where troopers from the Seventh Cavalry fired upon them in a bloody and unplanned encounter at Wounded Knee Creek on December 29, During the difficult months following the acceptance of the Sioux bill, Gall no doubt felt frustrated.
The factionalism at Standing Rock had never been more evident, and Gall's role in reservation politics had never been more controversial. There is evidence that he was deeply disturbed by the death of his old friend and ally Sitting Bull; he even questioned McLaughlin's Sioux wife about the circumstances surrounding Sitting Bull's tragic demise but received little in the way of reassurances from her. He did not break with Major McLaughlin, however, but did become less involved in the divisive politics that continued to rage at Standing Rock.
One reason for Gall's relative lack of participation in reservation affairs during the early s was his declining health. The more sedentary lifestyle at Standing Rock was not conducive to the once highly active Gall, who grew increasingly obese, despite his conscientious work in farming his own plot of ground and rendering services to others as a district farmer. Although church records claim he died of heart failure on December 5, , the testimony of a friend, photographer David F.
Barry, that he died because he drank too much of an apparently lethal or unsafe antifat medicine still circulates among historians of the Lakota Sioux. One notable aspect of Gall's 14 years as a reservation Indian was his ease in assimilating into the white culture after he reached Standing Rock. One prominent scholar, Duane Champagne, characterized Gall as one of the most Europeanized Indians he had ever studied. If Gall did, indeed, die from an overdose of an antifat medicine, it was probably because of his growing faith in the advanced technology of white culture; if one dose would not do it, then a larger one certainly would.
He believed that education was the essential way for an Indian to advance in the dominant white culture. He let his daughters be educated by the Episcopal clergy at St. Elizabeth's mission, to which he later donated what he could to guarantee the mission's success. His baptism in the church did not occur until July 4, , because, like most Indians, he still embraced much of the religious faith of his people. He made his final commitment to Christianity on November 12, , by a church marriage to his fourth wife, Martina Blue Earth, three weeks before his death in December.
Although Gall lived a controversial life following the Great Sioux War, his commitment to this new way of life was an honest one. His sincerity was demonstrated by his wholehearted participation as one of Standing Rock's district farmers and as a judge on the Court of Indian Offenses, where, as a culture broker, he would thoughtfully interpret the law with the welfare of his people in mind as he did it. Robert W. Larson is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Northern Colorado.
He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Denver in and and his doctorate from the University of New Mexico in