From 1857-1860 Alexander Hamilton Redfield, my great great grandfather served as the Indian agent for the Sioux nation at a time of great change.
His story continues:
On June 16 Redfield halted on the west bank of the river to meet the Yancton’s most famous chief, Big Head. Wimar captured the moment in his journal, “We had scarcely reached the shore when some three hundred savages galloped toward us in a furious manner, until they were within about one hundred paces of our party when they suddenly came to a halt and fired their flintlocks over our heads.” Writing later, Henry Boller, another member of the party, remembered it this way: “Along, dark line of warriors, riding abreast, emerged from the intervening roll of the prairie and with full pomp and panoply advanced to meet us, headed by the famous chieftain, Big Head.”
Big Head and his party advanced to Redfield and shook hands with him in a solemn ceremony. Redfield later wrote in his report: “It will be recollected that this chief and his followers have for some years been rather conspicuous for their unfriendly and refectory disposition.”
Redfield later noted in his report:
At Fort Randall, Nebraska Territory in June 1858. On the 19th arrived at the Arickaree village and spent the greater part of the day – the Arickarees are at open war with part of the Sioux, They are very excited and angry. While walking from the boat to the Fort I was met by a mob of young braves, one of whom placed the muzzle of his gun between my feet and discharged it — The gun I suppose was not shotted and was discharged only as insults and bravado.
The gun caused only powder burns on Redfield’s clothing. Undeterred, he convinced 12 of the warriors to come aboard the Twilight for additional discussions. After an initial discussion, the Indians asked to see the soldiers that were accompanying the party. Redfield noted that the escort was so large that the Indians did not dare to cause any problems or make a demonstration.
The Twilight continued up river, and on June 20 came to Forts Berthold and Atkinson. Wimar made sketches of the area and the methods of drying the buffalo meat. When the steamboat arrived many of the Indians were away on a buffalo hunt.
Redfield noted,” These poor, feeble, subdued people [remnants of the Mandan, Hidatsa or Gros Ventre tribes] I found, as usual, quiet and friendly , and thankful to received their small presents.”
He also found that they were wasting away and unless soon protected and assisted by the government, the Sioux would undoubtedly annihilate them. It was at this point the Wimar party left Redfield and continued upriver on the Twilight.
On July 1, they came back and the party rejoined at Fort Stuart, where Redfield asked some missionaries to lead a service for an Indian woman who had died. To his astonishment, the missionary refused because she had not been baptized. Redfield became very angry and warned them, “If you want to be that way, you will not get very far in this country.”
To be continued in With the Sioux 4