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The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
November 30, 2022 3:03 am

The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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November 30, 2022 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Bob Drury and Tom Clavin have finally given the little-known Red Cloud the recognition he deserves and share with us the story from their New York Times bestseller, The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend.

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Just bring your own comfy sweater. Find your cheer on the Starbucks app today. This is our American Stories. The great Sioux warrior statesman Red Cloud was the only American Indian in history to defeat the United States Army in a war, forcing the government to sue for peace on his terms. Bob Drury and Tom Clavin have finally given the little-known Red Cloud the recognition he deserves with their New York Times bestseller, The Heart of Everything That Is, the untold story of Red Cloud, an American legend.

Here's Bob and Tom to share the story with us, beginning with Bob. This book, it's basically an untold story until now about how one man created an empire, if you will, on the high plains. At one point, Red Cloud's territory included about one-fifth of what is today the contiguous United States. And no one before, we don't think, really knew what was going on in that great swath of territory bounded by the Missouri rivers, the Mississippi river, and the Rockies. And cartographers, early cartographers, despite Lewis and Clark's exploration, they just labeled it the great American desert. And no one knew how Red Cloud had consolidated this empire.

Now, of course, when he fought his war and won his war against the United States, the only American Indian to ever win a war, not a battle, a war against the United States, people certainly knew who he was. But we were a little trepidatious when we first started this book. Obviously, there was no one left from the 19th century, but what we did find is that our forebears were such literate people. We went into this expecting maybe we'd get some after action reports from the army. When the soldiers started moving west, maybe the officers, maybe an officer's wife might have kept a journal. As it turns out, every teamster's wife kept a diary.

And we found all these, and letters, and Tom, he'll explain to you, at some of these university libraries and historical centers, they would bring out a journal in a plexiglass case, and you had to turn the pages with tongs because your oil from your fingers would destroy the vellum, I guess it was written on. And there were letters from 12-year-old girls who had passed the Oregon train. Paul was killed last year by the Indians.

First train in this year said they dug up his grave. Maybe it was wolves, but we think it might have been Indians again. That kind of stuff. So we actually felt like we were interviewing people for this book.

As far-fetched as that might sound, we got into it so much that we felt like we were living the lives with these people. That said, I'm going to have to give you a little of what we call the dreaded backstory, because you really can't understand Red Cloud without understanding the Sioux Nation. So what we do know was to become the pre-Columbian Sioux Nation, it was seven tribes, the tribes of the seven council fires.

They followed the Mississippi Valley north, and they settled in Minnesota. Now, in Minnesota, they were the baddest Indians in the Great Lake region. And for centuries, they just made unending war on their predominantly Algonquin neighbors, the Creed, the Chippewa.

And they were vicious. War was their ethos. Unlike other tribes, they had no non-violent culture. They did not make pots. They did not grow food.

They did not even paint anything on their tipis or their shields. War was their reason for being. And the first Europeans, mostly French, who looked at the Sioux, I mean, they were immediately reminded of the Norse berserkers or the Huns or the Mongols.

The Sioux lived to make war. That was their ethos. And they were good at it. And they were real good at it.

And for centuries, for hundreds of years, they just dominated the region. But then what happened was, when the English trading ships started to come into Hudson Bay, and the Cree and the Chippewa, who lived closer to the Bay, began trading pelts for guns, and the tables turned. Once the Sioux had been the hunter, now they were the hunted. Once they had extolled violence for violence. See, what the Europeans didn't understand, watching in particular the Sioux, but the American Indian culture in general, was it wasn't violence for violence sake.

Yes, they fought wars to gain territory and to bring home booty. But also, the old cliche, the happy hunting ground, the Sioux, and most of the Plains tribes for that matter, really believed that there was an afterlife. That was a happy hunting ground.

And it was filled with clear running streams and game, as far as you can see. A buffalo, an elk, a deer, an antelope, and beautiful maidens just waiting to be taken. But what happened was, they believed that you went to this afterlife in the same way you left the earth. So, what the Europeans didn't understand about the scalping and about the mutilations, and if your enemy went to the happy hunting ground with no eyes to see how beautiful it was, if he went with no arms to draw back a bowstring, if he went with no penis to take advantage of these calmly maidens, well then he had suffered two indignities at your hands.

One here on earth and one there. And that's what a lot of this was all about. When the Europeans came down, of course they didn't understand this at all, and they started trading guns with the other Indians, and the other Indians began hunting the Sioux who were still using prehistoric tools. Flintlock knives, flintlock arrowheads. They drove the Sioux into the swamps of Minnesota, and finally their territory just became so compromised that they had a choice, an existential choice. They either would die or they had to step out onto the prairie. They ended up stepping out onto the prairie. Even on the prairie, they were still, even though they kept up their warlike ethos, but they were still, the tribes we don't think of, the Mandans, the Ariakaras, the Rees, the Omahas, the Otos, they were kicking the Sioux's butt because these tribes were mounted and the Sioux were not yet mounted. And one Cheyenne, one regal Cheyenne, described the Sioux as scraggly lice-ridden band begging for handouts.

That's how bad it was. But that all changed again. The worm turned yet again when the English started coming down, first the Minnesota River and then the Missouri River and establishing trade fairs. Now they were on the edge of Sioux, this Northern Sioux territory, and the Sioux were the ones, the first tribes, to get weapons, to get guns, to get shot, to get ammunition, to get iron pots that they would break into arrowheads.

Sooner or later, the Sioux took their revenge on the smaller tribes that had been almost picking them apart, the Mandans, the Otos, the Rees. And then something happened that changed the course of Western history. The Spanish, I love this part of the book and I love this story, but I won't go too off course here, but I will say when the Spanish brought the tough little Mustang into South America and Mexico, it was a match made in heaven. Unlike the big lumbering Northern European war horses or plow horses, these Mustangs had started out on the Central Asian steppes and had followed the trade routes through the Mideast along Northern Africa, had interbred with desert horses. And when the Moors invaded Spain, they came over with these tough little, and they were right at home on the Andalusian Plain. They could run forever, they could eat weed, they could eat bark, and once again, when the Spanish brought them to the New World, they were right at home in the New World. What happened was, is the Spanish, as they conquered and forcibly converted the Indians up into what is now the United States, they made deals with them. You worship our God, who you don't understand, we're basically going to enslave you, you grow our crops, but in exchange, we have horses and we're going to protect you from your age-old enemy, the Apache. Well, the Apache began raiding Haciendas and Rancheros, and they got horses. They didn't know how, an Apache would ride a horse till it died and he would eat it. So they didn't know how to breed it, but this gave them room to further out their raids, and they started raiding the Pueblo. And the Pueblo said, wait a minute, you enslaved us?

You're making us worship some Christian God we know nothing about? And you're into the deal to protect us from the Apache, you can't even do that now. So in 1680, the Pueblo rose, and they drove the Spanish back into old Mexico. And the Spanish ran so fast, they left everything behind. So the Pueblo, they ate the cattle, they ate the sheep, but they weren't a horse tribe. And they just let the horses go, and this was the beginning of the great horse expansion in the northern hemisphere of the United States. And you're listening to Bob Drury, and you'll be hearing the story, the continuing story of Red Cloud, the New York Times bestseller, the heart of everything that is the untold story of Red Cloud, an American legend.

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For last-minute deals or gifts for people you forgot, get past the free shipping at Amazon. And we continue with our American stories and with Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, and they're telling the untold story of Red Cloud. Let's continue with Bob. And so the horse gradually made its way along. Once again, ancient trade routes, north. The Comanche were the first true, true horsemen on the plains. They were a scraggly tribe, too. They had come out of the Wind River Range in Wyoming, but they learned how to breed horses. They made rudimentary saddles.

They were Sam Guinn's Empire of the Summer Moon, which is a tremendous book. Tom and I argue with Sam about who were better horsemen, the Comanche or the Sioux. I think if you go by territory alone, you have to have, I think you have to go with the Sioux.

At least that's what we tell Sam. But the horses made their way north to Kiowa in Kansas. What is today Kansas got them.

The Pawnee in Nebraska. All the way up to the Cree in Canada. And of course the Cheyenne, the Sioux, the Crow, they all acquired horses. The Sioux just took to the horse naturally.

And much like the early Apache raids, now they could spread out more. They conquered what remnants of the smaller tribes, the Otoes, the Rees, the Mandans, and then they took on the big boys. And they pushed the Pawnee out. They pushed the Kiowa out of the Black Hills. They pushed the Crow out of the Powder River Country and up into the Rockies. They controlled basically parts of, from Minnesota to Montana to the Great Salt Lake and down to lower Colorado even. It was just, it was an empire. But the Sioux were still seven nations, seven tribes. Sitting Bull, I'm sure you've all heard of.

He was a hunk papa. Crazy Horse was an Oglala. Red Cloud himself had an Oglala mother and a Brule father. So these seven tribes were further scattered into the fractious bands and clans. They all spoke the same language and they all had the same culture, but they were not united. They wouldn't fight each other, but they weren't enemies, but they weren't friendly towards each other.

They were just waiting for someone if someone would come along and unite them. So in 1821, on the banks of Blue Water Creek in what is now the stubby little panhandle of Nebraska, two nights before, a meteor had shot through the sky, left a giant, a red swath of cloud across the sky. And in 1821, by the banks of Blue Water Creek, a baby was born and his father named him Red Cloud. And Red Cloud was the man who would eventually unite these people.

Tom will tell you about that. As Bob just said, Red Cloud was born May of 1821. And there's so many stories that we've heard of in history of people, men and women, who had very difficult childhoods and had to rise above them. And the resiliency and the strength that they gained from their experiences made them into leaders, made them tougher than some of their rivals.

And that was certainly Red Cloud's situation. He was born in 1821. His mother was called Walks As She Thinks. He had a younger brother, a little spider eventually. When Red Cloud was only five years old, his father died.

And his father didn't die of a war accident or an accident or anything. He died of alcoholism. So we're talking about the mid-1820s. And here's a Sioux man dying of alcoholism. And when the traders, some of the explorers, but the traders, some of the early migrants, the people who were working their way west, there were three powerful diseases they brought with them. Smallpox, cholera, and alcohol. And the Indians did not have any immunity to any of these diseases.

They were felled by the hundreds. And Red Cloud thus had to grow up without a father. A advantage he had is that his mother went back to her Oglala band that was run by the head man. There was a man named Old Smoke, who she called Brother. Now we don't know were they biologically brothers or was that just a relationship that they had, a brother and sister relationship.

But in any case, Old Smoke took in this woman and her two fatherless children. Red Cloud was not given anything. He didn't have a father who was going to bring him up the ladder, so to speak, like Crazy Horse had, like Sitting Bull would have. So he had to earn everything. He had to become the best rider.

He had to become the best hunter. Eventually he had to become the best warrior. And over time, even when he was a teenager, there's a section in the book where we talk about he went into his first battle when he was 16 years old. And there was great excitement in the village as this war party was being put together because for the first time Red Cloud was putting on the war paint and getting ready for battle.

And the people in the village were saying Red Cloud comes, Red Cloud comes as he made his way on his horse to join this war party. So at a very early age, he showed qualities and talents that were superior to most of the people in his tribe. In the 1830s, 1840s, he rose up the ranks. He became a leader.

He became a great warrior. And being a warrior was a great warrior was very important because we sort of likened it to what was going on in the Great Plains at the time. It was sort of like gang warfare. You know, the tribes, the Sioux, the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, the Pawnee, the Crow, they were almost always at war with each other. And it wasn't just a war like, okay, we want to defeat you and conquer you. It was, well, we want this hunting ground. Okay, we know it belongs to you, but not for long.

Look out, here we come. And so there was constant fighting to steal horses, to steal lands. Obviously, if you had the best hunting ground, your tribe had a better chance of survival because there were going to be more buffalo, there were going to be more elk, there were going to be more antelope. And one of the things that Red Cloud, he displayed not only great courage and great strength, he demonstrated great intelligence and empathy. When he came back from a successful hunting raid, for example, he didn't just keep everything for himself. He made sure that the elders got some of what he brought back. He made sure that some families that were struggling to take care of themselves got some of his bounty that he brought back. He made sure the people who were in power in the tribe, Old Smoke and the other elders, that they were taken care of. And in this way, he also started to gain a kind of respect that he might not otherwise have gotten being a fatherless person. So into the 1850s, he began to be viewed by the Oglalas as not chief.

And I think that's important. One of the more interesting things that we found out, there was no chief. We're used to somebody who was an authority in Native American circles being a chief, but that was actually a white man invention.

Red Cloud was not a chief, but he became the most powerful warrior and the head of their warrior society. And he was observing what was going on. Even though the tribes spent most of their time fighting each other, they couldn't help noticing that there were more and more white people showing up. Fort Laramie was probably the most prominent fort in that part, you know, on Missouri, west of the Missouri. And it would be a way station as people coming from the east would stop at Fort Laramie, they would pick up more people, drop off some people, get supplies, drop off supplies, change horses or whatever. And then they would go on. That's what the Oregon Trail was about. They would be going on to Oregon or they would be going up to other places. Certainly when gold was discovered in California, the emigration accelerated across to the west going through.

And the Red Cloud could see that the increase in population of people coming across the territory was doing several things. And you're listening to Bob Drury and Tom Clavin telling the story of Red Cloud and that mention of white people. The original white guys poking around in this neck of the woods after the Louisiana purchase was of course Lewis and Clark. And we tell their story while Clay Jenkinson tells their story in our multi-part series approaching 40 parts. The most epic road trip ever. The story of Lewis and Clark.

And go to alamericansstories.com and plug it in, download it if you're taking a long family trip. Nobody tells the story of Lewis and Clark better than Clay. And Clay Jenkinson is on the History Channel, you see him all the time. As do you see Bob and Tom. And when we come back, more of this remarkable story from their New York Times Bestseller. The heart of everything that is the untold story of Red Cloud.

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Get fast and free shipping at Amazon. And we continue with our American stories and Bob Drury and Tom Mcleoden telling the story of Red Cloud, an American legend. Let's return to the story. Red Cloud could see that the increase in population of people coming across the territory was doing several things. One was they were taking a big share of the buffalo. He also, Red Cloud, anticipated that they were going to want to go through or perhaps even occupy the Black Hills. And for those who wonder and don't know the title of our book, The Heart of Everything That Is, the soon name for the Black Hills was Pahasapa. And to them, translated as the heart of everything that is, the Black Hills was the heart of their existence. That's where they believe their ancestors came from and it was sacred land to them and it certainly could not be given away. It could not simply just simply be occupied.

It could not be taken advantage of by the white explorers and settlers and the army certainly. But he saw that coming. He saw this clash. Bob mentioned the word empire before. There was this growing empire of the east and there was this empire that Red Cloud basically had become the head of because he was this intelligent, charismatic man. And other Indians, even other tribes, respected him.

Some feared him, but they respected him. And he could see that they were going to clash against each other. Something interrupted what he saw and that was the Civil War. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, obviously you couldn't have the kind of forts and army presence in the west that you had because everybody was needed back east.

And it was kind of a respite there and it lasted 1861 to 1865. And when the Civil War ended, suddenly there was a big change because this sense of manifest destiny could go right back into full swing. And the enormous increase of people started making their way west again and the whole coveting of the Great Plains and the Black Hills began all over again.

So I'll turn it back over to Bob. And during the Civil War II, gold was being discovered all over the west. Montana, Idaho, the Front Range in Colorado. And so the miners started pouring in. In Red Cloud's lifetime, I think there were four treaties that were broken. The whites just kept coming saying, okay, we're going to stop here. We'll sign a treaty. We'll touch the pen. Gold would be discovered somewhere and say, oh, well, that treaty didn't count.

Here's the new one. And Red Cloud was like, he didn't trust the whites as far as he could throw them. But with all this gold being discovered all over the west, he knew it was inevitable that he was going to have to fight them. So he started attacking the miners and he started attacking the wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. And in cooperation with, during this hiatus that Tom talked about, he had become such a great name in the plains that even though he was Noglala, warriors from other Sioux bands wanted to ride with him. Hunk Papas would ride in with him and say, we want to ride with you, hunt with you, fight with you. Brools would come in.

Sands Arks would come in. And so he had developed kind of this inter-tribal facility that now he was going to use and turn it on the whites. And what he had done that no Indian had ever done before, he had also co-opted other tribes. The Cheyenne, the Arapaho, some Shoshone, these tribes would fight with the Sioux.

This had never happened before. Washington, the officials back east in the War Department, they had fought Seminoles in Florida, they had fought Mohawks, they had fought Cherokee, but they had never fought multiple tribes at once. And so Red Cloud's war was a guerrilla war. And he would attack and pick off a wagon train here, a supply train there, a mail train here. So the miners, of course, and the settlers who were passing through, appealed to Washington who started to send soldiers west.

Civil War was over. We're going to send our soldiers, our battle-hardened soldiers, to pick off these savages. And Red Cloud was winning these skirmishes. And the more soldiers that came out, the more Indians were attracted to his warrior thiefdom, so to speak. Red Cloud would set up three different attacks on a fort here, on a supply train 200 miles away, and then on a wagon train 300 miles away from that.

This had never happened before. And he would attack, and instead of celebrating, as was the American Indian custom and habit, he would attack the next day and the day after that. And then his warriors would just disappear into the plains. It was true guerrilla warfare, and we didn't know how to handle it. So we sent out more and more soldiers. They had seen some hard, some hard fighting in the Civil War, but they weren't used to coming across a supply train where everyone's penis had been hacked off, eyeballs gouged out, brains gouged out. We think we found, actually I should credit Tom with this, Tom found a journal, and it might be the first time U.S. soldiers making a pact to kill each other rather than be captured by the Indians. I mean, this is how foreign this kind of warfare was to them. So finally, General Grant and General Sherman said enough is enough. We're going to send out an army to fight Red Cloud.

But Red Cloud wasn't going to fight their army on the European terms or on the Civil War terms that they wanted. So they sent out thousands of mounted infantry. From the movies we all think it's cavalry, John Wayne's cavalry. It was all mounted infantry.

These guys were kind of learning how to ride on the fly. And that was another advantage the Sioux had. So in the summer of 1865 alone, 3,000 soldiers combed, combed the West looking for Red Cloud, and he would attack them and they could never find him. And then in 1866 this hard-charging Captain, Captain Fetterman, Sherman's hand-picked man, go find me Red Cloud, kill him, and kill every Sioux male over the age of 12. Well Fetterman gets out there and he's of the opinion, you know, these are Indians, these are savages, prehistoric.

I could ride through the entire Sioux nation with 80 men and he tried to do that. He took out 81 men one day and Red Cloud laid a trap for him and Fetterman rode right into it. And everyone, Fetterman included in his command, were killed. Now the Americans called it a massacre. The Sioux called it a fight.

It was a fair fight. We beat these guys. We killed them. But that was the beginning of what came to be known as Red Cloud's War. Now Red Cloud's War would go on for another two years and there were many, many more Fettermans sent out to capture Red Cloud. And there were many, many more American soldiers who were killed while Red Cloud still remained uncaptured and undead. So finally after two years we needed the gold.

I mean we were living, the United States had built up such a national debt during the Civil War. We said, we'll do any. Red Cloud, come in. What do you want? We'll have another treaty. We promise we'll keep this treaty. We know we've broken a dozen before. We promise we'll keep this one.

Just tell us what you want. And Red Cloud had one demand and it was a pretty big demand and he gave it to Washington representatives and they were like, huh. And so would Washington meet Red Cloud's demand or would they not? This was the key to Red Cloud's War.

The treaty that Red Cloud signed in 1868 to end the war was still in effect. When gold was discovered in the Black Hills, miners were prospectors, were trying to flood into the Black Hills. For a while the U.S. government made some attempt to keep them out.

But they realized, you know, we're not going to be able to do that. So they appointed, got an expedition together that was headed by George Armstrong Custer who went in there and there was no battle, there was no resistance, no opposition put up to Custer going in there. But what was happening is his invasion, so to speak, of the Black Hills did build momentum under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

That they have to stop this, they have to protect the Black Hills. Two years later the result was Little Bighorn and the deaths of Custer and his command at the hands of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, which was a battle that Red Cloud did not participate in. Red Cloud had already been to Washington and he had seen, the very first place they took him when he got to this town was to the Navy Yard and showed him the cannons. So when the whites started pouring into the Black Hills, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse said, okay, it's time to fight him again. Red Cloud had kind of honed Crazy Horse.

He had picked him out as a teenager and made him his field commander at the age of 22 or something. So Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull came back to Red Cloud and said, we've got to do it again. They're coming again, they broke another treaty. By this time Red Cloud had been to Washington twice, I believe, and to New York. He knew what was on the other side of the Mississippi River and he said to Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, he said, no, we can't beat these people.

I'm not going to sacrifice my people's lives. We can't beat these people, which is why Red Cloud never got involved in the Custer fighting. And great job as always to Greg Hengler for finding the story and editing it and getting it to us and a special thanks to Bob Drury and to Tom Clavin. And my goodness, what a read, what a book, what a story, the heart of everything that is the untold story of Red Cloud, an American legend.

Go to Amazon or the usual suspects, buy the book, you won't put it down. After signing the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, Red Cloud led his people in the transition to reservation life. In 1884, he and his family, along with five Indian leaders, converted and were baptized as Catholics by Father Joseph Bushman. Outliving all other major Lakota leaders of the Indian Wars, Red Cloud died on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1909 at the age of 87 and was buried there in the cemetery now bearing his name. And by the way, Red Cloud saw the collision of cultures.

There was nothing he could do about it. The original tragedy to this country. The story that we tell, because we tell all the stories, good and bad, about this great, not perfect country, but great country.

Here on Our American Stories. This is a video performance to fit you, delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound so you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, sound shape to you.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-30 11:38:26 / 2022-11-30 11:52:49 / 14

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