Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fort Sheridan & The Lakota Sioux -- Part Four

Members of the Sioux tribe eight years later (Chicago Daily News Photo Archive)
This will be the fourth installment in the tale of the Lakota Sioux and the hospitality thrust upon the members of the tribe whom the government brought to Fort Sheridan in early 1891.    The first three installments can be found here, here, and here.

The story took another direction when on this date, March 14, of 1891 The Chicago Tribune disclosed that the 26 braves and three squaws would not be returning to their reservations “to stir up another bloody war,” but would instead be going abroad to “hobnob with the nobility of Europe.”  [Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1891]

Colonel William F. Cody, the showman we know today as Buffalo Bill, made overtures to the United States Secretary of State, James Blaine, seeking to enlist the detainees in his Wild West Show.  Additionally, he made a trek to Fort Sheridan to learn personally how the potential actors felt about the affair.

"Buffalo Bill" Cody at West Side Field, the home of
the Chicago Cubs (Chicago Daily News Photo Archive)
Cody was sure that his offer would be accepted although he did hedge his bets.

“The date of our departure has not been decided,” he said.  “because an Indian has to be given several days in which to change his mind three or four times . . . Half of the number who had consented yesterday to go to Europe with me refused to talk further about the proposition.  They will go, however.  They always change their minds several times before finally deciding what to do.”

Rev. Mary C. Collins
The news sparked an immediate response from Mary C. Collins, who had served as a congregational missionary among the Sioux for 16 years and would go on to serve for another 19.  Speaking at the Congregational Club in Chicago, she said, “I understand that Buffalo Bill has arranged to take a band of the prisoners out here at Fort Sheridan around with his show this season.  It is an outrage to our Christian civilization. If they are guilty, let them be punished, and if not, send them back to the reservation.”  [Chicago Tribune, March 17, 1891]

After her talk, General C. H. Howard, who had served honorably in the Union Army during the Civil War and remained in the Army as an Inspector of Indian Missions for seven years before retiring, presented a resolution, which read . . .

WHEREAS, It is currently reported that the Executive Department of the United States Government has given permission to William F. Cody, known as “Buffalo Bill,” to take the Indian prisoners now at Fort Sheridan and make them a part of his traveling show in this country and in Europe; and

WHEREAS, This treatment of these or any Indians is utterly opposed to the judgment of our missionaries, who are laboring for this race, and is repugnant to the higher instincts of the Christian people of the land.  Therefore be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the Congregational Club that the order granting this permission should be countermanded and our country saved this disgrace.

Resolved, That a committee of three, including Miss Collins, be appointed to communicate these resolutions to the President of the United States and request his official action in the matter.


Little Bull and Red Shirt in 1909 (Chicago Daily News Archive)
Off to Europe?  Back to the tents on the Fort Sheridan parade ground?  Or a return to the reservation?  Stay tuned . . . the story continues.

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