Published on May 28, 2012 by Amy
American Horse (1840 – December 16, 1908) was a chieftain of the Oglala Lakota during the Sioux Wars of the 1870s. He was also the nephew of the elder American Horse and son-in-law of Red Cloud. He signed treaties with the U.S. Government, fought with Crazy Horse during Red Cloud’s War, toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and advocated for education.
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Son of Sitting Bear, the leader of True Oglalas, was born near the mouth of the Grand River, North Dakota. He succeeded his father as band leader and due to this valor and importance was elected one of four Shirt Wearers (along with He Dog, Crazy Horse, Young Man Afraid Of His Horses) in 1868. American Horse, nicknamed Spider, became known as one of the Oglala agency chiefs, when he joined Red Cloud in 1871. In 1881 the US Indian Agent made him the leader of the Bear People (Payaba, Tapisleca, and Kiyuksa bands). Representing his tribe, American Horse was one of the signers of a treaty between the Sioux and the United States government in 1887 in which the lands of the Sioux Reservation in the Dakota Territory was reduced by half. However, with the opposition against the treaty by over half of the Oglala, encouraged by the Ghost Dance uprising as well as the recent death of Sitting Bull, withdrew from the council and, led by Spotted Elk, prepared to make a stand against the Federal government. However they were later persuaded by American Horse to agree to the terms of the treaty and letter settled on the Pine Ridge Reservation. A more literal translation of his Lakota name (Wašíčuŋ Tȟašúŋke) is He-Has-A-White-Man’s-Horse.
American Horse was an influential figure for the education of Native American Indians within the Anglo-American educational system and his son Samuel and nephew were two of the first students to attend Carlisle Indian Industrial School. American Horse later led a delegation to Washington, D.C. in 1891, where he successfully gained government support for improved rations and humane treatment of the Sioux. He, along with other Sioux leaders, toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. He died from natural causes in his house near Kyle, Pine Ridge, South Dakota on December 16, 1908. In the literature he is also known as younger American Horse.
American Horse was a member of the decoy party of 14 warriors led by Crazy Horse during the Fetterman Fight. In 1877 he was one of the principal Lakota men to pursue Crazy Horse then on his flight to the Spotted Tail Agency. He was actively involved in the events at Camp Robinson on September 5, 1877, where Crazy Horse was mortally wounded and died, thus in fact American Horse become a witness to the entire incident. He gave an interview regarding the death of Crazy Horse at Chadron, Nebraska on August 18, 1906 (now in Ricker Collection), where he, amongst other things, affirmed that he threw his gun down on Crazy Horse to shoot him, but some Indians pressed between them and prevented him from taking his life. In his letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs dated September 1, 1877, the US Indian agent James Irvin stated, amongst other things, the dislike felt by American Horse towards Crazy Horse.