Roman Nose ~ Cheyenne

Published on January 25, 2011 by Amy

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Roman Nose, Fort Laramie, 1868
Roman Nose, Fort Laramie, 1868

Roman Nose, a.k.a. Arched Nose (real name Woo-ka-nay or Woqini) (c. 1835 – 1868) was a Cheyenne warrior society leader and one of the most esteemed warriors of the Plains Indian Wars of the 1860s. Called Sautie (the bat) as a youth, he was given the warrior name Woqini, Arched Nose or Hook Nose, which the whites always interpreted as Roman Nose.

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Considered invincible in combat, this fierce warrior struck fear into the hearts of his enemy and distinguished himself in battle to such a high degree that the U.S. military mistook him for the Chief of the entire Cheyenne nation. Following the Sand Creek Massacre in November of 1864, Roman Nose became a principal figure, leading retaliatory strikes against white settlements in the Platte valley of Nebraska, western Kansas and eastern Colorado territories. The Native American author and physician, Charles A. Eastman {(Ohiyesa) 1858-1939}, once wrote of Roman Nose “Perhaps no other warrior attacked more emigrants along the Oregon Trail between 1860-1868.”

Contrary to popular myth, Roman Nose was never a chief, dog soldier, or leader of any of the six Cheyenne military societies. Known to all plains indians as a great warrior, his reputation spread among the whites who credited him with initiating most hostilities between the Cheyenne and U.S military. Physically imposing in nature, there are several historical references to his flamboyant, intimidating prowess. Issac Coates, General Winfield S. Hancock’s surgeon, observed a verbal confrontation between Hancock and Roman Nose outside Fort Larned in April of 1867. Coates wrote in his journal; “of all the chiefs, Roman Nose attracted the most attention. He is one of the finest specimens, physically, of his race. He is quite six feet in height, finely formed with a large body and muscular limbs. His appearance, decidedly military, and on this occasion, particularly so, since he wore the uniform of a General in the Army. A seven-shooting Spencer carbine hung at the side of his saddle, four large Navy revolvers stuck in his belt, and a bow, already strung with arrows, were grasped in his left hand. Thus armed and mounted on a fine horse, he was a good representative of the God of War; and his manner showed plainly that he did not care whether we talked or fought…”

A member of the Crooked Lance warrior society, Northern Cheyenne, Roman Nose opposed treaties with the American government while other leaders urged peace. He was killed by American soldiers during the Battle of Beecher Island on September 17, 1868, while attempting to charge the island in the Arikaree River, and annihilate General Forsyth’s command. Little is known of his personal life. His date of birth and family life have not been clearly established.

One story about his life has become legendary with its re-telling. Roman Nose possessed an elaborate warbonnet that gave him special powers. The Medicine Man White Bull (Ice), made the warbonnet and assured Roman Nose he would be impervious to the white man’s bullets. As a condition to owning such a powerful headpiece, Roman Nose could not use the white man’s implements. Prior to heading to the battle, he ate some meat. Unbeknown to him, a squaw had poked the meat using an iron fork. As he left for battle, he was made aware of it but did not have the time to perform the necessary cleansing ceremony. He did not participate as he normally would preferring to watch the battle from afar. He was chastised by a fellow warrior for his lack of participation. The following day, Roman Nose was shot in the back at close range during an assault on Beecher Island.

Source: biographicon

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