Young Man Afraid & Semi-civilization ~ White Clay Creek

Published on March 14, 2011 by Amy

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Young Man Afraid of His Horses – Oglala – 1891
Young Man Afraid of His Horses
Oglala – 1891

McGillycuddy, like most Lakota agents, wanted to suppress the Sun Dance, calling it “a barbarous and demoralizing ceremony, antagonistic to civilization and progress.” The commissioner of Indian affairs, who listed the Sun Dance as one of the punishable offenses in the regulations for the Court of Indian Offenses, supported the agent. McGillycuddy forewarned the Oglalas that they would not be permitted to perform the Sun Dance after 1883. As McGillycuddy planned to prohibit the Sun Dance in the summer of 1884, he consulted with Young Man Afraid and George Sword. They cautioned him against using the Indian police for fear that Red Cloud and other Sun Dance supporters would forcibly resist and cause bloodshed. Instead, they recommended that the agent use the power granted in the Court of Indian Offenses to withhold rations from those who participated in the ceremony. McGillycuddy agreed and his threat proved sufficient. He proudly notified officials in Washington that the Sun Dance was not held, in large part due to progressive Indians who supported him against the Red Cloud faction. When McGillycuddy came to Pine Ridge, he had made the establishment of schools (day and boarding) a priority, placing his hope for the advancement of the Oglalas on the young. Red Cloud generally opposed the schools, discouraging his own children and those in his band from attending. He considered the education provided by the reservation schools as a detriment to maintaining Lakota culture.

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Young Man Afraid of His Horses came to appreciate the schools’ role in educating the young, particularly in learning a useful trade and farming, which he considered essential for the Oglalas’ future. Though his own son, Frank Afraid of His Horses, went only as far as the third grade, Young Man Afraid wanted the Oglala children to obtain an education so they could replace whites on the reservation, make a living, and provide for the basic needs of their people. Early in his administration, Agent McGillycuddy encouraged the Oglalas to move away from the agency headquarters and relocate in the fertile valleys, where they could “farm [the land] and live independently.” Red Cloud objected to the dispersal of the people and rejected the idea of farming. The old chief kept his camp on the bank of White Clay Creek, within sight of McGillycuddy and the agency headquarters. Inspector M. A. Thomas reported in December 1885 that Red Cloud “did not encourage his people . . . to learn how to farm.” Young Man Afraid accepted the agent’s plan. He and his father took their band some ten miles north of the agency, where they established their community and began in small ways to adapt to the material culture of whites.

For the first time Young Man Afraid began to live in a log house built and partly furnished by the government with a cooking stove, beds, chairs and a table. McGillycuddy supported the construction of log houses as “one of the first and most important steps towards semi-civilization.” While the number of Oglala families living in log houses increased during McGillycuddy’s tenure, photographs of Pine Ridge reveal that the Oglalas continued to erect tipis near their houses. Presumably Young Man Afraid did the same. Though McGillycuddy understood that the land, weather, and disposition of the Oglalas would not permit large scale farming, he encouraged them to cultivate garden vegetables to supplement the weekly government rations of beef, bacon, tea, coffee, sugar, and flour.

Young Man Afraid of His Horses cultivated a small garden patch, growing corn and potatoes and raising domestic livestock. He told members of the Holman Commission, “I try to farm and break up all the ground I can.” Young Man Afraid had no intention, though, of becoming a commercial farmer. In an interview with the editor of the Black Hills Journal he expressed the belief that it was too late for someone from his generation to become a farmer, but that his children must learn to farm if the Oglalas were going to survive in an age when the buffalo was disappearing. The agency Oglalas, however, took easily to raising livestock and, over the years, Young Man Afraid acquired and cared for a large number of cattle, horses, and some turkeys. While Young Man Afraid of His Horses had abandoned the nomadic lifestyle to settle on the reservation, he continued to enjoy hunting buffalo and other large game as in the old days. As a perceived “friend” of the government, McGillycuddy generally granted Young Man Afraid’s requests to take out a hunting party.

Once or twice a year, Young Man Afraid would leave the reservation to hunt for weeks, sometimes months, the group always accompanied by an interpreter and Indian police. Young Man Afraid’s frequent and long excursions suggest that he sometimes found reservation life a confining experience. Despite his willingness to work with McGillycuddy in certain areas (such as in creating the Indian police and the Board of Councilmen) and in accepting new ways to live on the reservation, Young Man Afraid of His Horses did not intend to become a white man and give up being a Lakota. He continued to speak only his native language, to live with his two wives, to hunt off the reservation, and, above all, to hold on to the remaining Lakota lands. Young Man Afraid of His Horses began moving back to more traditional politics after the government dismissed McGillycuddy in May 1886. McGillycuddy, in his struggle to undermine Red Cloud, often turned to Young Man Afraid for support.

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