Home | Introduction | Links |  Message Boards | Tribal Circles | Photographers | Questions? | Search
Tribes of the Great Plains: Arapaho | Arikara | Cheyenne | Crow | Dakota | Lakota | Nakota | Osage | Ponca
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs:
Wasco | Tenino | Paiute




High Backbone
Canku Wakatuya




The war comrade and mentor of Crazy Horse was called High Backbone (Canku Wakatuya). Reckonings of his age differ: Charles Eastman stated that High Backbone was significantly older than Crazy Horse, while He Dog told Eleanor Hinman that the two men were about the same age. I suspect that High Backbone was maybe five-ten years older than Crazy Horse, born in the first half of the 1830s: that's a big differential in the crucial boyhood years, when we know that High Backbone was a teacher and mentor to Crazy Horse, less important in adult life.

This High Backbone was the strategic leader in the Fetterman battle, 1866. Indeed, one contemporary document indicates that he was the Miniconjou head chief that year. What I suspect that reflects is that in this crisis year over the Bozeman Trail issue the Miniconjou civil chiefs were 'pushed aside' and a war leadership placed in charge of tribal affairs. A similar process placed Red Cloud at the head of Northern Oglala affairs that year. High Backbone remained a prominent war leader (blotahunka) among the Miniconjou. He was killed by the Shoshones in fall 1870.

Just what the relationship was between High Backbone and the younger man Hump (Chahahake), born ca. 1847, is not entirely clear. Ten or fifteen years ago, Cheyenne River elders told me that they thought there was an uncle-nephew relationship there. Some people today state that it's a straight father-son situation, but the year-spans don't fit. Hump's father was named as Dogskin Necklace in one of the Walter Camp interviews. My own informants named the father as Mashes His Nail, which sounds to me like a classic nickname. This Hump was the one who fought at the Little Bighorn, surrendered to Miles, etc.

I'm not convinced that One Horn/Lone Horn and High Backbone were brothers in the Euro-American sense.
— Kingsley Bray


©2008-2016 Diane Merkel & Dietmar Schulte-Möhring
All contributors retain the rights to their work.
Reproduction in whole or in part without prior written consent is prohibited.