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Big Foot


Big Foot




Spotted Elk/Big Foot: I don't think that Spotted Elk was a biological son of Lone Horn. Census records indicate his birth about 1826, when Lone Horn was 11 or 12. It is worth noting that several Lakota accounts -- admittedly vague -- indicate that Big Foot and Lone Horn were not father and son, but brothers. Frustratingly, I have not been able to clear up this problem with family descendants. One interpretation that I think is worthy of consideration is that one story about Big Foot identifies him as a nine-year old orphan on an Oglala war-party against the Pawnees, a raid dated by the 1833 Leonid shower When the Stars Fell. There are circumstantial details in the story that match up with a raid recorded in the fall of 1835. Since the elder One Horn was killed by a buffalo bull in July 1835 at Bear Butte, could Spotted Elk have been his orphaned 'son' subsequently raised by the younger Lone Horn? On bands, one of my consultants named Spotted Elk's band as the Hehepiya, meaning something like At the Foot of the Hills. This may be a reference to Big Foot's camp location on the Cheyenne River in the 1880s. Josephine Waggoner's brief profile names Big Foot's band as the Inyan ha oin (Musselshell Earrings), but this seems unlikely - at least in any sense of permanent residence.

Kingsley Bray

This photo by L A. Huffman
is the one being discussed.

If Big Foot was that old, then surely the Huffman photos that are often claimed to be him, must be of another man? Grahame Wood

Photo by Alexander Gardner, 1872.
This is actually Big Foot the Oglala rather than the Miniconjou.

I was thinking and wondering about all the different published Big Foot photographs for a long time.

The Huffman photo is labeled Spotted Elk. He looks very young, also maybe too young.

To me the most reliable picture of the Big Foot who was killed at Wounded Knee is in the group photo of the Cheyenne River delegation at Washington in 1888 by Thomas Smillie.

Spotted Eagle (Sans Arc) & Big Foot (Miniconjou)

The second Big Foot photograph was made by Alexander Gardner in 1872. Although it has been published hundreds of times as the chief killed at Wounded Knee, I really doubt this. Gardner pictured delegates from several Sioux tribes (Oglalas, Brules, Yanktonais), but no Miniconjous. The Big Foot photo was attached to the Oglala delegation, led by Red Cloud. There are other hints. If you take a look at the 1868 treaties, there was indeed an Oglala chief named Big Foot. Catherine Price states in her book that the Oglala chief Big Foot was among the delegates who went to visit the President in 1872.

In 1875 there went another delegation to Washington. This time Miniconjou chief Lone Horn went along. In the group photograph of 1875 there is also a Big Foot shown. This must be the son/adopted son of Lone Horn (Also pictured in the photo is White Swan III). Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

The photos above are cases of mistaken identity. The first was taken by Huffman. This Spotted Elk was one of the Miniconjous to return from Canadian exile and surrender at Ft Keogh. That means he isn't Spotted Elk/Big Foot, who surrendered at Cheyenne River Agency in February 1877 and remained there until the tragic last days of his life. As a possible solution to his real identity, there is a Miniconjou listed in the Spotted Tail Agency census of 1877, a single man living in Roman Nose's lodge - probably one of his 'sons'. He probably fled to Canada with the Roman Nose outfit in January 1878. So the Huffman photo could be him after his return from Canada. We definitely need Ephriam in on this one. Does Spotted Elk show up in the Miniconjou roll taken at Standing Rock in 1882 and listed in Hump's camp; i.e., the Miniconjous from Ft. Keogh?

This Huffman image strongly resembles the Spotted Elk who accompanied the Pine Ridge delegation to Washington in 1891 in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee tragedy. In 1931 anthropologist Scudder Mekeel obtained a list of contemporary Oglala communities. One of the White Clay District communities he listed as Spotted Elk or Opangalicka (also called Big Belly of Spotted Elk Band). Spotted Elk's other name is Big Foot. The one who was massacred at Wounded Knee. This man was the present Spotted Elk's father's brother." So, connections still provisional, but this "present Spotted Elk" could be the same man photographed by Huffman, a nephew of Big Foot's (in our system; in the Lakota system he would have been a son), possibly the son of Roman Nose. This would also tie up both Roman Nose and Big Foot to the Big Belly band of Miniconjous. But we are at the outer edge of conjecture here.

The other shot of Big Foot was taken by Alexander Gardner in 1872, one of his portraits of the Oglala delegation to Washington that spring. Despite numerous reproductions as the famous Big Foot, this is not the Miniconjou of that name. A Big Foot consistently appears in Oglala censuses and band tallies across the period 1871 to 1882, his band affiliation shifting between the Kiyaksa and Loafer bands. His first recorded appearance seems to be in Sept. 1868, when his camp of 18 lodges - then identified as Lower Brules - accompanied Spotted Tail's removal from the Republican River hunting grounds to the new Whetstone Agency. John G. Bourke's extraordinary diary account of the 1882 Pine Ridge Sun Dance names Big Foot as one of the presiding holy men. Kingsley Bray

Here is some information regarding the 1888 delegation group photograph by Smillie.

According to Herman J. Viola's book Diplomats in Buckskin, the delegation photos were sent by the Smithsonian Institute to the Indian agents at the agencies so that the pictures could be properly captioned. The Cheyenne River agent said about the chiefs in the photo posted by myself and Grahame:

No. 1 - Spotted Eagle is a Sans Arc Sioux, 54 years old - he surrendered in 1881, with Sitting Bull - since the surrender he has been quiet and peacable.

No. 2 - Spotted Elk is a Minniconjou Sioux, 59 years old, he came in from the hostile camp in 1876 has made but little progress.

If this is right, this Spotted Elk would have been born in 1829. Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

I've also seen this photo labelled as Big Foot and he doesn't seem to be the same man as above:

— Grahame Wood

Big Foot was raised as a 'son' by Lone Horn II (circa 1814-76). New information (in the Clown family's DVD on Crazy Horse, but backed up by other documents just coming to light) states that Big Foot's biological father was One Horn I (ca. 1787-1835), the chief painted by Catlin and killed by a buffalo bull.

Big Foot was born 1826. Kingsley Bray

I found this photo of Big Foot in Donovin Sprague's book Cheyenne River Sioux.

In another book of Sprague he make some interesting genealogical statements about Four Horses, the daughter of Lone Horn, and Kate Hunter, also known as Kills Plenty, her daughter:

Four Horses was the daughter of Lone Horn and Wind, one of seven wives of the old chief.

Black Buffalo was the father of Lone Horn and High Backbone (Hump).

Big Foot (Si Tanka) is related to Wind, Stiff Leg (another wife of Lone Horn) and the One/Lone Horns. Further:

Wind was killed at Wounded Knee at age 78 in 1890 with grandson Big Foot, however she would have been about 14 years older than him. In Lakota kinship, Wind may have called him a son, due to him being a son of One Horn and one of his wives. Some tie Si Tanka to Wind, or to her sister Stiff Leg.

Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

Here is an edit of the group photograph of the 1875 Sioux delegation.

Lone Horn (above) & Big Foot (below)

To me this Big Foot bears a resemblance to the man in the Smillie photo of 1888. Dietmar Schulte-Möhring


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