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Crazy Horse



Part 1 ~ Part 2


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I'm posting my notes on the genealogy of Crazy Horse to supplement Carl Dupree's important contribution and to further the discussion. This is a work in progress, and I continue to update the information. Kingsley Bray, 8th February 2006.

Crazy Horse: the Miniconjou Connection

Crazy Horse’s Mother, Rattle Blanket Woman

Several of the more detailed accounts of Crazy Horse's family background, coming from informed individuals, relatives and contemporaries, state that Crazy Horse's mother was a Miniconjou, e.g.

  • Horn Chips, interviewed by Judge Eli S. Ricker, February 14, 1907 (Ricker Papers, NSHS, Tablet 18): "Crazy Horse's mother was a Minneconjou, but Chips does not know her name."
  • He Dog statement, through Joseph Eagle Hawk, in Robert A. Clark, ed., The Killing of Chief Crazy Horse, p. 68: "His mother was a Minikowoju Sioux."
  • William Garnett to V. T. McGillycuddy, March 6, 1922 (in ibid, p. 109): "his mother was a Minni-ko-wo-jun"; reiterated in same to same, April 21, 1926 (ibid, p. 115): "his mother was a Mni-Ko-Wo-Ju", adding that: "I think he [Touch the Clouds, Miniconjou chief] was a relative of the mother of Crazy Horse, but I have been unable to find any one who knows for sure." [Robert A. Clark, ed. The Killing of Chief Crazy Horse, p. 115]

    Mrs Eagle Horse, a granddaughter of this woman (the daughter of Crazy Horse's sister), gave her grandmother's name as Rattle Blanket Woman [Walter M. Camp MSS, University of Indiana Library, p. 271]. Unfortunately, Mrs Eagle Horse (or Camp) confused matters by stating that Rattle Blanket Woman was an Oglala.

    Modern Lakota informants agree that Crazy Horse's mother was a Miniconjou, coming from a prominent family. They confirm Mrs Eagle Horse’s statement that the mother was named Rattle Blanket Woman, Ta-sina Hlahla Win. Miniconjou elders concur, stating (to Chris Ravenshead) that the woman committed suicide, and adding that previous generations had been unwilling to discuss the family tragedy. Victor Douville, Lakota Studies Dept, Sinte Gleska University, stated (conversation with author) that Rattle Blanket Woman was a Miniconjou, belonging to the Aske band. Elaine Quiver, descended from a sister of Rattle Blanket Woman, stated (conversation with the author) that Rattle Blanket Woman’s family was Miniconjou. Ellen In the Woods (statement made for Jack Meister) stated that Rattle Blanket Woman was a Miniconjou.

    According to genealogical information obtained in 1986, Rattle Blanket Woman's parents were Runs After Enemy and White Water (Under Water) [Woman]. This same information reported two full sisters of Rattle Blanket Woman, Looks At Her and Good Looking Woman, also identifying these women's husbands and details on descendants. [Lakota Times, November 19, 1986.] Elaine Quiver has confirmed to me the details of this genealogy. More recently, statements made in connection with the Clown family legal claim have asserted that Rattle Blanket Woman and the above named sisters were daughters of Black Bull (Black Buffalo), 1760-1815, who was a chief met by Lewis & Clark and recognized by them as the principal chief of the Sicangu Lakota. Other children of Black Bull included One Horn (painted by Catlin in 1832; killed by a buffalo bull in 1835), and Lone Horn (the Miniconjou principal chief, died 1875/6), according to this account.
Rattle Blanket Woman certainly belonged to an extensive and well-connected family. We can adduce further evidence to identify more of her 'brothers' and 'sisters' - always with the rider that these kinship terms may reflect relationships that Euro-Americans recognize as cousins or even more distant blood and affinal relations. In some cases, such terms may refer to ceremonial 'fictive' relationships like the ritual adoptive status of hunka.

One Miniconjou relative of Crazy Horse's was certainly Touch the Clouds (ca. 1836-1905), son of the tribal head chief Lone Horn II (ca. 1814-76). According to Charles Eastman, Touch the Clouds and Crazy Horse were cousins [Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains, p. 104]. This has led to speculation that Rattle Blanket Woman was a kinswoman of Lone Horn. The scenario propounded above, whereby Rattle Blanket Woman and Lone Horn were full-brother and sister, would dovetail with such speculation. On the other hand, Elaine Quiver (statements to KMB and Jack Meister, November 2001) stated that Rattle Blanket Woman and the mother (rather than father) of Touch the Clouds (i.e. the wife of Lone Horn) were related, perhaps as cousins. Given Lakota prescriptions against marrying kin, these two explanations seem mutually exclusive. Although it does not clear up the confusion entirely, we have a statement from the Touch the Clouds’ family that confirms a very close relationship to Crazy Horse. According to an affidavit statement (in South Dakota Historical Society) by Touch the Clouds' son, Amos Charging First, Touch the Clouds addressed Crazy Horse as his "brother", consistent in the kinship scheme with a relationship through either his father's brother or his mother's sister.

There seems to be no unequivocal contemporary document that explicitly identifies Crazy Horse’s mother as a Miniconjou. However, since even rudimentary census counts of Lakota bands did not begin until thirty years after Rattle Blanket Woman’s tragic death, this is not surprising. She died too early to be named on allotment records, introduced in the early 20th Century, which routinely identified the allotee’s parents.

However, I am confident that, while further research may clarify the confusing details of family links, Crazy Horse’s mother was a Miniconjou. She was Rattle Blanket Woman, born about 1814, and married to Crazy Horse’s father Worm about 1836. She bore a daughter, who seems to have been named Looks At Her (presumably after her aunt; in the Lakota kinship scheme another mother), in ca. 1837; and then bore her famous son Crazy Horse (known in childhood as Curly Hair) in the early fall of 1840. She and her husband, however, fell into marital difficulties. Deeply unhappy, Rattle Blanket Woman hanged herself at the end of 1844. This left profound emotional scars on her four-year old son.

Rattle Blanket Woman and the Miniconjou-Oyuhkpe Band Connection

One of the major Oglala bands of the 19th Century was the Oyuhkpe, which settled on Pine Ridge Reservation in the Wounded Knee District. In the 19th Century its great leaders included such chiefs as Tobacco, White Plume, Black Fox, the latter’s son Kicking Bear, and Big Road – in every case men with strong links to the Northern Lakota divisions. The band has always had very strong Miniconjou connections. It is my belief that the Oyuhkpe band actually was part of the Miniconjou oyate for much of the period 1760-1830. Subsequently they shifted back to the Oglala circle, but continued to maintain very strong Northern Lakota links – especially Miniconjou, but also to the Itazipco and Hunkpapa – until the reservation system terminated the old migratory way of life. Crazy Horse had very strong ties to this band – indeed an agency document from 1874 states that he was an Oyuhkpe. One Oyuhkpe sub-band was known as the Wakan or Sacred band (it may be the outfit to which Kicking Bear’s family belonged). My reconstruction of early Lakota history suggests that this was a very conservative band, with strong links to the Calf Pipe Keepers; sister tiyospaye existed among the Itazipco and Hunkpapa. Crazy Horse had an intimate connection to this tiyospaye. When he married in 1870, it was an Oyuhkpe woman (Black Shawl) from the Big Road tiyospaye that he took as wife.

Two statements explicitly identify links between Rattle Blanket Woman’s family and Oyuhkpe band members. One statement identifies a 'sister' of Rattle Blanket Woman. The mother of the Oglala war-leader Kicking Bear, prominent in the Ghost Dance of 1890, is said by descendants to have been the sister of Crazy Horse's mother (David Humphreys Miller, Ghost Dance, 288). This woman was called Iron Cedar Woman, a name we shall see recurring in the genealogy. Probably born about the early 1820's, Iron Cedar Woman became the younger or second wife of Black Fox (aka Cut Forehead), a headman in the Oglala Oyuhkpe band. Her five children included Kicking Bear (born about 1846), Flying Hawk (born 1852), and Black Fox II. All of these sons were close comrades of Crazy Horse in their adult life. As sons of a woman Crazy Horse would have addressed as 'mother', they would have been classified in the Lakota kinship scheme as his 'younger brothers', or sunka. Conversely, they would have addressed Crazy Horse as ciye, or 'elder brother'. (Iron Cedar Woman's husband fathered a further eight children by his first wife.)

Another close female relative of Rattle Blanket Woman can be adduced from the memories of Eagle Elk. Like Kicking Bear, Eagle Elk was born into the Oyuhkpe band. Crazy Horse, stated Eagle Elk, "chose to call me 'cousin' [tahansi] from the marriage of his mother." Defining the relationship more closely, Eagle Elk stated that: "My father married Crazy Horse's aunt." (Eagle Elk and Crazy Horse were also related through their fathers, who were themselves "cousins".) A distinction is here evident which suggests that Rattle Blanket Woman and Eagle Elk's mother, Good Plume, were cousins (sicepansi) rather than full sisters. Good Plume's family was "from near Sisseton", suggesting antecedents among the Upper Council Santees - a fact confirmed by the family's visits to "Sisseton" (probably the Upper Agency in Minnesota). [Eagle Elk-John G. Neihardt Interviews, 1944, Missouri Historical Society] In respect of Crazy Horse's veneration of his mother's memory, it is worth noting that Eagle Elk was born in 1851, seven years after the suicide of Rattle Blanket Woman. His 'choosing' to call Eagle Elk 'cousin' was, therefore, an honoring of his mother, suggesting something of the deep bond between mother and son.

Knowing the strength of the links between the Oyuhkpe band and the Miniconjou, I believe that these Oyuhkpe links for Rattle Blanket Woman strengthen the case for her Miniconjou background.

The Corn Family and Crazy Horse’s step-mothers: a second Miniconjou Connection

New information from the Clown family has uncovered a wealth of genealogical data, much of it confusing and contradictory, but rooted in the fundamental fact that Julia Iron Cedar Clown (born ca. 1860) knew Crazy Horse as her ‘brother’. Although much of this evidence is highly contentious, I do not think that she was a biological sister in the European sense. However, in a Lakota sense she clearly was very closely related. My reading of this evidence is as follows.

The Miniconjou chief Corn or Corn Man, painted by Catlin in 1832, was the father of a large family. In 1839 Corn Man was noted by Nicollet as one of five Miniconjou band chiefs. Corn fathered Red Legs or Red Leggings Woman, and at least three other named children: a son, Bull Head, and two daughters, Iron Between Horns and Kills Enemy, both of whom "were married to Crazy Horse". By her marriage to a man named Woman Breast, Red Legs had the following children: Julia Iron Cedar, Leo Combing, James Bear Pipe, Peter Wolf, and Coming Home Last.

Both of the other daughters, Iron Between Horns and Kills Enemy, “were married to Crazy Horse”. The latter is Worm, or Old Man Crazy Horse, the father of the famous war leader. This gains some support by the appearance of Bull Head I as a 'brother' to the co-wives, which has always been a keystone of my understanding of the Miniconjou dimension to the Crazy Horse genealogy.

Three men identified as Crazy Horse's "uncles" (leksi) were probably men whom Iron Between Horns and Kills Enemy called their younger brothers. By 1870 they were minor headmen among the Miniconjous, and it was in their camp that Crazy Horse recuperated after the shooting by No Water. In probable order of age, these uncles were Ashes (born before ca. 1830: killed at Wounded Knee, 1890?); Bull Head (born ca. 1831); and Spotted Crow (born ca. 1833). Bull Head is remembered by the Clown family as a brother to Crazy Horse’s step-mothers.

Men bearing the two latter names signed the Land Agreement at Cheyenne River in 1889 as Signatory numbers 561 and 575, respectively. Ashes visited Red Cloud Agency in May 1873, and for rationing purposes was credited with leading four lodges of Miniconjous at Red Cloud the following winter, 1873-74. In 1877, He Dog recalled, Crazy Horse's uncle Spotted Crow was one of the advisers who persuaded him against going to Washington with the Lakota delegation from Red Cloud Agency. [Eleanor S. Hinman, 'Oglala Sources on the Life of Crazy Horse’.]

I have seen copies of heirship files from Cheyenne River which further state that Bull Head had another brother, Has Horns, whose son was named Charles Corn (1853-1939) – surely because his grandfather was the chief Corn Man.

Re Julia Iron Cedar calling Crazy Horse her brother (presumably elder brother, tiblo): it is worth observing that the above scenario creates a plausible context. Julia would have addressed any sisters of her mother as 'mother', and any children of those sisters as her own brothers and sisters. Thus she would reckon Young Crazy Horse as her brother, consistent with statements from family tradition.

There was a Young Bull Head, born ca. 1852, and noted in the 1887 Rosebud Agency Census as enrolled in the Northern Band - Miniconjous and Sans Arcs who had surrendered at Spotted Tail Agency in 1877. This younger Bull Head was a close associate of Crazy Horse's, because Horn Chips told Judge Eli S. Ricker in 1907 that the feather Crazy Horse wore "to his honor" (probably an eagle down plume marking his status as one of the class of hunkayapi) was then owned by Bull Head, who had relocated to Cheyenne River.

Regarding a link between the families of Rattle Blanket Woman and Iron Between Horns and Kills Enemy, the step-mothers of Crazy Horse are frequently identified as ‘sisters’ of Rattle Blanket Woman. Full sisterhood seems to be ruled out. Again, we need to establish just what the family connection was, but I suggest that in a European sense these women may have been cousins.

The Sicangu Connection
  • Crazy Horse's "mother was Spotted Tail's sister." Hyde, Red Cloud's Folk, p. 298 n.
  • 'Spotted Tail' said that 'Crazy Horse' was his nephew": Bourke, On the Border with Crook, p. 396.
  • "Was Crazy Horse related to Spotted Tail?/Answer [by Red Feather] - I don't know."
  • Gathers The Grapes and Corn (Woman) – two sisters of Spotted Tail, married Worm after the death of Rattle Blanket Woman (Donovin Sprague statement to KMB, January 13, 2004)

    The above evidence seems to contradict the Miniconjou connection we have established for Crazy Horse’s mother and step-mothers. However, Victor Douville was emphatic that Spotted Tail’s family had extensive northern links (through the Aske band lineage, for which see below), and that Crazy Horse’s step-mothers were Miniconjou. The immediate family background of Spotted Tail (1823-81) is as follows: his father was a Sihasapa (which confirms some northern connection); while his mother belonged to the leading family of the Wazhazha band, which was usually associated with the Sicangu. While details surely remain to be fully clarified, I feel that Donovin’s statement, which again explicitly links the name Corn to Crazy Horse’s step-mothers, is fundamental in establishing a link. I suggest that – once more – these women were not biological or full-sisters to Spotted Tail. A connection would work like this:
    A woman that Spotted Tail called ‘mother’, perhaps a sister of his biological mother Walks With the Pipe, married Miniconjou chief Corn. Their children would have been ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ to Spotted Tail.

    I therefore suggest that Gathers The Grapes and Corn are the same women as Iron Between Horns and Kills Enemy (although I am not sure which one corresponds to which!).

    After Crazy Horse’s death his father and stepmother/s settled at Rosebud, hinting that there was a definite Sicangu connection. Worm died there, about 1882. One of his wives (Iron Between Horns?) died at the home of a kinsman, Felix Bald Eagle, about 1884. Like Worm, she was buried along Rosebud Creek. Although very far from clear, it may be that the other wife (Kills Enemy?) died a few days after Crazy Horse, in September 1877. According to the diary of Spotted Tail agent Jesse Lee, on September 17, “Crazy Horse’s wife died, and her body was placed on the platform beside his body”. Neither of young Crazy Horse’s wives (Black Shawl and Nellie Larabee) died at this time: the reference may be to the wife of Old Man Crazy Horse.

    The Oglala Connection

    Crazy Horse had very close relationships with the Miniconjou. At key transitions in his life – in 1851-52, in 1858, and in 1870 – he chose to make protracted stays with the people of his mother and step-mothers. He obviously felt comfortable there, in a reassuring environment. By contrast, he seems to have been distinctly uncomfortable during his known stays among the Sicangu people of Spotted Tail. However, most of his life was spent among the Oglala, where he and his father enjoyed a prominent place in the Hunkpatila band, led by the Man Afraid of His Horse dynasty of chiefs.

    Worm may have had northern antecedents – some suggest a Miniconjou connection for his family too; Victor Douville suggested to me a possible link to the Itazipco – but his home was among the Oglala. The biographical statement by Joseph Eagle Hawk (‘son’ of He Dog) states plainly that “Crazy Horse’s father is an original Oglala Sioux, and his mother is from Cheyenne River . . .” (‘History of Crazy Horse’, typescript, p. 11, Museum of the Fur Trade, Chadron, Neb.).

    The Oglala identification is borne out by the family connection to Black Elk. According to Nicholas Black Elk: “Crazy Horse’s grandfather and Black Elk’s grandfather [Black Elk II] were two of five brothers”, and were sons of Black Elk I [born ca. 1760?]: see Sixth Grandfather p. 323. According to Horn Chips (1907 interview with Judge E. S. Ricker), and Harvey White Woman (descendant of Little Hawk, March 2004 statement to Jack Meister), the father of Worm was Makes the Song. Harvey and Johnson Holy Rock (statement March 10, 2004) stated that Makes the Song was a holy man. He must have been born ca. 1785-90, and he and his first wife (name unknown?) had at least three children: Worm (born ca. 1811), Big Woman (born ca. 1815), and a son, killed in battle 1844, who may be the Male Crow (Kangi Bloka) of the Winter Counts. Later Makes the Song married a younger wife, Good-Haired Otter Woman (Ptan-Hin-Waste-Win), born ca. 1810, who bore Little Hawk (Cetan Ciqala, aka Long Face, Ite Hanska), born ca. 1836. This man, although only four years older than the famous Crazy Horse, would have been one of his ate or ‘fathers’. — Kingsley Bray


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