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Elk Head

Sans Arc



Elk Head was photographed several times as an old man, this picture was made by Edward S. Curtis in 1907.

George Catlin painted an Elk Head, who was a Sans Arc chief in the 1830s, could be that he was this man. — Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

There is a story I've heard of him at the [Little Bighorn], standing on the north ridge of Squaw Creek surrounded by 10-14 year old boys who were ready to defend the Pipe to the death -- women and children streaming up the draw to join him. — CLW

As several of the Keepers of the Sacred Pipe were known as Elk Head (in addition to their original name), there is a potential for confusion in attempting to identify which one had the pipe at the time of the Little Bighorn.

The Elk Head photographed by Curtis (posted above) said that he did not receive the sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe until about a year after the Little Bighorn. He served as the Keeper until his death in 1914, at which point, there arose controversy among his children as to who was to be the official keeper. Incidentally, Elk Head's brief version of the Little Bighorn can be found in William J. Bordeaux, Custer's Conqueror.

So who was the Keeper in 1876?

I am aware of three lists of the Pipe Keepers: one given by Left Heron, one by Two Runs and Elias Elk Head (sons of Elk Head), and one by an unnamed informant, probably Mrs. Bad Warrior (Elk Head's daughter).

Each of these three lists gives a different name of probably the same individual: Hollow Horn, Red Hair and Elk Head. Kingsley Bray has suggested that this Keeper may be the Hollow Horn killed in December 1876 by Crow scouts. Together with the Oglala Sitting Bull and others, he had gone in to General Miles' Cantonment on Tongue River to possibly discuss peace. If this Hollow Horn was the Keeper of the Pipe, it would suggest that the Elk Head photographed by Curtis became the new Keeper shortly after this tragic event. — Ephriam Dickson

I found this info on the legendsofamerica.com bulletin board:

"There are varying lists of Keepers of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle with different amounts of names. (Curtis, 1916) lists 7 Keepers; (Mekeel, 1931) lists 9 Keepers; (Left Heron, 1931) lists 8 Keepers; (Thomas, 1934) lists 10 Keepers; and (Smith, 1966) lists 13 Keepers.

The most common versions of the name attributed to the first Keeper has been, Walking Standing Buffalo; or Standing Walking Buffalo; or Buffalo Stands Upwards; or Buffalo Standing Upward; or Standing Hollow Horn.

There are various differences as to who held the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle after the first Keeper, but most agree that Elk Head, aka Red Hair, (b. 1818 - d. 1916) was one of the Keepers who obtained the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle from his father, who was also known as Elk Head. See photo of Elk Head (b. 1818 - d. 1916) and the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle below, taken by Edward S. Curtis in 1907.
When Elk Head died in 1916, the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle went to his daughter, Martha Bad Warrior, aka Red Eagle Woman, (b. 1854 - d. 1936).

When Martha Bad Warrior died in 1936, the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle went to her son, Ehli Bad Warrior, (b. 1882 - d. 1959).

When Ehli Bad Warrior died in 1959, the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle went to his sister, Lucy (Bad Warrior) Looking Horse, (b. 1891 - d. 1966).

Just before Lucy (Bad Warrior) Looking Horse died in 1966, she chose to pass over her son, Stanley Looking Horse, and pass the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle to then 12 year old grandson, Arvol Looking Horse, (b. 1954) the current Keeper."

Here is a photo of Martha Bad Warrior.

And here is a good read, a link to the digitalized book of Wilbur Riegert Quest for the Pipe of the Sioux: www.heyokamagazine.com/HEYOKA.6.BOOKS.wilberRiegert.htm

There´s a chapter about Martha Bad Warrior in the book. She listed as Pipe Keepers:

Standing Hollow Horn (received the Sacred Calf Pipe)
Two Runs (the first keeper who lived 101 years)
Bad Warrior (who lived 109 years)
Elk Head (who lived 80 years)
Martha Bad Warrior

Obviously she missed out some names. But she also said that there were several Elk Heads before her service, for example an Eli Bad Warrior (in 1898). — Dietmar Schulte-Möhring




I am aware of list of the Pipe Keepers: given by Sidney J. Thomas:
1. Standing Walking Buffalo.
2. Thinking While Walking.
3. Many Wounds.
4. Strikes Fire.
5. Red Earth.
6. Sun Rise.
7. Buffalo Path.
8. Elkhead.
9. Red Hair (Old Man Elkhead), died 1916, aged 91.
10. Red Eagle (Mrs. Bad Warrior)

and I have list of Pipe Keepers given by Curtis.
1. Tatanka-najhin, Standing Buffalo, who is said to have received it directly from White Buffalo Woman.
2. The next keeper was the brother of Standing Buffalo, Pehinsha, Red Hair.
3. The pipe then descended to Hehaka-pa, Elk Head, who was succeeded by his brother, Mato-makpa, Bear's Ear.
5. Then followed in order Wi-hi nanpa, Rising Sun;
6. He-hehiiloghesha, Hollow Horn;
7. and the present guardian, Hehaka-pa, Elk Head.

Elk Head give keepers name, but not said that previous keeper was his father.
If your may give me these of three lists of the Pipe Keepers about your say?
Next question Ernest Two Runs has another name, Sakehuta, or Amos Root of Claw? — Andrew

Left Heron gave the list of Keepers of the Pipe as:
1. Standing Buffalo Walking
2. Rising Sun
3. Bear Ears
4. Elk Head
5. Red Hair
6. Grey Buffalo Cow Bull
7. Hollow Horn
8. Elk Head

Ernest Two Runs and his brother Elias Elk Head gave them as follows:
1. Standing Buffalo Walking
2. Buffalo Road
3. Imagine Walking
4. Turning Heart
5. Elk Head
6. also Elk Head
7. also Elk Head
8. Red Hair
9. Not Put the Stick in the Fire (temporary)
10. Red Hair/Elk Head
Then the dispute between his children as to who should be the official keeper. — Ephriam

Extract from Indian Voices, July, 1966 page 4 (reprinted from The Sioux Journal): The sacred pipe has been handed down from one generation to another. The original family who administered the pipe was the Elk Head family. In recent years, Mrs Bad Warrior, who died in 1936, passed it on to her half brother Ernest Two Runs, also of Green Grass. The latter gave possession of the pipe to Ehli Bad Warrior in 1942. — Andrew

The information I cited was given by Ernest Two Runs and Elias Elk Head to anthropologist Scudder Mekeel on Sept. 6, 1931 at Green Grass Creek, Cheyenne River Reservation:

"I was told that in olden times a feast was given before the Calf Pipe could be talked about. After having promised such a feast, we began to talk. It seems that when the last Keeper of the Pipe died there was a serious argument as to whom should get the Pipe. Ernest Two-Runs is the oldest son and according to the genealogy of the Pipe Keepers, he it is that is entitled to be Keeper. However, he is a widower with no children, so that the succession would pass to his next older brother Elias Elk Head. However, their sister, Mrs. Bad Warrior, was living on her father's place in a separate house and for some reason or other, claimed that she had been given the Pipe by her father. This seemed to have been upheld at the Farmer's 16 years ago at the time of his death. At any rate, she now has the Pipe, although a Council of the Indians on this resrevation, Cheyenne River, voted Elias the possession of the Pipe. These details were not learned from my informants."

Elk Head/Red Hair family was at the Little Bighorn. Elk Head gave a brief description of the battle to William Bordeaux and spoke of a council after the battle about what to do next. The Elk Head/Red Hair family ended up in Canada with the other northern Lakota (A daughter of Elk Head, known as Sans Arc Woman, was born in Canada about 1877; she later married Eugene Slide Off and died in 1957).

They appear in the Sitting Bull Surrender Census in 1881 in Circle Bear's Band. Circle Bear had come in from Canada and surrendered at Fort Buford in 1880 and was then transferred to the Standing Rock Agency in the summer of 1881. In the census, Red Hair is 55; the next family listed is Elk Head, age 27 (his son); the next family is White Beareded Horse, age 26 (probably one of the other sons); and finally Bad Warrior, age 27, with his wife Eagle (also known as Red Eagle or Martha Bad Warrior, died Oct. 25, 1936).

The Red Hair/Elk Head families were transferred to Cheyenne River in 1882. — Ephriam

In Cheyenne River Census 1900 Red Hair together with the wife, Yellow Cloud and granddaughter Rose High Cat. Census it is specified that Red Hair and the Yellow Cloud have lived together 50 years (since 1850) and the Yellow Cloud had 5 children from which in alive was only one child. At once there is a question, who? Martha? Elias or Bessie Slides Off? Mother Rose High Cat has died before 1899. Rose's father, Theodore married third time in 1899.

I have found out the information, that Brings Eagle Feather was mother of the Elk Head. Elk Head married on Annie Yellow Cloud Woman and has daughter Carries The Bow.

Bessie Slides Off in census 1900 b.1877 in Montana, in census 1910 b.1878 in North Dakota, and in census 1930 b.1877 in Canada.

All the same I want to find out the list of keepers given presumably by Martha, it is especial if this list has given Scudder Mekeel.

I'm knew before (see above) only, what Mekeel in 1931 had lists 9 Keepers, he likely did not consider Not Put the Stick in the Fire? Interestingly Mekeel asked Elk Head's sons about Not Put the Stick in the Fire. In fact the word (temporary) to set a question Why?
It is said that Elk Head has received a Pipe from the father. But to me seemed strange that Elk Head, speaking about the previous keepers, he has mentioned, that the some keepers transferred a Pipe to the brother, has not told, that has received a Pipe from the father. Sons of the Elk Head /Red Hair mention name Not Put the Stick in the Fire as the temporary keeper. It is possible to assume, that the keeper of a Pipe died unexpectedly. Then the known holy man could take care of a Pipe, until the new keeper will not be chosen yet. If to assume that it has taken place in 1876 then man Not Put the Stick in the Fire was in camp during battle with Custer, and then he surrendered together with the others and should get in first Agency census records. Has Mekeel gives his lakota name in the a notebook? Many mistakes occur because of discrepancy of translation Lakota names.

The list given by the Left Heron repeats the List of the Elk Head behind exception Grey Buffalo Cow Bull, but names previous Hollow Horn are given in inverse sequence. Such as it seems to me, it is possible, when you well remember the first keeper from legends and last two keepers whom the Left Heron has found them alive. In 1876 Left Heron was about 26 years.

In SIRIS gives the references to photos taking place in National Anthropological Archives. Photographs of American Indians and Other Subjects 1840s-1960s.
1. Elk Head in Costume with Crucifix and Holding Pipe 1880
2. View of Elk Heads Village Showing Group with Tipi, Sweatlodge?, and Log Structures with Thatched Roofs 1880 (Can be these photos taken in Fort Buford in 1880?)

There are Ernest Two-Runs's photos and Elias Elk Head? There can be someone from them on Wilbur Riegert's photo 1936 or on wedding photo Rosa High Cat and Harry Poor Dog, 1915? — Andrew

1. Death of Elk Head. I have seen several different dates reported for the death of Elk Head. The Little Bighorn Associates website records it as Dec. 14, 1914; family records (courtesy Kingsley Bray) say Dec. 26, 1914; Two Runs and Elias Elk Head told Mekeel that their father died in 1915; and Densmore, in Teton Sioux Music & Culture (p. 66) says he died in Jan. 1916. Apparently no death certificates from this period have survived for Cheyenne River. The only primary source that I have is the Annuity Pay Roll for Cheyenne River, dated 1914, in which someone has penciled in after Red Hair's name "Died 12/ /1914".

2. Regarding the temporary Pipe Keeper, here is what Mekeel recorded: "When some dear relative died a man whose name was Not-Put-The-Stick-In-The-Fire (Apatan Un Sni) asked at the give-away for the Pipe. He just wanted to keep it a while. Red Hair felt so bad that he let him have it. This man was no blood relation to Red Hair, although he called him brother. This would be the ninth Keeper. It seems that he was asked to keep the Pipe after the death of the eighth Keeper, but he doesn't keep it now. And a tenth was also called Red Hair or Elk Head, and was the father of the three now disputing the Pipe."

3. Regarding Mrs. Bad Warrior, Mekeel recorded in his field notes: "After this talk the two brothers dressed up as best they could in their Plains Indian costumes. Two Runs had his face painted red. We all went over to the Bad Warrior place in order to see the Pipe. Mrs. Bad Warrior demanded $30 for the privilege. My interpreter [Silas Afraid of Enemy] became angry and told her that she had no business charging them to see the Pipe as it was the property of all the Sioux. She was stubborn and so were we. Finally, Elias, who had been appointed by the Council as the Keeper, grabbed my axe and decided to force his way into the old Keeper's house. As I did not wish them to get into trouble for house-breaking, I told my interpeter to stop him. However, he looked in the house and found the Pipe gone. This made him even more angry because it was a descration to the Pipe to be taken into Bad Warrior's house next to it, in which he had recently died. They were so mad that if they had found the Pipe they would have uncovered it and shown it. At the time we arrived Mrs. Bad Warrior was staying in a house of her son's about 200 yards from her own place. She had also dressed up for the occasion, but was not satisifed with a piece from the beef I had given the two brothers and which they had offered her. It seems that some on ehad recenlty paid her $30 for just the story about the Pipe."

4. Yes, the Sitting Bull Surrender Census includes names of all family members, in English and in Lakota. Here is his family:

Pehinnasa, Red Hair, 55
Wicahpi, Star, wife, 50
Psica win, Jumper, dau., 26
Ptesan, White Buffalo Cow, grandchild [female], 3

5. According to the 1910 federal census, Red Hair was married twice. In the 1890 census, two women are listed in his family: Yellow Cloud and Makes Presents. Presumably one of these was also known as Star Woman. Starting with the 1891 Cheyenne River Census, only Yellow Cloud is listed. As you already noted, the 1900 Federal Census suggests that they were married about 1850.
— Ephriam

1. The list of Keepers I mentioned earlier by an "unnamed informant" is the same one you posted from Sidney Thomas' article, "A Sioux Medicine Bundle." Thomas did not state who his informant was, but I suspect it was probably Mrs. Bad Warrior.

2. The Lakota names for the following Keepers (as given by Mekeel) is:
Buffalo Road (Pte Canku)
Imagine Walking (Wakcanyan Mani). Note: Buechel translates wakcanyan as "to observe and report"; perhaps the translation "imagine" is not the best.
Grey Buffalo Cow Bull (Tatanka Pte San). Note: Again, Buechel translates the color san as "gray, whitish or yellowish". In the nineteenth century census records, I have seen this word translated both as grey and as white.

3. Ernest Two Runs. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the Two Runs family in the census records. Where did you find your information regarding the Bear family? Ernest is probably in the Sitting Bull Surrender Census, however, by a different name. If I could find him in the later census records, I can work backward to possibly identify him in the 1881 records.

4. White Headed Horse -- My apologies; I mistakenly gave this to you as White Bearded Horse. The cursive writing can be difficult to read at times. In the 1881 census, he is clearly White Headed Horse and his Lakota name is given as "Sung-pa-ska". — Ephriam

Information about Bear, from 1900 United States Federal Census:
Bear, Mato b.1830 Head
Mary Bear, Skecasapawin b.1837 Wife
Appears, Kunkahinspewin b.1820 Mother-in-law

from 1910 United States Federal Census from which it is clear, that Lyda Two Runs was daughter Bear, or Mato:
Two Runs Ernest Head M In 51 M2 30 South Dakota South Dakota South Dakota
Lyda Two Runs Wife F In 48 M1 30 6 0 South Dakota South Dakota South Dakota
Sitting Dog Susan Sister-in-Law F In 51 Wd 3 0 North Dakota South Dakota South Dakota
Bear Father-in-Law M In 78 M1 57 South Dakota Unknown Unknown
----Black Mink Mother-in-Law F In 75 M1 57 3 2 South Dakota Unknown Unknown
Sitting Dog Andrew Nephew M In 10 South Dakota North Dakota Unknown

I assume that Ernest Two Runs could have other name, Sakehuta, or Root of Claw on the basis of similarity of the data in 1900 United States Federal Census and 1910 United States Federal Census, and also Federal Land Records:
1. Wife Sakehuta called Lydia, as well as wife Two Runs
2. Spouses had identical age and marriage since 1880 or 1881
3. In 1885 (Annuity Roll 14 - 27 July 1885 under Chief Struck Plenty) family of Root of Claw beside Lydia Two Runs's parents and another relatives and neighbours family of Two Runs in censuses for 1910, 1920:

Number Number in Family Indian Name. English Name.
324 4 Sunka Iyotake Sitting Dog (His wife Susan was Lydia's sister)
328 3 Pate-sni Did not Butcher (neighbour in 1910 and 1920)
331 2 Mato Bear (Ernest's Father-in-Law)
332 4 Sake Huto Root of the Claw

4. Information from Corson Co. SD - Federal Land Records:
SAKAHUTE 07 020 N 028 E 029 480 253400 PA IA 459 10/03/1907
TWO-RUN CONSTANCE 07 020 N 028 E 029 160 253400 PA IA 460 10/03/1907

TWORUN ERNEST 07 020 N 028 E 031 2.81 253400 PA 990594 12/13/1926
TWORUN CONSTANCE 07 020 N 028 E 031 2.81 253400 PA 990595 12/13/1926

1900 United States Federal Census
Amos Root of claw Head In m Aug 1859 40 M 19 South Dakota
Lydia Root of claw Wife In f May 1863 37 M 19 5 2 Montana
Constance Root of claw Daughter In f Apr 1893 7 S South Dakota
Louis Root of claw Son In m Sept 1899 1 S South Dakota

Canonpawakanwin Sacred Pipe
Sakehuta Louis

I have not found name Amos Root of Claw in United States Federal Census in 1910 and 1920. His name also is not present in South Dakota Death Index,1905-1955.
Finally to try to find Root of claw or Sakehuta in Sitting Bull Surrender Census or Census Records after 1900 and till 1910 as to find out lakota name Lydia Two Runs (she was second wife, the first wife either has divorced from Ernest or has died by 1881. So In 1881 Surrender Census Ernest can had the first wife).

South Dakota Death Index, 1905-1955
Name Death County Death Date
Tworuns Corson Aug 16 1923 (I assume that it Lydia)
Ernest Tworuns Dewey Jan 8 1942 — Andrew

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