Dakota Datebook

Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull

Friday, December 2, 2005

On this date in 1890, the Bismarck Daily Tribune ran a story about Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull, who at one time worked together in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. The story read:

Buffalo Bill and party return from Standing Rock without the Sioux chief.
“Buffalo Bill, Dr. Powell and Pony Bob returned to Mandan Sunday night and proceeded eastward that night. Conn Malloy, the teamster who drove them down – leaving Bismarck Thursday afternoon – returned to Bismarck yesterday afternoon. He was glad to get back. The atmosphere at Standing Rock is not good. The Indians out on Grand River where Sitting Bull holds out are [strong with the Messiah craze], and Conn was told by his friends that he was just as safe in Bismarck as he would be in driving Buffalo Bill out to Sitting Bull’s camp.

“The party arrived at standing Rock Saturday,” the story continues, “and immediately started with an interpreter for Sitting Bull’s camp. Col. Cody (Buffalo Bill) had a special commission from General Miles to arrest Sitting Bull and turn him over to the military authorities at Fort Yates. He was on this mission, but when about twenty miles out from Standing Rock he was met by Louis Primeau, who told him that Sitting Bull was en route to the agency via the other road about five miles distant. The party drove over to the other road but could see nor hear nothing of [Sitting Bull].

“The party camped for the night…while the interpreter with Buffalo Bill was sent back to the agency to learn if the report was true and if Sitting Bull had really gone into the agency. The interpreter did not have to go far to learn that the report was untrue.

“The party started on Sunday morning,” the story read, “but had not gone far when a special courier overtook them with an order through Col. Drum, post commandant at Fort Yates, from the war department at Washington, ordering Buffalo Bill to return at once without interfering with Sitting Bull.

“The party turned back and came straight to Mandan. It is rumored that this sudden change in the program as made by Gen. Miles was brought about through the interference of the interior department through the advice of Maj. McLaughlin, agent at Standing Rock.

“The future developments will be looked forward to with interest,” the article read. “It is evident there is a conflict between the war and interior departments on this Indian question, and it remains to be seen which department of the government will come out on top.

“It is evident that Gen. Miles believes in capturing not only Sitting Bull but all other leaders and disturbers and remove them from their [followers]. He has also moved a large number of troops in the vicinity of the agencies with the intention of overpowering the [headstrong Indians] and disarming them before they have an opportunity to [do harm].”

When noted writer and photographer, Frank Fiske, died in 1952, his obituary included the following note about the incident: “Orders were given to [Buffalo Bill] to induce Sitting Bull and several other chiefs to make terms,” the story read. “Buffalo Bill, who was believed to have influence with Sitting Bull, was to proceed to Standing Rock to induce Sitting Bull to come in, with authority to make such terms as might be necessary and, if unsuccessful, to arrest him and remove him… Cody arrived at Fort Yates Nov. 28, 1890, where he visited at the Fiske home. Cody was about to undertake the arrest when his orders were countermanded under the belief that military interference was liable to provoke a conflict.”

Sources:
Bismarck Daily Tribune. 2 Dec 1890.
Selfridge Journal. (Sioux County, ND) 24 Jul 1952.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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