Tongue River Homesteaders

In January 1881, all of the Northern Cheyenne that were sent to Fort Keogh were eventually allowed to move south and take homesteads near the Tongue River and on Rosebud and Muddy Creeks under the Indian Homestead Act of 1875. However, in 1900, the Northern Cheyenne families were removed or agreed to move under duress off of their private or individual holdings on which the Army under General Miles’ command had helped them settle and placed on the newly expanded reservation. In 1884 the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation was created on unsurveyed lands north of Tongue River. The Reservation boundaries excluded 46 Northern Cheyenne families who had been encouraged to homestead along the east bank of the Tongue River and along Otter Creek. At the same time, 46 white homesteads, both legal and illegal, had been established within the boundaries of the Reservation. In 1901, the white settlers on the newly expanded reservation lands in the Tongue River valley were ordered to leave. The Federal government paid the 46 white settlers $150,445 for their “improvements” (buildings etc.) on the west side of the Tongue River and compensated the 46 Cheyenne families with only $1,150 for their homesteads on the east side. Descendants of these families argue that because the government never paid fair value for these homesteads and that they were promised the chance to return, they still have claims to this land.

In a letter from George Yoakum to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated October 20 1882, he states that nearly all of Little Chief’s Band have arrived and are on the Tongue River, intending to take up homesteads.

In a letter from George Yoakum to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated December 21, 1882, he states there are 44 families, totaling 224 people of Little Chief’s Band on the Tongue River. He also states there are a total of 610 Cheyenne living along Rosebud Creek and Tongue River.

In George Milburn’s April 18, 1883 report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, he states that White Bull and his people surrendered at Ft. Keogh in 1877 and settled on Otter Creek in June 1882. Milburn also states that Little Chief, with 10 or 12 lodges, is still at the Pine Ridge agency. Milburn attached a rough sketch map of the Tongue River and Otter Cr. Area to his April 18, 1883 report. On this map he indicates there was a camp of 18 lodges on upper Otter Creek (prob. At T3S R44E, sec 12 or 13) prior to March 24, 1883, but that this group relocated to near the mouth of Hanging Woman’s Cr., at T5S R42E sec 25 and 26. This group was part of Little Chief’s band and was led by Black Wolf, in Little Chief’s absence.

The following table contains the names of the 46 homesteaders and indicates whether or not they were included in the 1883 list made by Milburn 1 .

Tongue River Homesteaders

AgeNameOn 1883 Milburn List
21Bear Comes Out
67Big HeadX
45Big Head ManX
58Black Eagle
43Black Horse
50Bob Tail HorseX
29Box Alder
40Elk Shoulders
41Elk Shows His Horn (2)
61Elk Shows His Horns (1)
20Fire Wolf
23Hard Ground
20Hollow Breast
31King Fisher
63Little HorseX
53Long Roach
37Looks Behind
22Medicine Bird
37Medicine Top
26Mrs. Little Whirl Wind
39Mrs. Wolf (widow)?
38Red Bird (2)?
32Red Bird (3)?
21Red Wolf
48Sharp Nose
30Sitting Man
28Spotted Hawk
41Two Feathers
41Walking Horse
41Walks Easy
45Walks Night
66White BullX
59White FrogX
52White HawkX
48White HorseX
47White MoonX
64Wolf Black
54Wolf EarX
32Yellow Eyes
21Young Bear
46Young Bird

  1. George Milburn’s April 18, 1883 report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs[]



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