Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee | Study Guide

Dee Alexander Brown

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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee | Key Figure Analysis

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Red Cloud

Red Cloud is one of the most influential Indian chiefs in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. As the leader of the Oglala Teton Sioux, he leads battles against the white man for Powder River country in present-day Montana and the Black Hills in South Dakota. Fierce and confident in his younger years, Red Cloud used guerrilla war tactics to secure the closure of three military forts along Bozeman Road in 1868. His decision to move to the reservation shortly after that cost him many followers, most of whom wanted to keep the war going. The loss of the Black Hills and Powder River country in 1877 was a blow to the famed Sioux leader. From then on Red Cloud counseled chiefs from other tribes and bands to listen to the white men and do as they say.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull is one of the most well-known Indians of the 19th century. This is primarily because of his refusal to live on the reservation and take "hand-outs" from the white man, but also because of his stint traveling with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. Sitting Bull is more of a spiritual leader to the Hunkpapa Teton Sioux than a war leader, but he often finds himself in the position of the latter by necessity. He and Crazy Horse lead several Sioux bands and their allies in the Battle of Little Bighorn. It is a crushing blow to the U.S. Army, but it also results in the loss of the Indians' sacred land. Rather than be confined to the white man's reservation, Sitting Bull and a group of followers escape to Canada, where they live for a few years before returning to the United States. Upon his return, he is disturbed to see how complacent the other chiefs have become when it comes to doing what the white man asks. He is convinced that he is the only real Indian left. Sitting Bull is killed during an arrest for his alleged involvement in the Ghost Dance movement.

Black Kettle

Black Kettle is the longtime leader of the Southern Cheyennes. Unlike the young warriors in his band, Black Kettle is a big believer in creating peace through treaties, not war. He genuinely believes in the friendship between the U.S. government and the Southern Cheyennes until the massacre at Sand Creek in 1864, which kills over 100 of his people. He manages to escape with his life, but he loses many followers to the aggressive Dog Soldiers, who want to resist the white man's interference at all costs. Eventually, even Black Kettle realizes there is no trusting the white man, and he does everything he can to ensure that his people won't suffer another Sand Creek. Unfortunately, they experience another massacre at Washita River, where Black Kettle and his wife are both killed while trying to deliver a message of peace.

William T. Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman had a lengthy career in the Indian Wars. He consoles the Navahos after they are allowed to return to their land in 1868 and then is named commanding general of the U.S. Army under President Ulysses S. Grant. In this position, Sherman tries to subdue the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne in Powder River country, sends soldiers running after the Nez Percés, oversees the Modoc war in California, and sends several Kiowas to their deaths. Although he begins his career in the West as an ally, he quickly becomes the enemy of the Indians.

Philip Sheridan

General Philip Sheridan begins his military career serving at frontier military posts. He serves in the Union Army during the Civil War, during which he makes a positive impression on General Ulysses S. Grant. A notoriously harsh man, Sheridan is removed from duty as military commander of Louisiana and Texas in 1867 and sent west to the frontier. There he commands soldiers in Kansas and oversees the massacre of over 100 Cheyennes at Washita River. Sheridan is named general-in-chief of the army in 1883 and is given the second-highest possible rank in the army, that of a five-star general officer, just a few months before his death in 1888.

Roman Nose

Roman Nose isn't a chief, but he has a loyal following of Dog Soldiers and non-warrior Southern Cheyennes. He is a strong believer in protective medicine, and in the summer of 1865 he goes through a series of purifications that render him invincible in an ambush against two columns of U.S. soldiers. Roman Nose does not trust the white man and has no interest in living on a reservation. He is greatly inspired by Oglala Teton Sioux chief Red Cloud, who effectively pushed the white man off his territory through the use of guerrilla tactics. Roman Nose tries the same thing in the Smoky Hill territory, but with much less success. He foresees his death at the Battle of Beecher Island in 1868. His protective medicine had recently been compromised and he didn't have time to repair it.

George Crook

General George Crook is known as one of the best Indian fighters in all of the American West. He begins his military career building forts in the Pacific Northwest and then is sent to fight for the Union in the Civil War. After returning to his old stomping grounds after the war, he is transferred to Arizona to hunt Apaches hiding in the mountains. He becomes a brigadier general in 1873 and then is sent to command the Department of the Platte in 1875 to oversee the Sioux wars. Crook's views about Indians changed sometime after the Sioux wars, and when he meets Standing Bear he wants to help him, not kill him. He orchestrates the plan to allow Standing Bear and 65 other Poncas to live on their homelands instead of in Indian Territory. He is then sent back to the Southwest, where he attempts to capture Geronimo, but ends up resigning after Geronimo flees the reservation. He spends the rest of his career heading the Department of the Platte and the Military Division of the Missouri.

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