11/25 – Dull Knife Fight

A romanticized vision of the Great Indian Wars. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

On this day in 1876, the Dull Knife Fight took place in Wyoming between the Northern Cheyenne and the United States Army. Having been beaten badly by a coalition of Native American forces (Northern Cheyenne, Lakota, Dakota, and Arapaho) at Little Bighorn in June, American Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie was sent out into the Great Plains to locate a Cheyenne village for revenge. On the 23rd of November, scouts from the Red Cloud Agency (an early name for Indian reservations) discovered the Dull Knife village on the Powder River. Mackenzie and 1000 men – Americans, Pawnee scouts and some rival Cheyenne – advanced and located Dull Knife on the 25th. Mackenzie’s force waited in the frozen landscape until dawn, then attacked the village. The 400 Dull Knife residents fought back hard, but were eventually pushed out of their village. Women, children and the elderly ran into the frigid plains where many of them died from frostbite and exposure. The Cheyenne village was burned and all livestock stolen by the US Army and allied Natives.

The Dull Knife Fight was a big victory for the Americans, who had driven the Northern Cheyenne from their homes and were now able to claim the hoards of gold that lay in the nearby Black Hills. The United States Army essentially won the “Black Hills War of 1876” and gained control of the Great Plains – but along the way, they had killed a great number of Native people and driven many more from their homes. “Manifest Destiny”, it must be said, was not kind to the Northern Cheyenne.

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