Red Cloud (1822-1909) Fort Robinson/Red Cloud Agency - Nebraska

Red Cloud is the English name of Makhpiyaluta, the Oglala Sioux chief who, more than any other Sioux chief, is associated with the Plains Indian's transition from warrior nomads to U.S. Government wards. Red Cloud's stature among the Oglala Sioux came early, having acquired a reputation as a fierce warrior and a man of pronounced cruelty to enemies of his people. By the time he was 40, he was the leading warrior of the Bad Faces clan.

Red Cloud and his followers were prominent in the Plains War of 1865 and afterward. He was personally responsible for the failure of the army's 1865 North Plains operation against the Sioux, commanded by Major General Patrick E. Connor. The failure of the Connor campaign to bring about a lasting peace by force precipitated the U.S. Government's policy of negotiation that was to follow.

By the time negotiations took place for "a lasting peace" at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, in June 1866, Red Cloud was recognized by government negotiators as the principle chief of the "hostiles." It was his approval that any treaty of consequence most depended upon. Red Cloud, however, withdrew from the negotiations and an even more bitter warfare resulted.

Two years later, Red Cloud returned to participate in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, signing the treaty and finally accepting reservation status.

In 1877, Red Cloud, having been deposed as chief by General Crook the previous year, personally convinced the much-wanted war chief Crazy Horse, to surrender and accept reservation status. As reward, Red Cloud was allowed to resume his leadership of the Oglalas. It was a bitter accomplishment for Red Cloud, for not only was Crazy Horse slain for "attempted escape," but Red Cloud helplessly witnessed the slow erosion of his people's way of life over the next thirty years.

Throughout his tenure, Red Cloud was criticized for giving in too easily to the white man's demands and for obstructing the progress of his people on the white man's road. As Red Cloud himself said, "I, of course, as many others have done before me, have made mistakes in not doing something I should have done and doing what I should not have done..." Can any leader say more?