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Boy Chief


Boy Chief, an Arikara Indian scout who fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, passed away on this date in 1922 in Armstrong, North Dakota. Boy Chief was a member of General Custer’s 7th Calvary stationed at Fort Lincoln and participated in the attack launched by Major Reno.

Boy Chief and his half-brother Red Bear both enlisted voluntarily for government service in late April of 1876. The brothers were living at the Fort Berthold Village when Bob-Tailed Bull, an Arikara acquaintance and Custer’s lead scout, visited to recruit additional scouts and interpreters. Bob-Tailed Bull called a council in the village to encourage brave young men to enlist with the army. Despite the fact that Boy Chief’s own brother had been killed in government service, nineteen-year old Boy Chief volunteered.

Boy Chief borrowed a horse and set off for Fort Lincoln with a small group of men. His brother Red Bear followed them. Despite his youth, Boy Chief passed the medical examination at the fort and was formally enlisted on April 26th. After only three weeks at the fort, the scouts were told they would be moving west into eastern Montana alongside twelve companies of the 7th Calvary.

On the evening of June 24th, Boy Chief and Red Star, another Indian scout, were with the Calvary near Busby, Montana. They were awakened by a Sergeant and were taken to Custer’s tent. Custer, who they called ‘Long Hair,’ asked the scouts to travel west to the Little Bighorn River and return with a report. Hours later, Boy Chief reported to Custer that they had seen thousands of horses and an encampment of perhaps as many as 10,000 Sioux. Custer and his fellow officers, however, refused to believe the report, having been told that only 800 Sioux were in the area.

Boy Chief left Custer’s battalion to join Reno’s forces, which were sent into the Little Bighorn valley by another route. During Reno’s attack, he ordered the Indian scouts forward. Though exposed, Boy Chief attacked with the others, crossing the Little Bighorn River, but was soon repelled. Not finding his brother, he returned to the melee looking for Red Bear. Ultimately, Reno retreated, his forces not learning of Custer’s fate until much later. Although several scouts were killed in the attack, Boy Chief and his brother both survived.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme Job


Libby, O. G. (ed.) 1920The Arikara Narrative of the Campaign against the Hostile Dakotas, June 1876. The Torch Press: Cedar Rapids, IA.

Libby, O. G. (ed.) 1998 TheArikara Narrative of Custer’s Campaign and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. University of Oklahoma Press: pp. 53-58.

Horn, Miles. April 13, 1938 “Red Star’s Account of the Fight, as told by his Nephew, Miles Horn, 1938.” Radio Broadcast: Sheridan, Wyoming. (script accessed via: http://www.welchdakotapapers.com/2011/11/little-big-horn-survivors-talk-to- welch/)