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Summerall's War Bonnet


On this date in 1928, area residents of Bismarck and Mandan prepared for the imminent arrival of Major General Charles Summerall. The general was on an army camp inspection tour. Upon arrival he was met with a fair amount of pomp. He toured the city, inspected Fort Lincoln, and spoke at a banquet thrown in his honor.

Red Tomahawk, the man who attained fame for shooting Chief Sitting Bull, was on hand at the banquet. The Bismarck Tribune reported that "although the Indian chief needed no introduction to the chief of the army, he was brought to the head of the banquet table and introduced to the general as 'The man who killed Sitting Bull.'"

General Summerall had been given the nickname of Sitting Bull himself by his friends as he directed army activities in Germany and France. Consequently, he was well-pleased by the introduction, responding, "Well, well, this is quite an of my favorite nicknames happens to be Sitting Bull."

Once this statement and was translated to Red Tomahawk, he smiled and pledged "the Sioux everlasting friendship to 'the white man chief.'"

Shortly afterward, at the same banquet, Summerall was officially adopted as a member of the Sioux nation under the title "High Star."

The Tribune reported: "With solemn dignity, [Red Tomahawk] took off his Eagle-Feather war bonnet and with equal dignity placed it over the brow of the general, pronouncing as he did so, the words that made general Summerall a member of the Sioux." He also provided the general with an autographed picture.

The interaction of the two proved to be a very special moment. Summerall said he wanted to frame the Chief’s picture and place it on his desk, in order to remember the "warm spirit and friendliness of the Indian nation."

Before the general departed for Fort Snelling in Minnesota, one of his lieutenants picked up the war bonnet and other items to be sent back to Washington, D.C., but the general refused this idea:

"No, sir,” he said. “We'll take no chances on that being lost. That headpiece is one of the most prized objects I have been given since I began this trip."

A year later, Red Tomahawk would visit the East Coast at Summerall's invitation, showing that the warmth and friendliness had indeed not been forgotten.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


The Bismarck Tribune, October 30, 1928, p1

The Bismarck Tribune, October 29, 1928, p1

"Red Tomahawk and Hoover," Merry Helm, ""