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Dull Knife

Dull Knife

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Dull Knife was born in Montana in about 1810. A member of the Cheyenne tribe he developed a reputation as a successful war leader. However, on 10th May, 1868, he was one of those leaders who signed the Fort Laramie Treaty.

In 1875 Dull Knife was involved in attacks on the Shoshoni. The following year his men were involved in the defeat of General George A. Custer at the Little Bighorn.

The U.S. army now responded by increasing the number of the soldiers in the area. When soldiers commanded by Ranad Mackenzie attacked Cheyenne villages, Dull Knife and Little Wolf led a party of 300 on a 1,500 mile journey north to their old hunting grounds.

Dull Knife surrendered at Fort Robinson but Little Wolf went back to Montana. In January 1879 Dull Knife led a break-out but in the process an estimated third of the party died.

Dull Knife died near the Rosebud River in 1883.

Never A Dull Moment

Written by Ernie Smith on Aug 22, 2017

Today in Tedium: Obviously, knives, with their sharp blades for cutting through things, have been around forever—they’re a key ingredient of any horror film, slasher flick, or murder mystery that’s ever been created. But here’s a question that I don’t think a lot of people have pondered (mainly because they aren’t expected to like I am): Why do steaks get their own dedicated knives, and why do we shove them into giant blocks of wood for storage? And what about butter knives? What’s up with them? Tonight’s Tedium has all the answers to your dinner blade-related questions. — Ernie @ Tedium

How we imagined Cardinal Richelieu broached the subject: "How many times do I have to tell you hosers, don't pick your teeth with a knife!" (Wikimedia Commons)

How etiquette led dining-room knives to lose their sharp edges

Of course, before there was the steak knife, there was the table knife, or the butter knife. As blade designs go, it’s pretty weaksauce, and intentionally so.

The reason for this goes back nearly 400 years, and involves an annoyed French clergyman. Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis, the Duke of Richelieu and Fronsac—or Cardinal Richelieu for short—became annoyed by table manners of those eating with pointed knives, which were used as a way of picking teeth.

He had his knife edges rounded, the legend goes, in an effort to discourage bad behavior by his guests.

This broke tradition around knife use. See, knife blades were long the primary way that people ate food—unlike napkins, which weren’t always a given, they were always a key element of the meal. Often, medieval cultures would eat meals using a single knife—their own, which they brought with them to dinner—and their hands. The introduction of the fork into European culture changed the way we interacted with knives, just as it did with napkins.

Cardinal Richelieu was a powerful, influential man, and his knife-dulling approach gained enough currency that in 1669, 27 years after he died, King Louis XIV issued a decree making pointed knives illegal in France, whether inside the home or out in public. Suddenly, a lot of sharp knives got pretty dull.

Sorry, couldn't find a knife in my junk drawer. (MarkMartins/Pixabay)

That decision, notes Henry Petroski’s The Evolution of Useful Things, had a long-term effect on the knife’s evolution from the pocket to the table:

Such actions, coupled with the growing widespread use of forks, gave the table knife its now familiar blunt-tipped blade. Toward the end of the seventeenth century, the blade curved into a scimitar shape, but this contour was to be modified over the next century to become less weaponlike. The blunt end became more prominent, not merely to emphasize its bluntness but, since the paired fork was likely to be two-tined and so not an efficient scoop, to serve as a surface onto which food might be heaped for conveying to the mouth.

The pocket knife, of course, never went away, and honestly, nor did the need to have a sharp blade at the table.

But it would take until the middle of the 20th century for the proper tool to truly gain popularity.

“Every time I design a handle, I go through the same door. How the door was found, I do not know.”

— Thomas Lamb, a 20th-century industrial designer, discussing his work with handles in the magazine Industrial Design. Lamb became well-known in the years after World War II for his years of research into handle design, the primary result of which, the wedge-lock handle, became so well-known that he had a display of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in 1948. He received a patent for a cutlery handle in 1954, around which time he licensed his work to a company called Alcas, which released a line of knives called Cutco in 1952. Yes, the same Cutco that people sell door-to-door—and uses that handle design today.

Carvel Hall's famous steak knives—with the blades covered and the handles cracked. They're old! (Vintage Sailor/Flickr)

How sharp knives found their way back to the table in the modern era

Obviously, sharp knives never really went away—people in the kitchen needed blades with an edge to them if they were going to prepare food.

But what might be surprising to an observer is that steak knives, at least in terms of how we consider them in the modern day, aren’t old innovations with centuries of history. In fact, the modern steak knife didn’t truly make itself known until after World War II.

A device of simple design and surprising sharpness, the turning point for the steak knife came in the form of a reconstituted letter opener. That letter opener, designed by a Maryland machinist named Paul C. Culver in 1946, was originally a gift for businessman Charles D. Briddell Jr.

Briddell’s father, Charles Sr. was a man who chose blacksmithing over farming as a teenager, eventually turning his preferred career path into a namesake company. It was already a quickly growing company by the mid-1940s, with the company’s Crisfield, Maryland factory building equipment during World War II.

The company was also involved in manufacturing cutlery at the time, which is perhaps why the gift from Culver proved particularly fruitful for the Briddell family, especially after Charles Jr.’s brother, Tom, saw the delicate craftsmanship of the knife and realized it made more sense on the dinner table than as a tool for opening letters.

According to a 1953 article from the The Salisbury Times, Tom Briddell asked Culver for both a set of six steak knives and a case to put them in, then did a nationwide survey of the potential market. The findings were clear: People wanted an elegant, sharp knife to cut their meat, and they wanted it at home, rather than a restaurant. The resulting knife, the Carvel Hall, soon went on sale nationally—and became the first common kind of steak knife you could buy.

One early ad put the benefits of the $16.50 steak knife set as such:

Now you can do what famous chop houses do when they serve meat: Put a lovely steak knife at each place. The new Carvel Hall, worthy companion to the finest table silver, is a knife of sheer utility. Slimly graceful though it is, its long, tapering bald of finest steel cuts through the thickest steak with ease. Every home needs this smart steak knife set.

By the time of the 1953 article, Culver’s handmade letter opener had become a $3 million business.

Eventually, the company, once named for the elder Briddell, would gain the Carvel Hall name, and (because it was a Maryland company) it would become known regionally for an ornate crab knife design.

But as the Briddell family aged out of the firm, the company did not always have things easy. The company, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, shuttered its doors in 1989 after its corporate parent filed for bankruptcy, but came back to life in 1990 after another company purchased the brand and reopened the factory. In an area with a low population and without a lot of manufacturing jobs, the reopening was a bit of a godsend.

"Carvel Hall will by itself represent a potential decrease of one percent in unemployment," Somerset County Director of Economic Development Tom Laidlaw told The Washington Post that year.

Ultimately, it was not to last. In 2000, the factory closed entirely, getting sold to an aerospace firm in 2004 but ultimately failing to keep its doors open.

The closed factory is giving the nearby community a lot of headaches as local leaders try to figure out what they can do with this massive building, with one suggestion gaining attention being the idea of using the factory to convert chicken manure into energy.

Admittedly, it’s weird and depressing to think about the fact that a company so fundamental to the way we eat food has faded so severely with the passage of time.

Hopefully, this short blurb will give them a fresh cut in the history books.

“Knives that have the quality of steel but can maintain a sharp edge are prized by most good cooks. And when they can be handsomely and conveniently displayed, they take on even more importance.”

Los Angeles Times Home magazine columnist Joan Dektar, discussing a few early examples of the slotted knife block in a 1975 story. This device, while a fairly common kitchen mainstay these days (thanks to the fact that it’s a naturally good place to store knives), doesn’t appear to have caught on in its current form until the late 1970s, meaning that for decades, people were storing their knives in very awkward ways. While many of the highlighted examples by Dektar, produced by Chicago Cutlery, were for larger knives, the company did also produce a set for steak knives with a built-in sharpener. These days, the peak of knife-block technology is the bamboo organizer, which replaces set slots with hundreds of bamboo rods, allowing you to put your knives in any way you want.

Of course, some might point out (pun intended) that steak knives and regular butter knives don’t have all that many differences when you break them down, and you’d probably be right to some degree.

One is sharper than the other, but when it comes down to eating your food, they both cut to varying degrees and they both spread to varying degrees.

In fact, the food and technology company ChefSteps actually suggested, as part of its knife-sharpening lessons, that you can actually turn butter knives into steak knives with a set of Japanese waterstones or a grinder.

This sounds like a quick-and-dirty DIY project in the best way possible. In fact, the first half of the video just shows a guy walking through Goodwill, buying old sets of butter knives.

Considering the roots of the modern steak knife come from a knife put to use in an entirely different context, this is basically the perfect second life for cheap cutlery.

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

Dull Knife

Although Dull Knife (1810?-1883) was active in the Cheyenne-Arapaho War in Colorado, the Sioux Wars for the Northern Plains, and also the War for the Black Hills, he is, perhaps, best remembered for attempting to lead nearly three hundred people from an assigned reservation back to their Tongue River homeland in northern Wyoming and southern Montana.

Best-known for leading his people in a courageous attempt to return from exile in Oklahoma to their Montana homeland in 1878, the Northern Cheyenne leader Morning Star was born in about 1810 on the Rosebud River. He was known mostly by his nickname of Dull Knife, given to him by his brother-in-law, who teased him about not having a sharp knife. A renowned Dog Soldier in his youth, Dull Knife became a member of the Council of 44 and in the 1870s was one of the four principal, or Old Man, Chiefs. These chiefs represented the mystical four Sacred Persons who dwelt at the cardinal points of the universe and were the guardians of creation.

Little is known of Dull Knife's early life. When he was a young man in the late 1820s, he went on a raiding party against the Pawnees. Capturing a young girl, he saved her life by asking that she replace a member of his family previously lost to the Pawnees. When he became a chief, Dull Knife made Little Woman his second wife, the union producing four daughters. Dull Knife had two other wives, Goes to Get a Drink, with whom he had two daughters, and her sister Slow Woman, by whom he had four sons and another daughter.

Dull Knife first appears in white history in 1866, when he joined Red Cloud and the Oglala Sioux in ambushing U.S. soldiers under Captain William J. Fetterman traveling along the Bozeman Trail to reach the Montana gold fields. At the end of the Bozeman Trail War, the Northern Cheyennes signed the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie agreeing to settle on a reservation. The U.S. government gave them the choice of joining the Crows in Montana, the Sioux in Dakota, or the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos in Indian Territory. To force an early decision, the government withheld supplies, and the Northern Cheyennes signed an agreement on November 12, 1874, to move to Indian Territory whenever the U.S. government saw fit.

These arrangements were set aside, however, when the Black Hills Gold Rush led to war with the Sioux and their allies. The precipitating act was an ultimatum ordering the Indians to return to agencies in South Dakota by January 31, 1876. The Big Horn Expedition, intended to force the Indians back to their agencies, engaged the Sioux, Northern Cheyennes, and Northern Arapahos in several major battles, the most famous being Custer's fight on the Little Big Horn. Dull Knife was not in the Indian village that day, but his son Medicine Lodge was present and died in combat against the Seventh Cavalry.

The pivotal battle for the Northern Cheyennes occurred on the morning of November 25, 1876, when Colonel Ranald Mackenzie's force of 600 men of the 4th Cavalry and about 400 Indian scouts surprised Dull Knife's camp on the Red Forks of the Powder River. Reportedly killed in the fighting were one of Dull Knife's sons and a son-in-law. The dead numbered around 40, but destruction of the village and its contents sealed their fate. For all practical purposes, the campaign of 1876-77 ended the Indian wars on the Northern Plains.

Concern for their children caused Dull Knife and his people to surrender to the troops under Crook and Mackenzie in the spring of 1877. At Fort Robinson they learned that the government had decreed that all Northern Cheyennes would be sent to Indian Territory. Dull Knife and Little Wolf urged their tribesmen to abide by the wishes of the government. The Northern Cheyennes may have been led to believe that they could return to their tribal lands in a year if they did not like life in the south. The journey to Indian Territory began on May 28, 1877. In the group were 937 Northern Cheyennes. Seventy days later, on August 5, they arrived at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency, selecting a campsite about eight miles north.

Within a year, the Northern Cheyennes were ready to return to their homeland. Starved, ravaged by disease, preyed upon white gangs of horse thieves, unwilling to farm, critical of the civilized ways of their southern brethren, rankled by the fact that the Northern Arapahos had been allowed to remain in the north, and with 50 of their children dead, they had had enough. So at 10:10 p.m. on September 9 a party of 353 Cheyennes—92 men, 120 women, 69 boys, and 72 girls—quietly left the foreign place, leaving fires burning and lodge poles standing to fool distant military pickets. After discovery of their departure the next morning at three in the morning, the army's pursuit began, eventually involving 13,000 men in three military departments.

Following the route of the Texas Cattle Trail from Oklahoma through Kansas, Dull Knife and Little Wolf and their followers skirmished with army units on September 13 at Turkey Springs, September 14 at Red Hill, September 17 and 21-22 at Sand Creek, and September 27 at Punished Woman Creek, each time eluding the troops and continuing north. On the journey, Little Woman was killed by a horse that stampeded through the camp. When the fleeing Cheyennes reached northeast Kansas, warriors roamed the countryside, killing 40 male white settlers, some said in revenge for a mass killing of their kinsmen by whites in the area in 1875. In Nebraska, Dull Knife and Little Wolf separated, the former heading for Fort Robinson and Red Cloud Agency, the latter to the traditional Northern Cheyenne homeland in Montana.

On October 23, two companies of the 3rd Cavalry traveled up Chadron Creek and caught Dull Knife and his people. Taken to Fort Robinson, the Cheyennes learned on January 3 that the Washington government had decided they must be sent back to Indian Territory. When they refused, Post Commander Henry Wessells imprisoned the band in a cavalry barracks, cutting off heat, food, and water. Barricading doors and covering windows with cloth to conceal their movements, the captives tore up the floor and constructed rifle-pits to command the windows. At 10:10 at night on January 9, the Cheyennes began firing. The men moved forward through the windows with children under their arms, while the women followed, and once again Dull Knife and his band dashed for freedom. This time they were not so fortunate. Soldiers sent volley after volley into the fleeing band. Twenty-two men, eight women, and two children died in the initial exodus, including Dull Knife's daughter, Traveling Woman, who was carrying her 4-year-old sister on her back. The retreat continued for four miles in the darkness until the fugitives reached neighboring hills where pursuit was no longer possible.

Twelve days later, four companies of soldiers caught the largest number of remaining Cheyennes, pinning them down in an oblong depression about 40 miles from Fort Robinson. Twenty-three Indians were killed and nine captured, including two young girls, aged 14 and 15, discovered under the bodies of young men. The dead Indians were buried in the pit where they had hidden. In the meantime, Dull Knife, Slow Woman, and their remaining children had found a haven in the rocks, where they stayed for ten days, keeping alive by eating their moccasins. After eighteen days of wandering, they reached Pine Ridge, where they were hidden by Sioux relatives in a lodge under a little bluff on Wounded Knee Creek.

After wintering in a sheltered valley near the forks of the Niobrara River, Little Wolf and his followers headed north. On March 25, they surrendered to Lieutenant W. P. Clark on the Yellowstone and were sent to Fort Keogh. In November, Indian Bureau officials permitted the Northern Cheyenne at Pine Ridge to transfer to Montana to join the rest. At the request of General Nelson A. Miles, Dull Knife was allowed to return to the valley of the Rosebud. An Executive Order of November 26, 1884, established a permanent home for the Northern Cheyenne in south central Montana east of the Crow reservation.

Dull Knife spent his remaining years, embittered and grieving, in the hills of southern Montana. Among the dead he had left behind at Fort Robinson were two daughters and a son, bringing the total of his loved ones lost in a single year to a wife, three sons, and two daughters. Dull Knife died in 1883 at his son Bull Hump's home. In 1917 Cheyenne historian George Bird Grinnell had his remains and those of Little Wolf reinterred in the cemetery at Lame Deer, where they are today. □

In November 1876, about 700 cavalry and 400 Indian scouts led by Col. Ranald Mackenzie, burned the main village of the Northern Cheyenne to the ground near the Red Fork of Powder River about 20 miles west of present Kaycee, Wyo. Seven soldiers were killed and about 40 Cheyenne, but the economic and cultural loss to the tribe was devastating. The Northern Cheyenne surrendered to government authorities the following spring.

In the year of Custer’s defeat, Gen. George Crook led three expeditions into the Powder River country to subdue free-roaming Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne bands. The tribes defeated his troops twice and prevented them from linking up with Custer. On the third expedition, Crook’s soldiers destroyed Dull Knife’s village of Northern Cheyenne.


Chief Dull Knife College was originally chartered in September, 1975, by Tribal Ordinance as the Northern Cheyenne Indian Action Program, Incorporated, and granted funding by the Indian Technical Assistance Center of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council appointed six directors to manage the affairs of the corporation.

Previously known as Dull Knife Memorial College, CDKC was renamed in 2001 to emphasize the significance of Dull Knife as a chief and respected historical leader of the Northern Cheyenne people. Chief Dull Knife, also known as Chief Morning Star, fighting with great courage and against overwhelming odds, led his band of Northern Cheyenne back to our homeland to maintain the sovereignty of our tribe. Reflecting Chief Dull Knife’s determination, the College’s primary mission is to provide educational and cultural leadership to its constituents.

Although the original curriculum of the College was directed at training students for mining jobs near the reservation, the College has quickly expanded its offerings to include post-secondary transfer programs. The College offers a variety of Associate degrees, certificate programs, and maintains articulation agreements with institution within the Montana University system that facilitate seamless transfer for students. With the addition of interactive television technology at CDKC, the College has also been able to expand opportunities for upper level students to complete advanced degrees on-line.

As the student population has steadily increased, so has the need to acquire new facilities and the campus has utilized sustainable greenbuild technology to construct buildings to house Adult Literacy, technology, daycare, and visiting lecturer facilities. All of the facilities were designed and built using sustainable straw bale construction in cooperation with the American Indian Housing initiative. In addition, the campus houses the Dr. John Woodenlegs Memorial Library, a state-of-the-art library that serves both the College and community, a Learning Center that provides both educational and technological access for student research and study, and numerous computer, math and science laboratories.

Photos from Dull Knife Battlefield


WY Man
Full Member

Post by WY Man on Apr 4, 2009 16:23:49 GMT -5

These are photos I took at the Dull Knife Battlefield, Wyoming, during the September, 2008 Order of the Indian Wars fieldtrip. It was a fabulous opportunity to be able to see this incredible battlefield, which is in private ownership. The landowner, Cheri Graves, is an acknowledged expert on this obscure but pivotal Indian battle, that occurred on November 25th, 1876 during blizzard conditions. We were shown over about 3 miles of the battlefield in the rugged Red Fork of Powder River Canyon, and we had lunch in the timber bottom, on the site of the Indian village. Special appreciation is due the Graves family for their stewardship in maintaining this important battlefield, and their kindness in making it accessible to outside researchers.

On the red formation at the right, Ranald Mackenzie gave orders to his adjutant during the battle.

On the tops of a long line of red bluffs, including the one pictured here, the Shoshone scouts fired into the Cheyenne village on the river.

Cheri Graves, on the right, discusses details of the battle to interested listeners during the lunch break.

Full Member

The Dull Knife Fight, 1876: Troops Attack a Cheyenne Village on the Red Fork of Powder River

In 1874, after 20 years of bitter, intermittent warfare between the U.S. Army and the Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux tribes, the U.S. government sent Lt. Col. George Custer and 1,000 troops into the Black Hills of Dakota Territory to look for gold. They found it, and the already testy relationship between the U.S. government and the tribes changed quickly for the worse—as quickly as a gold miner could grab his pan.

Beginning then and continuing throughout 1875, prospectors flocked to the hills in such numbers that conflict with the Northern Cheyenne and Lakota became unavoidable. In an effort to control the situation, the government took action to round up the “northern roamers”—tribespeople who up to that point had still not moved to the reservations in Nebraska and Dakota territories. That campaign led to Custer’s death and the deaths of 210 of his men in southern Montana Territory at the Little Bighorn River, June 25, 1876.

After the battle, the large camp that Custer had attacked—around 8,000 Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho people—moved south, then east, and eventually disbanded. The Cheyenne traveled with Crazy Horse and his Oglala Lakota for nearly a month before leaving them and heading southwest, traveling along the western foothills of the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming Territory.

This was the main camp of the Northern Cheyenne their numbers have been estimated between 900 and 1,200. In November, they moved east over the Bighorns and raised 173 lodges at the place they called Willow Creek, since better known as the Red Fork of Powder River, about 20 miles west of present-day Kaycee, Wyo.

Here, two days later, on Nov. 25, 1876—five months to the day after Custer’s defeat—U.S. troops found them and burned their village to the ground. This little-known battle, referred to as the Dull Knife Fight or the Red Fork Battle, impacted the Cheyenne people during the Indian Wars even more than did the Little Bighorn fight.

Though the Dull Knife Fight is the most common name used for this encounter, Little Wolf was by this time the primary leader in the Cheyenne camp. Dull Knife was a much loved and respected older leader who impressed government officials with statesmanlike qualities during their early dealings with the tribe. Later he was a key figure in the Fort Robinson Breakout in Nebraska in 1879. Dull Knife’s Cheyenne name was Morning Star the name Dull Knife was given him by Lakota relatives.

On this excursion, Crook had set his sights on locating the camp of Crazy Horse, the recalcitrant Oglala Lakota war leader. As a result of his leadership at the Little Bighorn and at a fight a week earlier with Crook’s command on Rosebud Creek, Crazy Horse had recently come to the government’s attention as a prime figure in the Native resistance.

Crook used Indian spies and scouts to gather intelligence on the locations and plans of their kinsmen. As the troops moved north through the Powder River Basin, they camped beside Crazy Woman Creek, a Powder River tributary well north of present Kaycee and east of the Bighorn Mountains. Crook’s scouts captured a young Cheyenne, who under questioning revealed that the main camp of the Northern Cheyenne was secluded on the Red Fork of the Powder River, called by the tribes Willow Creek, about a two-day ride to the southwest.

Another Cheyenne, a spy who had arrived from the Lakota camps in the north, told Crook that Crazy Horse had no doubt heard soldiers were in the area and would certainly move his camp farther north, away from the encroaching danger.

Seizing this opportunity, Crook changed his objective and sent more than half his troops, under the command of Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie, into the Bighorn Mountains in search of the Cheyenne village. Mackenzie’s force consisted of 700 men in 11 companies of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th cavalry regiments. Augmenting these troops were more than 400 Indian scouts, including about 150 Lakota and Arapaho, more than 100 Pawnee and roughly the same number of Shoshone.

While all the scouts were promised a share in any horses captured in the maneuver, the Pawnee and Shoshone relished the added incentive of striking one last blow against their traditional enemies. Mackenzie’s scouts also included nine worried Northern Cheyenne—who knew they might soon be asked to fight against their own tribesmen.

From their own scouts, the Cheyenne in the village knew that soldiers were moving through the Powder River Basin. Many wanted to break camp right away and head north to rejoin Crazy Horse.

Most of the Council of Forty-Four, the tribe’s governing body, was in the village at the time. This included Little Wolf, Dull Knife and Old Bear, three of the four Old Man chiefs—Peace chiefs they were sometimes called—and most of the Council itself, comprised of four representatives from each of the ten Cheyenne bands. This body served to oversee most traditional and day-to-day activities, especially during large gatherings of the tribe.

Last Bull, head chief of the Kit Fox military society, which normally took direction from the Council, as did all the Cheyenne military societies, felt it was not necessary to leave, and declared a type of Cheyenne martial law. He ordered his warriors to cut the saddle and travois cinches on the horses of anyone who tried to leave camp and called for a scalp dance to celebrate his society’s recent victory over a small Shoshone village. He intended to fight the soldiers if they came.

The following morning, as the scalp dance concluded, Mackenzie’s troops—who had scrabbled their way through a treacherous maze of creeks and crevasses in the dark of night—attacked the village from the east end of the valley.

Mackenzie’s plan to quickly surround the village and isolate the horse herd was foiled when a herd sentry shot at Lakota scouts who bolted ahead of the main body of soldiers. The scouts returned fire and, in the vernacular of the day, this exchange of gunfire “opened the ball.”

Alerted to the cavalry’s charge, Cheyenne women, children and old people fled to the hills west and north of camp as their men rushed to defend the village and to give their loved ones more time to escape. The fighting was brief, but intense. The Shoshone scouts climbed a high bluff south of camp and laid down a heavy barrage of rifle fire, immediately gaining control of all activity in the village.

In their haste to escape, many of the camp’s inhabitants ran north across the creek and into deep, twisting trenches that were eroded by runoff from the high canyon wall further north. Seeing this, Mackenzie sent a detachment that included Lt. John McKinney to intercept them. The result was the most heated confrontation of the entire assault, when Walking Whirlwind and several other Cheyenne men rose suddenly from a steep-sided gully where they had been concealed, firing almost point-blank into the advancing cavalrymen and stopping the charge. McKinney was killed, as were Walking Whirlwind and several Cheyenne.

While the Cheyenne managed to save their two most powerful medicine bundles—the Four Sacred Arrows and the Sacred Buffalo Hat, the early morning assault caught many people in bed, forcing them to flee into the mountains wearing little or nothing. In addition to their clothing, all their lodges and winter stores as well as weapons, cooking utensils and other essentials, including most of the horse herd were left behind.

Historical and culturally significant items, such as winter counts, which recorded significant events of each past year, unique items such as a sacred ear of corn with great healing properties, shields, pipes, ceremonial dresses, and countless other heirlooms, all fell into the hands of Mackenzie’s men, or were burned along with the lodges. Much of traditional Cheyenne culture was lost as a result.

The pillaging soldiers were infuriated to find, mixed among the Cheyenne belongings, military trappings and personal effects of dead troops of the 7th Cavalry – taken after Custer’s ill-fated attack on the combined Cheyenne and Lakota camp the summer before.

Army casualties included McKinney and six enlisted men killed with twenty-two wounded. The Cheyenne estimated that they lost forty of their people, with twice as many wounded. However, consequences of the attack continued for them long after the shooting stopped.

That night, the Cheyenne headed north, over the canyon wall and into frigid mountain heights. The image of their homes being burned in the valley behind them haunted their steps, while in front of them, a November blizzard rolled toward them across the range. Eleven babies froze to death that first night.

It took them almost a week to exit the mountains, and nearly two weeks to find the camp of Crazy Horse, located near the east fork of Otter Creek in southeastern Montana Territory, a distance of nearly 150 miles from the battle site. The pitiful state of the Cheyenne filled their Lakota friends and relatives with fear. To see the Cheyenne so impoverished and badly beaten convinced many of the Lakota that their families could not risk the same fate.

While traveling with the Lakota camp, the Cheyenne in January took part in a subsequent battle, this one with troops under Gen. Nelson Miles, on Tongue River near present-day Birney, Montana. The fight ended in a draw and served only to support the growing resolve that the dream of driving the white man from their homeland was futile. By late spring 1877, the Northern Cheyenne and even Crazy Horse’s people had all surrendered.


  • Bourke, John Gregory and Charles M. Robinson. The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke, vol. 2, July 29, 1876, to April 7, 1878. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, 2005, 179-193. An eyewitness account by Gen. Crook’s aide-de-camp of Col. Mackenzie’s harrowing nighttime approach and early morning attack of the Northern Cheyenne’s winter camp.
  • Greene, Jerome A. Morning Star Dawn:The Powder River Expedition and the Northern Cheyennes, 1876. Vol. 2 of Campaigns and Commanders Series. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003. This is the most current and thorough examination of the fight on the Red Fork and its place in the history of the Plains Indian wars.
  • Grinnell, George B. The Fighting Cheyenne (Civilization of the American Indian Series). Norman, Okla. University of Oklahoma Press, 1983, 359-382. Originally published in 1915, this early and definitive work on Cheyenne culture describes their friendly and wartime interactions with other tribes as well as with U.S. soldiers. , Peter J. People of the Sacred Mountain: A History of the Northern Cheyenne Chiefs and Warrior Societies, 1830-1879. Vol. 2, pt. 4. New York: Harper Collins, 1981, 1056-1071. A meticulous rendering of Northern Cheyenne history told in short episodes originally passed through the generations via oral tradition and detailing everything from anecdotal to important historical events.
  • Smith, Sherry L. Sagebrush Soldier: Private William Earl Smith's View of the Sioux War of 1876. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001, 44-88. The unvarnished story of the Red Fork Battle told through the eyes of an enlisted man, Pvt. William Earl Smith, who documented his participation in the Powder River Expedition.
  • Ricker, Eli S. “The Indian Interviews of Eli S. Ricker, 1903-1919.” In Voices of the American West, vol. 1, Lincoln, Neb.: Bison Books, 2012, 1-121. Contains an in-depth interview with Billy Garnett who was among the scouts who “opened the ball,” at the Red Fork Battle. Garnett was a key figure in this fight and in the 1877 death of the Lakota leader Crazy Horse.

For further reading and research

  • Cozzens, Peter. “Ulysses S. Grant Launched an Illegal War Against the Plains Indians, Then Lied About it.” Smithsonian Magazine, November 2016, accessed March 12, 2020 at A look at the dissembling, chicanery and coverup in the Grant administration and the U.S. Army in the leadup to and the aftermath of the Great Sioux War of 1876.

The Dull Knife battlefield is located on private land on the Red Fork of Powder River, north of Barnum, Wyo., and northwest of Kaycee.

All About Pocket Knives

Mumbleypeg Gold Tier
Posts: 9933 Joined: Fri Apr 18, 2014 1:28 am Location: Republic of Texas

Re: Brantford Cutlery Co. U.S.A. Never Dull

Post by Mumbleypeg » Mon Oct 14, 2019 1:47 pm

Nice find. Brantford Cutlery knives are not well known but not uncommon either - good old brand. Lots of info and pictures of various patterns can be found using the search function. Here's a couple of posts with pictures.

When the people fear their government, that is tyranny. When government fears the people, that is freedom.

edge213 Gold Tier
Posts: 5011 Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2014 12:48 am Location: The Crossroads of America

Dull Knife (Cheyenne Chief), -1879

RG0965.AM: Dull Knife (Cheyenne Chief), -1879

Papers: 1877-1879, 1931, 1935
Cheyenne Indian Chief
Size: 1 folder


This collection contains miscellaneous reports and correspondence concerning Dull Knife, Cheyenne Chief, which were written in the eary 1930s. Included are:

"Strategic Return of the Dull Knife Band of Cheyenne Indians Which Resulted in Their Death in 1879" by E.A. Brininstool
"The Dull Knife Raid of 1878," research by H.S. Robinson
"Indian Raid in 1878 -- Under Cheyenne Chief Dull Knife" by A.N. Keith
"Report of Brig. Gen. George Crook, Headquarters Department of the Platte, Fort Omaha, Nebraska, Sept. 27, 1879"
"Cheyenne Outbreak of 1878"
Northern Cheyenne Raid"

There is also correspondence between Mike Gilmore, a former member of the Cavalry, and A.E. Sheldon, as well as a map with the probable route of Dull Knife's Band.


RG0789.AM: Earl Alonzo Brininstool, 1870-1957

See the NSHS Library collections for various publications about Dull Knife.


Brininstool, E.A. (Earl Alonzo), 1870-1957
Cheyenne Indians -- Government relations
Cheyenne Indians -- History
Crook, George, 1829-1890
Dull Knife (Cheyenne Chief), -1879
Fort Robinson (Neb.)
Indians of North America -- Government relations
Keith, A.N.
Robinson, H.S.
Sheldon, Addison Erwin, 1861-1943

Revised 05-14-2008 TMM

For additional information about this collection, please contact our Library Staff.

The Life of Dull Knife, the Cheyenne Chief

The life of Dull Knife, the Cheyenne, is a true hero tale. Simple, child-like yet manful, and devoid of selfish aims, or love of gain, he is a pattern for heroes of any race.

Dull Knife was a chief of the old school. Among all the Indians of the plains, nothing counts save proven worth. A man's caliber is measured by his courage, unselfishness and intelligence. Many writers confuse history with fiction, but in Indian history their women and old men and even children witness the main events, and not being absorbed in daily papers and magazines, these events are rehearsed over and over with few variations. Though orally preserved, their accounts are therefore accurate. But they have seldom been willing to give reliable information to strangers, especially when asked and paid for.

Racial prejudice naturally enters into the account of a man's life by enemy writers, while one is likely to favor his own race. I am conscious that many readers may think that I have idealized the Indian. Therefore I will confess now that we have too many weak and unprincipled men among us. When I speak of the Indian hero, I do not forget the mongrel in spirit, false to the ideals of his people. Our trustfulness has been our weakness, and when the vices of civilization were added to our own, we fell heavily.

It is said that Dull Knife as a boy was resourceful and self-reliant. He was only nine years old when his family was separated from the rest of the tribe while on a buffalo hunt. His father was away and his mother busy, and he was playing with his little sister on the banks of a stream, when a large herd of buffalo swept down upon them on a stampede for water. His mother climbed a tree, but the little boy led his sister into an old beaver house whose entrance was above water, and here they remained in shelter until the buffalo passed and they were found by their distracted parents.

Dull Knife was quite a youth when his tribe was caught one winter in a region devoid of game, and threatened with starvation. The situation was made worse by heavy storms, but he secured help and led a relief party a hundred and fifty miles, carrying bales of dried buffalo meat on pack horses.

Another exploit that made him dear to his people occurred in battle, when his brother-in-law was severely wounded and left lying where no one on either side dared to approach him. As soon as Dull Knife heard of it he got on a fresh horse, and made so daring a charge that others joined him thus under cover of their fire he rescued his brother-in-law, and in so doing was wounded twice.

The Sioux knew him as a man of high type, perhaps not so brilliant as Roman Nose and Two Moon, but surpassing both in honesty and simplicity, as well as in his war record. (Two Moon, in fact, was never a leader of his people, and became distinguished only in wars with the whites during the period of revolt.) A story is told of an ancestor of the same name that illustrates well the spirit of the age.

It was the custom in those days for the older men to walk ahead of the moving caravan and decide upon all halts and camping places. One day the councilors came to a grove of wild cherries covered with ripe fruit, and they stopped at once. Suddenly a grizzly charged from the thicket. The men yelped and hooted, but the bear was not to be bluffed. He knocked down the first warrior who dared to face him and dragged his victim into the bushes.

The whole caravan was in the wildest excitement. Several of the swiftest-footed warriors charged the bear, to bring him out into the open, while the women and dogs made all the noise they could. The bear accepted the challenge, and as he did so, the man whom they had supposed dead came running from the opposite end of the thicket. The Indians were delighted, and especially so when in the midst of their cheers, the man stopped running for his life and began to sing a Brave Heart song as he approached the grove with his butcher knife in his hand. He would dare his enemy again!

The grizzly met him with a tremendous rush, and they went down together. Instantly the bear began to utter cries of distress, and at the same time the knife flashed, and he rolled over dead. The warrior was too quick for the animal he first bit his sensitive nose to distract his attention, and then used the knife to stab him to the heart. He fought many battles with knives thereafter and claimed that the spirit of the bear gave him success. On one occasion, however, the enemy had a strong buffalo-hide shield which the Cheyenne bear fighter could not pierce through, and he was wounded nevertheless he managed to dispatch his foe. It was from this incident that he received the name of Dull Knife, which was handed down to his descendant. As is well known, the Northern Cheyennes uncompromisingly supported the Sioux in their desperate defense of the Black Hills and Big Horn country. Why not? It was their last buffalo region -- their subsistence. It was what our wheat fields are to a civilized nation.

About the year 1875, a propaganda was started for confining all the Indians upon reservations, where they would be practically interned or imprisoned, regardless of their possessions and rights. The men who were the strongest advocates of the scheme generally wanted the Indians' property -- the one main cause back of all Indian wars. From the warlike Apaches to the peaceful Nez Perces, all the tribes of the plains were hunted from place to place then the government resorted to peace negotiations, but always with an army at hand to coerce. Once disarmed and helpless, they were to be taken under military guard to the Indian Territory.

A few resisted, and declared they would fight to the death rather than go. Among these were the Sioux, but nearly all the smaller tribes were deported against their wishes. Of course those Indians who came from a mountainous and cold country suffered severely. The moist heat and malaria decimated the exiles. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces and Chief Standing Bear of the Poncas appealed to the people of the United States, and finally succeeded in having their bands or the remnant of them returned to their own part of the country. Dull Knife was not successful in his plea, and the story of his flight is one of poignant interest.

He was regarded by the authorities as a dangerous man, and with his depleted band was taken to the Indian Territory without his consent in 1876. When he realized that his people were dying like sheep, he was deeply moved. He called them together. Every man and woman declared that they would rather die in their own country than stay there longer, and they resolved to flee to their northern homes.

Here again was displayed the genius of these people. From the Indian Territory to Dakota is no short dash for freedom. They knew what they were facing. Their line of flight lay through a settled country and they would be closely pursued by the army. No sooner had they started than the telegraph wires sang one song: "The panther of the Cheyennes is at large. Not a child or a woman in Kansas or Nebraska is safe." Yet they evaded all the pursuing and intercepting troops and reached their native soil. The strain was terrible, the hardship great, and Dull Knife, like Joseph, was remarkable for his self-restraint in sparing those who came within his power on the way.

But fate was against him, for there were those looking for blood money who betrayed him when he thought he was among friends. His people were tired out and famished when they were surrounded and taken to Fort Robinson. There the men were put in prison, and their wives guarded in camp. They were allowed to visit their men on certain days. Many of them had lost everything there were but a few who had even one child left. They were heartbroken.

These despairing women appealed to their husbands to die fighting: their liberty was gone, their homes broken up, and only slavery and gradual extinction in sight. At last Dull Knife listened. He said: "I have lived my life. I am ready." The others agreed. "If our women are willing to die with us, who is there to say no? If we are to do the deeds of men, it rests with you women to bring us our weapons.

As they had been allowed to carry moccasins and other things to the men, so they contrived to take in some guns and knives under this disguise. The plan was to kill the sentinels and run to the nearest natural trench, there to make their last stand. The women and children were to join them. This arrangement was carried out. Not every brave had a gun, but all had agreed to die together. They fought till their small store of ammunition was exhausted, then exposed their broad chests for a target, and the mothers even held up their little ones to be shot. Thus died the fighting Cheyennes and their dauntless leader.

Dull Knife - History

Highlights of our Itinerary
OCTOBER 11: arrive Billings, Montana, check into the Boothill Inn & Suites (free airport shuttle). We&rsquoll kick things off Monday night (7:00pm) with a pizza/beer/wine reception. Meet your host & tour guide, pick up your map packet and other registration info, and hear an orientation talk by Neil to set the stage for the rest of the week.
OCTOBER 12: breakfast at the hotel (included). 8:15 a.m. bus departure. First stop, Canyon Creek Battlefield (Flight of the Nez Perce). Lunch stop in Hardin, Montana (we'll picnic at the Big Horn County Museum, then tour the museum). First stop after lunch: a quick drive up the bluffs to see the site of Fort Custer, established in 1877). For the balance of the afternoon, we&rsquoll explore the site of the Hayfield Fight , the Connor Battlefield (on the Tongue River near present-day Ranchester, Wyoming) and Sawyer&rsquos fight (where the Bozeman Trail crossed the Tongue). Last, we&rsquoll examine General George Crook&rsquos campsite, before checking into our hotel in Sheridan. Dinner on your own. Lodging for the next three nights will be at the Holiday Inn, Sheridan Convention Center (included in registration).
OCTOBER 13: breakfast at the hotel (included). 8:15 a.m. bus departure. First stop, a rare visit to the Dull Knife Battlefield, where Col. Ranald Mackenzie with over 1,000 cavalry and Indian scouts attacked a Cheyenne village on the Red Fork of Powder River, on November 25, 1876. Box lunch provided. Other stops on this day: Fort Reno ruins on the Powder River, and a visit to the site of the Templeton fight, July 20, 1866, on the Bozeman Trail. Overnight in Sheridan (Holiday Inn, Sheridan Convention Center). Dinner on your own.
OCTOBER 14: breakfast at the hotel (included). 8:15 a.m. bus departure. On this day we&rsquoll visit the incomparable Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum , in Buffalo, Wyoming, followed by a stop at the historic Fort Phil Kearny Museum . After lunch in Sheridan (on your own), Neil will conduct the group on walking tours of the Fetterman Battlefield , and the Wagon Box Fight. From there, we&rsquoll retire to our Sheridan hotel (Holiday Inn, Sheridan Convention Center). Dinner on your own.
OCTOBER 15: After breakfast in Sheridan (included with the hotel), we'll depart at 8:15am and go directly to the pristine Rosebud Battlefield, the critical prelude to the Little Bighorn. Due to time constraints, we'll walk to the Buffalo Jump area of the park (foregoing the much longer hike up Crook's Hill). Upon departing Rosebud, we'll follow the Tongue River Road to the Wolf Mountain Battlefield, where Crazy Horse attacked General Miles in the last major combat of the Great Sioux War. From there, we'll visit Lame Deer, the tribal and government agency headquarters of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. There, we'll visit the site of the Lame Deer Fight, and pay respects at the graves of Dull Knife and Little Wolf. At nearby Busby, we'll visit the grave of celebrated Cheyenne Chief Two Moon. After a delicious Indian Taco at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post (included in your registration), and perusal of the bookstore there, Neil will take us as close as the bus can get to the Crow's Nest, the vantage point in the Wolf Mountains from which Custer's scouts first spied the Indian pony herd in the Little Bighorn Valley. Our route then takes us down Reno Creek to the Little Bighorn, with drive-by discussions of Reno's skirmish line and Valley Fight. By late afternoon, we'll make our way to the Reno-Benteen Defense Site, and finish the day at Weir Point on the battlefield. Return to the Boothill Inn in Billings. Dinner on your own.
OCTOBER 16: after breakfast at the hotel (included), we'll depart at 8:15am and drive straight to the Little Bighorn National Monument Visitor Center for some time in the museum and bookstore, and get reoriented. Picking up from where we left off, we'll work our way with Custer's battalion to Calhoun Hill, and the Keogh sector. Box lunches will be provided back at the Visitor Center for a quick respite, then it's off to the 7th Cavalry Memorial and the Indian Memorial to discuss Custer's Last Stand. To close the day, we'll walk through Custer National Cemetery to hear some brief talks at the graves of some of Custer's Indian scouts, and other notable figures like Marcus Reno, and William Fetterman. We'll save time for you to take the self-guided walk down Deep Ravine Trail. Then it's back to the Boothill Inn in Billings.

BONUS : Back at the Boothill Inn, as time permits, we&rsquoll walk across the street to the Boothill Cemetery and hear the story of Muggins Taylor, a scout with Gibbon's column who carried news of the battle to Bozeman. Our stop at Taylor's grave marks the end of our tour. [While you're in the vicinity, make sure to visit the Yellowstone County Museum, not far from our hotel, near the entrance to the airport. It's a small affair, but they have a nice collection. Particularly noteworthy is their collection of Ghost Shirts. Also of interest along the rimrocks trail is the grave of Yellowstone Kelly, overlooking Billings.]

( NOTE: if you wish to stay over at the hotel on October 16 (the Saturday night on our last tour day), please extend your reservation (that night is not included in your tour registration, but the Boothill Inn will extend the same rate). If you're headed to the airport, hotel shuttle or other transportation can be arranged&mdashit is a short distance from the Boothill Inn.

Watch the video: Γιώργος Ρωμανός-Βράδυ θαμπό (August 2022).