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Deer Medicine Rocks Dedication Ceremony

deer medicine rocks

deer medicine rocks

Hosted by the Northern Cheyenne People
Monday June 11, 2012
10:00 AM
John "Jack" & Carol Bailey Residence
5 miles north of Lame Deer, Montana
Highway 39 & Bailey Lane

Cordial Invitation by Leroy A. Spang, President Northern Cheyenne Tribe

We respectfully invite: Senator Max Baucus, Senator Jon Tester, Governor Brian Schweitzer, Congressman Denny Rehberg, Secretary Ken Salazar, Johnathan Jarvis - National Park Service Director, and Tribal Representatives to attend the Dedication Ceremony of the Deer Medicine Rocks site as a National Historic Landmark designated by the Honorable Ken Salazar, Secretary of the US Department of Interior.

For more information please contact Melissa Lonebear, Tribal Secretary (406) 477-4847

The Deer Medicine Rocks

The Deer Medicine Rocks stand out starkly against the red hills on Rosebud Creek, an often forgotten, but important, link to the end of the Indina Wars. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills on the Sioux reservation, a sacred dwelling place of spirits, brought thousands of illegal settlers to the area. The U.S. government tried to purchase the land back from the Sioux tribe, who refused to sell. The government promptly attempted to prove their power by removing the Indians from their unceded land that had been promised to them for their exclusive use for hunting. The commissioner of Indian Affairs, following the instructions of President Grant, ordered that all Sioux report inside the reservation. Any that refused would "be deemed hostile and treated accordingly by the military force." The U.S. Government officials thought that Sitting Bull, a Sioux leader of great power, and most other off-reservation Chiefs, were ignoring the government order. General George Crook took to the field in March of 1876 with 10 companies of cavalry and two of infantry to make good the U.S. government threat.

Word of the order given in the dead of winter was slow in getting out to the different bands of Indians due to the deep snow. Ironically, one of the first Indian encampments to be attacked was a friendly Cheyenne band on their way to their reservation. Sitting Bull took in the Cheyenne refugees. Calling a council, he said, "We must stand together or they will kill us separately. These soldiers have come shooting; they want war. All right, we'll give it to them." He then sent messengers to every Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho camp, both on reservation and off, to come together onthe Rosebud Creek. Sitting Bull chose this site because he had dreamt that he must find the large sandrock with prehistoric, carved pictures that were ever-changing. The rock was marked with a blue streak where it had been hit with lightening. He had this dream after he had prayed toward the sun to the creator. He prayed "Wakan Tanka, save me and give me all my wild game animals. Bring them near me, so that my people may have plenty to eat." He prayed for the Creator's aid in his people's battle against the whites, and he prayed for a vision of what the outcome of the battle would be. In return, Sitting Bull promised he would sponsor a sun dance for two days and two nights, the most solemn of religious ceremonies. He would offer up a "scarlet blanket" or a voluminous flow of his own blood. He also offered a buffalo.

Fifteen thousand Sioux and Cheyenne came to the camp on the Rosebud with approximately 28,000 horses, among them approximately 4,000 fighting men. Each tribe built their camp in a separate circle from the other tribes. All the people formed one big circle for the sun dance ceremony on the bank of the Rosebud, not far from the sacred rocks. The ceremony began with a virgin cutting a sacred tree. The chiefs of the camp carried the tree into the camp circle on poles, as if it had been the body of an enemy. It was dedicated and decorated with its symbols and its offerings. A square "bed" of ground was smoothed for the altar, a buffalo skull placed upon it, and a pipe was set up before the skull. Sitting Bull has danced the Sun Dance many times, and his chest and back were covered with scars from the ritual. The time had come for him to fulfill his promise to Wakan Tanka. Naked to the waist he went to the sacred pole, where he had decided to give one hundred pieces of his flesh from his arms. Jumping Bull, his adopted brother, agreed to do the cutting with his sharp steel awl and a very sharp knife. Jumping Bull crouched down next to Sitting Bull, and started near his wrist of his right arm and worked upwards.

He stuck the awl into the skin of the arm, lifted the skin clear of the flesh, and then used the knife. Each time he cut a small hole in Sitting Bull's skin. The cuts left trails of oozing blood which soon covered him. Sitting Bull held completely still through the entire process. He was wailing all the time, not out of pain, but to Wakan Tanka for mercy. The ordeal of slicing through the skin was done in about one-half of an hour with Jumping Bull's sure and steady hands. Sitting White Buffalo was also pierced at this dance. Having fulfilled his promise with his flesh, Sitting Bull then had to dance the sun-gazing dance. He faced to sun and began to dance, with the streaming blood beginning to congeal upon his body. He continued to dance that day, throughout the night, until noon the next day when the onlookers took his then faint body and laid it down. He then slipped into his vision. His followers threw cold water upon the great man to revive him. Sitting Bull had his vision - his offer had been accepted and his prayer heard.

Black Moon walked out into the middle of the enclosure and called out "Sitting Bull wishes to announce that he just heard a voice from above saying, 'I give you these because they have no ears.' He looked up and saw soldiers and some Indians on horseback coming down like grasshoppers, with their heads down and their hats falling off. They were falling right into our camp." The warriors were filled with confidence, as they knew what that meant. Those white men, who would not listen, who make war without just cause, were coming down their camp. Since they were coming upside down, the Indians knew the soldiers would be killed there. The people had what they wanted: Wakan Tanka would care for his own. Sitting Bull warned the people, "These dead soldiers who are coming are the gifts of God. Kill them, but do not take their guns or horses. Do not touch the spoils. If you set your hearts upon the goods of the white man, it will prove a curse to this nation." Twelve lesser chiefs heard this warning, but said nothing. All the people heard this, but some of them had no ears.

Sitting Bull's vision of the upside down soldiers was carved into the rock. The Cree scouts that rode with General George Armstrong Custer knew what the story in the rock told, and tried to leave the troops. They warned Custer that Sitting Bull's followers were sure to be victorious, but the General was looking for glory and did not listen. The moving Indian forces cut the lower branches of the trees overlooking Rosebud Creek and left directions to the valley where they were headed for their people who had not arrived in time for the Sun Dance to follow. Sitting Bull's vision is now written in history books, known as Custer's Last Stand at the Little Bighorn Battlefield.