Here’s some historical background about the run from News From Indian Country:
The history for the Breakout Run dates back to 1877, when Cheyenne leaders Dull Knife, Little Wolf, Standing Elk and Wild Hog brought their people into Fort Robinson for what they hoped would be safe haven from the impending harsh winter. Dull Knife and Little Wolf thought their signatures on the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 would allow them to live with the Lakota on that nation’s nearby reservation.
But they soon found themselves – and their people – being escorted to “Indian Territory,” now Oklahoma, to live with the Southern Cheyenne. Assured that they could return to Nebraska if Oklahoma didn’t suit them, the Cheyenne were held in captivity and under armed guard once they arrived at Fort Reno – hundreds of miles from their natural homeland.
In September of 1878, Dull Knife, Little Wolf and about 300 of their people staged an escape from Fort Reno and led over 15,000 soldiers and white settlers on a chase rivaled only by Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce. The group split up in Nebraska.
Some followed Little Wolf to the home of their ancestors between the Tongue and Powder Rivers in Montana. The rest returned with Dull Knife to Fort Robinson, where they hoped to gain assistance and support from the Lakota leader, Red Cloud. Instead, they found themselves in captivity once more and advised by the Fort’s com-mander that instructions from the War Depart-ment directed him to send the Cheyenne back to Oklahoma. Dull Knife and his people preferred to die rather than return to a land where food was scarce, summers were unbear-able and where so many of their children had died during a measles epidemic.
On January 9, 1879, the Cheyenne overpowered their guards and “broke out” of Fort Robinson, running to the safety of the nearby bluffs. The soldiers gave chase, killing any stragglers who fell behind – including women and children. By the following morning, 65 of Dull Knife’s people were returned to the Fort.
The cavalry hunted down 32 of the remaining 38 Cheyenne who had escaped, catching up to them at the Last Hole – a deep buffalo wallow near Hat Creek Bluffs. There they emptied their rifles, reloaded, and emptied them again and again – until no Cheyenne remained.
Dull Knife and members of his family managed to elude the soldiers and eventually made their way back to the safety of Montana, where Little Wolf and his people had already returned. The bodies of the dead were given to the Smithsonian Institute for research, where they remained in drawers and closets until 1993. They now rest in the ancestral burial ground where Whiteman and his runners finished their 400-mile journey.
The Fort Robinson run is being organized by Phillip Whiteman Jr. and Lynette Two Bulls of Yellow Bird Inc.
Keep us all in your prayers. We’ll do the same.