Table of Contents


The information on this page is reprinted by permission from a well researched manuscript entitled “John Grass, American Indian Patriot “written by Angela A. Green Boleyn, and completed in the Moon of the Tipsin Buds, 1961, dedicated to all Grass family members, and later gifted by her family heirs at her request, to the remaining Grass family dynasty. At the Grass family’s behest, the original manuscripts and supportive documents and photos are now safely housed in the archives and copyrighted by the South Dakota Historical Society. With all the necessary permissions in place, we soon hope to edit and publish these manuscripts in book and e-book formats for general readership worldwide.

“7. Mato Watapke, Charging Bear, the first son of Used As Their Shield, is better known to white history as ‘John Grass’ – John Grass of Sioux wars and treaty fame. To the Sioux he was known as the Sovereign who “with the Pipe held before him”, led his people along the compulsory new road white men had made with their sharp guns and cannon.

As a youth and young warrior he knew the wonder of this shining land even as he realized the blight that threatened it. At the age of fourteen he had been taken by his father and grandfather to the Laramie Treaty of 1851 and there witnessed at first hand “the pattern of the white brother’s behavior”. In 1864 he watched his people struck by General Sully as they peacefully hunted buffalo and he vowed he would find a way to “the stand between them and white soldiers”. This book is an effort to show his struggle. He was a sovereign from 1873 until his death in 1918 at the age of eighty-one.”

Re-printed at this website by permission, direct quotes from manuscript: “John Grass – American Indian Patriot” (loose leaf) written by Angela A. Green Boleyn, held in the Archives of the South Dakota Historical Society © Registration Number TXu000562111 Date 1993-03-26


BOOK I. The Shadow of the Long Knives Lengthens Across the Sioux Empire

1. A Sovereign Is Born

2. A Black Robe Makes Ceremony

3. Training for Leadership

4. The Pipe is Smoked at Horse Creek

5. Swift to Strike the Enemy, Swift to Get Away

6. Paper Chiefs Are Made by White Whiskers

7. The Teton Council at Bear Butte

8. Above the Law of the Soldiers’ Lodge

9. Long Soldier Strikes the Sihasapas

BOOK II. The Death Struggle

1. The Captive White Woman

2. Death of Paints Himself Red

3. A Small Paper is Made

4. “Walk Easy, My Brother”

5. A Maiden to Sit by His Side

6. John Grass Signs His First Treaty

7. Waken Tanka’s Greatest Gift

8. The Right to Wear White Paint

9. Iron Horses Scream Across the Plains

10. The Great Robe of Soverignty

11. Treaty with an Ancient Enemy

12. John Grass Sends the War Pipe to His Nation

13. March to the Valley of the Little Big Horn

14. Custer was the First to Die

BOOK III. The Bitter Cup of Civilization

1. “I Dreaded the Arresting of the People”

2. Death Song for Pa H Sapa and a Conqured People

3. “They Tried to Put Another in My Place”

4. “Not With Willing Hearts”

5. To Judge His People

6. “I Speak for All the Sioux”

7. As a Lance Through the Heart

8. “Even God Can’t Bring Back the Buffalo”

9. “Great Father, Hear My Cry”

10. “As a Man Afoot is Ridden Down by Four Horsemen”

11. The Indians’ Sun Sets

12. The White Son

13. Burying the Broken Arrow

14. The Big Guns Speak Again

15. The Great Peace Chief Dies

16. John Grass Belongs to History







Re-printed at this website by permission, direct quotes from manuscript “John Grass -American Indian Patriot” (loose leaf) written by Angela Boleyn, gifted from her relatives to the Grass family for publication, then donated by the Grass family in the late 1900’s, for safekeeping, to be held in the Archives of the South Dakota Historical Society © Registration Number TXu000562111 Date 1993-03-26

<strong>(scanned directly from original manuscripts by permission)</strong>

Dedicated to all relatives of

Charging Bear …

John Grass

The Teton-Sioux and Cheyenne were part of an Important page in American history when they wiped out Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the C,E,F,I, and L Companies of the Seventh Calvary on June 25, 1S76. Shrouded in mystery for 120-years, the engagement has been vastly read and disputed. The time has come for the discrepancies to be brought to an end and tell the story from the Indian’s point of view from the leader, Charging Bear, who was “the strategist of the Lakota and Cheyenne battle plan.”

However, this bock is not primarily about that bri11iant coup de grace. It is the life story of the man who planned and executed it… Charging Bear, otherwise known as John Grass, the Sovereign of the Sioux Nation and Chief of the Sihasapa tribe.

He had the distinction of being the first Sioux arrested following the battle.

To understand the carnage John Grass’ strategy wrought that day, is to be aware of the power he was able draw from the people of both nations. Extracting the promise of life-time secrecy concerning their fore-knowledge of the three-pronged pincher of inarching cavalry soldiers with the plan to entrap the Indians. —

In turn, the Indians were able to maneuver into place silently, knowing in advance where to meet the soldiers. As previously mentioned, John Grass was arrested and stood trial before a board of three Army officers for “acts hostile to the United States.”

It is necessary to understand this great Indian leader and how he saw himself, how his People saw him. A humble man fighting for their home…the land on which they lived, land that gave them their food, shelter, a hard life…but a life of honor. His vision was one where his People would live in peace with the white man.

To the American historians, John Grass was the controversial figure who dominated the state of Teton-Sioux history from 1868, when he signed his first treaty with the United States and made his first recorded speech, to his death in 1918. During that period he was termed by them “the last monumental Sioux Chieftain”, “diplomat and statesman”, “foremost strategist, red or white, of his time”. Other terms that Charging Bear was described as were: “Peace Chief and Treaty Signer”, “Premier of the Sioux Nation”, “a man whose intelligence and ability would be concede anywhere”, “the greatest living Indian”, “a brave man but never a warrior”.

It is also written that he was “chief advisor” to Sitting Bull, the acknowledged leader of the hostile Sioux… those who forcibly resisted the advance of the whites. That he (Charging Bear) assembled the warriors for the Battle of the Little Big Horn; that “he was in the battle, but in a minor role, and that the Sioux never had an over-all chieftain…” I find this statement unfounded as Charging Bear was the strategist, which I cannot see as being a minor role. He was in the battle giving the warriors their directions. It was the statement “a brave man but never a warrior” that challenged my interest in 1938, to delve into both white and Indian records, to learn more about this remarkable chief who had attained such a position among his people. If he had never known the warpath, it did not stand to reason why he gained the position that he had. It was contrary to everything I had known or read about the Sioux and their culture.

I was born in Minnesota, land of the Isanti-Sioux, seven years after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Almost daily, for more than two decades, I saw Sioux in paint and feathers, heard the throbbing of their drums. I was raised on stories about these people…their warfare with other Indian tribes and with whites, every possible surmise concerning their “slaughter of Custer” and their final subjugation.

Soldiers and scouts, who had fought Indians, often “dropped in” at my father’s homestead on the Mississippi River north of Brainerd. Their accounts added many exciting side-lights to the general interest and made western Sioux names familiar to me. Charging Bear (John Grass), Gall, Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, Crazy Horse. Others were Little Woundr Kill eagle, Fire Heart, Little Thunder, Running Antelope. Young Man Afraid of His Horses, Two Bears, American Horse, Mad Bear and Tall Mandan and many others became as familiar to me as the names of the white officers who led charges against them. It was “common talk” that these Indians were in the Custer Battle.

North Dakota then became my home. Dakota Territory, land of the Teton-Sioux, was divided into two sovereign states…North and South Dakota in 1889, which embraced the Great Sioux Reservation, which was the locale of most of the John Grass story. I have always know and been interested in the Sioux.

To me, these soft-spoken people with their expressive sign language, Holy Pipe and intricate Kinship system, who had evolved one of the most remarkable schemes for communal living known to man, have always been a source of wonder and enchantment and the thudding of their drums a call to tipi circle and camp fire. I have lived in their homes, sat in their councils, watched the purposeful steps of their dances, and been instructed in the meaning of their ceremonials which glow with color, beauty and spiritual significance. While I have known them only on reservations after their subjugation, their eye still held the proud eagle look of far horizons and they still reverence Mother Earth…the land. From them I know I would eventually learn the truth about John Grass.

I soon discovered that the secrecy surrounding John Grass and the Sihasapa tribe stemmed from his participation in the destruction of Custer and his soldiers. Following that affair, both John Grass1 importance and that of the Sihasapa’s were deliberately played down by the Sioux for his protection. This I realized had led to many of the inaccuracies made by white recorders. . .among them the belief that the Sioux never had an over-all sovereign –

While engaged in this study, I have traveled many trails covering thousands of miles in search of Indian and white history or to verify information. Many of the facts brought to 1ight, like the true status of John Grass, are at variance with generally accepted statements about early day happenings. Such another instance is the stabbing of Gall. I have found several versions. It is purported to have taken place at three different forts, an Indian camp, by soldiers, by Indians and for various reasons. I have used the story told by John Grass. I believe it is the true account. It explains the remarkable lifetime friendship between John Grass and Gall that surmounted personal jealousies and disagreements on policy in Sioux affairs which took place only after the Indians had been conquered and were under constant pressure by the government. It exemplified Kinship as known and practiced by John Grass when in 1913 he named Gall the second greatest Sioux, placing only the renowned Red Cloud before him.

I found a vast historical data on John Grass preserved in The National Archives, The Smithsonian Institution, The Bureau of American Ethnology, The Library of Congress, The War Department and The Department of Indian Affairs, in Washington, District of Columbia; in the State Historical Societies of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas; in public and private libraries; in old Indian agency records, letters, ration and census rolls and other seemingly endless minutiae in the Archives of Standing Rock Agency, Fort Yates, North Dakota; in the writings of early day historians, missionaries, Indian Agents, Army officers and other pioneer recorders. No other Indian has been more photographed and about no other Indian has there been so much speculation, conjecture, and misunderstanding.

The above quote is re-printed at this website by permission, a direct quote from manuscript
“John Grass – American Indian Patriot” (loose leaf) written by Angela Boleyn, held in the Archives of the
South Dakota Historical Society © Registration Number TXu000562111 Date 1993-03-26


To research a book such as this one is, we have had contact with a wide variety of sources for information. Our thanks are extended to the many persons who became involved in this search for the truth. Those who have contributed to the Charging Bear (John Grass) story are: Mr. L.C. Lippert, superintendent at Standing Rock Reservation. Mr. Lippert extended permission to use the agency archives. He also gave me a photograph of the painted buffalo robe, depicting the Custer Battle, which had been presented to Theodore Roosevelt; Mr. Tom Sky who was employed to arrange and file all records, including those of Grand River


Agency, which were brought to Standing Rock in 1873; Mr. Frank Fiske, a photographer at Fort Yates, and his wife; Mr. and Mrs. Basil Two Bears, Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Standing Soldier, Mrs. Josephine Waggonner, Callus Leg, Otter Robe, James All Yellow.

I am also indebted to the following people who have assisted me in this study: My mother, Mrs. H. Green, my sister Alice and har husband E.E.Hewitt, Mr. J. W. Morrissey, and Mrs. Alma Higgle Talmadge. Miss Inga Sinning, the librarian at the Fargo, North Dakota Public Library. Miss Clara Richards who was the 1ibrarian at the Fargo (ND) Masonic Library and a special thanks to Mr. Anderson, the present librarian.

Click below to go directly to the Manuscripts’ Forward.


Chief Charging Bear (John Grass): 1837 – 1918. Civil Chief to the blackfoot-Sioux and Chief of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

A Brief History of the Descendants of Chief John Grass

1. Chief John Grass – Little Big Horn 1876

2. Thomas Grass – Scout for U.S. Army 1890 – 1900

3. Jim Grass – Scout for U.S. Army 1890 – 1900

4. John Grass – World War I. Member of the Personal Staff Band for General John J. Pershing Band

5. Albert Grass – World War I. Silver Decoration, U.S. Army

6. Duke Grass – World War I. Silver Decoration, U.S. Army

7. Evelyn Grass (Gabe) r World War II

8. Nueman Grass – World War II

9. {Conflicts) Levi Blunt – U.S. Army

10. Richard Grass – U.S.M.C.

11. Louis Grass – U.S.M.C.

12. Conrad Grass – U.S. Navy. Silver Star Decoration, Viet Nam

13. Duke Grass, Jr. – U.S. Army

14. Donald Grass – U.S. Army

15. Nadine Grass – U.S. Army

16. Lynett Grass – U.S. Army

17. Richard Elk Boy – U.S. Army

18. Herman Elk Boy – U.S. Army

Re-printed at this website by permission, direct quotes from manuscript “John Grass – American Indian Patriot” (loose leaf) written by Angela Boleyn, gifted from her relatives to the Grass family for publication, then donated by the Grass family in the late 1900’s, for safekeeping, to be held in the Archives of the South Dakota Historical Society © Registration Number TXu000562111 Date 1993-03-26