Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Characters

Christopher Columbus

Famous Italian explorer whose voyage to America in 1492, undertaken on behalf of the Spanish monarchy, is often regarded as the beginning of the Age of Exploration: a time in which the European nation-states became… (read full character analysis)

Sitting Bull

The chief of the Teton Sioux tribe, Sitting Bull was a living symbol of resistance to the United States for most of his life. In the 1860s, outraged by the cruelty and aggression of white… (read full character analysis)

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse was an influential chief of the Oglala Tribe, who partnered with Sitting Bull to lead a series of successful guerilla attacks on the U.S. troops in the western United States—first at the Battle… (read full character analysis)

Manuelito

A Navaho chief who led a failed uprising against the U.S. army in the Southwest, Manuelito was one of the final holdouts against the U.S. military’s relocation plan for the Navahos. Instead of leading his… (read full character analysis)

General James Carleton

U.S. general who ordered the massacre of Apaches in the Southwest and ordered the relocation of the Navaho tribe onto small, barren reservations. Carleton is one of the most unambiguously cruel characters in Bury My(read full character analysis)
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Little Crow

Santee chief who led a failed uprising against the U.S. government in the 1860s. Little Crow is notable for having initially supported peace with the United States; however, he declared war after his people called… (read full character analysis)

President Abraham Lincoln

16th president of the United States. When several hundred members of the Santee tribe were sentenced to death in retaliation for a battle that many of them hadn’t fought, Lincoln refused to authorize the sentence… (read full character analysis)

Black Kettle

Lean Bear’s successor as leader of the Cheyennes. On the advice of William Bent, Black Kettle urged his people not to seek revenge through raids on white settlements. Convinced that the Cheyennes could… (read full character analysis)

William Bent

A white man who lived among the Cheyennes, Bent advised Black Kettle to avoid conflict with U.S. troops by keeping his people from retaliating against white settlers, and he helped Black Kettle and members of… (read full character analysis)

George Bent

Son of William Bent and brother of Charlie Bent. George and Charlie are notable for being two of the only half-white, half-Native American characters in the book. It’s telling, then, that they chose to… (read full character analysis)

Major Scott J. Anthony

Government agent who replaced Edward W. Wynkoop and later ordered the Sand Creek massacre, one of the darkest episodes in the history of the United States’ relationship with the Native American population. Brown suggests that… (read full character analysis)

Charlie Bent

Son of William Bent and brother of George Bent. Charlie, along with his brother, is notable for being one of the only half-white, half-Native American characters in the book. It’s telling, then, that they… (read full character analysis)

Roman Nose

Cheyenne chief who led a failed resistance to U.S. expansion in the mid-1860s. Roman Nose was, in many ways, a good example of the kind of Native American chief who became increasingly common in the… (read full character analysis)

General George Armstrong Custer

Famous American general who took a hard line against Native Americans. He consistently fought them, disrespected them, and refused to negotiate even over reasonable demands. Custer led the massacre of the Cheyennes who remained on… (read full character analysis)

General William Sherman

General William Sherman is a minor character in the book, but he appears in more chapters than any other. A famous, and infamous, Civil War general, Sherman organized the “March to the Sea,” which destroyed… (read full character analysis)

President Ulysses S. Grant

Civil War general and later president of the United States. Grant is notable, at least among post-Civil War American presidents, for being both a distinguished soldier and relatively sympathetic to Native American issues. As president… (read full character analysis)

Donehogawa / Ely Samuel Parker

Iroquois man who rose to become a successful engineer and later, through his friendship with President Ulysses S. Grant, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Parker fought to protect Native Americans from theft and attack… (read full character analysis)

Cochise

Apache chief who, inspired by his father-in-law, Mangas Colorado, waged war against white settlers in the Southwest. Cochise was a beloved, influential Apache chief, and as a result he was an important part of… (read full character analysis)

Red Cloud

Sioux chief who led a long but failed resistance to the U.S. military, culminating in the Sioux Peace Treaty of 1868, a document that paved the way for thirty more years of unlawful U.S. expansion… (read full character analysis)

General George Crook

George Crook is, along with General William Sherman, the most complex and ambiguous white character in the book. A brutal, notoriously cruel general in the 1870s, Crook was responsible for the forced relocation of… (read full character analysis)

Kintpuash

Young chief of the Modoc tribe who cooperated with the U.S. government until some of his men became involved in a violent conflict with U.S. soldiers in the early 1870s. Forced to choose between surrendering… (read full character analysis)

Young Joseph

Nez Percé chief and son of Old Joseph, who led a heroic but failed resistance to the U.S. military. Joseph is typical of Native American chiefs of the era: he first tried to cooperate… (read full character analysis)

Big Snake

Brother of a powerful Ponca chief, who was arrested and killed by U.S. troops for exercising the legal right to travel across the country and join his people in Nebraska. Big Snake’s death—supposedly an accident… (read full character analysis)

Nathan C. Meeker

Government agent who led negotiations with the Utes but later launched a full-scale smear campaign against them. Meeker was an important agent of cultural genocide against the Native American population: he made it his explicit… (read full character analysis)

Geronimo

Famous Apache-Chiricahua rebel and guerilla fighter who led a series of successful attacks on white settlers’ communities and supply lines, and later died a prisoner of war. Although Geronimo is one of the most famous… (read full character analysis)

Victorio

Ally of Geronimo, who was later captured and executed for his guerilla warfare against the United States. Between the late 1870s and the end of 1880, Victorio led some of the most destructive raids… (read full character analysis)

Buffalo Bill

Famous western explorer and soldier who, in the second half of his life, reinvented himself as an entertainer, whose Wild West Show was hugely popular in the Eastern United States. Buffalo Bill is a peripheral… (read full character analysis)

The Paiute Messiah

Mysterious Native American figure who launched the Ghost Dance movement in the 1880s and 1890s. The Ghost Dance movement was, for all intents and purposes, a Christian sect that embraced many Native American customs and… (read full character analysis)

Black Coyote

Unfortunate Sioux man whose age, confusion, and deafness may accidentally have sparked the Wounded Knee Massacre (although it’s possible that Black Coyote was a scapegoat). After U.S. soldiers marched Black Coyote and his fellow Sioux… (read full character analysis)

Satanta

Kiowa Chief who fought a war against the U.S. military for the sake of his people’s land rights. In the short term, Satanta was successful in raiding white settlements disrupting the American train system of… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
President Andrew Jackson
Tenth president of the United States and supporter of the infamous Indian Removal Act, which relocated Native Americans to the western United States.
Mangas Colorado
Apache Chief (father-in-law of Cochise) who waged war against U.S. settlers in the Southwest and was murdered by American soldiers while waving a truce flag.
Colonel Edward R. S. Canby
U.S. general who fought Manuelito in the 1860s and later waged war against the Modoc tribe, using deception and other “dirty tricks.” Canby was later slain by Kintpuash, the young chief of the Modoc tribe.
Kit Carson
Famous (and infamous) American explorer who, under orders from General James Carleton, was responsible for massacring Navahos and burning their fields in order to clear Navaho lands for white settlers. Carson followed Carleton’s cruel orders, despite the fact that he was married to a Native woman.
A. B. Norton
Navaho reservation superintendent who advocated for better reservation conditions. His advocacy, however, seemed centered on the fact that with better soil, the Navahos could grow their own food thereby saving the U.S. government money.
Thomas Galbraith
Government commissioner in charge of the Santee tribe who refused to allocate the tribe badly needed resources.
Wowinapa
Teenaged son of Little Crow who was imprisoned by U.S. troops and later became a Christian deacon.
Medicine Bottle
Follower of Little Crow who (with Shakopee) led the exiled Santees after Little Crow’s death. Medicine Bottle was captured by U.S. forces, unfairly tried, and sentenced to death.
Shakopee
Follower of Little Crow who (with Medicine Bottle) led the exiled Santees after Little Crow’s death. Shakopee was captured by U.S. forces, unfairly tried, and sentenced to death.
Lean Bear
Cheyenne chief who was killed in cold blood by American troops in 1864, sparking a wave of conflict between the Cheyennes and the U.S. military.
Governor John Evans
Governor of Colorado during the early 1860s, notorious for having taken a “hard line” against the Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapahos and for dismissing any government officials who favored compromise with the Native Americans.
Edward Wynkoop
U.S. military officer who became a friend and ally of the Southern Cheyennes, negotiating with and on behalf of Black Kettle. Though his friendliness with the Native Americans led Governor John Evans to fire him, Wynkoop later became a U.S. tribal agent on behalf of the Cheyenne reservation.
Black Bear
Chief of the Northern Arapaho tribe, who led his people west after the Sand Creek Massacre.
Yellow Woman
Wife of William Bent and mother to Charlie and George Bent.
Colonel Henry Maynadier
U.S. colonel who attempted to negotiate with Red Cloud.
John Sanborn
U.S. government commissioner who tried to contact Red Cloud.
Little Wound
Oglala chief who, along with Pawnee Killer, negotiated unsuccessfully with General George Armstrong Custer over the expansion of the railway system.
Pawnee Killer
Oglala chief who, along with Little Wound, negotiated unsuccessfully with General George Armstrong Custer over the expansion of the railway system.
Nathaniel Taylor
U.S. government commissioner who successfully negotiated with Red Cloud for land rights.
General Winfield Scott Hancock
American general who waged war against Roman Nose and later met with him to negotiate. Hancock narrowly avoided being murdered by Roman Nose during these negotiations.
General Philip Sheridan
U.S. general who fought Roman Nose’s Cheyenne forces in the late 1860s, and uttered the infamous words, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” Sheridan was also instrumental in waging war against the Cheyenne and Comanche tribes in the late 1860s.
Tall Bull
Southern Cheyenne leader who led raids on American supply trains, largely in retaliation for the U.S. military’s crimes against Native Americans.
Eskiminzin
Apache leader who lobbied the U.S. government for food for his people and was pressured into making a deal whereby his men would work on a government mescal farm.
Commissioner Vincent Colyer
U.S. government commissioner who dealt with the Apache tribe and persuaded Eskiminzin to preserve peace.
Lone Wolf
Kiowa chief who led a large faction against the U.S. government, arguing that the Kiowas should celebrate their own culture instead of embracing the white man’s civilization.
Old Joseph
Nez Percé chief who refused to sign a treaty that surrendered the tribe’s lands to the U.S.
Little Wolf
Cheyenne chief who led his starving people off their reservation in search of food, and was later arrested for doing so in defiance of the U.S. government.
White Eagle
Ponca chief at a time when the Poncas were being relocated to a dry, barren reservation in Kansas.
Ouray
Ute leader who negotiated with the U.S. government on behalf of his people, but arguably sold out by accepting lavish gifts in return for signing over the Utes’ land rights. In the 19th century, the U.S. used similar bribery tactics on any number of Native American chiefs.
Taza
Chief of the Chiricahua tribe in the 1870s, a time when the tribe was splitting into many antagonistic factions.
John Clum
Government agent for the Chiricahua tribe.
General Nelson Miles
General in charge of the Southwestern United States in the 1870s and 1880s, often remembered for capturing and imprisoning Geronimo after years of war.
Big Foot
Sioux leader who succeeded Sitting Bull and was the chief of the Sioux at the time of the Wounded Knee Massacre, during which Big Foot and hundreds of other Native Americans were murdered.
Kicking Bird
Kiowa chief who, in contrast with Lone Wolf, believed that his people should adopt a moderate policy when interacting with the United States. However, Kicking Bird later saw the error of his ways and led attacks against the U.S. military.
General Patrick E. Connor
Sadistic U.S. general who presided over a fort built on Cheyenne lands, and was later tasked with massacring entire villages of Arapahos.
Colonel Henry H. Sibley
Colonel and fur trader who fought against the Santee tribe and later attempted to negotiate with Little Crow.
Wabasha
Santee warrior who betrayed his leader, Little Crow, thinking that Colonel Henry H. Sibley would reward him for bringing down the Santee tribe from within (though, as it turned out, Sibley just arrested Wabasha along with all the other Santees).
Newton Edwards
Governor of the Dakota territory, who played a pivotal role in pressuring Sioux chiefs into signing unfair treaties that allowed white settlers to claim Sioux lands.
General Henry B. Carrington
American general who fought Red Cloud’s Sioux forces and tried in vain to negotiate with Red Cloud.
Lieutenant Royal E. Whitman
American commander who negotiated with Eskiminzin and offered the Apaches menial jobs harvesting mescal.
Yellow Bear
Arapaho chief who led his tribe to a government-organized reservation, and is said to have told General Philip Sheridan that he was a “good Indian,” to which Sheridan infamously replied, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.”
Samoset
Chief of the Pemaquid tribe in the early 17th century, said to have “given away” New England to European settlers (though, in reality, he thought he was humoring the settlers, and never agreed to vacate the land).