Rocky Bear: The Oglala Chief and His Remarkable Life

Rocky Bear
Rocky Bear. Oglala (abt. 1825/30 – Oct 29, 1909)

Rocky Bear, a minor Kiyuksa Oglala band chief at Pine Ridge Agency, was born about 1825/30.
Mainly known for his work with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Shows.

Only little is known of his life as a young man. In 1866 he participated in the Fetterman Fight and in 1876 he was at the Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn River).

He became publicly known as a member of the first Red Cloud delegation to Washington in 1870 (see NYT, June 2, 1870).
In February 1871 General C.C. Augur reported to Washington that 2.795 Lakotas, among them Rocky Bear with 17 Lodges and 85 persons, settle around Fort Laramie. Agent J.J. Saville engaged Rocky Bear, who was related to Big Bat Pourier, in 1874 as Policeman for the town Pine Ridge.

In 1881 he became contracted employee of William Cody’s Wild West Show; in the mid eighties he travelled with Cody as far as Europe, where a curious incident was reported.

He clashed with fellow Oglala Red Shirt. Red Shirt was one of the leading Indians with Cody’s Wild West Show, but in 1889 he left the show in Barcelona following a quarrel with him in France.

Then took over as the leading Indian. One reason suggested for the quarrel was jealousy. Apparently, Red Shirt had more luck with the French women than he had.

On July 5, 1895 reported the Concord Evening Monitor:
“The 70-year-old chief who commands Colonel Cody’s detachment of Sious [sic] and who is second in authority in the whole Sioux nation, has been with the Wild West show for 14 years, and even the charms of undivided rule could hardly tempt him from his place in the front line of the “Congress of Rough Riders.”

Rocky Bear, who was an early and longtime favorite of Cody, received $75 a month’s salary. According to Cody he was noble and articulate and with an impressive and powerful physical appearance.

Rocky Bear was a defender of Cody’s treatment of Indian performers; he interacted with royalty, had an audience with Pope Leo XIII, and met President Cleveland.

Except for his time in Europe he was several times listed as Head of the Household on the Indian Census at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation / Wounded Knee District. He died at his home on Oct 29, 1909.
Father: Savage Bear, born abt. 1792
Mother: White Thunder Woman, born abt 1800


No.1: White Buffalo Cow (?), married about 1842
No.2: Road or Tracks (1836?- 1904), married abt. 1854
No.3: Runs Ahead (1844 – aft. 1904), married abt. 1864


Sophia b: abt. 1850
Lucy b: 1850
Ela – Bissonett b: bef. 1865
Silas Hawk b. 1879
Jessie b. 1878
Thomas b. 1880
Mary Rock Bear b. 1884

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  1. July 27, 2023

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