Running Antelope (1821-1896)
Running Antelope, born in 1821 near the Grand River in present-day South Dakota, grew up immersed in the traditional customs and practices of his Sioux people.
As a young man, he learned to ride and hunt, participating in horse-stealing expeditions and war parties, and joining secret societies.
At this time, the Hunkpapas, a smaller band of the Teton Sioux, became one of the strongest groups, as they were forced to adapt to the increasing presence of white settlers in the region.
Though many Sioux turned to warfare, Running Antelope was one of the first Hunkpapas to reject the warpath and become a friend to the white settlers.
As a band chief, he was closely associated with Sitting Bull, who was eleven years his junior. Running Antelope’s diplomatic skills and oratory talent made him a prominent figure among the Lakota people.
In 1851, he was elected as one of the four “shirt wearers” of the Hunkpapa tribe. In this role, he served as a mediator between the tribal council and the headmen and akicita responsible for implementing the council’s decisions. Running Antelope was a brave warrior and accomplished diplomat, and he was often hailed as the greatest orator of the Sioux Nation.
Running Antelope signed the Treaty of 1868 at Fort Rice and attended treaty councils at Fort Laramie, Fort Rice, and Fort Peck. Under the influence of James McLaughlin, he became a dominant leader of the Hunkpapa people living on the reservation at the Grand River Agency, which later became part of the Standing Rock reservation in North and South Dakota.
After the allotment period, Running Antelope established a settlement of about sixty families in the Grand River valley, where he also opened a store. In his later years, he expressed regret for signing the 1868 Treaty and yearned for the days when the Lakota people were free, re-aligning himself with Sitting Bull.
In 1881, Running Antelope served as a scout in the army and was tasked with escorting Gall and his followers from Fort Buford to Standing Rock. In June 1882, he led the last great Sioux buffalo hunt, with about 2,000 men, women, and children participating. The hunters killed approximately 5,000 buffalo, and the camp feasted on the plentiful meat.
Running Antelope was honored by being featured on the Five-Dollar Silver Certificate in 1899. He passed away between June 30, 1896, and June 30, 1897, and was laid to rest at the Long Hill Cemetery east of Little Eagle, South Dakota. During his lifetime, Running Antelope had been responsible for the care of 10 lodges and 42 people, as documented on the 1885 Standing Rock ration list.