The Importance of Dull Knife

In a kitchen or in survival training, a dull knife is not very useful.

In American history, specifically during the various Indian Wars, Dull Knife was an indispensable tool in keeping the Cheyenne from extinction.

The Sharpness of Dull Knife

Dull Knife, as he is known to the Lakota Sioux, was a prominent Northern Cheyenne chief who went by the Cheyenne name of Morning Star, and was a prominent figure in many of the Indian wars during his lifetime, including the important Great Sioux War of the late 1870s.

Dull Knife was one of the leaders of the Battle at Little Bighorn, along with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, helping the Indians to their greatest triumph and “Custer’s Last Stand.” He was a strong advocate for the Cheyenne territory in Montana, and had long advocated and fought for his tribe’s rights to live in their ancestral lands despite all of the settlement by whites from the east.

The Warrior

Dull Knife was born in Montana (not Colorado) in 1810, but once he got to adulthood he was almost constantly on the run, either being moved to another part of the country or he was leading the charge in attacks and defense of the homeland, or resisting placement on a reservation a thousand miles away.

Dull Knife was very active in fighting against the federal government, having participated in the Cheyenne-Arapahoe War in the mid-1860s in Colorado, the war of 1866-67 and the War of the Black Hills (also called the Great Sioux War)  in 1876-77 (which included the Battle at Little Bighorn).  He led his small band of Cheyenne warriors into battle after battle before finally surrendering in 1877 and being forced to the Southern Cheyenne Reservation in Oklahoma.

But even in surrender, Dull Knife didn’t go down without a fight.

The Advocate

After surrendering, Dull Knife didn’t sit back and just accept his fate nor the fate of his people. After a few months on the reservation in Oklahoma, realizing that the land was harsh and there were hardly any animals to hunt and eat, Dull Knife decided to combat starvation by leading a group of Cheyenne out of Oklahoma and on a trek back across the West toward the ancestral home of Montana.

The Cheyenne fought valiantly and traveled great distances, with many of them perishing on the way. But his continued work and advocacy for his people and their homeland led to some changes in U.S. policy toward the Indians. This resulted in some additional reservation land, which included a Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana, which the remaining Dull Knife Cheyenne moved to just after the great chief’s death in 1883.

Dull Knife was essentially an ambassador to the United States from the Northern Cheyenne tribes in the Rocky Mountain area, spending much of his early life in and around Cheyenne territory in Montana. He was one of the signatories to the important 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which was created to maintain tribes into their ancestral lands and maintain peace with settlers who were coming into the area.

But while he was one who wanted peaceful co-existence, he was also one of the first to stand up and seek to defend and protect the lands of his people when the settlers came, and he was unrelenting in his passion for his people and its history in the area. He is always remembered as one of the great warriors and leaders of the American Indians in the 19th century.