Who Was Cheif Gall?

These days, much notoriety can be gained if a person is a serial or mass killer (Charles Manson, Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner), just as much if not more than someone who does a lot of good (Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning).

Unfortunately, that reality was just as true 150 years ago, when the U.S. military continued to do battle with several defiant Indian tribes which protected their sacred lands from the white settlers to the east.

Whether he did it or not, the death of a prominent U.S. military officer by a group of Lakota warriors under his charge, put Chief Gall of the Lakota on an early Most Wanted List by the U.S. Army.

Chief Gall, or Pinzi as was more commonly known,  became a bigger name nationally than Chief Sitting Bull at one point in the 1860s and 1870s during the lengthy Indian campaigns of the time. Gall became a prominent chief of the Lakota Sioux based in the Dakotas and the Yellowstone River Valley of the northern Plains.

Achieving the rank of chief of part of the Hunkpapa tribe, Gall became known as a fierce and merciless warrior, leading his band of a couple hundred warriors into several raids on settlements and skirmishes with various military outfits. He was a prominent leader of the Indian contingent during the infamous Battle at the Little Bighorn in 1876, known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”

In his early 20s, Gall became a trusted adviser for Sitting Bull, and developed a loyal group of warriors to fight the U.S. military in a series of skirmishes and raids.

Before Little Bighorn, Chief Gall made his name with the U.S. government following a raid on Fort Rice that killed two officers in Col. David Stanley’s 17th Infantry. One of the officers, however, was 2nd Lt. Lewis Adair, who is the cousin of the First Lady of the United States, Julia Grant – the wife of President Ulysses S. Grant.

There is no evidence that Gall himself took Adair’s life, but he immediately became Public Enemy No. 1 for taking out a member of the presidential family. Facing the wrath of the military, Sitting Bull decided to take his Lakotas over the international border into Canada to re-settle, which was a fierce struggle to survive. At this point, Gall departed in opinion from his long-time mentor, and he brought some of his tribe back into the United States four years later, in 1880.

At that point, Gall surrendered to the military, and a few months later he and more than 200 of his brethren were loaded on steamers and sent down the river to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where Gall remained until his death in 1894. While on the reservation, Gall became a Christian, a farmer, parted ways with Sitting Bull forever, and became a prominent judge on the Court of Indian Affairs.

Chief Gall became a model for the caricature of the Indian warrior that kept fighting the U.sS. Army in defending its sacred lands in the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains, especially once he killed the president’s cousin. That turned the military’s approach to the Indians to another level – from a roundup effort to a war.