Chief Red Moon

Chief Red MoonRed Moon was born according to his gravestone in 1821 or in 1832 according to the writings of Patt Hodge in the Prairie Fire publication. The author of this article prefers the 1832 date for several reasons. Red Moon was the son of Yellow Wolf, prominent chief of the southern Cheyenne. Yellow Wolf’s band was the Rope Hair people. Yellow Wolf was reportedly born in 1779, although I think this was a little early. He was killed in the 1864 massacre of Sand Creek in Colorado. Of the several well-known Indian Chiefs camped at Sand Creek, Black Kettle was the only one to survive. Red Moon was probably not yet a chief or if he was, he was not of prominence at that time. He would have been thirty-two years of age at the time of the Sand Creek Massacre and probably was present through inference of his relationship to Yellow Wolf.

Following the Massacre at Sand Creek, Black Kettle lost his status as a principal chief of the Cheyennes because of his proclivity toward peace with the whites. Indications are that Red Moon and his followers aligned themselves with Black Kettle until the latter’s death. In January 1865 the peace chiefs of the Cheyennes, among them Black Kettle and Red Moon, separated themselves from the warring clans and headed south from the Northern Cheyennes, who were at that time located on the Powder River in eastern Wyoming.

Red Moon was camped close to Black Kettle at the time of the fight on the Washita in 1868. He later gave a report that fewer Indians were killed that day than what Custer reported.

In May of 1870, Brinton Darlington was establishing a new agency for the supervision of the Indians. Darlington was located north of Ft. Reno. According to the peace treaties signed by the U.S. and the Indians, the Darlington Indian Agency was to provide food, clothing, shelter, weapons, education and other aid to the Indians who were willing to live on the reservation. By November several Indian chiefs had moved their bands to the agency. Among these were Stone Calf, Little Robe, Minimic, Big Jake, Gray Beard, Heap of Birds, Big Horse, Red Moon, Whirlwind and others. This agency was established further east than it was thought possible to entice the Cheyennes and Arapahoes to settle. This indicates that Red Moon and the other chiefs at that time were peaceable and willing to work with the whites.

Red Moon at that time was considered a peace chief and considered a “good chief” in that he let the white man have their way in all things. This was what being a “good chief” meant to the white man. All others were punished or killed. A Cheyenne Chief was required to be a man of peace, to be brave and to be of a generous heart. Because they were peaceful, the peace chiefs were more easily found and attacked than were the warring elements. The peace chiefs had no police force or militia to control the warring bands; the only control they had was through respect by the rest of the tribe.

In February 1871, Red Moon with seventy lodges, was camped on the Cimarron River between Camp Supply and Darlington. Two years later, he was camped on Hackberry Creek in Woodward and Ellis Counties. This was one of his favorite hunting grounds and home of the buffalo. By 1874, Gray Beard and other Indian chiefs among whom was Red Moon, became unsatisfied with the treatment they were receiving by the whites and began to take matters into their own hands. Many left the reservation and returned to their old ways of following the buffalo. Red Moon and Gray Beard had given up on the white man to ever sustain their needs while they remained on the reservation. In the past, the Texas panhandle was home with many large buffalo herds. Gray Beard and his followers headed for that area to follow the buffalo. However, the buffalo were being rapidly killed off by the buffalo hunters and the Indians fared little better than on the reservation. This uprising became known as the Red River War. At this time, Red Moon became a prominent Cheyenne Indian warrior. Red Moon was involved in the Battle of the Adobe Walls, not as a chief but simply as a warrior. It is also a possibility that he was involved in the Battle of Lyman’s Wagon Train and also the Buffalo Wallow Fight. Though the later two cannot be verified. General Nelson A. Miles and his army were trying desperately to corral the Indians and return them to the reservation. Following the hard winter on both hunter and prey, Chief Stone Calf, along with Gray Beard, Red Moon and several other chiefs came into the Darlington Agency and gave themselves up on February 24, 1875. Among the mass of over 800 starving and miserable Indians, were the Germain sisters. This was pretty much the end of the Red River War, which ended the occupation of the southern plains by the Indians. Chief Red Moon had held out until the last.

There are conflicting reports as to when Chief Red Moon came into the Darlington Agency for the last time. One is that he gave himself up in January 1875 and was sent out in February to persuade Gray Beard to do likewise. The other report is that Red Moon stayed out with Gray Beard until the last. When the names of these chiefs are given, this always includes many other warriors with them. By 1878, Red Moon had settled on the Washita River near the Herring Community. In 1892 prior to the opening of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian Lands for settlement by the whites, the Indians were supposedly given their choice of 160 acres of land as their own along with $75.00. Chief Red Moon chose a quarter section about ten miles up the Washita River from Cheyenne. This was another of his favorite hunting grounds. However, the government would not allow him to choose land there and forced him to choose land closer to Hammon. Following the Land Run of 1892, the community, which sprang up in the vicinity of Red Moon’s favorite hunting spot became known as Red Moon. A fitting tribute to the man who fought for his rights to be free and provide for himself. In 1894 James H. Hammon, for whom the town is named, established an Indian School northeast of Hammon. It was named Red Moon School in honor of the Indian Chief. This building burned on December 18, 1965.

Red Moon accepted the white man way sooner than some of the Indians. He was a good friend of John Seger and Rev. H.J. Kliewer, a Mennonite Missionary. Red Moon’s wife was Sioux Woman and they had two sons: Heap of Crows and Shoot Nose, Jr.

Prior to his death, Red Moon gave his red clay pipe to his dear friend, Rev. Kliewer. Before Rev. Kliewer left this area, he gave the pipe to Ben White Shield, sub-chief of the Cheyenne Indians. It would be interesting to know if the pipe is still held by some of White Shield’s descendants. Red Moon died in July of 1901 and is buried in the Bethel Mennonite Indian Cemetery northeast of Hammon.

Peace Chiefs of the Cheyennes, by Stan Hoig
Custer, Black Kettle and the Fight on the Washita by Charles Brill
The Buffalo War by James Haley
The Fighting Cheyennes by George Bird Grinnell
The Life of George Bent by George Hyde
Patt Hodge’s article on Red Moon in Prairie Fire Book