Two years after the battle at the Little Big Horn, and his subsequent escape to Canada, Father Jean Baptiste Marie Genin reported in May 1878, that Sitting Bull appeared to be strengthening himself militarily so that he could come back to his homelands in the United States without fear.
Colonel MacLeod, the Fort Walsh commander at Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan, hired a Metis man named LaRiviere to keep him informed of all the movements of the Lakotas and their possible build-up. LaRiviere reported that Sitting Bull had 80 lodges at Pinto Horse Butte, 200 lodges on Frenchman's Creek, 250 lodges roaming about, and an additional 50 lodges of Lakota moving towards Sitting Bull’s camp. In addition, there were 80 lodges of Santee at Wood Mountain, and a large group of Cree and Assiniboine under Chief Big Bear (about 300 lodges) were camped near the mouth of the Red Deer River. Rumors had it that Sitting Bull had seven tribes in his camp, and that some small groups of Assiniboin and Yanktonai from the US were coming to join him.
Despite the worries of this build up, MacLeod didn’t believe the movements of the Lakota and others were threatening. He reported this to US authorities. Even if he wasn’t an immediate threat, intelligence reported that Sitting Bull was nonetheless trying to gain support from anyone who would lend it.
It was known that he had sent emissaries with tobacco to the Sissetons at Lake Traverse, asking them to join his cause. He even sent tobacco to the Ojibwe camps at White Earth and Pembina. His message was carried by a Cree to Pembina, and then by a Pembina man to White Earth. His message reported read as follows:
“Chippewas of White Earth and all the Chippewas of Minnesota: I send... tobacco for you and the Half-breeds to smoke, to tell you to look at me. I ask you not to help the whites by acting as scouts against my people. I do not wish to war against the whites, but they are after me and my people to destroy us. But when they attack us we must fight in self-defense. Look at the whites and see what they have done. They have robbed us of our lands. If you are treated as we are, fight. Do as we do. Our lands will then be regained.
I now have six tribes ready to join me, and I have notified the Indians and Half-breeds of the Plains to keep away from the directions we are to travel when we go to war.”
All of the Ojibwe bands refused to help, with the exception of Little Shell and his warriors, who indeed went north to Wood Mountain against the protest of Chief White Cloud and others.
R. W. Scott to MacLeod, January 23, 1878, MacLeod to Scott, January 29 and July 9, 1878, GGO, PAC; (Bull's letter copied in) Charles A. Ruffee to E. A. Hayt, July 16 and August 3, 1878, NARG 75, Letters Received, Chippewa Agency, roll 166; Turner, NWMP, 1:400.
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