Metis mail carrier George Keplin Meets his end
In July of 1870, a small contingent of soldiers under the command of Major Dickey, of the 22nd U.S. Infantry, at Fort Stevenson was traveling to Fort Buford. The command consisted of twenty men, and the first day they encamped near a small stream twenty-five miles up the Missouri River trail from Ft. Berthold. While encamped they were met by two Metis mail riders coming down from Fort Buford: George Keplin and Scotty Richmond, two of the most fearless of the frontier mail carriers. While the soldiers were encamped, they noticed three Indians coming over the bluffs from the direction of the Fort Berthold agency, mounted and riding at full speed. Upon seeing the soldiers, the Indians dashed toward some timbered ravines. Seeing the Indians doing this unaccountable move, Major Dickey ordered some soldiers and Mr. Keplin to go investigate.
George Keplin was a decendant of Scotsman and a Cree Indian woman, born at the Selkirk settlement. Keplin was fluent in several languages and was considered one of the most trustworthy mail carriers on the northern plains. However, on this occasion, Keplin had spent his evening drinking whiskey and he was under influence when he led the charge. He strayed too far in advance of the soldiers and went up to the strange Indians by himself. "Who are you?" yelled Kiplin (in Dakota Sioux) to the Indians. One of the Indians replied, "I am Bad Hand, a Sissetonwan!", and pointing his hand to his companions he added, "These are my friends. I see you are with the white soldiers. My people are good friends of the whites. Why do you bother us?" To this, the belligerent Keplin replied, “I have come to fight you!" To this, Bad Hand raised his gun and shot Keplin off his horse with a rifle ball through his heart. He then ran forward and stole Keplin’s gun and bullets before retreating back into the trees.
The soldiers witnessed this killing and suddenly saw more Indians riding furiously towards them from over a line of bluffs. At first they feared a larger attack, but it was soon ascertained that these were Hidatsa warriors who were pursuing the Sioux. At once, the Hidatsa surrounded the grove of trees in which the Sioux were hiding. The leader of the Hidatsa, a man named Poor Wolf, cried out, "We have come to kill you, Bad Hand! You have killed our people; stolen our horses. You do not deserve to live, therefore prepare to die!" Immediately, the Hidatsa fired volley after volley into the trees. After a while, a Hidatsa boy was chosen to try to sneak forward. As he started forward, a shot rang out from the brush and the young man was dead. Two hundred shots followed this killing and soon Bad Hand and his friends were dead. One of the Sioux was able to escape and was later reported at Fort Buford.
Adapted from "Sketches of a Frontier Life" by Joseph Henry Taylor (1897), Bismarck.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities