chief sharp nose

Chief Sharp Nose, Cavalry Scout

Sharp Nose was an admired warrior, scout and chief of the Northern Arapaho as the tribe moved to their permanent reservation home on the reservation from the nomadic life they had known for generations. He was among the leaders that believed peace with the non-Indians was the best option for their tribe’s survival even if it meant going against their traditional allies.

In the winter of 1876 to 1877, Sharp Nose served as a scout under Colonel Crook during the second Powder River winter campaign against the Arapaho allies, the Cheyenne and Sioux. It was during this time that Sharp Nose earned the respect of the non-Indian soldiers he fought with.

As they waited for the surrender of Crazy Horse, Captain Bourke was especially impressed with the Arapaho warrior. Bourke stated,

“In all that galaxy of gallant soldiers, white and copper-colored, whom I met… none stands out more clearly in my recollection than Sharp Nose. He was the inspiration of the battlefield. He reminded me of a blacksmith; he struck with a sledgehammer, but intelligently, at the right spot and at the right moment. He handled men with rare judgment and coolness, and was as modest as he was brave.”

In 1877, Sharp Nose traveled with other chiefs to Washington where he met President R. Hayes and obtained official permission for his people to be placed on to the Shoshone Reservation.

By 1891, Sharp Nose was an ardent follower of the Ghost Dance religion, a cult that Chief Black Coal did not look favorably on. This religion preached the coming of a new age for the Native Americans. Wovoka, the messiah of this cult, said that dancing would bring the buffalo and old way of life back and the non-Indians would leave.

Black Coal, a Catholic convert, sent out a scout to check out the new religion and concluded through Yellow Eagle’s eyewitness reports that it was not a good thing. This, however, did not stop Sharp Nose and many others of the tribe believing in the hope this cult was giving them. Although Black Coal did not himself believe, he allowed the dancing to continue because it was the tribe’s right to choose for themselves their own religion.

Along with others, Sharp Nose sang Ghost Dance songs and danced for days about their despair, clinging to a desperate hope that things would soon change –


My Father, have pity on me!

I have nothing to eat.

I am dying of thirst –

Everything is gone.


Sharp Nose belonged to the “Bad Pipes” band of the Northern Arapaho and succeeded Black Coal as the head chief in 1893. At this time, the Arapaho were living on the Wind River Reservation and the chief was no longer chosen because he belonged to a certain band. In this way, Sharp Nose, who was not of the Antelope band and was associated with the Ethete area of the Wind River Reservation rather than “Lower Arapaho” from which principle leaders came from, was able to succeed Black Coal.

Sharp Nose was the last of the Northern Arapaho chiefs at Fort Washakie to keep his own name until the time of his death in 1900. He had two wives, Mint and Winnie and one of his three children was General Crook. He was succeeded as head chief by Yellow Calf, a half-brother of Sherman Coolidge. By then, the bands had lost their separate identity and were now seen as one tribe. A new era had begun on the Wind River Reservation, the new home for the once nomadic Northern Arapaho who ranged the Great Plains.