Spotted Tail - Biography


Spotted Tail was born about 1823 in the White River country west of the Missouri River in present-day South Dakota. During the previous 40 years, the Lakota or Teton Sioux had moved from present-day Minnesota and eastern South Dakota to areas west of the Missouri. They had differentiated into several sub-tribes or bands, including the Saône, Brulé and Oglala. During this time the people adopted the use of horses and expanded their range in hunting the buffalo across their wide grazing patterns. Spotted Tail's father, Cunka or Tangle Hair, was from the Saône band, and his mother, Walks-with-the-Pipe, was a Brulé. He was given the birth name of Jumping Buffalo.

The young man took his warrior name, Spotted Tail, after receiving a gift of a raccoon tail from a white trapper; he sometimes wore a raccoon tail in his war headdress (sometimes called war bonnet). He was said to be a great warrior. He took part in the Grattan Massacre.

Two of his sisters, Iron Between Horns and Kills Enemy, were married to the elder Crazy Horse, in what was traditional Sioux practice for elite men. Spotted Tail may have been the maternal uncle of the famous warrior Crazy Horse, which meant he was a relative of the notable Touch the Clouds as well.

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