Rain In The Face

Chief Rain In The Face was born in the Dakota Territory, near the fork of the Cheyenne River, in about 1835. Chief Rain In The Face was from the Hunkpapa band of the Lakota Nation. His mother was a Dakota related to the famous Chief Inkpaduta. The title of Chief in the Lakota Nation was an honor bestowed on a warrior who accomplished great deeds in battle, therefore Rain In The Face earned his title. The Chief title did not mean the possessor was the only tribal leader, major decisions were made in a group council.

There are several versions of how he obtained his name. The following quotes about his name are from the great Chief himself shortly before his death:

"When I was a boy, I loved to fight, in all our boyish games I had the name of being Hard To Handle, and I took much pride in the fact. I was about ten years old when we encountered a band of Cheyennes. They were on friendly terms with us, but we boys always indulged in sham fights on such occasions, and this time I got in an honest fight with a Cheyenne boy older than I. I got the best of the boy, but he hit me hard in the face several times, and my face was all spattered with blood and streaked where the paint had been washed away. The Sioux boys whooped and yelled:

"'His enemy is down, and his face is spattered as if with rain! Rain-in-the-Face! His name shall be Rain-in-the-Face!'

"Afterwards, when I was a young man, we went on a warpath against the Gros Ventres. We stole some of their horses, but were overtaken and had to abandon the horses and fight for our lives. I had wished my face to represent the sun when partly covered with darkness, so I painted it half black, half red. We fought all day in the rain, and my face was partly washed and streaked with red and black: so again I was christened Rain-in-the-Face. We considered it an honorable name."

Chief Rain In The Face himself stated that he had a rather mediocre career as a warrior until he began to fight the white invaders. In the summer of 1866 he participated in a raid against Fort Totten, in present day North Dakota. It was his first action against the whites and both Chief Rain In The Face and his horse were wounded. Chief Rain In The Face sustained a bullet wound to his leg.

On December 21,1866 Chief Rain In The Face, along with Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Young Man Afraid, Crow King, and others participated in the famous Fetterman Fight. The battle is usually called the Fetterman Massacre but I really don’t like that title. Most of the time if the Indians won it was called massacre, while if the US Army or other whites won it was called a battle or fight. Captain William J. Fetterman and eighty infantrymen, were protecting a work detail supplying wood to Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming. Captain Fetterman had orders not to engage or pursue any Indians beyond sight of the fort. When Crazy Horse and a handful of braves feigned an attack, Captain Fetterman gave the order to pursue the small band of Indians. The warriors ran away and lured the soldiers into a trap. Several hundred warriors, possibly up to one thousand, penned the US Army soldiers down and soon every one of them was killed.

In August 1873, General George Armstrong Custer and the famed US 7th Cavalry were protecting a group of railroad surveyors near the mouth of the Tongue River. Chief Rain In The Face participated in a raid and two white civilians accompanying General George Custer's US 7th Cavalry were killed. Charley Reynolds, an US Army scout and other reservation Indians told General Custer that Rain In The Face had led the attack. Rain In The Face was living at the Standing Rock Reservation and his whereabouts were betrayed, by reservation Indians, to General Custer. General Custer ordered that Chief Rain In The Face be arrested. Captain Thomas Custer, brother of General Custer, arrested Rain In The Face and he was taken to Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory. US Army Indian Scouts informed the imprisoned Rain In The Face he was to be hanged. Rain In The Face told them he was not afraid to die. Fortunately for him an old soldier assisted Rain In The Face in escaping. The old soldier unlocked his chain and allowed him to get a head start before firing his gun over Rain In The Face’s head.

Rain In The Face fled back to the Standing Rock Reservation in spite of being betrayed there earlier. Rain In The Face would hide in the woods during daylight hours and food was brought to him by relatives. The Indian Police were ordered to find and arrest him and half heartedly attempted to do so. After a few days Rain In The Face left with several others, rejoining the Indians deemed hostiles in a camp on the Powder River. These Indians conducted several raids on Northern Pacific Railroad workers laying track.

In December 1875 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs decreed all Sioux bands must enter reservations by the end of January 1876 or be declared hostiles (again!). Rain In The Face, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and other Indian leaders refused to go to the white man’s reservations. They desired to cling to the Indian ways.

In June 1876 Sitting Bull had his famous sun dance where he received a vision of a large number of white soldiers falling from the sky upside down. This vision led Sitting Bull to predict his people were about to enjoy a great victory over the US Army. Because of Sitting Bull’s vision many Braves left the large Indian Camp near the Little Big Horn to attack General George Cook, away from their families. On June 17, 1876 the Indian Warriors met General Crook’s Soldiers at the Battle of The Rosebud. General George Crook commanded approximately one thousand troops and three hundred Crow and Shoshone US Army Indian Scouts. The Indians consisted of about 1,500 members of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes. The battle lasted for over six hours and the US Army withdrew. This was the first time that Plains Indians had fought in such large numbers and fought such a large number of Soldiers, causing them to withdraw in defeat.

Rain In The Face believed that if they had waited and allowed General George Crook to attack, he would have fared no better than General George Custer‘s US 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn. Rain In The Face believed that General Crook was saved partly by his Indian allies and his strong fortifications. The US Army Indian Scouts discovered the Indian Braves first and engaged them, allowing General Crook to make his preparations. Rain In The Face Had this to say about the Battle of The Rosebud and General Crook:

"I think he was more wise than brave! After we had left that neighborhood he might have pushed on and connected with the Long-Haired Chief. That would have saved Custer and perhaps won the day."

Rain In The Face was in the large Indian camp at the Little Big Horn River on that fateful day of June 25, 1876. Rain In The Face said that the Indians were caught totally off guard, expecting no more trouble from the US Army after driving them away at the Battle of The Rosebud. Rain In The Face helped in the attack of the larger group of US Army 7th Cavalry Troopers on the north end of the battlefield, General Custer’s men. Rain In The Face said these Troopers fought bravely until they were cut to pieces, stating "I had always thought that white men were cowards, but I had a great respect for them after this day.".

Rain In The Face believed that no one knows for sure who killed General George Armstrong Custer. Rain In The Face stated he had not killed General Custer nor his brother, Captain Tom Custer. It has long been rumored that Rain In The Face mutilated Captain Tom Custer, cut out his heart and ate it, as revenge for imprisoning him and treating him poorly. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow popularized the event in his poem "The Revenge of Rain in the Face". An aging, and near death, Rain In The Face denied killing George Custer or mutilating Tom Custer to his friend, famed writer Charles Eastman.

Rain In The Face died in his home at the Bullhead Station on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota after a lengthy illness on September 14, 1905. Shortly before his death he made the following statement to his writer friend, Charles Eastman. Every time I read it my heart fills with sadness for him, along with admiration.

"I have lived peaceably ever since we came upon the reservation. No one can say that Rain In The Face has broken the rules of the Great Father. I fought for my people and my country. When we were conquered I remained silent, as a warrior should. Rain In The Face was killed when he put down his weapons before the Great Father. His spirit was gone then; only his poor body lived on, but now it is almost ready to lie down for the last time. Ho, hechetu! [It is well.]"


  Rain In The Face

Rain In The Face


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