The Billings Outpost

An old Crow warrior, chief comes home at last

After being lost for more than 100 years, Legendary Crow Chief “Sits in the Middle of the Land” rests in a sealed oil drum outside the old Indian Health Services Hospital at Crow Agency.

His Sioux wife has yet to be found.

Sits in the Middle of the Land (AKA Blackfoot) was born in 1795 in the Absaroka Mountains of the western Bighorn Basin before white men came to Crow Country. His parents called him Kam Ne But Sa. Boyhood friends knew him as the boy who ached to be chief.

Blackfoot was built to be a great warrior and chief. As a young man, Kam Ne But Sa stood 6-foot-6 and weighed 240 pounds. His style of fighting was both simple and vicious. He would charge the enemy, slam into an enemy warrior’s horse, snatch the weapon from his adversary’s hands, pull the enemy to the ground, take his scalp and continue fighting.

In a fierce battle near Wyola recalled as “Where warriors were chased back into camp” he earned two coups at the same time. He was the first to touch an enemy and wrestle his weapon away. On that day he showed the promise of becoming a great warrior and eventually chief.

In another battle, Blackfoot led a Crow war party in pursuit of Piegans who had just raided the Crow camp, stealing many horses, including Blackfoot’s entire herd. According to Crow legend, Blackfoot caught the Piegans near the Snowy Mountains, reclaimed the horses, took scalps, counted coup and rode home with the status of a chief.

By the time he was 18, Blackfoot had the skills and knowledge to provide for his own lodge. Young men without coups were not allowed to marry. Those who failed to fill the cooking pot were equally ineligible.

Blackfoot was married to at least four different women. He had a daughter named Two Buffalos and three sons named Big Snake, Goes Well Known and Cuts a Hole in It.

Some historians claim he had other children. Tribal historian Joseph Medicine Crow says Runs through the Camp may have been another son by his Sioux wife. He may have had a daughter called “Five” but no one is certain.

It was an age of great Crow warriors in perilous times. Blackfoot’s contemporaries included warrior chiefs such as Iron Bull, also known as White Temple; Flat Belly; Old Dog; Medicine Crow; Bear Wolf; and the young Aleek Chea Ahoosh, later known as Plenty Coups.

Blackfoot is believed to have died in Wyoming near the Montana line during a hunting trip with his Sioux wife. His unmarked grave was visited by Crows  traveling to and from Wyoming for nearly 100 years. The grave’s location was lost over time and searched for during most of the 19th century. An Eastern woman, a seer named Victoria, is credited for the recovery of the chief’s remains.

Victoria, who claimed not to know the chief’s name, dreamed one night that a spirit had visited her sleep. It was the spirit of Blackfoot, who told the seer that he ached to return to his home in Montana.

Victoria called the Crow Reservation, made contact with historians and cultural experts, and arranged a search for the chief’s bones. Blackfoot’s remains were found in a cave near Meeteetse, Wyo. The bones of his Sioux wife were not discovered.

Blackfeet’s bones were fetched home to the reservation and sealed in the aforementioned oil drum. The century-old bones are neither celebrated nor memorialized.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 23:10

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