by Dr. Pelham Mead
His name was Sky Chief and he was a Pawnee Chief who lived in the mid 1800’s in Montana. Yes , his name sounds like a car model, but he was a real true Pawnee indian that became an idol to his people. While hunting for Buffalo a small band of 100 Pawnee braves, Chiefs, Squaws and children along the loop river in Montana, the Indian Agent accompanied the band of indians as they searched along the river for Buffalo in August 25, 1873. While camping along the river three white traders rode up to the Pawnee encampment and warned them that a large encampment of almost 900 Lakota Sioux, the enemy of the Pawnee, was camped in the north-east of the Pawnee village. Sky Chief did not believe white traders and thought they wanted the buffalo kill to themselves. He told the white traders they were liars and were trying to scare the Pawnee away from killing Buffalo.
The Indian agent warned Sky Chief to at least send five Pawnee scouts ahead of the band of Pawnee to be on the alert for any Lakota Sioux. The Chief decided to send only three scouts ahead and they spotted some Lakota Sioux in a small band of six braves. It was a trap. Hundreds of Lakota Sioux were hiding behind the rocks and bushes waiting for the Pawnee Scouts to swoop down on the Sioux decoys. When the Pawnee scouts came within site of the Sioux and charged with their arrows, the hidden hundred Sioux indians blocked off the retreat and killed all the Pawnee scouts with arrows.
Later that day the remaining Pawnee group arrived at a canyon where they found the dead Pawnee Scouts. Before they could sound the alarm, hundreds of Lakota Sioux swooped down on the women, children and Pawnee Braves. Sky Chief bravely fought to the end, stalling the Sioux until a few could escape. Approximately 59 or 67 men, women and children Pawnee were killed in a narrow canyon whose walls were too steep to climb with horses. An hour later a US Troop of Cavalry soldiers accidentally came upon the scene and the Lakota Sioux retreated. This infamous day became known as the Canyon Massacre was forever remembered in Pawnee history. That major battle was the last for the Pawnee for they realized with Sioux threatening them and white men moving into the area they were safer in Oklahoma . The US Government paid the Pawnee Nation $9,000 for their losses, land, and dead ones and help transport all of the Pawnee Nation further south to Oklahoma where there were no Buffalo or sweet grass ranges like Montana.