Back home to make the spirit rest

Long Wolf was born Sugmanitu Haska, a Sioux from the Oglala tribe who spent most of his life in South Dakota. He was among the warriors who wiped out General Custer's 7th Cavalry at the battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.

When the Sioux were finally defeated, to avoid being mistreated in the aftermath, Long Wolf joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show travelling around Europe and America to play to huge crowds. The show, which re-enacted Indian fights, stage coach robberies and buffalo hunts, was a great success and the audience at the Earl's Court Arena in London included Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales.

And in London he died, probably of pneumonia, aged 57. His wife feared his body would be put overboard if he was taken home by ship, therefore Long Wolf was buried at Brompton Cemetery. Bill Cody bought the plot, in a prestigious position in the Great Circle, and marked the grave with a wolf as Long Wolf had requested.

Nearly a century later, a housewife from Worcestershire called Elizabeth Knight bought an old book about Native Americans, read Long Wolf’s story and visited his grave. Moved by it, she set about trying to contact his descendants.

Thanks to her efforts and a bit of luck, Jessie Black Feather (Long Wolf’s grandson who knew the ancestor had been buried in London but didn’t know exactly where) heard from Elizabeth and arranged for his remains to be returned to their ancestral burial grounds, on the Pine Ridge reservation at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. There, according to the tribe’s medicine men, his spirit could rest in peace.

In 1914 a delegation of Oglala Sioux had come to the cemetery to visit the grave. A crowd of people was also present and, amazingly, a camera recorded a brief film which the British Film Institute has now made available to everyone:


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