March 8, 2016

2359 UNITED STATES - Crazy Bear

Crazy Bear (1785-1856) was an Indian chief of the Assiniboine tribes (stone Sioux), a Native American people originally from the Northern Great Plains, their territory comprising Montana, North Dakota, Alberta and Saskatchewan. He is known as a skilled negotiator with the American Fur Company at Fort Union, North Dakota, and for his participation at the Fort Laramie Treaty Council of 1851. He earned the name Mah-To-Wit-Ko (meaning "Crazy Bear") because he fought like a crazy bear.

Crazy Bear was born in 1785 somewhere on the northern plains, in Louisiana Territory, still under the control of Spain at the time. The environment into which he was born was rapidly changing. France, after taking back the Louisiana Territory from Spain, immediately sold it to the United States in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Crazy Bear grew up living the traditional plains Indian life, and later followed and hunted the buffalo, was taught the warrior culture, and participated in the burgeoning fur trade.

By 1851, the traffic of settlers traveling west had increased steadily resulting in the escalation of violent confrontation with the native peoples. In addition, the continued inter-tribal warfare affected the profits of the fur companies. The US government devised a plan to bring a cessation of hostilities. They prepared a treaty, and distributed a circular summoning the leaders of all regional tribes to Fort Laramie (Wyoming) to a treaty council and signing ceremony.

The tribes invited were the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Assiniboine, Mandan, Gros Ventre, Arikaree, Shoshone, and others. Many of these nations were natural enemies; who had been fighting inter-tribal battles for centuries. Fort Laramie was in Sioux territory, so the reluctance of many participants to travel to this location was evident. But after the Crazy Bear had determined to go, several others joined the expedition.

The officials who had expected only the leadership of the various tribes to arrive were astounded as the total number of attendees reached an estimated twelve thousand. As a result, they moved the treaty signing thirty five miles southeast to Henry, in today's Nebraska. The Chief's signed and for the most part kept their word. The U.S. government did not. After signing the treaty, he returned to Fort Union.

"But the Chief on his arrival at Fort Union was fated to mourn the loss of some of his relatives. During his absence his son, Holy Seat, had been killed by the Blackfeet, his child died and his wife hung herself." In spite of the treaty, things did not go well for the Indians of the Great Plains. In addition, Crazy Bear contracted the smallpox and died at the age of seventy in 1856. The epidemic had struck the tribes of the northern plains with devastating results, killing approximately 2,000 people of which 1,200 were Assiniboines.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the series Apples, about which I wrote here. About the second stamp, depicting the surrender of General John Burgoyne at The Battle of Saratoga, I wrote here.

Crazy Bear (Assiniboine chief) - Wikipedia

Sender: Denise
Sent from Greenvale (New York / United States), on 26.01.2016
Photo: Frank A. Rinehart / 1900

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