Jump to Navigation

Beaver Creek battle site

As the Oregon Trail was used more and more, the U.S. Government wanted to protect the travelers from American Indians along the way. In the fall of 1851 the U.S. Government called the Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Assinaboine, Gros-Ventre, Mandan, and Arikara Tribes of the West together at Horse Creek near Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to council, give gifts, create articles of a treaty, and form a delegation from the tribes to go to Washington D.C. Agents of the government, along with 16 Indians, including the Cheyennes White Antelope, Alights-on-the-Cloud (Rides on a Cloud), and Little Chief traveled east on the Oregon Trail-Platte River Road.

Pawnee Indian Village on the Loup River, near Genoa, NebraskaThe delegation stopped at Fort Kearney, Nebraska, on October 2, 1851. Twenty Pawnee chiefs and braves who had traveled from their Loup River home to Fort Kearney wanted to talk. The Pawnee wanted to make peace with the Cheyennes and smoke the peace pipe. They held a feast in honor of the Cheyennes to ask for peace. Alight-on-the-Cloud then said there would be no peace between the People (Cheyenne) and the Wolf People (Pawnee). The Laramie delegation traveled to St. Louis, then on to Washington to meet with President Millard Fillmore. They returned to the western plains on January 11, 1852.
In the summer of that year, warriors including Alights-on-the-Cloud planned an attack on the Pawnees. A great war party had gathered (from Western Kansas, Eastern Colorado) with Lakota, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Prairie Apache warriors coming to aid their Cheyenne allies in the fight. There were more than 230 Cheyenne warriors. They traveled to the northeast about two weeks to reach their enemy. The Pawnees were on their summer buffalo hunt on Beaver Creek, on the Solomon’s Fork some 50 miles west of Waconda Springs (Sacred Springs). Signs were found that the Pawnees had fought the Kiowas the day before, led by Gray Bear.

As the morning mist cleared, 10 scouts from the Cheyenne party led a charge without waiting for the large war party. Alights-on-the-Cloud wore his “Iron Shirt”, a Spanish suit of armor made of leather and iron discs; his father had given it to him in 1844. Alights-on-the-Cloud made a charge along the Pawnee line. On his return charge, he rode close to a young Kitkahahki Pawnee boy, who shot him with an arrow. The Pawnees saw the Cheyenne fall dead. He lay stretched out on the grass with the arrow stuck in his eye – the only area the armor did not protect.

More Cheyennes were killed that morning: White Horse, Big Hawk, Earring, Red Bird, Black Wolf, and Medicine Standing Up. After the Pawnees moved on, the Cheyennes buried their dead in a nearby ravine. In mourning, there was much weeping, legs and arms were slashed, and hair was cut. They broke camp and headed south to their Big Timber home at the headwater of the Smoky Hill River. They traveled five days and nights to reach their home. Seven of their bravest men had been left in the Pawnee country.

In the spring of 1853 Little Robe, whose son had died with Alights on the Cloud, carried a pipe to the Cheyenne allies hoping for a revenge battle with the Pawnees. On the Arikaree Fork of the Red Shield (Republican) River, the Kiowas, Comanches, Prairie Apaches, Lakotas, and some Crows listened to the Cheyenne’s plea to go to battle. Scouts were sent to find the Pawnees. They were found in the Solomon Fork area, near the forks of the Beaver Creek that flows south.

Soon the whole Cheyenne Nation and their allies moved toward the Pawnees. They brought along their two powerful medicines – the Sacred Arrows and Sacred Buffalo Hat. This powerful medicine had only been used once before, against Pawnees in the early 1830s. A few miles from the battle site, a solemn ceremony with the arrows and hat were held. During the ceremony, the string on the Sacred Buffalo Hat broke, a sign of possible failure. On July 24, 1853, the war party rode down to the Pawnee buffalo camp. The Pawnees were between the fork of Middle and East Beaver Creek. Just as the fight started, the Pawnee Sky Chief, who was riding north, looked back over his shoulder and saw the enemy swarm upon his people. He hurried on to the Republican River and met with the Pottawatomies to ask for their help. Their warriors knew how to shoot rifles in relay. Sky Chief and the Pottawatomie warriors quickly returned and turned the battle with the Cheyennes and allies. Both sides lost men, but the Pawnees claimed the victory. The Cheyennes and Pawnees continued to war for years to come.

Visitors can see a marker at the site of the Battle of Beaver Creek. It is located west of Smith Center on K-36. Turn south on Road M, and travel about three-fourths of a mile south. The marker is on the west side of the road at the top of a small hill.

Entry: Beaver Creek battle site

Author: Mary Lattin

Date Created: January 2012

Date Modified: July 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.