For years, Chief Charles Little Coyote was the face of the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty Pageant.
He was one of 44 chiefs who helped govern the Southern Cheyenne tribe of Oklahoma. And he was the great-great-grandson of Chief Black Kettle.
Chief Little Coyote died Thursday in Wichita. He was approximately 85.
A funeral service will be at 1 p.m. today at Affinity All Faiths Mortuary, 2850 S. Seneca.
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In 1926, he was born in a tepee near Seiling, Okla., according to an interview Jeff Campbell conducted with Chief Little Coyote on April 22, 2008, that is published on the Southeast Colorado Heritage website.
He learned early to ride and tame horses. He was raised by his grandparents, a tradition among some American Indian tribes that allows the next generation to learn the old ways of the people.
He joined Ken Maynard’s Wild West Show and toured briefly with him. Maynard had been a trick rider with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and became one of the first singing cowboys in Hollywood.
During World War II and into the Korean War, Chief Little Coyote served as a Marine, earning him the name “Morning Killer.” He was honorably discharged in 1953 and moved to Medicine Lodge and began working at the gypsum mines, quarries and mills in Barber County.
While in Medicine Lodge, he began participating in the peace treaty pageant, a tradition in the town since 1927.
The pageant, held every three to five years in a natural amphitheater, re-enacts the signing of an 1867 treaty designed to create peace for settlers traveling to frontier settlements in the West. It also recognizes what is thought to have been one of the largest gatherings of Plains Indians – 15,000 Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho, Apache and Cheyenne. Some of the more famous chiefs included Satanta, Little Raven and Black Kettle.
Chief Little Coyote often played a key role in the pageant, representing his great-great-grandfather Black Kettle, a chief known for encouraging peace between the U.S. government and Plains Indians. On Nov. 29, 1864, troops under the command of Col. John Chivington attacked and destroyed Black Kettle’s Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho village in eastern Colorado, called Sand Creek. During the battle, Black Kettle hoisted an American flag and a white flag to show the approaching soldiers that his was a friendly band.
It didn’t halt the massacre and didn’t keep the village from being destroyed. An estimated 70 to 163 Indians, many of them women and children, were killed and mutilated.
The survivors became a focal point for the 1865 treaty near Wichita and the 1867 peace treaty at Medicine Lodge.
Chief Little Coyote was a participant of the Cheyenne Sun Dance, a religious ceremony; he knew the old songs and language and practiced the traditional customs of the Cheyenne.
“He was a symbol for us,” said Kay Kuhn, the treaty association’s executive director. “We did our very best to honor him at parades and at the peace treaty. He gave us so much background information about the Cheyenne. Riding his horse was a large part of what he loved about the peace treaty. When he lost that paint horse, it means so much to him that really, I could just see him beginning to fail.”
Chief Little Coyote is survived by his wife, Sherry, numerous children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.