Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne Tribe dedicates monument

The following story was written and reported by Clara Caufield,Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Tribal officials and guests at dedication of the Ice Monument in Busby, Montana. Photo courtesy A Cheyenne Voice

Monument dedicated to holy man Ice
By Clara Caufield
Native Sun News Correspondent

BUSBY, Mont. –– In 1866, the hearts of the Northern Cheyenne people were low, then under great duress as the U.S. government tried to force them onto reservations. At that time, Ice, a powerful ceremonial man performed a miracle near present day Busby, Montana, to remind them that “Maheo’o, the Creator” was still with them.

On June 26, 2015 nearly 145 years later, contemporary Cheyenne dedicated a monument to Ice and his miracle. Bilford Curley, Ice’s direct descendant was key memorial organizer.

“The new monument will be a teaching tool for young Cheyenne and even non-Indians interested in the Cheyenne,” Curley notes.

Ice (later given the name White Bull) was one of the most powerful Northern Cheyenne ceremonial men (1835-1910). His son Noisy Walking was one of the Northern Cheyenne suicide warriors at the Battle of the Little Big Horn “Where Long Hair was wiped out.” Curley and other traditional leaders have long worked to gain recognition of those profound historical events as a way to promote tribal healing.

“We built the Ice Monument all by ourselves, with no grants,” Curley proudly notes. “It is an example of how the Cheyenne people can come together to accomplish something. I believe Ice would like that.”

Cheyenne elders say that as a fasting teenager, Ice gained a spiritual helper/guide, described as a small hairy man, one of the “little people” sacred to many tribes. That guide told young Ice that one day he would perform a very difficult miracle to inspire and encourage the Cheyenne people, possibly with the assistance of spiritual powers.

Ice spent many years preparing for what he knew would come. In 1876, Ice was a principal instructor and painter for Sitting Bull when that Sioux leader offered 100 pieces of flesh at Deer Medicine Rocks prior to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Then, Sitting Bull received a vision showing soldiers falling from the sky, foreseeing tribal victory at the Little Big Horn. That site was recently declared a national historic site located near the present Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

For many years, the U.S. military harassed the Northern Cheyenne and Sioux trying to force them onto Reservations, a time of hardship, many battles and suffering for the people. A U.S. military tactic was killing off the vast buffalo herds to deprive the people of food and all they needed to live as free nomadic nations. As Curley explains, many Cheyenne became discouraged during this time of hardship, death and even hunger. Some questioned their spiritual connections, wondering if Maheo’o was still with them.

Thus, in 1866, the little hairy man told Ice it was time. He would help Ice uplift the hearts and spirits of the people reminding them of spiritual power and assistance, if they believed and conducted themselves according to the rituals, beliefs and lifestyles.

“Cheyenne are a chosen people with two sacred covenants: the Sacred Hat and the Arrows,” Curley reminded.

Then, Cheyenne and some Sioux gathered near present day Busby, Montana, a very large camp. The Cheyenne still recall Ice’s close connection with the Sioux.

“He helped them too,” Curley stated often.

Under direction from Ice and his spirit guide, Warrior society men dug a deep pit, into which Ice would be laid. They wrapped him in a buffalo hide, securely fastened with leather thongs. After lowering Ice into the pit they covered it with large sandstone rocks, carried by many men because of the massive weight. The pit was then covered with a buffalo robe. The women keened, sure Ice would suffocate.

An oral history account from Burt Medicine Bull (Appearing), relates that Ice was unjustly accused of horse stealing. Ice said, “The little man has promised to help me get out of this hole. When I come out, you will know that I am innocent. And you will know that Maheo’o has not abandoned us.”

Following his instruction, the societies began to sing four sacred songs. President Fisher shared the story passed down about that in his family. A buffalo/animal song promised that the buffalo would come back; a little people song and others.

During the songs, the people heard noises coming from the tipi—buffalo running, birds singing and the little people talking, wondering if the Cheyenne still remembered them. When the songs were finished, the Cheyenne looked into the tipi and saw Ice sitting on the buffalo robe.

Another account tells that before the four sacred songs were finished, a man approached a woman on the outskirts of the camp who was cooking to say “I am hungry. When are we going to eat?”

That man was Ice.

Ice lived for many years, the first Cheyenne to enlist as a military scout for General Miles at Fort Keogh. Those two historic figures developed a close bond of trust and friendship.

As a powerful ceremonial person, Ice is buried at a remote location near present day Birney, Montana. He cautioned people to avoid his grave, especially children.

“I don’t know how my spirit will be,” he reportedly said. “I might accidentally harm you.”

A few years ago, Curley took a pipe to pray at his ancestor’s grave. He received encouragement to build a monument to Ice and the miracle he performed.

“It still has meaning for us today,” Curley often reminds. “Our people are suffering again. Many have lost their way and belief in the old ways. We want to encourage them and lift them up.”

For several years, he persistently mounted a campaign to honor Ice.

“Genealogy is critical,” he stresses. “All of us, whether we be Suhtai, Tsistsistas or Sioux are related and many of us to him. When we understand that, we will feel more compassion for one another. We must help, encourage and uplift one another, like Ice did.”

“It was very important for us to do this ourselves,” he stressed. “We used natural rocks from the area. Adrian Foote, a Cheyenne and Vietnam Veteran built the monument on a volunteer basis and our tribal officials and the Housing Authority supported the effort, especially the beautiful plaque and community meal.”

Other speakers, such as Tom Rockroads Sr. encouraged fellow Cheyenne to visit the sacred site, especially in times of personal stress or trouble. “Pray to Ice and Maheo’o. They will help you.”

Conrad Fisher, MC, Lame Deer Tribal Council noted that the Tribe will pursue funding to create access to the site from nearby Highway 212.

“We, the Northern Cheyenne, have remarkable, powerful stories and insights to share with the world,” he remarked. “And now, we are willing to do that.”

(Clara Caufield can be reached @

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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