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The execution of Lakota Chief Two Sticks

Diane Comes Out Holy Two Sticks had some documents she wanted me to read.  Dianne was the great, great granddaughter of Chief Comes Out Holy Two Sticks. I was amazed at the research she put into compiling the documents she handed to me. The papers told the life story of her great, great grandfather, Chief Two Sticks and it was one of tragedy. Considered by many to be a great Lakota (Sioux) leader, Two Sticks became one of the infamous statistics in the wars between the invaders and the Lakota.

Two Sticks was accused of conducting a raid on a herd of cattle belonging to the Humphrey cattle ranch on the White River about 30 miles west of the Pine Ridge Agency. The cattlemen immediately sent word to Captain George LeRoy Brown of the 11th Infantry. Brown telegraphed Ft. Meade near Sturgis, South Dakota and tribal police were ordered to arrest Two Sticks. When they arrived at his camp a gun fight ensued and five of the policemen were killed and the one was wounded. Two Sticks escaped from the attempted arrest.

Two Sticks and his followers then ran into some cowboys from the Humphrey ranch and during a heated shootout, four of the cowboys were killed.

Joe Bush led a party of 25 tribal policemen to the camp of Chief No Waters where Two Sticks was holed up and another gun battle followed. First Eagle, Two Two, and White Faced Horse were killed in the shootout. Two Sticks was badly wounded.

Chief Two Sticks was transported to Deadwood where he was tried and sentenced to be hanged on December 28, 1894, just four years and one day short of the horrible massacre at Wounded Knee. Tickets for the execution went on sale immediately. The tickets read: “You are invited to attend the legal execution of Cha Nopa Uhah, alias Two Stick, at Lawrence County Jail, in Deadwood, S. D., December 28, 1894 at 10 o’clock A.M.”

Chief Two Sticks had said at his trial that the cowboys were killed by White Faced Horse, Fights With, Two Two, and First Eagle “I have killed many Indians, but I have never killed a white man,” he said.

At his execution as he stood on the gallows, Two Sticks said, “My heart knows I am not guilty and I am happy. I am not afraid to die. I was taught that if I raised my hands to Wakan Tanka (God), and told a lie, that God would kill me that day. I never told a lie in my life.”

As the noose was placed around his neck Chief Two Sticks sang his death song. He was dropped through the trapdoor and, according to the reports, “his death was instantaneous.”

He was placed in a pine box and buried outside of the gates of the regular graveyard because the citizens of Deadwood did not want the body of an Indian contaminating their graveyard. All of his possessions were given away including his cunnupa, his Sacred Pipe. The pipe was put on display in the Adams Museum in Deadwood until Diane and her family pursued its return.

On December 9, 1998, the museum repatriated his Sacred Pipe to his great grandson, Richard Swallow, Sr. and the Oglala Lakota Tribe in compliance with the Native Americans Graves Protection and Act of 1990.

The descendants of Chief Comes Out Holy Two Sticks have always believed that the United States hanged an innocent man. When he said, “My heart knows I am not guilty and I am happy. I am not afraid to die,” his family believed him then and his descendants believe him now.

In an act of acrimony, the Black Hills Daily Times reported his death on December 29, 1894 with the headline, “A Good Indian,” snidely referring to the infamous saying, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”


(Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the publisher of Native Sun News Today. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association, the 1985 recipient of the H. L. Mencken Award, and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. He can be reached at

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