The Daughter of Red Fish, Great Chief of the Ogallalas, Is Liberated From Captivity Among the Crows

December 16, 2021

The Ogallalas had invaded the country of the Crows, and had met them in battle. The latter fought bravely, killing ten or twelve of their agressors and driving the others off with clubs. The daughter of Red Fish, the great chief of the Ogallalas, was taken captive by the Crows. Crushed and humiliated, he left his tribe to go to Fort Peter, to ask the officers’ assistance in obtaining his daughter’s release, offering eighty beautiful buffalo robes for her ransom as well as his best horses. He then sought out Father De Smet.

Chief Red Fish of the Ogallalas.

“Black Robe,” he sobbed, “you see before you an unhappy father who has lost his beloved daughter. Have pity on me! I have been told that the Black Robe’s prayers are powerful with the Great Spirit. Speak to the Master of life for me, and I shall not then despair of again seeing my child.”

These words, and the old man’s deep sorrow, moved the missionary. He promised to pray for his daughter’s return, but admonished the chief that it rested with himself to dispose heaven in his favor, through his own good conduct. He then made him forswear all unjust aggressions against the neighboring tribes, and summoned him, with his tribe, to listen to the commands of the Great Spirit.

The next day Father De Smet offered the Holy Sacrifice, at which the Indian chief assisted, imploring, in a loud voice, the help of God. When Red Fish returned to his camp, he assembled his warriors and informed them of his interview with the Black Robe. Suddenly, joyful cries came from the extremity of the camp. They rushed forth to inquire the cause, and saw the captive daughter returning. The old chief could scarcely believe his senses. He ran from his tent to receive his child, who threw herself into his arms. But how did it happen? The young girl told her story:

Father de Smet celebrating Mass.

“From the time of my capture I was tied by my hands and feet to stakes driven into the ground. One night an unknown woman came and loosened my cords. She then gave me food and several pairs of moccasins, and said to me in low tones, ‘Rise and return to your father.’ I started off at once and walked all night. At daybreak I hid in the hollow of a tree. Some hours later, a band of warriors who were looking for me passed by without seeing me. Not finding my tracks on the other side of the river, they returned to camp. At nightfall I again set out, and in this manner I walked six days and nights until I had the joy of finding my father.”

Who was this woman who liberated her? Father De Smet does not tell us, but he asserts the event happened during the night of the day he celebrated Mass at Fort Peter. During the daughter’s recital the Indians raised their hands toward heaven in thanksgiving to the Great Spirit. Soon the news spread from tribe to tribe.

E. Laveille, S.J., The Life of Father De Smet, S.J. (1801–1873), trans. Marian Lindsay (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1915), 210–1.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 808

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