Chief Long Wolf (1833-1892)
‘Medicine Men say the spirit doesn't rest until the body is home’
Chief Long Wolf was buried in Brompton Cemetery over a hundred years ago, but his body was taken back to America in the 1990s.
Long Wolf was an Oglala Sioux, born Sugmanitu Haska in South Dakota in about 1833. It’s said that he was on the winning side at the infamous Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, when General Custer’s troops were beaten by the Sioux. His body was certainly covered in many scars from bullet wounds and sabre cuts.
The Sioux were finally defeated by US military forces and, to avoid being mistreated in the aftermath, Long Wolf joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Renamed ‘Lame Warrior’, he travelled around Europe and America with the Show, playing to huge crowds. His wife and children often travelled with him.
Long Wolf was 59 when he died, either of pneumonia or pleurisy, while in London. His wife feared his body would be put overboard if he was taken home by ship, so Long Wolf was buried at Brompton Cemetery. Bill Cody bought the plot, in a prestigious position in the Great Circle, and marked the grave with a wolf as Long Wolf had requested.
In 1914 a delegation of cavalry and Oglala Sioux came to the cemetery to visit the grave. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that Long Wolf made the news again. Elizabeth Knight from Worcestershire bought an old book about Native Americans, read Long Wolf’s story and visited his grave. Moved by his story, she set about trying to contact his descendants.
Jessie Black Feather knew her grandfather had been buried in London but didn’t know where. After hearing from Elizabeth, Jessie and her son John arranged for Long Wolf to be returned to their ancestral burial grounds, on the Pine Ridge reservation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
The repatriation took place in 1996, and a unique memorial service was held at nearby St Luke’s Church. It included biblical verse, Sioux prayers, organ music and Native American drums. The tribal chief who travelled to London with Long Wolf’s family said, ‘The spirit remains with the bones, and the bones will finally be at rest among his own’.