Letter: to my friend Mr. Burbank, through his interpreter Ista Tanka

Blue Horse. 1900.

Image of Letter: to my friend Mr. Burbank, through his interpreter Ista Tanka

Chief Blue Horse, a Lakota Indian, wrote this letter to the artist E. A. Burbank.

[p. 1] To my friend Mr. Burbank

through my interpreter Ista Tanka

Son of the “Shadow Maker”

This morning I am glad to shake hands with you though the White Man’s way, his way not his burden and to tell you through this paper a little of my past history. I am the second son of the Great Sioux Chief Smoke, to whom over recently eight years ago there was born two sons, viz., Big Mouth and Blue Horse. As Big Mouth was the eldest, he became head chief before the death of our father. But thirty winters past, another Sioux Chief by the name of Spotted Tail through jealousy laid in ambush, and killed my brother. Being of a peaceful disposition I did not retaliate and murder Spotted Tail, as I was advised to do—but instead separated and moved with the “melt” band of Sioux to other locality, where Spotted Tail hereafter gave us ample room and treated my land with the greatest respect.

The Blue Horse village afterward became noted for a place of refuge for all White Men in distress and this morning kind friend, I raise the Pipe of truth, and I do here most solemnly swear by and in the presence of the Great Spirit, that this brown [continued on p. 2]

Image of Letter: to my friend Mr. Burbank, through his interpreter Ista Tanka

[p. 2] hand of Old Chief Blue Horse, has never risen to smite a White Man. I have lived in peace here and have assisted the Great Father in his work of advancing my people from warriors to citizenship and to accept the road and burdens of your race. And with down cast heart I have nottised my Great Father (The President [William McKinley]) giving nice carriages and fine horses and building good frame houses to some, so called chiefs here. Yes, some of these very men have murdered many of your race, have fought against education and all advancement yet they are the best rewarded of all members of our tribe. If you ever in your travels should meet my Great Father, please ask him to remember Blue Horse. Tell him I am called Blue Horse the “Gold Bug,” on account of the active part I took during the last presidential election, as previous to the fall election I had been a regular attendant at one of our Missionary chapels, and had listen to our good minister description of the “Golden City,” and its golden paved streets. I pictured to myself the predicament, I and Mrs. Blue Horse would be placed into, if this man Bryan, should be elected, and extended the golden streets 16 to 1—which would compel us to travel sixteen silver miles to one of the Golden Miles to reach the silver commissary to draw our monthly rations. I am glad Bryan was not elected, for I am getting [continued on p. 3]

Image of Letter: to my friend Mr. Burbank, through his interpreter Ista Tanka

[p. 3] old, and the shadows of mature years have furrowed my once fair face. I am looking for peace in the Spirit land. White Men have their Bibles and their Christ to guide them to life to come. Us Indians have our “White Cow,” traditions, and superstitions and have deeds. You may ask me for explanations, and the absurdity of our faith, and in reply my friend I would say “How” let’s wait, my friend, and see who gets there first.

I am now going to leave you as it were. I hope to meet you again and I shall rise my pipe above my head and say Great Spirit I pray be good to my friend the son of the Shadow maker, toward the Pines (the North) cold winds treat him kindly, toward the rising sun (East) great sun shine on his lodge early every morning. Toward the place where the shadow maker lives (South) “bless your son,” toward the land of the setting sun (West) staying Waft on the breezes our friend this way, and lowering my Pipe of peace, I say kind Mother Earth, when you receive my friend into thy motherly bosom hold him kindly, let the howl of the Coyote, the roaring of the bears and the mountain lions, the cold blasts of winds swaying the tops of the Pine Trees be a sweet lullaby to him that shaketh the hand of your friend.

[under drawing of horse] X his mark

Metadata Details
Item Type Letter
Title Letter: to my friend Mr. Burbank, through his interpreter Ista Tanka
Short Title Letter from Chief Blue Horse, 1900
Creator Blue Horse
Publication Date 1900
Call Number VAULT box Ayer MS 82
Location Special Collections, 4th Floor