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Thursday 6 October 2011

Sioux Chief Long Wolf ~ Returned Home

The Gravesite of Chief Long Wolf as it looks today

Long Wolf, an Indian Chief whose body was covered with battle scars was believed by his family to have fought in the Battle of Little Big Horn, died of pneumonia at the age of 59 in 1892 and was then buried in Brompton cemetery in London.

How the graveside of Chief Long Wolf originally appeared

The plot in Brompton Cemetery belonged to William Cody and so it became the final resting place for Chief Long Wolf after he fell ill with pneumonia and died whilst performing with 'Col. Buffalo Bill'  ~ in Cody's 'Wild West Show' at Earl's Court in London.

Chief Long Wolf

In the 1880s, as federal troops were herding thousands of Sioux onto reservations, William Cody recruited Long Wolf and 10 others to perform in his traveling show, re~enacting battles.

Brave Chief, Eagle Chief, Knife Chief, Young Chief, William Cody,Chief American Horse, Chief Rocky Bear, Chief Flies Above, Chief Long Wolf

Long Wolf's dying wish was to return home and be buried in his native soil, but it never happened, as his Great Grandson John Black Feather says "Back then, they had burials at sea, they did ask his wife if she wanted to take him home and she figured that as soon as they hit the water they would throw him overboard, so that's why they left him here."

Long Wolf's grave was re~discovered in 1991 by Elizabeth Knight, a housewife from Worcestershire, who had read a second-hand book by Robert Cunningham Grahame that included a description of Long Wolf's life and burial and described the 'neglected grave in a lone corner of a crowded London cemetery'.
"This really struck a chord in me, he shouldn't be here in an unkempted grave", said Elizabeth. After finding the grave, she wrote to a newspaper in South Dakota.

This in turn, led to the discovery of Long Wolf's granddaughter, Jessie Black Feather ~ John Black Feather's mother, who was 87 years old at the time and Long Wolf's oldest living relative. She had lost track of where Long Wolf had been buried.

Postcard of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Indian Camp

As a child, Black Feather listened to his mother's stories of Long Wolf and he said of his Great Grandfather "He shouldn't be here, returning the body to the United States is important. Our medicine men and holy men tell us that since he's buried in a foreign country with no relatives, it would be better if he was brought to his homeland for his final resting place,they figure that his spirit will never rest until he's brought home."

John Black Feather

On 25th September 1997, some 105 years later, Chief Long Wolf began his long overdue voyage home.

His funeral procession was led by three members of the Sioux tribe of South Dakota, ahead of them, two black horses pulled a wagon bearing the casket draped with the American and Sioux flags, that contained the Warrior Chief's remains.

After a church ceremony that combined religious rites with those of the Sioux, Chief Long Wolf's remains began their return to the ancestral burial ground of the Oglala Sioux tribe at the Pine Ridge Reservation.
It will be followed by a feast of venison and buffalo meat to celebrate his return at last to the land of his people.
"It's not a sad day for us," said John Black Feather. "It's gonna be a great homecoming for him."
Two other caskets had also been buried on top of Long Wolf's, that of a 2-year-old Sioux girl named Star Ghost Dog, who was killed when she fell from a horse in Cody's show. And that of an Englishman.
Star was re~buried near Wounded Knee and the Englishman was re~buried elsewhere.

Chief Long Wolf
North American Indian
with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Co.
Died June 7th 1892
Aged 59 years

Also Star
who died August 12th 1892
Aged 28 months


  1. What a fascinating story. Great research!

  2. Having grown up five minutes from the cemetery this is fascinating. But, who was the English-man?

  3. A coda to this story is that my Nebraskan cousin Julie Ronnfeldt had dated Jessie Black Feather's grandson and had become close with Jessie. Julie then came over with Jessie to collect Long Wolf's remains and we had a nice visit at my mother's house in Ealing. Then they had a problem with the headstone, which was going to cost £4000 to ship back. My USA distributor for Green & Black's chocolate had a collection depot near Tilbury in Essex so we put the headstone on a pallet, stacked it up with Maya Gold and sent it with the rest of his organic chocolate delivery to his warehouse in Rhode Island. He then shipped it to the Blooming Prairie natural foods coop in Iowa City and they put it on a delivery truck that passed near Pine Ridge Reservation. It was in February and the ground was frozen solid but when it thawed by April they could erect the stone over Long Wolf's grave, where it stands today. As someone born on a farm on the edge of the Winnebago reservation in Nebraska I am aware of how our family became landowning farmers and this small action, I hope, helped reduce my karmic debt.

    1. What a fascinating adjunct. Thanks for sharing

    2. I have an original oil painting of chief long wolf by Clarence Elsworth. 1934

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