"This is it. He's on his way," Walsh said to Sergeant McCutcheon. The sergeant did not
have to ask who "he" was.
"We've just heard that he's been at the Big Bend of Milk River and is headed due north,"
Walsh added. "Our scouts say he'll probably cross near Pinto Horse Butte. Sergeant, detail three
sub-constables to come with you and me and tell Léveillé and the Blackbird to get ready to
They camped that night in a meadow smelling sweetly of sage and wild roses. Louis
Léveillé rode out to scout the countryside at dawn. Walsh was finishing his breakfast tea and
smoking his pipe when the scout returned. He pointed northeast and said: "Dust cloud. Big one,
that way. Hell of a lot of horses.
The police party rode off and came across a trail of travois marks and horse droppings
that led to a field dotted with abandoned campfires. Here Sitting Bull's band had spent the
They rode for several hours up an ever-freshening trail leading toward Snake Creek,
which flowed into the White Mud River. Walsh gave orders to follow it at a walk; he did not
want to press the Sioux into a panicky response. At mid-afternoon. he called a halt in a valley
surrounded by dun-coloured buttes and ordered the tents pitched.
Next morning they had been on the Indians' trail for about three hours when Léveillé
drew up beside his leader.
"Major, we think we are tracking them, but they are tracking us," he said. He nodded
toward a high flat butte behind them. "Take a look up there."
On the ridge, riding parallel with them at a leisurely pace, were three native horsemen. A
few minutes later more riders appeared on the surrounding bluffs. Soon there were Indians
moving apace with them to the front and rear.
"Pay no attention," Walsh said. "Just keep going as if we don't see them." He could not
help thinking, however, of what good targets they must have made for a rifleman up there on the
The Indians kept their distance while the party filed through a steep-walled canyon and
passed into a grassy field. Then they found themselves riding past a line of newly pitched tepees.
Women who had been busy unpacking their household goods put aside their work to stare at the
redcoated men and the buckskin-clad Métis.
Walsh trotted ahead to a clear patch of grass and called: "Halt and dismount! We camp
here, boys!" The men busied themselves unsaddling, relieving the pack horses of their burdens,
and pitching their tents.
"Why don't you and the Blackbird go over there and have a chat with those folks?"
Walsh said to Léveillé. The scouts strolled over to the women.
"They're Sans Arcs, Major," said Léveillé. "The No Bows. This is their tribal circle.
Somebody's gone to get their chief."
The chief arrived carrying a kind of truncheon with three hefty knife blades embedded in
it. It had taken blood at the Little Bighorn, Walsh would have bet.
He was a tall sensitive-looking man in, Walsh guessed, his mid-thirties. Smiling broadly,
he gave his name as Spotted Eagle and extended his hand to Walsh.
He asked: "Do you know you are in the camp of Sitting Bull?"
"Yes. That is what we have come for. To meet him."
Spotted Eagle laughed. Solomon, who was interpreting, said: "Major, he says you amaze
him. This is the first time a white officer has ever had the nerve to come into Sitting Bull's
camp. He says, 'Have you no love of your scalp?'"
More chiefs and headmen walked in from the other tribal circles, exchanging handshakes
and proclaiming their friendship. They were noticeably taller than most Canadian Indian men.
A party approached led by a broad-shouldered man somewhat shorter than the rest who
wore two eagle feathers on the back of his head and walked with a slight limp. He plunged into
the group and grasped Sergeant McCutcheon's hand.
"I Seedyboo," he said. Walsh shot a warning glance at a couple of young sub-constables
who smirked at the comical pronunciation.
Walsh exchanged a firm handshake with the chief. So this was the great man himself, he
thought; the man whose very name strikes terror in the hearts of American children. Ever since
the Little Bighorn, their mothers had substituted Sitting Bull for the Bogey Man.
Sitting Bull was about forty-five, Walsh guessed, with a chiselled countenance that
nonetheless had something delicate, almost feminine, about it. He had an unusually wide mouth
that now stretched out into a beaming smile. Walsh introduced his men to him.
Sitting Bull swept a hand around and uttered a few sentences to his fellow chiefs and
headmen. Solomon translated: "He says red coats. He says good."