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Chief Bear Face

Chief Mato Ite (Bear Face)


Bear Face I (Mato Ite) of the Hunkpapa had six sons who are remembered in history, the six full-brothers  Walutawakinyan -Red Thunder b. 1827, Hemaza -Iron Horn b. 1829, Mato Ite -Bear Face II b. 1830,   Itonagaju -Rain in the Face b. 1836, Shave Head  b.1840 and  Mato Cigala -Little Bear b. 1842 .                                                                                                  

Bear Face I was a signatory as a warrior to the 1825 Hunkpapa treaty with the Atkinson-O'Fallon Commission. He was born around 1800. The family was a leading Tiwahe within the Che-okhba, or Droopy Penis, band. The band occupied the place in the Hunkpapa camp-circle next to the Sore-Backs band, which suggests they may have been sister bands, one budded off the other.  


Bear Face II was born in the year called Watasagyapi, When Meat Was Kept Frozen, namely in 1830.  That was a very severe winter. The fall hunt was made near Bear Butte, South Dakota. It was so cold, meat could not be cured. Scaffolds were made seven feet high and all the meat was placed up in them and covered with hides. It stayed frozen till spring. 


Bear Face was the head chief of the Čheokhba band. He was of the Huŋkpapȟaya section of the Cheokhba. Bear Face’s father was a chief as well as two of his brother’s Iron Horn and Rain in the Face. He participated in the raid against Fort Totten in North Dakota in the summer of 1866 with his brother Rain in the Face. Two years later, he was with the group that attacked Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming, the infamous Fetterman battle. In this fight, almost every band of the Sioux nation was represented. He was in all the battles fought by the Hunkpapa including Little Big Horn.


In early October 1876, he was prevailed upon by the Army to go out with Long Feather in an attempt to induce the non-treaty bands to surrender. Bear Face helped arrange a council between Sitting Bull and Lt. Col. Otis. When General Miles had a conference with the Sioux under Sitting Bull near where Miles City is now on the Yellowstone in the fall of 1876, Bear Face was one of the chiefs who bore the white flag of peace to General Miles. The other two chiefs who went with him were Crow Feather and Charging Thunder. These were chiefs of different bands who wanted peace and peace would have been negotiated if treachery had not been practiced the second day of the meeting between soldiers and Indians. While Sitting Bull and General Miles were having a conference, it was discovered by Crazy Horse (who was in the rear) that the soldiers, who were armed with pistols, had broken the straight line ranks and were gradually forming a skirmish line in a half circle around the Indians.  When this was reported to Sitting Bull, he ordered the Indians to form a skirmish line the same as the soldiers were doing, which order was obeyed at once. General Miles ordered Sitting Bull to call his men back. Sitting Bull replied by telling General Miles to call his own men back; that the soldiers were the first to break their lines, and that as soon as he called his men back, the Indians would be called back also. General Miles was not in a very good humor after this. He accused Sitting Bull of hating the white people and always wanting to fight. To this Sitting Bull replied that it was not true:


I am fighting only when I am forced to fight. I am not looking for fights. I am trying to keep out of the way, but you are the one to follow us around. Why did you come into our country to molest us?” 


General Miles told him that the government had sent him and that was the reason for his being there. After a few exchanges of words, the Indians could see that General Miles was getting very angry and the Indians thought it was time to retire. When they got up to go, General Miles said something that the interpreter did not interpret. If John Bruguier had interpreted what General Miles said, he and his men would all have been wiped out right there.


Sitting Bull was at the head of all the chiefs. They all looked to him in obedience, but he would not give up his guns or horses and, furthermore, he demanded that the Black Hills be evacuated by all white people since they had not been sold. Just as Miles said he would do, in fifteen minutes the cannons were belching toward the Indian camps, hundreds of women and children and men were slaughtered.


Peace terms could have been arranged with very little persuasion. Bear Face and some of the other chiefs wanted to do this, but the shooting was started and they were all compelled to fight. In the end it cost the government millions of dollars and many lives.  


Bear Face returned to Standing Rock on November 5, 1876 settled at Kenel on Bear Face Creek. He married about 1864 to Brown Tracks, later known as Annie Bear Face. Bear Face was recognized as a band leader at the agency. In late 1876, his band only consisted of 2 families; by 1877, he had eight; and by the following year his band had grown to seventeen families. Bear Face II became Christianized and was of the Catholic faith. He was buried at Kenel in the Catholic graveyard in 1915, aged 85 years.  Bear Face’s daughter Rosa Bear Face started the first school in Sitting Bull’s camp after returning from Hampton, VA. His son Vital Bear Face sat on the first Tribal Council for Standing Rock and was Tribal Chairman in 1914 and continued to work for his people. Bear Face died in 1915 and was buried in Old Kenel, SD.


1885 Standing Rock Ration list

Chief Bear Face Hunkpapa had 22 lodges and 95 people under his care. People under his care:


Mato Knaskiyan (Crazy Bear);

Mato Ciqana (Little Bear);

Mato Sapa (Black Bear);

Otonwela (Goose's Wife);

Wahancankayapi (Used as a Shield);

Sungmanitu Ciqa (Little Wolf);

Hbayela Mani (Walking Quietly);

Ayutapila (Looking At);

Mato Akicita (Bear Soldier);

Mato Wakantuya (High Bear);

Wamunon (Stealing);

Wakiyan Luta (Red Thunder);

Wojuha (Sack);

Mila Kicun (Use His Knife);

Marpiya To (Blue Cloud);

Hin to Gleska (Spotted Blue Fur);

Kangi Pa (Crow's Head);

Ite Omagaju (Rain In the Face);

Tate win (Wind Woman);

Mato Hlo Iyanke (Bear GrowlRunning);

Ceknake win (Breech Cloth);

WamniomniTowin (Blue Whirlwind)


Mato Ite-Bear Face

Born: 1800  

1st Spouse: Hehakawin

Born: 1811                                                             2nd Spouse: Smoke Woman

Born: 1814


Son: Walutawakinyan - Red Thunder

Born: 1827

Son: Hemaza -Iron Horn

Born: 1829                                                    

Son: Mato Ite -Bear Face II

Born: 1830
Son: Itonagaju -Rain in the Face

Born: 1836
Son: Shave Head 

Born: 1840                                                        

Son: Mato Cigala -Little Bear

Born: 1842

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