Dewey Beard: The Lakota Warrior and Advocate Who Witnessed History
Dewey Beard, also known as Wasú Máza or “Iron Hail,” was a prominent figure in Lakota history. Born in 1858, he belonged to the Lakota tribe and became known for his involvement in the Battle of Little Bighorn as a teenager. However, his life and contributions extended far beyond this significant event.
In June 1876, when Dewey Beard was just 18 years old, he fought alongside his fellow Lakota warriors in the Battle of Little Bighorn. This battle, also known as Custer’s Last Stand, marked a decisive victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes against the United States Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment led by General George Armstrong Custer. Although Dewey Beard was young at the time, his participation in this battle demonstrated his courage and commitment to defending his people and their way of life.
Following the battle, which resulted in Custer’s defeat and death, Dewey Beard, like many other Lakota warriors, joined Sitting Bull in exile in Canada. They sought refuge across the border, hoping to escape the U.S. Army’s retribution and maintain their freedom. After several years in Canada, Dewey Beard and other Lakota exiles decided to return to their ancestral lands in South Dakota.
Dewey Beard settled on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The reservation was established through various treaties between the United States government and the Lakota people. On the reservation, Dewey Beard and his fellow Lakota faced numerous challenges as they sought to rebuild their lives and preserve their culture. They had to contend with limited resources, encroachment on their lands, and attempts at assimilation by the U.S. government.
Despite these challenges, Dewey Beard became a respected and influential figure within the Lakota community. He advocated for the rights and welfare of his people, working to protect their land and preserve their cultural heritage. Dewey Beard played an active role in tribal politics, serving as a tribal council member and working on various initiatives to improve the lives of his fellow Lakota.
As the years went by, Dewey Beard witnessed significant changes in Lakota society and the ongoing struggles faced by Native Americans in the United States. He became a bridge between the traditional ways of his people and the modern world. Dewey Beard’s longevity allowed him to bear witness to the impact of government policies, such as the Dawes Act, which sought to divide tribal lands and allocate them to individual Native Americans.
Dewey Beard passed away in 1955 at the age of 96. His life spanned a period of immense challenges and changes for Native Americans. His experiences in the Battle of Little Bighorn, his exile in Canada, and his advocacy on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation make him an important figure in Lakota history. Dewey Beard’s commitment to his people’s well-being and his efforts to preserve Lakota culture continue to inspire and resonate with future generations of Native Americans.