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Diane Merkel

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Deeds ~ Wicohan
by Gregor Lutz

Sans Arc or Hunkpapa
c. 1866 – 1876

The very first casualty of the Battle of the Little Bighorn was a barely ten years old Lakota boy named Deeds or Deed or Wicohan in Lakota. Searching for ponies, Deeds, and at least one fellow Lakota (some say two), had been away from the village and came across a box of hardtack. Some sources tell of two boys, some of Deeds and his father Brown Back. This happened in a deep ravine.

Two men (?) were seen near the divide on the morning of June 25 by Lt. Charles A Varnum. But only the father, Brown Back, would return to the camp sites in the valley.

(See Hardorff, "Custer's Trail to Wolf Mountains: A Reevaluation of Evidence,"
Custer and His Times. Book Two, pp. 110-11)

What happened to his ten-year-old son before reaching the safety of the Indian village? While examining the hardtack box, a group of troopers - probably the ones who lost the box - came back. They immediately opened fire and hit Deeds in the chest. He died immediately.

Drags-The-Rope, another eye-witness of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, also relates that the first casualty of the battle was boy named Deeds, According to Seventh Cavalry survivor Daniel Kanipe, Custer ordered his men into a deep ravine on the morning of June 25, apparently intending to remain hidden there for a dawn attack the next day. But the soldiers lost a box of hardtack off one of their horses as they trotted into the ravine. Kanipe said he believed the loss of that hardtack box and the subsequent killing of a Sioux caused Custer to attack immediately.

The reports with regard to Deeds are conflicting and puzzling. Some sources say he was Sans Arc, others say he was Hunkpapa. When he was killed, he was accompanied by an older brother or his father. In both cases the person was called Brown Back. Other sources link Deeds to Moving Robe Woman (Hunkpapa), who fought in the battle to revenge her killed brother. But this seems to be a misinterpretation of various reports. Moving Robe’s or Mary Crawler’s brother – her father was the well-known chief Crawler - was One Hawk, a casualty of Reno’s attack.

One thing seems to be sure: when we speak of the first casualties of the battle, we’re talking of two persons. One is a boy of about 10 years (Deeds), the other is a teen or young man (Moving Robe Woman’s brother One Hawk?). Moving Robe Woman said in an interview that her brother was killed before the battle of the Little Bighorn, which is an elastic term. Rain-In-The-Face even related that Moving Robe Woman’s brother was killed in the battle with Three Stars Crook on the Rosebud Creek. Little Soldier, Sitting Bull’s stepson, told Frank B. Zahn in 1936, that “a young boy, Deeds, and Hona, were shot at by soldiers“. Again, two persons.

The exact location of Deeds’ kill-site is not known. But all reports agree that he was killed some distance from the actual first battlefield and skirmish line (west of the Little Bighorn River and south of the Hunkpapa camp). Most reports say he was killed east of the river, below the forks of Reno Creek.

In any case, we can say Deeds was the first victim. He discovered the soldiers by chance or was discovered by them. And that was the reason he had to die.

Most accounts agree that Deeds’ grandfather was the Hunkpapa chief Four Horns; another relative was Sitting Bull.


American Indians: Answers to Today's Questions by Jack Utter

Lakota Noon: The Indian Narrative of Custer's Defeat by Gregory Michno

Indian Views of the Custer Fight: A Source Book by Richard G. Hardorff

Hokahey! A Good Day to Die! The Indian Casualties of the Custer Fight by Richard G. Hardorff

Voices of the American West: The Indian Interviews of Eli S. Ricker, 1903-1919 by Eli Seavey Ricker