HISTORY

Postponed Pawnee Honors

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Adding insult to injury, a Pawnee scout for the U.S. Army shot in 1869 by a member of his own command was for decades denied a marker reflecting his Medal of Honor for the same action. What makes the oversight worse is that Sergeant Mad Bear (Co-Rux-Te-Chod-Ish) was the first American Indian ever awarded his adoptive nation’s highest honor. Thanks to the diligent research of Wild West contributor Jeff Broome, the scout may finally have his day in the sun. 

In the summer of 1869 Major Frank North and his company of Pawnee scouts were in pursuit of Cheyenne Dog Soldiers under Chief Tall Bull along Kansas’ Republican River. On July 8, according to Mad Bear’s citation, the sergeant “ran out from the command in pursuit of a dismounted [Cheyenne]” when badly wounded by the bullet fired by a fellow scout. But when North’s brother Luther wrote a memoir mentioning his own stint as a commander of the scouts, he recorded Mad Bear’s name as Traveling Bear, and the confusion lingered. 

Enter Broome. During research toward his 2003 book Dog Soldier Justice, relating the captivity ordeal of Susanna Alderdice amid the same conflict, he discovered the misattribution of Mad Bear’s medal. The Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States notified Veterans Affairs of the error, and the latter ultimately concurred. A private marker stands atop Mad Bear’s grave at the North Indian Cemetery in Pawnee, Okla. The Pawnee Nation must first remove it before the VA will place a military marker designating him as a Medal of Honor recipient. So it appears Mad Bear’s luck is about to change.

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