Chief Two Sticks

The crime and punishment of Chief Two Sticks are tragic examples of the mistreatment of Native peoples in the United States and of the mischaracterization of an act of self-defense in a highly asymmetrical war as a common crime.

Chief Two Sticks was a Lakota Sioux leader as the Dakotas were subjected to increasing white encroachment in the last years of the nineteenth century.

Under the pretext of responding to a raid led by Two Sticks on a herd of cattle owned by white ranchers, the U.S. Army moved in to arrest him. When they arrived, a battle broke out in which five white officers were killed.

Two Sticks escaped. When authorities caught up with him, another battle and more killings occurred. Another escape, pursuit, and battle followed; this time several Sioux were killed and Chief Two Sticks was injured.

Taken to Deadwood to stand trial in federal court, Chief Two Sticks was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

Chief Two Sticks was hanged in Deadwood, South Dakota, on December 28, 1894, one day short of four years after the notorious massacre of Sioux forces at Wounded Knee.

“The Black Hills Daily Times reported his death on December 29, 1894 with the headline, “A Good Indian,” snidely referring to the infamous saying, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

This final quote and much of this description come from Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association, the 1985 recipient of the H. L. Mencken Award, and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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