DescriptionPlains Indians: A Fine Saddle, with Accompanying Research Attributing It to the Cheyenne War Chief Two Moons, a Major Figure at Little Bighorn, and One of Fraser's Three Models for the Buffalo Nickel. Two Moons (1842-1917) was present at virtually every significant skirmish or battle between the Cheyenne and U.S. Army forces, and was one of the significant war chiefs of the Cheyenne at Little Bighorn. Although accounts are conflicting, some name him as the man who took Custer's life. Other accounts include him among the prominent Cheyenne who prevented the ritual mutilation of Custer's body after the battle. (Custer may have escaped that fate not because he was held in high regard, but because during the period when his wife was back east for an extended time he took a Cheyenne woman as a mistress. By Cheyenne tradition, this made him one of their own by association, and hence it would have been an unacceptable affront to mutilate his body.) But what is known for certain is that Two Moons was one of the ranking Cheyenne leaders in the battle.
He and his band of 300 surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles in April of 1877. He was subsequently enrolled as a U.S. Army scout, and in that role was involved in the pursuit and capture of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. When a Northern Cheyenne reservation was established in 1884, General Miles named Two Moons as its head chief, an appointment later ratified by the Cheyenne Nation. In 1914 he traveled to Washington to meet with President Woodrow Wilson in an attempt to advance the cause of his people.
His saddle is in typical Plains Indian style, constructed of wood overlaid with rawhide. This example is in excellent condition, with extensive original brass tacking. On the seat of the saddle can still be seen the worn remnants of a painted geometric design. Faded, broken pencil writing is still visible on the underside. The writing is challenging to decipher, but on our website we have included numerous photos taken from different angles and under different lighting. Taken together, they show that the pencil inscription reads: "Saddle belonged (?) to CHIEF TWO MOONS, Cheyenne Collected (?) from W. Moncure Trader at Busby, Mont. 1917." Two Moons died in April of 1917, and it is probable that this saddle was among his effects obtained by W. P. Moncure at that time. He is well documented in Montana history as a merchant and trader in Indian artifacts and relics. During a brief period of residency in Butte City, Montana around 1910, Moncure must have struck up a friendship with Two Moons. When the Chief died, he was buried in a solitary grave near Busby, Montana, on land which was purchased by Moncure. He erected a mortared stone monument over Two Moons' grave, and in 1941 deeded this parcel of land and the monument into a Trust for the Northern Cheyenne. A copy of the Winter 1957 issue of Montana magazine ("the magazine of Western history"), including a feature article on Moncure and Two Moons, is a part of an extensive, inch-thick dossier of reference materials on the saddle, Two Moons, Moncure, and related history.
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