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State Historical Society to receive Chief Spotted Tail donation

The South Dakota State Historical Society is set to receive a collection honoring Chief Spotted Tail during a formal event in Pierre on May 15.

The official donation ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. at the Georgia Morse Middle School. The public is encouraged to attend the ceremony. 

Spotted Tail (Sinte Gleska) was a Sicangu Lakota statesman who befriended U.S. Indian Agent Maj. Cicero Newell. Spotted Tail gave a headdress, clothing, moccasins, and other accessories to Newell as a sign of his friendship. These items were passed down several generations in the Newell family. In 2022, James Newell and his son, Eric, in La Center, Wash., called Chief John Spotted Tail, the fifth generation first son of Spotted Tail, seeking to return the items. The items were repatriated in August of 2022 to Chief John Spotted Tail and his wife Tamara Stands and Looks Back-Spotted Tail, who will now donate them to the people of South Dakota as one example among many where intercultural friendships existed and still exist across time.

Chief John Spotted Tail and his wife, Tamara Stands and Looks Back-Spotted Tail, issued the following statement regarding the return and donation of the sacred artifacts: "As custodians of our ancestral heritage, deeply rooted in Sicangu Lakota history, we are profoundly honored to oversee the return of these cherished artifacts belonging to our esteemed ancestor, Sinte Gleska. It is our heartfelt belief that these items should be shared with all who wish to learn from and honor our shared history, ensuring that the legacy of our people endures for all present and future generations. Their return and subsequent donation symbolize our unwavering commitment to preserving and celebrating our cultural heritage, enriching the lives of those yet to come."

“We are so pleased to be receiving these important artifacts and look forward to sharing them with the public soon,” said Dr. Ben Jones, Director of the State Historical Society. “Sinte Gleska’s courageous actions in war and diplomacy shaped much of our regional and state history and these artifacts, and their path to us over the past 140 years, tell the story of war and also of friendship.”

Sinte Gleska was one of the leaders who signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which was designed to bring peace between the U.S. government and several regional tribes. Sinte Gleska settled with his people on what would become the Rosebud Indian Reservation and remained a powerful leader until his death in 1881. Sinte Gleska University in Mission, S.D., is named for him.

More information about Chief Spotted Tail can be found in the book “Spotted Tail:  Warrior and Statesman”, written by Raymond L. Clow.  

About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. For questions or memberships, call 605-773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.