27 May 2019

American Indians Served in the US Army in the 1890s at Fort Douglas

This is the grave site of Pvt Frank Bear-Heel (Ma-to Sig-ti-e). Company I, 16th Infantry, US Army.

A member of the Brule Sioux Indian Tribe, Private Bear-Heel died at Fort Dougals by suicide on 28 August 1893, after he heard his father had died; he was buried with military honors in the Fort Douglas Cemetery, Salt Lake City. Pvt Bear-Heel was the only death of the 16th Infantry, Company I.

In the nineteenth century, the U.S. Army was a racially segregated institution. Along with the Buffalo Soldiers, Fort Douglas was briefly home to a Native American company of U. S. Army Soldiers. Native Americans were authorized to enlist in the U. S. Army on March 9, 1891; the orders allowed for an enlistment of 1,485 men but only 780 would actually enlist. Many of the enlisted were Sioux from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota and were surviving family members to the Sioux killed on 29 January 1891 at the Battle of Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

A Salt Lake Herald Republican newspaper article described Pvt Frank Bear-Heel as about 21 years old, the oldest son of Bear Heel, a respected member of the Two Kettle Brule Sioux Tribe. He enlisted at Rosebud agency on December 27, 1892, and was quite intelligent, and able to speak and write English. He was an able Soldier in good standing and a popular man

Sources: SL Herald Republican 1893-08-29 and 30; Warriors in Ranks: American Indian Units in the Regular Army 1891-1897 by Robert Lee, South Dakota History, V21 N3.

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