March 14, 2002

Two Strike (Nomkahpa), Sioux


Keywords: Two Strike Nomkahpa sioux warriors american indian hero native american leaders Rosebud sioux famous SIOUX Charles Alexander Eastman Ohiyesa

Source: As remembered by Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

The name of Two Strike is a deed name. In a battle with the Utes this man knocked two enemies from the back of a war horse. The true rendering of the name Nomkahpa would be, “He knocked off two.”

It is a pity that so many interesting names of well-known Indians
have been mistranslated, so that their meaning becomes very vague
if it is not wholly lost. In some cases an opposite meaning is

For instance there is the name, “Young-Man-Afraid-of-
His-Horses.” It does not mean that the owner of the name is afraid
of his own horse — far from it! Tashunkekokipapi signifies “The
young men [of the enemy] fear his horses.” Whenever that man
attacks, the enemy knows there will be a determined charge.

The name Tashunkewitko, or Crazy Horse, is a poetic simile.
This leader was likened to an untrained or untouched horse, wild,
ignorant of domestic uses, splendid in action, and unconscious of

I was well acquainted with Two Strike and spent many pleasant
hours with him, both at Washington, D. C., and in his home on the
Rosebud reservation.

What I have written is not all taken from his
own mouth, because he was modest in talking about himself, but I
had him vouch for the truth of the stories.

Two Strike said that he was
born near the Republican River about 1832. His earliest
recollection was of an attack by the Shoshones upon their camp on
the Little Piney.

The first white men Two Strike ever met were traders who
visited his people when he was very young. The incident was still
vividly with him, because, he said, “They made my father crazy,”
(drunk). This made a deep impression upon him, he told me, so that
from that day he was always afraid of the white man’s “mysterious

Two Strike was not a large man, but he was very supple and
alert in motion, as agile as an antelope. His face was mobile and
intelligent. Although Two Strike had the usual somber visage of an Indian,
his expression brightened up wonderfully when he talked.

In some
ways wily and shrewd in intellect, he was not deceitful nor mean.
Two Strike had a high sense of duty and honor. Patriotism was his ideal
and goal of life.

As a young man Two Strike was modest and even shy, although both his
father and grandfather were well-known chiefs. I could find few
noteworthy incidents in his early life, save that he was an expert
rider of wild horses.

At one time I was pressing him to give me
some interesting incident of his boyhood. He replied to the effect
that there was plenty of excitement but “not much in it.”

was a delegation of Sioux chiefs visiting Washington, and we were
spending an evening together in their hotel. Hollow Horn Bear
spoke up and said:

“Why don’t you tell him how you and a buffalo cow together
held your poor father up and froze him almost to death?”

Everybody laughed, and another man remarked: “I think he had
better tell the medicine man (meaning myself) how he lost the power
of speech when he first tried to court a girl.” Two Strike,
although he was then close to eighty years of age, was visibly
embarrassed by their chaff.

“Anyway, I stuck to the trail. I kept on till I got what I
wanted,” he muttered. And then came the story.

The old chief, his father, was very fond of the buffalo hunt;
and being accomplished in horsemanship and a fine shot, although
not very powerfully built, young Two Strike was already following
hard in his footsteps.

Like every proud father, his was giving him
every incentive to perfect his skill, and one day challenged his
sixteen-year-old son to the feat of “one arrow to kill” at the very
next chase.

It was midwinter. A large herd of buffalo was reported by the
game scout. The hunters gathered at daybreak prepared for the
charge. The old chief had his tried charger equipped with a soft,
pillow-like Indian saddle and a lariat.

His old sinew-backed
hickory bow was examined and strung, and a fine straight arrow with
a steel head carefully selected for the test. He adjusted a keen
butcher knife over his leather belt, which held a warm buffalo robe
securely about his body.

He wore neither shirt nor coat, although
a piercing wind was blowing from the northwest. The youthful Two
Strike had his favorite bow and his swift pony, which was perhaps
dearer to him than his closest boy comrade.

Now the hunters crouched upon their horses’ necks like an army
in line of battle, while behind them waited the boys and old men
with pack ponies to carry the meat. “Hukahey!” shouted the leader
as a warning. “Yekiya wo!” (Go) and in an instant all the ponies
leaped forward against the cutting wind, as if it were the start in
a horse race.

Every rider leaned forward, tightly wrapped in his
robe, watching the flying herd for an opening in the mass of
buffalo, a chance to cut out some of the fattest cows. This was
the object of the race.

The chief had a fair start; his horse was well trained and
needed no urging nor guidance. Without the slightest pull on the
lariat he dashed into the thickest of the herd. The youth’s pony
had been prancing and rearing impatiently; he started a little
behind, yet being swift passed many.

Two Strike had one clear
glimpse of his father ahead of him, then the snow arose in blinding
clouds on the trail of the bison. The whoops of the hunters, the
lowing of the cows, and the menacing glances of the bulls as they
plunged along, or now and then stood at bay, were enough to unnerve
a boy less well tried.

Two Strike was unable to select his victim. He had
been carried deeply into the midst of the herd and found himself
helpless to make the one sure shot, therefore he held his one arrow
in his mouth and merely strove to separate them so as to get his

At last the herd parted, and he cut out two fat cows, and was
maneuvering for position when a rider appeared out of the snow
cloud on their other side. This aroused him to make haste lest his
rival secure both cows; he saw his chance, and in a twinkling his
arrow sped clear through one of the animals so that she fell

In this instant he observed that the man who had joined him
was his own father, who had met with the same difficulties as
himself. When the young man had shot his only arrow, the old chief
with a whoop went after the cow that was left, but as he gained her
broadside, his horse stepped in a badger hole and fell, throwing
him headlong.

The maddened buffalo, as sometimes happens in such
cases, turned upon the pony and gored him to death. His rider lay
motionless, while Two Strike rushed forward to draw her attention,
but she merely tossed her head at him, while persistently standing
guard over the dead horse and the all but frozen Indian.

Alas for the game of “one arrow to kill!” The boy must think
fast, for his father’s robe had slipped off, and he was playing
dead, lying almost naked in the bitter air upon the trampled snow.

Two Strike’s bluff would not serve, so he flew back to pull out his solitary
arrow from the body of the dead cow. Quickly wheeling again, Two Strike
sent it into her side and she fell.

The one arrow to kill had
become one arrow to kill two buffalo! At the council lodge that
evening Two Strike was the hero.

The following story is equally characteristic of him, and in
explanation it should be said that in the good old days among the
Sioux, a young man is not supposed to associate with girls until he
is ready to take a wife.

It was a rule with our young men,
especially the honorable and well-born, to gain some reputation in
the hunt and in war, — the more difficult the feats achieved the
better, — before even speaking to a young woman.

Many a life was
risked in the effort to establish a reputation along these lines.

Courtship was no secret, but rather a social event, often
celebrated by the proud parents with feasts and presents to the
poor, and this etiquette was sometimes felt by a shy or sensitive
youth as an insurmountable obstacle to the fulfilment of his

Two Strike was the son and grandson of a chief, but he could
not claim any credit for the deeds of his forbears. He had not
only to guard their good name but achieve one for himself. This he
had set out to do, and he did well.

Two Strike was now of marriageable age
with a war record, and admitted to the council, yet he did not seem
to trouble himself at all about a wife. His was strictly a
bachelor career.

Meanwhile, as is apt to be the case, his parents
had thought much about a possible daughter-in-law, and had even
collected ponies, fine robes, and other acceptable goods to be
given away in honor of the event, whenever it should take place.
Now and then they would drop a sly hint, but with no perceptible

They did not and could not know of the inward struggle that
racked his mind at this period of his life. The shy and modest
young man was dying for a wife, yet could not bear even to think of
speaking to a young woman!

The fearless hunter of buffaloes,
mountain lions, and grizzlies, the youth who had won his eagle
feathers in a battle with the Utes, could not bring himself to take
this tremendous step.

At last his father appealed to him directly. “My son,” he
declared, “it is your duty to take unto yourself a wife, in order
that the honors won by your ancestors and by yourself may be handed
down in the direct line. There are several eligible young women in
our band whose parents have intimated a wish to have you for their

Two Strike made no reply, but he was greatly disturbed. He
had no wish to have the old folks select his bride, for if the
truth were told, his choice was already made. He had simply lacked
the courage to go a-courting!

The next morning, after making an unusually careful toilet, he
took his best horse and rode to a point overlooking the path by
which the girls went for water. Here the young men were wont to
take their stand, and, if fortunate, intercept the girl of their
heart for a brief but fateful interview.

Two Strike had determined
to speak straight to the point, and as soon as he saw the pretty
maid he came forward boldly and placed himself in her way. A long
moment passed. She glanced up at him shyly but not without
encouragement. His teeth fairly chattered with fright, and he
could not say a word.

She looked again, noted his strange looks,
and believed him suddenly taken ill. Two Strike appeared to be suffering.
At last he feebly made signs for her to go on and leave him alone.
The maiden was sympathetic, but as she did not know what else to do
she obeyed his request.

The poor youth was so ashamed of his cowardice that he
afterward admitted his first thought was to take his own life. He
believed he had disgraced himself forever in the eyes of the only
girl he had ever loved. However, Two Strike determined to conquer his
weakness and win her, which he did. The story came out many years
after and was told with much enjoyment by the old men.

Two Strike was better known by his own people than by the
whites, for he was individually a terror in battle rather than a
leader. He achieved his honorable name in a skirmish with the Utes
in Colorado.

The Sioux regarded these people as their bravest
enemies, and the outcome of the fight was for some time uncertain.
First the Sioux were forced to retreat and then their opponents,
and at the latter point the horse of a certain Ute was shot under
him. A friend came to his rescue and took him up behind him.

hero overtook them in flight, raised his war club, and knocked both
men off with one blow.

He was a very old man when he died, only two or three years
ago, on the Rosebud reservation.

Famous Sioux
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