In a saga of bitter hardship and resolve, 350 Northern Cheyenne led by Little Wolf and Dull Knife escaped the Darlington Agency in present Oklahoma late in 1878. Struggling north, they were imprisoned in Nebraska, broke out and, crossing a corner of Wyoming Territory, finally returned to their Montana homelands.
In November 1876, about 700 cavalry and 400 Indian scouts led by Col. Ranald Mackenzie, burned the main village of the Northern Cheyenne to the ground near the Red Fork of Powder River about 20 miles west of present Kaycee, Wyo. Seven soldiers were killed and about 40 Cheyenne, but the economic and cultural loss to the tribe was devastating. The Northern Cheyenne surrendered to government authorities the following spring.
In the year of Custer’s defeat, Gen. George Crook led three expeditions into the Powder River country to subdue free-roaming Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne bands. The tribes defeated his troops twice and prevented them from linking up with Custer. On the third expedition, Crook’s soldiers destroyed Dull Knife’s village of Northern Cheyenne.