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Virgil Chase

Virgil ChaseMy name is Virgil Chase, Sr. My father was Frank Chase. He was a Mandan Hidatsa Sioux. His father was named Foolish. He was killed with, there was five Arikara, Bear Turning, Bear Going In Woods, he was wounded in the service as a U.S. scout. Little Crow with Standing Bear and Black Shirt was killed. My father’s, father’s, father’s name was Foolish Wolf, a Mandan. He was killed also at that time.

My mother was the daughter of Red Bear. Red Bear was born at Fort Clark in September 1853. His father, Red Bear Red Man was killed in 1872 at the Fort Lincoln fight that was described by Strikes Two. Red Bear Red Man was born in 1793 among the Pawnee. So that’s why we derive from the Pawnee. His mother White Corn was born in 1837 at Rot Village. About a mile above used to be a town called Expansion.

Red Bear was a scout. Immediately after his father’s death, Red Bear went through the Sundance torture in order to be his father’s representative. He enlisted at Fort Stevenson in 1872. His second enlistment was at Fort Lincoln, already described in a narrative. There he enlisted with Yellow Horse, Red Chief, Little Soldier, and Little Brave. They were at the barracks at Fort Stevenson, it was just being completed. He enlisted at his father’s request and his half-brother, Boy Chief was already in Fort Lincoln. So that was kind of my grandfather there. He was a judge of the Arikara by Agent Jermark in 1915. He married my grandmother, Julia Red Bull Neck in 1896. He visited Washington in 1910 with Enemy Heart. Alfred Bear was their interpreter and he got his pension in 1911 through the efforts of Congressman Hannah. So he was a scout with Custer. There are write-ups on that and I have his discharge papers also. I have discharge papers of Boy Chief.

The Arikara people are praying for people. We were known. My grandmother told me, we were known for our power in prayer. We could take a person that was completely busted up, his legs and so forth completely smashed by the bison, and they could cover them with herbs, sage, and they’d start them medicine doings, the drums. They’d pray over him, and cover him. When they took the cover off he was whole again. They had the power to do that, their days.

(19:10) I attended the last ceremonial meeting that they ever had and it was pitiful. Everyone was crying. I was a little guy sitting by my grandma’s knees. I tried to get tired and I’d try to sleep, and she’d hit me to stay awake. Stay awake, she’d shake me and watch. I’m glad she did because I saw all the items that were on display there and then all the empty spots between where the clans were no longer there. Because we all belonged to clans.

(19:42) I’m a member of the Bison Bear Clan. I also belong to the Grass Dance Society and I’m a staff carrier and also Eagle Dancer. As far as the service goes, I was injured. I’m a life member of the Disabled Veterans, and also a Life Member of the Vietnam Veterans out of Washington D.C.
We moved up when the water came. That was a terrible time. Everyone was leaving and crying. Some of the old people didn’t want to go. We got ready to go and Mom said to stop at the ceremonial hall, the round hall. She didn’t want to forget the stone, the medicine stone. The ceremonial stone. We stopped there to get it and my brothers got off and started to try to pick it up, but they couldn’t pick it up. It was pretty heavy to lift. So Mom went back and she had a bad knee. She was on a cane. She was elderly. Heavy, heavy lady, and she had a hard time getting herself around. Then I noticed she talked to that stone in a different language. It was a clicking sound. I never did get it. It was a clicking sound. She patted that rock around and lifted it up with one hand like a feather, I seen this with my own eyes, and put it in the back of the truck. My brothers looked at each other, none of us said anything.

Virgil Chase

Tribal historian Virgil F. Chase, Sr. is Arikara, Mandan, Dakota, and a little Hidatsa and lives on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. Virgil’s great-grandfather, who was killed by Dakotas, was Foolish Wolf. His mother’s father was Red Bear. Virgil has his grandfather’s, Boy Chief, and Red Bears discharge papers signed by Custer. The Arikaras took part in Custer’s Last Stand. Originally the tribe lived along the Missouri River and had great gardens.

Many of Virgil’s oral history stories were told to him by his grandparents. They could foresee the future. The following are some history stories that he shares. He was told that the Missouri River was all muddy and when he was older the water would run backward and turn blue. There would be generations coming that would yell, use bad language, wouldn’t know their culture or tongue, have no respect for elders, and white birds would drive off the magpies. That generation is here now. Another story he shares tells of Custer looking for scouts. He promised free medical and that the families would never want food or clothing and be warm. Elders had a meeting to decide whether to give up their lives so future generations would have something. About forty joined. The Old Scout Cemetery is where all the old scouts are buried. On Memorial Day personal songs are sung and the horses they rode are talked about. A history story tells how Red Bear found gold in the springs and word was sent to the Arikara to come and get some of the pretty yellow stuff to trim bridles with. Custer was shown and he said they would have their share, which they never received.

Virgil is a disabled veteran and likes to work with disadvantaged children. He helps the youth in an informative, meaningful way. He teaches them boxing, self-respect, where they come from, how to behave and associate with people outside the reservation.

His grandmother was the ruler of the lodge, and teacher of knowledge, tongue, and culture. She taught people how to respect women, that the woman is the fountain of our people. In his presentations on or off-reservation, he passes on his grandmother’s teachings.

He teaches how everyone respects the eagle today, the creature that flies closest to the Creator. It is held in such high esteem because it carries our prayers and messages. He tells how the Creator says to live like an eagle. They mate for life and follow the rules and regulations of living in this life with the Creator.

Virgil F. Chase, Sr.
206 Lakeside
New Town, ND 58763
(701) 627-4235