Donald Rickey Collection

Accession Number
Donor Name
Donald Gladstone Rickey, Jr.
Faith G. Bad Bear-Bartlett
Access Restrictions on Use
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
All publication rights are held by Little Big Horn College, use for publication must be approved by archivist.
Preferred Citation of Materials
Don G. Rickey, Jr. Collection, Little Big Horn College Archives, Crow Agency, Montana.

Physical Description

Linear Feet
Comprehensive Dates
Organization of Materials
The Donald G. Rickey Collection consists of material related to the Wraps Up His Tail/Sword Bearer Incident that includes microfilm records, newspaper accounts, original photos, correspondence, transcripts of oral history interviews with Crow men and women about the Wraps Up His Tail/Sword Bearer Incident.

Biographical and/or Historical note

Don Gladstone Rickey, Jr., was born on August 3, 1925 in Cook County, Illinois. Educated in the Chicago, Illinois Public schools, he graduated from Geneva, Illinois, Community High School in 1943. Rickey attended Northern Montana College in Havre, Montana, from 1946-1947 and from 1947 to 1950 the University of Kentucky graduating with a B.A. in History. He received an M.A. in History from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1951 and a PhD in History from the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma in 1960. He served in the United States Navy on the carrier U.S.S. Enterprise from 1943 to 1946. Recalled to military service in 1951, Rickey again served in the Navy, this time on the U.S.S. Bache, a destroyer, during the Korean conflict.

During Rickey’s career as a historian, he expressed interest in military history, especially in the American West. As a Teaching Fellow at Oklahoma State University from 1950 to 1951 and as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Oklahoma from 1952 to 1953, he taught basic courses in United States History. In his position as Historian of the Phillips Collection at the library of the University of Oklahoma from 1953 to 1955, he specialized in materials in Native American and western History. From 1955 to 1960, Rickey served as Historian for the Custer Battlefield National Monument (currently called the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument) in Montana. During his tenure as Historian at the battlefield, Rickey lived in Crow Agency.

From 1960 to 1963, Rickey was Chief Research Historian at the Museum of Westward Expansion, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, Missouri, where he prepared exhibits displaying the settlement of the west among other responsibilities. He was Historical Master Planner for the National Park Service in 1966. In 1968, Rickey became Assistant Director of the U.S. Army Military History Research Collection at the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. During his tenure at the institution, he also taught military history courses. In 1972, he became Historian for the Bureau of Land Management, Denver Service Center. Dr. Rickey wrote several books on military history including War in the West: The Indian Campaigns (1956), Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay: The Enlisted Soldier Fighting the Indian Wars (1963), and History of Custer Battlefield (1967).

Retiring in 1979, Rickey continued to consult for historical museums, give talks and conduct “living history” courses for the National Park Service. He died on September 15, 2000 in Evergreen, Colorado.


Don G. Rickey, Jr.’s interest in military history grew from his own time in the armed services. He served two tours in the U.S. Navy. Through his teaching and research, Rickey pursued his love of the west and its cultural ties to the region’s inhabitants. The collection reflects Rickey’s nearly thirty years of research on the Wraps Up His Tail/Sword Bearer Incident. Dr. Rickey participated in the symposium in Hardin, Montana recognizing the one-hundredth anniversary of the Wraps Up His Tail/Sword Bearer Incident during November, 1987. The collection includes two donations Dr. Rickey made to the Little Big Horn College Archives in 1987 and 1995.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of materials related to Wraps Up His Tail/Sword Bearer and the uprising he led in the fall of 1887. Sword Bearer and sixteen other men fired into the Agency and fled when pursued. After a month evading the army, Sword Bearer returned to the Agency and engaged in a skirmish with the First Cavalry in which he sustained a bullet wound. Sword Bearer moved to the bank of the Little Bighorn River, got off his horse, knelt to take a drink of water and Fire Bear, an Agency policeman, shot him in the head killing him instantly.

The collection is contained within two one third foot linear boxes and an oversized box that includes records from the National Archives, newspapers, correspondence with other historians, transcripts of oral histories about the Wraps Up His Tail/Sword Bearer Incident, and Rickey’s research notes and an outline for a possible book on the Wraps Up His Tail/Sword Bearer Incident.


Box 1A

  1. Crow Informants & Sources
  2. “Through A Glass Darkly” 1887 Perceptions Centennial Observance Wraps Up His Tail Nov. 7, 1987 Hardin Middle School, Hardin, Montana
  3. Wraps Up His Tail: Sword Bearer of The Crow 1887 5th Infantry, 1st Cavalry, 7th Cavalry, 9th Cavalry, 3rd Infantry, 7th Infantry, Company C from McKinney
  4. Photos Etc. 1887 Crow Troubles
  5. Research Notes, 1976-1981, Outlines
  6. Sword Bearer and The Crow Outbreak 1887
  7. Symposium Sword Bearer 100th Nov. 7, 1987
  8. Jesuit Missionary 1880s-1890
  9. Harper’s Weekly 11/5/1987-12/3/1987
  10. Buffalo, Wyoming Sentinel Sept. 24-Nov. 26, 1887
  11. Sheridan Post Oct. 13-Nov. 17, 1887
  12. Helena Herald, Oct. 14-Nov. 17, 1887 (Chronological Development)
  13. Billings Gazette, Oct. - Dec. 10, 1887 - Original 1957-59 Research in Billings, Montana
  14. Historical Articles
  15. Wraps Up His Tail Research - Completed and Future Concerns
  16. BIA Agents
  17. National Archives, BIA Nov. 5, 1887

Box 1B

  1. BIA-1887 Crow Allotment
  2. BIA Crow Agency Letter Books and Records In EMC Library 1881-1886, Letters Sent: Retained Copies-Records of Crow Agency M. Edmund Arnold, Librarian M. Clarke (Hist. Instructor)
  3. BIA Reports, Appointment of Henry E. Williamson
  4. Wraps Up His Tail Correspondence, National Archives Research
  5. Crow Troubles 1887 Joe Medicine Crow, 1961 Letter
  6. Montana Historical Society - Barstow Scrapbook Clipping
  7. Pease Letter Book, 1870-1873, Transcript of Letter Book, Major F.D. Pease, Crow Agency, 1870-1873

Oversized Box

  1. Micro Film Print
    Nat. Archives, Record Group 94
    Records of the Adjutant General’s Office 1780s-1917:
    ‘Field Records of Hospitals’, Montana Vol. 86
    Fort Custer-Register of Sick and Wounded
    Consolidated Report for November 1887
  2. Micro Film Prints
    Muster Rolls, Regular Army Organizations
    Indian Scouts (Montana) Fort Custer:
    Roll of November 2 to December 31, 1887
  3. Micro Film Prints
    RG 393 Records of US Army Continental Commands, 1821-1920 Fort Custer, Montana
    Letters Sent, Vol. 69 (1887-1888) Pgs 96-99, 128-139
  4. Audio Tape Roger Stops and D.R. 2/13/82 Denver, CO: Spotted Rabbit’s Story