Old West Lifestyle & Stories

Sitting Bull’s Personal Secretary and Interpreter

Johnnie Brughuier was born the son of a white father and Sioux mother near present day Sioux City, Iowa. His father sent him to St. Louis for an education. When he returned home, on December 14, 1875, in the process of breaking up a fight between his brother and another man, Johnnie killed the other man. Afraid that he would be arrested for murder, Johnnie fled to the camp of Sitting Bull.

Johnnie, now called “Big Leggins”, became Sitting Bull’s personal secretary and interpreter. His first opportunity as interpreter was between Sitting Bull and General Nelson Miles. The meeting didn’t go well and five days later 2,000 of Sitting Bull’s Sioux were forced to surrender. However, Sitting Bull and Johnnie escaped.
Johnnie yearned to return to white civilization. So he met with General Miles and explained that he had joined Sitting Bull because of his fear of being arrested for murder. Convinced of his sincerity General Miles said he would do what he could about the murder, and gave Johnnie a job… It was to meet with Sitting Bull, the man he had just betrayed, and convince him to surrender. On several occasions Johnnie was sent on missions that seemed to be certain suicide. But each time he returned, either successful in his mission, or bringing back vital information.
In 1879 his past finally caught up with him, and he was arrested for killing the man back in 1875. At the trial General Miles testified on his behalf. It took the jury just one half hour to bring back a verdict of not guilty.
The work of Johnnie Brughuier saved the lives of hundreds of whites and Indians. We’ll never know if he would have taken the same path had the tragedy of December 14, 1875 not happened.

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