This 1899 $5 Bill Pictures A Famous Indian Chief – Who Was He?

Samuel Chase
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The 1899 Bank Note portrait is of Chief Takoka-Inyanka or Running Antelope of the Oncpapa or Hunkpapa Sioux tribe. Running Antelope was born in 1821 near the Grand River in what is presently known as South Dakota. His brother, Rain in the Face, was among the Indian leaders who joined Chief Sitting Bull in 1876 to defeat General George A. Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Chief Running Antelope was a close adviser to Sitting Bull during the Prairie Indian Wars. Later, he argued with other Sioux leaders for compromise with the United States government and was a signer of the Treaty of 1868, actions he voiced regret over years afterwards.

Interestingly, the portrait used on the $5 note came from a photograph taken in 1872 for the Bureau of Ethnology. However, this portrait is significantly different than the one found on the Bank Note and might be the first known instance of a “photo-shopped” portrait on a U.S. Bank Note.

Original Picture

In the original portrait, Chief Running Antelope wore a headdress with three feathers that projected too high for a good image on the note. To correct the problem, an employee of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing posed wearing a war bonnet belonging to another tribe, and the original headdress was cut out and the new war bonnet headdress was superimposed on the photograph of Running Antelope.

Making matters worse, the headdress belonged to the Pawnee tribe, rivals of the tribe of Chief Running Antelope. The controversial picture outraged the Sioux and caused a lot of ill will at the time. And, the U.S. Government eventually discontinued the note. While not rare, the note is highly collectible and values range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on condition.

Running Antelope led the last great buffalo hunt in 1882 by the Sioux tribe. More than 5,000 buffalo were killed during the hunt.

The exact date of his death is unknown. He died sometime between June 30, 1896 and June 30, 1897 and was buried near Little Eagle, South Dakota in Long Hill Cemetery.

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