Dewey Beard

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Dewey Beard (Iron Hail)
Wasú Máza
Minneconjou, Lakota leader
Personal details
Born 1858 (1858)
Died 1955 (aged 96–97)
Military service
Battles/wars Battle of the Little Big Horn

Dewey Beard or Wasú Máza ("Iron Hail", 1858–1955) was a Minneconjou Lakota who fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn as a teenager.[1] After George Armstrong Custer's defeat, Wasu Maza followed Sitting Bull into exile in Canada and then back to South Dakota where he lived on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation (in Dewey and Ziebach counties). Iron Hail is often mistaken by historians for Chief Iron Tail, being Lakota contemporaries with similar-sounding names. Most biographies incorrectly report that Chief Iron Tail fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn and that his family was killed in 1890 at Wounded Knee, when in truth it was Iron Hail who suffered the loss.

Iron Hail joined the Ghost Dance movement and was in Spotted Elk's band along with his parents, siblings, wife and child. He and his family left the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation on December 23, 1890 with Spotted Elk and approximately 300 other Miniconjou and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota on a winter trek to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to avoid the perceived trouble which was anticipated in the wake of Sitting Bull's murder at Standing Rock Indian Reservation. He and his family were present at the Wounded Knee Massacre, where he was shot three times, twice in the back and some of his family, including his mother, father, wife and infant child were killed. He recounted his experiences in an in depth interview with Eli S. Ricker for a book Ricker planned to write.[2]

Dewey Beard changed his name from Iron Hail when he converted to Roman Catholicism. He was a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show for 15 years.

In the early 1940s Beard and his wife Alice were raising horses on their land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In 1942 the Department of War annexed 341,725 acres (138,291 ha) of the reservation for use as an aerial gunnery and bombing range. Beard's family was among the 125 Lakota families uprooted from their homes. They were compensated by the government for their land in installments which were too low to enable them to afford more property, and as a result they both moved into a poor section of Rapid City.

When he died in 1955 at the age of ninety six, Dewey Beard was the last known Lakota survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and the last known Lakota survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre.[3]


  1. ^ Voices of Wounded Knee(p.46-48),673530.aspx
  2. ^ Voices of the American West: The Indian interviews of Eli S. Ricker, 1903-1919 By Eli Seavey Ricker p. 208-226
  3. ^ Library of Congress: Dewey Beard interview (audio recordings)
  • Burnham, Philip (2014). Song of Dewey Beard: last survivor of the Little Bighorn. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803269361. 

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