Plenty Coups' remarks at the burial of the unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery
By the 1920s, Plenty Coups, then in his seventies, was an elder statesman, often called upon for ceremonial appearances and still working for the good of his people. Plenty Coups' greatest national prominence came in 1921, when he was chosen by the War Department to represent "the Indians of America" at the burial of the unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The chief was received by President Warren G. Harding at the White House and stood with World War I military leaders such as Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, Gen. Armando V. Diaz of Italy, and American Gen. John J.Pershing at the ceremonies.
During World War I, Plenty Coups had exhorted young Crow men to enlist in the army as a modern means of becoming warriors.
Although he had been instructed to remain silent during his part of the ceremony, after Plenty Coups placed his warbonnet and coup stick on the grave, he turned to the gathering and delivered the following remarks :
„I feel it an honor to the red man that he takes part in this great event, because it shows that the thousands of Indians who fought in the great war are appreciated by the white man. I am glad to represent all the Indians of the United States in placing on the grave of this noble warrior this coup stick and war bonnet, every eagle feather of which represents a deed of valor by my race. I hope that the Great Spirit will grant that these noble warriors have not given up their lives in vain and that there will be peace to all men hereafter. This is the Indians' hope and prayer“.
Not content to follow a scripted subordinate role, Plenty Coups enlarged his part of the ceremony to visibly participate in a manner meaningful to him. The chiefs oratory drew widespread attention and was covered in the New York Times and the Washington Herald. The Public Ledger called his participation "easily one of the most striking picturesque features of the entire Unknown Dead ceremony“.
Oral traditions of nearly all Native American tribes tell of "little People” who stand from just 20 inches to three feet tall. In some tribes they are known as "tiny people eaters,” in others they were known to have been spirits and healers, and some believed them to be magical, similar to leprechauns or fairies. In any event, the legends were well known among Indians across the nation, long before the Europeans set foot upon these lands.
The most famous story of a Little People encounter was passed down from the legendary Crow chief Plenty Coups (Aleek-chea-ahoosh). Plenty Coups tells a tale happening to him shortly after his brother, a great and noble warrior, was killed in battle by raiding Lakotas when Plenty Coups was nine years old. Feeling much heartache for his lost brother, Aleek-chea-ahoosh fasted for four days, used the sweat lodge, rubbed his body with sage and cedar and ventured into the nearby hills to have a vision.
In this vision he encountered the chief of the little people who took him into a spirit-world lodge and showed him all the beauty of nature. The little chief demanded Plenty Coups count his great deeds, yet he was but nine years old and had no great deeds to count. The little chief made it clear to Plenty Coups he would accomplish two great deeds for his people among many others. One of which was that he would become chief of his people if he used his wits. The other was that Plenty Coups would help deliver his people from pain and suffering brought on by settlers. Upon returning to his tribe Plenty Coups now had a clear mind and a clear mission.
When Plenty Coups was eleven he had his second and most influential vision involving the little chief. After fasting for two days and walking the Bear tooth Mountains hoping for a vision, he found none. He returned home a few days later where he cut off the tip of his left index finger as an offering to the spirit world. That night the chief of the little people came to him in a dream where he was introduced to a buffalo that turned into a man with buffalo like features (the buffalo- man) who led him underground, down tunnel s towards the Pryor Mountains of present day Montana. Plenty Coups saw many great bison coming out of the tunnels only to disappear into the light. A voice told Aleek-chea-ahoosh that the time of the Plains Indians was ending and that the white man would swarm over the land like buffalo and the only way to survive the change would be to listen to the Earth. Plenty Coups did just that securing the land seen in his vision around the Pryor Mountains and holding it for the Crow people to this very day.