Bat Pourier 1834-1928
Big Bat Pourier was a
Frenchman who married Josephine Richards, a Lakota woman. Big Bat's ability
to speak French, English, Lakota and his empathy for the plight of the
American Indian, helped him to negotiate the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.
He tried to get the best deal possible for the Indian People.
Baptiste Gene Pourier (Big Bat) was born in St. Charles Mo in 1834. When
he was 2 years old his father died. Two years later, his mother re-married.
He never talked about his step father, which made some assume the two
didn't see eye to eye.
At the age of 15 Bat met John Richards, a fellow Frenchman and a frontiersman.
The two struck out on the Oregon Trail, which Richards knew well. He knew
the customs of the many Indians they met and he and Bat treated them with
The first trip Bat made with Richards to his Wyoming home took 5 months.
There Bat met Richard's Lakota wife, Mary and their 3 children. Bat would
later marry Josephine, the youngest.
The first time Big Bat met Red Cloud was not long after their arrival
at Richard's home. Red Cloud sensed the young man's feelings and invited
him to come over to look at his horse. This was the beginning of a long
In 1858 there was news of gold discovered on Cherry Creek in Colorado.
Bat began to deliver freight to Denver from Wyoming.
Beginning in the early 1860's the Indian wars were starting to intensify.
This is the time an Indian became an Indian. Whether hostile or friendly,
Santee or Minneconju, they all were punished.
In 1867 Congress created a Peace Commission which was to negotiate treaties
with the Indians. The negotiations were to take place at Ft. Laramie.
Although according to a sworn deposition, Bat had married another wife
in 1862 named White Face. It was also said there is a branch of Pouriers
in Montana who are descendants of Big Bat. He was in Montana in 1864.
In 1869 Bat married Josephine Richards, daughter of John. He spent the
rest of his life with her.
By 1869 the Union Pacific Railroad was completed. Its existence was very
detrimental to the buffalo migrations. Many were mass killing buffalo
for mere sport as well as a way to control the Indians. The results brought
the mighty buffalo very close to extension.
There were days, Big Bat saw so many buffalo killed in the Black Hills
that one could step from one to another. Hunters took hides and poisoned
the meat. Since the Indians depended on the buffalo for their existence,
many began to starve.
Bat actively began interpreting and scouting for the government. He also
carried the first ballots in the Territory of Wyoming from Ft. Fetterman
to Ft. Laramie which set up the first legislature in the new Territory.
At this point it is hard to stick to the history of Big Bat Pourier without
commenting on the history of the Indian wars, discovery of gold in the
Black Hills, or a host of other titles that entwined through Big Bat's
life during this period of time.
In 1869 Bat moved his family back to Ft. Laramie where he interpreted
for the Ft. Laramie Peace Conference in 1868.
In 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills. This land had been given
to the Indians "as long as the grass grew and the wind blew"
in the treaty of 1868 at Ft. Laramie. With Bat as a guide, General Crook
went to the Black Hills to keep miners out; instead they found 1200 miners
The same year General Sheridan instructed General Crook to prepare to
carry on a winter campaign. The Secretary of the Interior notified the
Indians that they must come to the Reservation by January 31st, 1876.
How this all happened is a real question. The Indians didn't go by the
White calendar and the date January 31st probably had no meaning.
It was at this time General Sheridan ordered the villages, property and
stock of "roaming free Indians in unceded Indian Territory on the
Powder River" destroyed. The Indians were now to be removed "Army
After Crazy Horse was murdered at Fort Robinson in 1877, Big Bat carried
his body back to Beaver Creek, where Crazy Horse's Sundance Grounds were
Big Bat was scouting for General Crook nine days after the Battle of Little
Big Horn when he spotted Indians hot on their trail. Despite Bat's urging
to take fast action, the Officers took their time. They then were trapped
by the Indians and had to leave their horses in order to escape.
After that incident, Bat moved to Wounded Knee and quite the scouting
service. He traded over 1500 head of horses and 20 studs to Ft. Robinson.
He then tried to live in St. Charles but soon returned to the Reservation.
He built a large house and the St. Peters Church north of Manderson. Bat
and Mary had 11 children who they sent to school in Philadelphia. Religion
became more and more important. His long time friend, Red Cloud converted
to Catholicism because of Big Bat.
In the winter of 1889 the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred. An eye witness
to the event recalled the scene at the age of 94. He covered his eyes
with his hands and cried out, "Let me forget, God let me forget!"
The soldiers went mad and shouted, "Remember Custer". When it
was over 300 Indians were dead.
Soon after the massacre a delegation of Sioux, with Bat as interpreter,
went to Washington. The Indian Bureau then tried harder to understand
the plight of the Indian and increased the rations.
The Pourier grandchildren remember their grandparents with great love
and fond memories. Josephine would not speak English to her grandchildren.
She didn't want them to lose their language. They remembered their grandfather
Bat's sensitive nature, his good sense of humor, his tears, curses and
Before his death at the age of 94 Bat was asked in an interview, "Are
you an Indian"? Bat concentrated for some time before answering,
"Yes, I am an Indian, but I am a white man too."
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