Ben Long Ear

Sometimes, the search for additional information for an old photo yields little.  Sometimes it yields a bit more, but poses more questions.  Sometimes, some of the questions are answered.

For this search, I started with an image, the first one below, and a name, Ben Long Ear.  The image is one that I am using for Zazzle products.  For each image, I try to locate additional information beyond what is readily available at the original source, usually Library of Congress.  (This post has been crossposted from Haw Creek Reflections.)

A pair of old pictures, rather than being worth the proverbial thousand words each, leave more questions than answers.

Who was this man? What tribe? Who was his family?  Where did they live? Why was he imprisoned? How long was he in? to mention just a few.

Ben Long Ear

Half-length portrait, facing front;
Photo created about 1905 by Edward S. Curtis.
Library of Congress image.

Ben Long Ear was born about 1875.  On December 16, 1886, age 13, he arrived at the famed Carlisle Indian Industrial School where he was supposed stay 5 years, until he was 18.  He was sent home, departing Carlisle September 17, 1890, according to his Carlisle Descriptive and Historical Record of Student. Follow-up information shows that he was a farmer in 1910 and 1913.

In the 1893, Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, Benjamin Long Ears is recorded as a cooper’s apprentice.

A Spokane Daily Chronicle article, January 10, 1906, relates an “elopement” of Ben Long Ear, son of Chief Big Medicine, with Mrs. Crooked Arm, both married to others. In related articles in other papers, United States authorities are said to be looking for the runaways. (Other sources indicate that he was Big Medicine’s son-in-law, husband of Grace Big Medicine.)

washingtom times

Indians Who Eloped Charged With Bigamy

Cody, Wyo. April 2 – Ben Long Ear and Mrs. Crooked Arm, the Crow buck and squaw who eloped from the Crow agency in January, have been returned to the reservation by officers.

When they left the agency, Mrs. Crooked Arm took her little papoose and $300 of her husband’s money.  Crooked Arm said he didn’t care for the money, but wanted his papoose back.  Mrs. Long Ear, who was deserted, says she still loves her husband and will gladly take him back.

The couple will be tried on the charge of bigamy.  Long Ear is ill from exposure in evading arrest.

In trouble with federal authorities in 1906 and a farmer in 1910 and 1913. What happened after that?

Ben Long Ear at McNeil Island Penitentiary

Ben Long Ear,  Inmate #2454, 1914
McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary, Washington
National Archives image.

Did this man commit crimes that actually harmed others?  Were his offenses a result of indigenous people running up against the morality of the newcomers to the land?  Was he railroaded so that others could take some advantage?

It appears that the answer may be murder.

Joseph discusses how Indian policeman, including Fire Bearer, were expected to control alcohol during prohibition cattle rustlers, such as Garvin, convicted murderers, such as Ben Long Ears, and horse thieves, such as Cherokee Cherry Adams. (Summary of oral interview of Joseph Medicine Crow)


Haw Creek Reflections provides background information and links for images used for products in our Zazzle store.

Ben Long Ear

Products with this image on Zazzle.


Additional Information

Crow People

American Indians

american history, haw creek, life, montana, people, photography, vintage images

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rummuser May 22, 2014

    I am delighted that the American Indian too is as susceptible to temptation as the original version was/is. You are remarkable. May be in a future birth you will be born in India and write about me!
    Rummuser recently posted…My Odd Habit.My Profile

    • Mike May 23, 2014

      Thanks, Ramana. Some of the images I’m using will end up being a picture and, maybe, a name.

  • Cheerful Monk May 22, 2014

    Whatever happened, that first picture makes me sad. The American Indians definitely got shafted.
    Cheerful Monk recently posted…Almost There?My Profile

    • Mike May 23, 2014

      I agree. However, the Crow Nation may have been less shafted than many of the others. Their main leader apparently had a vision — or just plain saw the light — that the whites would just keep coming and that the tribe could do nothing to stop it, so they cooperated, even to the point of being on the side of the US in the final wars, as scouts.

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