Can you shed some light on a photo of Red Cloud’s wife in a cabin featuring a Japanese katana sword on the wall?

Marshall Trimble

Can you shed some light on a photo of Red Cloud’s wife in a cabin featuring a Japanese katana sword on the wall?

Dan Dancer
Salem, New Hampshire

All I can share with you is that three members of the Japanese Imperial Army visited the Red Cloud Agency in September 1876. Historians are unsure if they met with Chief Red Cloud, but if so, presenting him a high-quality samurai sword would have been proper etiquette. Mounted in handachi fittings, this katana was the type worn in battle. 

Alternatively, Red Cloud could have picked up the sword during one of his trips to Washington, D.C., or another official could have given it to him.

The sword must have meant a great deal to the chief and his wife, Pretty Owl, as it held a prominent place on their cabin wall in the 1890 photograph.

Katana sword in Chief Red Cloud's Cabin, 1890
Red Cloud’s wife, Pretty Owl, sits at home near a prized katana sword on the wall (below right) in this 1890 photograph.
– Image True West archives –

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.