Bloody Knife was born to a Hunkpapa Sioux father and an Arikara mother around 1840. He was abused and discriminated against by the other Sioux in his village because of his background, in particular by Gall, a future chief. When Bloody Knife was a teenager, he left his village with his mother to live with the Arikara tribe. His brothers were killed during a Sioux raid led by Gall in 1862. Bloody Knife found employment as a courier and hunter for the American Fur Company and later served under Alfred Sully before scouting for George Custer on several military expeditions. He died from a bullet wound to the head on June 25, 1876, during the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
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