In the aftermath of the Battle of Little Big Horn in the Sioux War of 1876-1877, the Yellowstone River valley was bustling with activity. Gold had been found in the Black Hills, and there were multiple detachments of troops moving in both directions. One of the men Kelly met was Col. Nelson A. Miles, one of the most ambitious soldiers to ever wear the U.S. Army uniform. Kelly was, by now, an accomplished trapper and hunter with a rich knowledge of the area and the local Indians. When a Lieutenant in Miles’s charge suggested that Miles would like to speak to Kelly about the area’s activities, Kelly sent a huge bear paw to Miles as his calling card.

After receiving the bear paw, Miles sent for Kelly and questioned him about the area and the location and disposition of the Sioux to the north. When the meeting adjourned, Kelly returned to his camp carrying an appointment as Chief Scout for the District of the Yellowstone. Kelly was once again in the U.S. military.

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