Rufus Buck was the notorious leader of the Buck Gang that terrorized the Indian Territories (what is now Oklahoma and Arkansas) during the summer of 1895 in an attempt to stop whites from encroaching on Native American land. His gang included five teenagers of African American and Native American ancestry.
The gang of Creek Indians and Creek freedmen was hanged in 1896 for the rape of a white woman.
“His dream was impossible; and he used the same violence to achieve it that he saw all around him. The Rufus Buck gang were childish and vicious, innocent in their naiveté and brutal in their outlook,” novelist Leonce Gaiter said in a 2012 Huffington Post blog for Black history Month. “Their 13-day reign of terror is historically fascinating in that it marked the end of the Indian Territory, soon swallowed whole by the land-hungry United States.”
Investigation Discovery named Buck its second most wanted outlaw from the Wild West, saying he was “driven by rage, poverty and desperation.”
“No one knows what started this rampage but the Indian Territory is where Creeks and Cherokees from America’s eastern seaboard were forced to march over 1,000 miles during the infamous Trail of Tears along with escaped slaves who intermarried into the tribes, many died along the way,” says the Investigation Discovery video. “The Indians struggled in this bleak region for 50 years, but now the government is letting white settlers take back the land. Some, who are losing what little they had, respond with rage.”
After Buck’s death, a photograph of his mother was found in his cell. On the back, Buck had written a poem:
I dreamt I was in heaven
Among the angels fair;
I’d near seen none so handsome,
That twine in golden hair;
They looked so neat and sang so sweet
And play’d the golden harp.
I was about to pick an angel out
And take her to my heart;
But the moment I began to plea
I thought of you my love.
There was none I’d seen so beautifull
On earth or heaven above.
Good by my dear wife and mother
All so my sisters
To see the full reprint of what was on the back of the picture check out Changing is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930 using Google books.