A chance encounter with a party of "Sitting Bull's Indians" while driving a herd of cattle to Fort Buford, Montana, gave Edward Allison the idea that he could single-handedly bring an end to hostilities on the plains through direct negotiations. A some-time scout with the U.S. Cavalry, Allison had wide experience in the west, spoke enough of the language to be understood, and knew the Hunkpapa culture just well enough to avoid serious blunders. Somewhat rashly, and definitely at considerable risk, Allison rode to the camp in Canada in which The Gall, Sitting Bull, and about half of Sitting Bull's followers had sought refuge from the army. After a few frightening moments, Allison was accepted into the camp and was well treated, though only because he carefully concealed his identity and intentions. Despite his cordial reception, however, and despite winning over The Gall to the idea of peace, he was rebuffed by Sitting Bull. Allison left the Hunkpapa camp to relay news of The Gall's willingness to "come in," aware that he had succeeded in only half of his plan.
Receiving official approval from Gen. Alfred Howe Terry at the Standing Rock Agency, Allison rode out a second time to the Hunkpapa camp late in October, 1880. Under tense circumstances, the camp having just survived a raid by the Blackfeet , Allison convinced eighteen of Sitting Bull's followers to return to Fort Buford as "voluntary prisoners," while The Gall took his band to the Poplar Creek Agency. Sitting Bull, however, along with several of his followers, stood firm in rejecting negotiation. At Poplar Creek, Allison's plan nearly unraveled when, as Allison put it, some soldiers overreacted to the tense meeting with their former enemies, and mounted an "unnecessary" attack, killing an old woman and wounding one man. Under Allison's urging, however, the Indians refused to return fire and successfully managed to surrender without further incident.
In the meantime, Allison persuaded Crow King to ride out and defuse the situation and prevent the Indians who had escaped from alarming Sitting Bull. This done, Sitting Bull withdrew again into Canada, where he remained with only 43 families and 51 warriors, by Allison's count. Sitting Bull's forces were "so insignificant that they ceased to be regarded as enemies worthy of attention" (p. 76) and Gen. Terry ordered Allison to make no further effort to bring them in.