"The only good Indian is a dead Indian" is a saying often attributed to General Phil Sheridan. In January of 1869, General Sheridan was in camp at Fort Cobb in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) shortly after George Custer's fight with Black-Kettle's Cheyennes. Turtle Dove, or Toch-a-way, who was a chief of Comanches, trying to impress the General, struck himself in the breast and said "Me, Toch-a-way; me good Indian". The General smiled and answered "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead."

Phillip Sheridan repeatedly denied ever making such a statement, but several eye witnesses agree that he said it. Sheridan was well known as a bigot and Indian hater, and few that knew him doubted his agreement with the statement. In any case, the statement attributed to Sheridan evolved into the more generalize and powerful proverbial form "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." and became synonymous with the Indian policy of most of the military at that time. This opinion lingered on, and another infamous, Indian fighter made the following incredible remarks at a speech in January of 1886 in New York: "I suppose I should be ashamed to say that I take the Western view of the Indian. I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth." These words were spoken by Theodore Roosevelt less than 15 years before he became President of the United States.