Crazy Horse

Most historians believe Crazy Horse was born about 1845, possibly on the Republican River. Crazy Horse, the son, was one of three children. The oldest was a Sister, the next was Crazy Horse, and the third was a Brother The boyhood of Crazy Horse was passed in the days when the western Oglala Sioux saw a white man but seldom, and then it was usually a trader or a soldier. Named Curly as a child, due to his brown curly hair, he was believed to have been not as dark skinned as the other Oglala boys and may have been teased because of this. His parents carefully brought him up according to the tribal customs. Story has it that at perhaps four or five years old he first showed signs of the selfless leader he would become when his band was snowed in one severe winter. They were very short of food, but his father was a tireless hunter. The buffalo, their main dependence, were not to be found, but he was out in the storm and cold every day and finally brought in two antelopes. The little boy got on his pet pony and rode through the camp, telling the old folks to come to his mother's tepee for meat. It turned out that neither his father nor mother had authorized him to do this. Before they knew it, old men and women were lined up before the tepee home, ready to receive the meat, in answer to his invitation. As a result, the mother had to distribute nearly all of it, keeping only enough for two meals. On the following day the child asked for food. His mother told him that the old folks had taken it all, and added: "Remember, my son, they went home singing praises in your name, not my name or your father's. You must be brave. You must live up to your reputation." Curly loved horses, and his father gave him a pony of his own when he was very young. He became a fine horseman and accompanied his father on buffalo hunts, holding the pack horses while the men chased the buffalo and thus gradually learning the art. In those days the Sioux had but few guns, and the hunting was mostly done with bow and arrows. It is believed that at about age ten, young Curly witnessed one William S. Harney and his brigade massacre a Sioux village on Blue Water Creek in Nebraska. 86 Indians were slaughtered and the village razed to the ground, never before had the White’s army destroyed a village and watching from the safety of a hill in horror was young Curly. It is said afterwards he went into the Sand Hills to find a vision and after typically famishing the vision came, it was a vision of himself as a warrior aboard a flying horse both untouched by bullets and by arrows that thickened the air. A warrior riding naked all but a loincloth, covered in white hale spots and lightning down the side of his face, the vision told him not to take no scalps and nothing for himself, to provide for his people. But the vision also showed him something else; it showed the warrior being pulled down by his own people. Later the boys father helped him understand the vision, he would be a warrior who never fell in battle, a warrior who would lead his people against the Whites. It is claimed he would be known as His-Horse-On-Sight, but this name did not stick to him. He would time and time again show reckless bravery and fearless courage during battle. When he was about eighteen years old there was a fight with the Arapahos who were up on a high hill covered with big rocks and near a river. Although he was just a boy, he charged them several times alone. His father, whose name was Crazy Horse, made a feast and gave his son his own name. After that, the father was no longer called by the name he had given away, but was called by a nickname, Worm. Crazy Horse was much sought after by his youthful associates, but was noticeably reserved and modest; yet in the moment of danger he at once raised above them all, he was a natural leader. Crazy horse was believed to have been married three times in his life, one almost brought about his death, it is said that after eloping with an already married woman (whom Crazy horse was in love with before she married) the woman’s husband, named No Water was enraged with jealousy and shot crazy horse in the face with a pistol as he sat in a tepee. The wound would leave a face scar for the rest of Crazy Horse’s life. Crazy Horse was by all accounts a handsome man of medium build, though some say short, with a thin lined face, a sharp, high nose and dark eyes that hardly ever looked straight at a man, but they didn't miss much that was going on all the same. He had very long brown and still curly hair and a light complexion. He usually wore an Iroquois shell necklace, the only ornament he wore and only wore one feather in his hair. He attained his majority at the crisis of the difficulties between the United States and the Sioux. Even before that time, Crazy Horse had already proved his worth to his people in Indian warfare. He had risked his life again and again, and in some instances it was considered almost a miracle that he had saved others as well as himself. He was no orator nor was he the son of a chief. His success and influence was purely a matter of personality. He had never fought the whites up to this time, and indeed no "coup" was counted for killing or scalping a white man. In 1865 he attained the highest Oglala office - Shirt Wearer - making him responsible for the welfare of his people. He was known for his courage, and his charity, often denying himself and providing for the weak and helpless. An Oglala Sioux named Black Elk would recall that when food was scarce and the people were hungry, Crazy Horse wouldnt eat at all. If someone was cold, Crazy Horse would give up his own blanket to them. He seemed to have one purpose in life, to live entirely for his people.

Is this Crazy Horse? Indendification says, Yes.

Young Crazy Horse was twenty-one years old when all the Teton Sioux chiefs (the western or plains dwellers), including the great Red Cloud, met in council to determine upon their future policy toward the invader. Their former agreements had been by individual bands, each for itself, and every one was friendly. They reasoned that the country was wide, and that the white traders should be made welcome. Up to this time they had anticipated no conflict. They had permitted the Oregon Trail, but now to their astonishment forts were built and garrisoned in their territory. Most of the chiefs advocated a strong resistance. There were a few influential men who desired still to live in peace, and who were willing to make another treaty. Among these were White Bull, Two Kettle, Four Bears, and Swift Bear. Even Spotted Tail, afterward the great peace chief, was at this time with the majority, who decided in the year 1866 to defend their rights and territory by force. Attacks were to be made upon the forts within their country and on every trespasser on the same. Crazy Horse took no part in the discussion, but he and all the young warriors were in accord with the decision of the council. Although so young, he was already a leader among them. Other prominent young braves were Sword, the younger Hump, Charging Bear, Spotted Elk, Crow King, No Water, Big Road, He Dog, the nephew of Red Cloud, and Touch-the-Cloud, intimate friend of Crazy Horse. The attack on Fort Phil Kearny was the first fruits of the new policy, and here Crazy Horse was chosen to lead the attack on the woodchoppers, designed to draw the soldiers out of the fort, while an army of six hundred lay in wait for them. The success of this strategy was further enhanced by his masterful handling of his men. From this time on a general war was inaugurated; Famous Chief Sitting Bull looked to him as a principal war leader, and even the Cheyenne chiefs, allies of the Sioux, practically acknowledged his leadership. Yet during the following ten years of defensive war he was never known to make a speech, though his tepee was the rendezvous of the young men. He was depended upon to put into action the decisions of the council, and was frequently consulted by the older chiefs. Like Osceola, he rose suddenly; like Tecumseh he was always impatient for battle; like Pontiac, he fought on while his allies were suing for peace, and like Grant, the silent soldier, he was a man of deeds and not of words. On December 21st 1866 Crazy Horse, along with Red Cloud would engage in one of their most famous war exploits. An arrogant young infantry captain named William Judd Fetterman had joined the staff at Fort Phil Kearny. Fetterman had very little regard for the Indians and stated, “With eighty men I can ride through the Sioux Nation”. By December 1866, Red Cloud and the other senior chief of the Oglala Sioux , Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses, along with Crazy Horse were ready to give Fetterman his opportunity to prove his boast. Joining forces with Black Shield of the Miniconjou, Roman Nose and Medicine Man of the Cheyenne and Little Chief and Sorrel Horse of the Arapaho, the Sioux and their Allies, around 2000 warriors, moved into the foothills around Fort Phil Kearny. After tantalizing the Fort for weeks they camped on Prairie Dog Creek and began their ceremonies that preceded battle. A hermaphrodite medicine man rode off over the hills and returned to tell a vision in which he caught a hundred soldiers in his hands. The Warriors beat the ground with their hands in approval and selected the leaders for the next day’s battle. The task of the all-important decoy party fell to Crazy Horse. At daybreak on the 21st December, the Indians moved into position. The decoy lead by Crazy Horse rode towards the Fort wile the remainder prepared an ambush on either side of a Trail named the Lodge Trail Ridge. When the Fort sent out a Wood Train it came under attack. When Fetterman and ironically 80 men rode out to support the Wood Train they were under orders only to support the Wood Train, not to pursue the Indians over Lodge Trail Ridge. When Fetterman and his troops arrived the Indians had disappeared. But moments later Crazy Horse, naked but for a loincloth and covered in hail spots with lightning painted down the side of his face, and his decoy party rushed out of the brush, yipping and waving blankets. The Soldiers opened fire but the decoy simply rode up closer taunting the White men. At least once Crazy Horse even dismounted within rifle range and admired the view, pretending the soldiers were not there, what courage. Crazy Horse and his decoy the began to retreat slowly up in a zig-zagging path up the slope to the Lodge Trail ridge, always tantalizingly just out of reach. The frustrated Fetterman and his men, against orders, followed them. The trap worked perfectly, a little before noon Fetterman;s command followed Crazy Horse over Lodge Trail Ridge where nearly two thousand Indians were waiting. The earth must have seemed to alive with warriors as nearly two thousand Indians sprang from their cover, their cries of “Hoka hey, hoka hey, filling the chill air. It was over in minutes, although Fetterman’s command managed to form a small defensive wall they were overwhelmed. Few Sioux and Cheyenne carried rifles but they fired showers of arrows. Some of the infantry ran back up the slope to a rock formation and held off their attackers for about 15 minutes before running out of ammunition. Fetterman and a captain Fred Brown committed suicide, shooting each other in the head. As the last few surviving soldiers were killed reinforcements were on their way from the Fort. When the reinforcements arrived all the sounds of battle had ceased. The victorious Indians had headed westward; Fetterman and his 80 men lay dead in the snow and ice, scalped, mutilated and cut to shreds. After more battles, Fort Phil Kearny was abandoned in 1868. Soon after Red Cloud signed a treaty, as him and Crazy Horse had won their war to retain their people’s hunting grounds. The peace lasted on the Northern plains for a while, but when it was broken, it was broken by the white man.

The Whites continued to build Railways across the Indians Hunting Grounds, to which the Indians responded with raiding the trains. A war broke out between the Cheyenne and the Whites in the south and when General George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry massacred an Indian camp lead by chief Black Kettle at the Washita River in the south, 103 Indians slaughtered (mostly woman and children) Crazy Horse must have been disgusted and angered. A big final war was coming between the Sioux and the Whites. Under the terms of the 1868 treaty, the Black Hills of Dakota were promised to the Sioux for “as long as the grass shall grow”. The ink of the treaty was barely dry when war clouds started to gather over the Black Hills and other lands held by the Sioux. White homesteaders were outraged that such good land had been given to the Indians. Red Cloud went to Washington to plead the Indians case, but having seen the power in the east he decided a war against them was useless and hung up his war lance forever and moved to an agency south of the Black Hills, many went with him and gave up the old life. The decision of Red Cloud split the Sioux, for many still refused to leave the Powder River and Black Hills. The holding out Sioux looked for guidance to Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, both were stubborn to the bone and would not give up without a fight. Whites continued edging into Sioux lands and the Buffalo, the Indians primary food resource, were becoming scarce due to white Buffalo Hunters. In the summer of 1873 bands of Sioux under Crazy Horse skirmished with the 7th Cavalry on numerous occasions. General Custer continued and relished fighting Indians. In 1874, gold is found in the Sioux owned Black Hills and by 1875 the hills were illegally infested with thousands of prospectors. Red Cloud and reservation leaders commanded that the whites be removed, the whites commanded the opposite. The Government tried to buy the Black Hills from the Sioux, Red Cloud and the reservation Sioux turned the offer down. When Crazy Horse heard of this he said, “One does not sell the land upon which we walk”. As soon as the negotiation failed the white invaders became totally brazen, laying out towns in the Black Hills, also demanding troops to protect them. Although the whites were acting illegally, Washington decided to remove the Indians instead as it was easier. In December President Grant signed and executive order requiring all Indians in the “unceded land” to go voluntarily to reservations by January 31st 1876 or be considered hostile and driven out. By this order, the government seized the Powder River Country as well as the Black Hills. When the deadline came and the camps of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Gall, Rain-in-the-Face, Low Dog and other Indians living up on the buffalo ranges had not entered reservations, war was declared by the government on said hostiles. Crazy Horse would not surrender, he wanted to be left alone with his people in peace, he would say, “We did not ask you white men to come here. The Great Spirit gave us this country as a home. You had yours. We did not interfere with you. The Great Spirit gave us plenty of land to live on, and buffalo, deer, antelope and other game. But you have come here, you are taking my land from me and are killing off our game so it hard for us to live. Now, you tell us to work for a living, but the Great Spirit did not make us to work, but to live by hunting. You white men can work if you want to. We did not interfere with you, and again you say why do you not become civilized? We do not want your civilization! We would live as our fathers did, and their fathers before them. " Soon a Sioux-Cheyenne camp on the Powder River was destroyed and on May 17th 1876, Custer and his 7th Cavalry headed out to Indian Country, for war. The Hostile Sioux of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull combined with Chief Gall’s tribe and those of Rain-in-the-Face and Low Dog. In all the camp had now swollen to 7000 people from the Teton Sioux, Arapaho and other Northern tribes, seldom, before had so many plains Indians come together. On June 17th Crazy Horse and 1500 Sioux and Cheyenne warriors attacked General George Crook and his brigade, the battle raged on for a day and Crook lost 57 men. After a triumphal four day scalp dance, the great Indian village moved towards the Greasy Grass River, the stream the Whites called Little Big Horn. The Indians felt safe from immediate pursuit. Here, with all their precautions, they were caught unawares by the arrival of General Custer and the 7th Cavalry, in the midst of their midday games and festivities, while many were out upon the daily hunt. On this June 25th, 1876, the great camp was scattered for three miles or more along the level river bottom, back of the thin line of cottonwoods -- five circular rows of tepees, ranging from half a mile to a mile and a half in circumference. Here and there stood out a large, white, solitary tepee; these were the lodges or "clubs" of the young men. Crazy Horse was a member of the "Strong Hearts" and the "Tokala" or Fox lodge. He was watching a game of ring-toss when the warning came from the southern end of the camp of the approach of troops. The Sioux and the Cheyenne’s were "minute men", and although taken by surprise, they instantly responded. Meanwhile, the women and children were thrown into confusion. Dogs were howling, ponies running hither and thither, pursued by their owners, while many of the old men were singing their lodge songs to encourage the warriors, or praising the "strong heart" of Crazy Horse who, no doubt with his patented lightning face paint and white paint hail spots all over his body, had quickly mounted his favourite war pony. He cried "Hoka Hey! Its is a good day to fight, it is a good day to die! Stonghearts and bravehearts to the front, weakhearts and cowards to the rear!" and was starting with his young men for the south end of the camp, when a fresh alarm came from the opposite direction, and looking up, he saw Custer's force upon the top of the bluff directly across the river. As quick as a flash, he took in the situation, the enemy had planned to attack the camp at both ends at once; and knowing that Custer could not ford the river at that point, he instantly led his men northward to the ford to cut him off. The Cheyenne’s followed closely. Custer must have seen that wonderful dash up the sage-bush plain, and one wonders whether he realized its meaning. In a very few minutes, this naked but for a loincloth general of the plains had outwitted one of the most brilliant leaders of the Civil War and ended at once his military career and his life. As Custer descended upon the river 1500 Huncapa Warriors led by Gall rode screaming up to meet them. Custer’s men began to fall back seeking higher ground. In his dashing plan, Crazy Horse snatched his most famous victory out of what seemed frightful peril, for the Sioux could not know how many were behind Custer. Custer must have had a horrified look on his face as their situation turned from critical to completely without hope when Crazy Horse led his 1000 warriors up the ridge behind them, Custer had been outflanked. To the soldiers it must have seemed as if the Indians rose up from the earth to overwhelm them. They closed in from three sides and fought until not a white man among Custer’s led command was left alive, the battle lasted less than an hour. Then they went down to Marcus Reno's command’s stand and found him so well entrenched in a deep gully that it was impossible to dislodge him, he was rescued by Captain Frederick Benteen’s command, both would have their share of blame for Custer’s command’s annihilation, they failed in backing him up. Custer and some 225 men were killed. Reno and Benteen had lost 53 killed. The Indians had won their greatest victory thanks mostly to Crazy Horse’s plan and the Seventh Cavalry’s lack of cooperation. Late in the afternoon of the next day the exultant Indians withdrew, leaving behind their dead warriors on scaffolds. On the June 27th Colonel Gibbon’s infantry arrived and found the ghastly piles of Custer’s mutilated dead. Custer himself had been shot twice, once through the heart, the other through the left temple. Yet although the Indians won the battle, they lost the war as an enraged white nation demanded immediate vengeance. While Sitting Bull and Gall were pursued into Canada, Crazy Horse and the Cheyenne’s wandered about, comparatively undisturbed, during the rest of that year, until in the winter the army surprised the Cheyenne’s, but did not do them much harm, possibly because they knew that Crazy Horse was not far off. His name was held in wholesome respect. From time to time, delegations of friendly Indians were sent to him, to urge him to come in to the reservation, promising a full hearing and fair treatment. For some time he held out, but the rapid disappearance of the buffalo, their only means of support, probably weighed with him more than any other influence. In July, 1877, he was finally prevailed upon to come in to Fort Robinson, Nebraska, with several thousand Indians, most of them Oglala and Minneconwoju Sioux, on the distinct understanding that the government would hear and adjust their grievances. At this juncture General Crook proclaimed Spotted Tail, who had rendered much valuable service to the army, head chief of the Sioux, which was resented by many. The attention paid Crazy Horse was offensive to Spotted Tail and the Indian scouts, who planned a conspiracy against him. They reported to General Crook that the young chief would murder him at the next council, and stampede the Sioux into another war. He was urged not to attend the council and did not, but sent another officer to represent him. Meanwhile the friends of Crazy Horse discovered the plot and told him of it. His reply was, "Only cowards are murderers." His wife was critically ill at the time, and he decided to take her to her parents at Spotted Tail agency, whereupon his enemies circulated the story that he had fled, and a party of scouts was sent after him. They overtook him riding with his wife and one other but did not undertake to arrest him, and after he had left the sick woman with her people he went to call on Captain Lea, the agent for the Brules, accompanied by all the warriors of the Minneconwoju band. This volunteer escort made an imposing appearance on horseback, shouting and singing, and in the words of Captain Lea himself and the missionary, the Reverend Mr. Cleveland, the situation was extremely critical. Indeed, the scouts who had followed Crazy Horse from Red Cloud agency were advised not to show themselves, as some of the warriors had urged that they be taken out and horsewhipped publicly. Under these circumstances Crazy Horse again showed his masterful spirit by holding these young men in check. He said to them in his quiet way: "It is well to be brave in the field of battle; it is cowardly to display bravery against one's own tribesmen. These scouts have been compelled to do what they did; they are no better than servants of the white officers. I came here on a peaceful errand." The captain urged him to report at army headquarters to explain himself and correct false rumours, and on his giving consent, furnished him with a wagon and escort. It has been said that he went back under arrest, but this is untrue. Indians have boasted that they had a hand in bringing him in, but their stories are without foundation. He went of his own accord, either suspecting no treachery or determined to defy it. When he reached the military camp, Little Big Man walked arm-in-arm with him, and his cousin and friend, Touch-the-Cloud, was just in advance. After they passed the sentinel, an officer approached them and walked on his other side. He was unarmed but for the knife which is carried for ordinary uses by women as well as men. Unsuspectingly he walked toward the guardhouse, when Touch-the-Cloud suddenly turned back exclaiming, “this is the prison!” "Another white man's trick! Let me go! Let me die fighting!" cried Crazy Horse. He stopped and tried to free himself and draw his knife, but both arms were held fast by Little Big Man (one of his own people, as his vision told him) and the officer. While he struggled thus, a soldier thrust him through with his bayonet from behind. The wound was mortal, and he was taken into the adjutant’s office. He refused to lie on a white man’s cot and died in the course of that night, his old father singing the death song over him and afterward carrying away the body, which they said must not be further polluted by the touch of a white man. They hid it somewhere in the Bad Lands, his resting place to this day. These were Crazy Horse’s last words to an Agent Lee, “My friend, I do not blame you for this. Had I listened to you this trouble would not have happened to me. I was not hostile to the white men. Sometimes my young men would attack the Indians who were their enemies and took their ponies. They did it in return. We had buffalo for food, and their hides for clothing and for our tepees. We preferred hunting to a life of idleness on the reservation, where we were driven against our will. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to leave the reservation to hunt. We preferred our own way of living. We were no expense to the government. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers were sent out in the winter, they destroyed our villages. The "Long Hair" (Custer) came in the same way. They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same thing to us had we not defended ourselves and fought to the last. Our first impulse was to escape with our squaws and papooses, but we were so hemmed in that we had to fight. After that I went up on the Tongue River with a few of my people and lived in peace. But the government would not let me alone. Finally, I came back to the Red Cloud Agency. Yet, I was not allowed to remain quiet. I was tired of fighting. I went to the Spotted Tail Agency and asked that chief and his agent to let me live there in peace. I cam here with the agent (lee) to talk with the Big White Chief but was not given a chance. They tried to confine me. I tried to escape, and a soldier ran his bayonet into me. I have spoken.” Thus live and died one of the ablest and truest American Indians. His life was ideal, his record clean. He was never involved in any of the numerous massacres on the trail, but was a leader in practically every open fight. Such characters as those of Crazy Horse are not easily found among so-called civilized people. The reputation of great men is apt to be shadowed by questionable motives and policies, but here is one pure patriot, as worthy of honour as any who ever breathed God's air in the wide spaces of a new world. Crazy Horse (Tashunka witko) was born about 1845. He was killed at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, in September 1877, so that he lived barely thirty-three years. He is one of my personal Hero’s and may he rest in peace.