KEYWORDS: battle of the Little Big Horn custer’s last stand sioux wars Indian wars General George Armstrong Custer wild west reinactments indian reinactments Indian history sioux indians
The Battle of Little Big Horn, also called Custer’s Last Stand, took place on June 25, 1876 as part of the Indian Wars and was a victory for a large force of Lakota and their allies including the Cheyenne over the 7th Cavalry of the United States Army which attacked their village. The part of the detachment personally commanded by General George Armstrong Custer was killed to the last man.
The American forces were sent to attack the natives based on Indian Inspector’s E.C. Watkins report (issued on November 9, 1875) that stated that hundreds of Sioux and Cheyenne associated with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were hostile to the United States.
The widow of Custer helped popularize this defeat in memory of her husband and the event as recreated in numerous films as a heroic American general fighting valiantly against savage forces. By the end of the 20th century, the general recognition of the mistreatment of the various Native American nations in the conquest of the American west, and Custer’s role in it, has changed the image of the battle to one of a bloodthirsty conqueror meeting his match against courageous warriors defending their land and way of life.
On Memorial Day 1999 the first of five red granite markers denoting where warriors fell during the battle were placed on the battlefield for Cheyenne warriors, Lame White Man and Noisy Walking. The warrior markers dot the ravines and hillsides like the white marble markers representing where soldiers fell. Since then, markers have been added for the Sans Arc warrior, Long Road and the Minniconjou, Dog’s Back Bone. On June 25, 2003 an unknown warrior marker was placed on Wooden Leg Hill, east of Last Stand Hill to honor a warrior who was killed during the battle as witnessed by the Cheyenne warrior, Wooden Leg.
On June 25, 2003 the first Indian Memorial was dedicated. The bill that changed the name of the battlefield from Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument also called for an Indian Memorial to be built near Last Stand Hill. President George Bush signed the bill into law on December 10, 1991.
The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is located in southeastern Montana near Crow Agency, Montana and administered by the National Park Service. The NPS official website is www.nps.gov/libi/index.htm.
For more information about the Battle of the Little Bighorn and updates from the battlefield, including the Indian Memorial dedication and warrior markers, please visit the Friends of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, the only non-profit organization affiliated with the Little Bighorn Monument.
A reinactment of the Little Big Horn story and battle is held on the third weekend in June every year at Hardin, Montana, about seven miles from the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, which is sponsored by the Hardin Chamber of Commerce. The esteemed Crow Tribal Historian and elder, Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, grandson of one of Custer’s six Crow scouts, wrote the script for this reinactment.
There is also another less publicized reinactment in the area hosted by the Real Bird family, who are Native Americans and decendents of warriors who fought in the battle.