Little Big Horn Battlefield

and

Wounded Knee, S. Dakota

June 6, 2006

It was a little bit out of our way for our return trip home, but I really wanted to see the Little Big Horn Battlefield (Custer's Last Stand) and Wounded Knee, the sight of the slaughter of 300 unarmed Lakota men, women, and children in 1890.

The Visitor's Center at Little Big Horn is very nice, with a good museum inside containing relics from the battle. The park rangers put on a presentation often about the battle, the soldiers, the Indians, etc. In contrast, the small memorial at Wounded Knee was financed by the son of one of the victims and is in a little cemetery on top of a hill.

Here are a few pictures. Click on a picture to see a larger view.

At the top of Last Stand Hill (where Custer fell) is a monument, erected in 1881, and the remains of the officers of the 7th Cavalry that died on June 25, 1876. The enlisted men were buried where they fell.

CCuster's remains were reinterred at West Point a few years later, but a grave marker marks the spot where he died.

These are the graves of the officers, and Custer's marker.
Enlisted soldiers were buried where they fell.

In 1990, the U.S. government finally realized that the Indians are Americans too, and so have started putting memorials to the Indians there too.

This is the general memorial to the Indians that fought the battle.

They have even started placing markers where it is known where a certain Indian fell. In many cases, this is difficult because the Indians carried off the bodies of their dead after the battle. Some families put rocks where their loved one died, so it is known where that spot is.

We are so politically correct these days, we have erected a marker to honor the horses that died in the battle.

Actually, according to one of the ranger presentations, Custer ordered that all of the horses be shot so they could use them as cover. The Indians, however, were expert at shooting arrows at a high arch so that they would come down almost vertically .... thousands of them.

This is showing where the Indian camps were, down by the Little Big Horn River. It was mainly Lakota Sioux, Arapaho, and Cheyenne. They all didn't necessarily trust each other, but came together to fight a common enemy. It is said that it was the largest known gathering of Indians ever assembled.

All of this was so real to me. I could just picture hundreds or thousands of tipis down there. The rangers said the terrain is almost exactly as it was in 1876.

As I said, the rangers are excellent at what they do. You can tell that they really enjoy their job. Most all of them are "seasonal rangers" in that they work during the tourist season, and then go back home to their other job (mostly professors) after the season. Most are professors because they are typically off when the tourist season starts.

 

 

 

Now, unless you want to get real upset, I suggest that you return to the main page.

After we left Little Big Horn, we drove to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota Sioux, and on to the Wounded Knee section (after spending the night at Mt. Rushmore). Here, in December of 1890, around 300 Lakota unarmed men, women, and children were massacred by the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry (same as Custer's unit, 14 years prior). The Indians had been practicing a ritual called the Ghost Dance, which was a dance to wish for the old ways of their ancestors and to make the white man go away. The soldiers opened fire on them, even as they waived a truce flag and killed them. Observers heard the soldiers chant "Remember Little Big Horn", which shows that these murders were acts of revenge. Boys were coaxed out of hiding with the assurance of safety only to be cut down by the rifles.

And, here is the biggest shame. Twenty Medals of Honor were awarded to the troops for their activities that day. That is the same number as the total number of Medals of Honor given at Antietem (Sharpsburg), the bloodiest day in American warfare.

This is the tiny graveyard at Wounded Knee. Most of the graves are hand made crosses with a name scratched into them, because Pine Ridge is one of the most impoverished places in America. In the center is the only memorial regarding the massacre.

The United States has never apologized for the actions on December 29, 1890.

This is the modest memorial to those Indians who were killed on December 29, 1890. I think it is ironic that at the lower left side of the picture is the grave marker of Reuben Redfeather, a U.S. soldier and Sioux Indian who died on December 1, 1944 during WWII.

 

The inscription on the memorial reads as follows:

This monument is erected by

surviving relatives and other

Ocallala and Cheyenne River Sioux

Indians in memory of the

Chief Big Foot Massacre

December 29, 1890

Col. Forsyth in command

U.S. troops

Big foot was a great chief of the

Sioux Indians. He often said, I will

stand in peace till my last day

comes. He did many good and brave

deeds for the white man and the

red man. Many innocent women and

children who knew no wrong

died here.

There are several on-going attempts to try to get the twenty Medals of dis-Honor rescinded. One of the on-line sites is here. You might also want to write to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

 

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