Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Eagle Butte

What lead to The Battle of Little Big Horn: the victors’ point of view

Victory Day was observed on June 25 in honor of the defeat of Custer’s 7th Cavalry in 1876 near Little Big Horn.

According to an article published in “The Oregon Sunday Journal” on January 14, 1912, the 7th Calvary was considered one of the finest cavalry units in the United States. The 1912 article, “E. H. Pickard, Former Trooper of Seventh Cavalry, U.S.A., Tells How He Happened to Escaped Death in Famous Indian Battle,” refers to the cavalry lead by General George Armstrong Custer.

Pickard’s story in many ways compliments the story told by Chief Flying Hawk.

From Pickard’s view, the soldiers in the basin of the battle with Custer fought gallantly, showing no signs of panic or confusion in the heat of the battle. Pickard was prompted to speak to a reporter later in his life about what he experienced and saw on the battlefield after hearing that a scout, Two Moons, from the Cheyenne Tribe, said that the soldiers in the basin were panicked.

Apparently, the idea that his fellow soldiers were being framed as less than brave in any way, prompted Pickard to tell his side of the story.

The 1912 article contradicts the way in which Native Americans were presented by Chief Flying Hawk, who was also in the battle. In the Oregon newspaper article. Pickard’s negative regard for Natives was apparent, using descriptions like, “The woods seemed to vomit Indians,” and “They had never looked so terrible before,” when describing what they were wearing.

This attitude is also described by Chief Red Cloud in a speech he gave explaining what lead to the battle with Custer’s cavalry.

“We tried with the means we had, but on one pretext or another, we were shifted from one place to another, or were told that such a transfer was coming. Great efforts were made to break up our customs, but nothing was done to introduce us to customs of the whites. Everything was done to break the power of the real chiefs,” Chief Red Cloud said.

“Those old men really wished their people to improve, but little men, so-called chiefs, were made to act as disturbers and agitators. Spotted Tail wanted the ways of the whites, but an assassin was found to remove him. This was charged to the Indians because an Indian did it, but who set on the Indian? I was abused and slandered, to weaken my influence for good. This was done by men paid by the Government to teach us the ways of the whites. I have visited many other tribes and found that the same things were done amongst them; all was done to discourage us and nothing to encourage us. I saw men paid by the government to help us, all very busy making money for themselves, but doing nothing for us,” Chief Red Cloud said.

In addition, Two Moons was one of the leading Chiefs of the battle for the Cheyenne, not just a scout, as the article indicated.

The Battle of Little Big Horn is celebrated on Victory Day to honor those who triumphed over and died to fight against the oppression of Native peoples in the late 1800s as they made their last stand for a way of life quickly slipping from their reality.

The leading chiefs, according to Flying Hawk, were: Crazy Horse, SItting Bull, Lamedeer, Spotted Eagle, and Two Moon.

These leaders acted to protect the women, children and elders upon which Flying Hawk testified the soldiers fired upon, and the warriors fought to protect their people from the attack.

One hundred and forty-three years later, while most people not familiar with Indian Country, the Cheyenne or the Lakota people, do not celebrate Victory Day, but here on Cheyenne River, the people remember.