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Crazy Horse
by Todd Underwood

The Teton Sioux chief Crazy Horse, or Ta Sunka Witko, is an almost mythical figure of the Great Plains Indian wars. He was born in approximately 1842 and died in 1877. His father was a medicine man of the Oglala subtribe. As a youth, he was known as Curly, but after proving himself in combat, he acquired what is thought to also be his fatherís name, Crazy Horse. There are many photographs that are allegedly of Crazy Horse, but historians doubt the authenticity of any of them. He was never known to be around any of the frontier photographers.

Crazy Horse first encountered U.S. Soldiers on the Oregon Trail July 25,1865 where he acted as a decoy to draw soldiers out of their defenses. Over the next year he honed his military skills as he studied the ways of his adversaries. Crazy Horse put that skill to use in December 1866 when he, as a leader of the decoy warriors, brought Lt. Col. William J. Fetterman and eighty men into an ambush that became known as the Fetterman massacre.

In the following years, Crazy Horse joined Sitting Bull in a effort to defend the Black Hills and resist being put on a reservation. Relations between the Indians and the U.S. government deteriorated to the point where war was inevitable and the famous Indian fighter Lt. General George Crook was brought in to take charge of the U.S. forces. After fighting a fierce battle one day, Crazy Horse and his troops rode over to the Little Bighorn to join Sitting Bullís large encampment. A few days later, their camp was attacked by General George A. Custer. Crazy Horse and a chief of the Hunkpapa Sioux named Gall led their warriors in a pincer attack and wiped out Custerís divided calvary in one of the most infamous battles of that century.

Shortly after the battle with Custer, Sitting Bull and many of his followers fled to Canada, but Crazy Horse elected to remain in his homeland. On May 6, 1877, after the relentless pursuit of the Calvary, Crazy Horse was captured. He was promised the assignment of his people to a reservation in return for surrendering, and he became a scout for the Calvary. Unfortunately, Crazy Horse was soon mistrusted by both the Calvary and his own People as well.

When and uprising of the Nez Perce in Oregon and Idaho called the Calvary to action, Crazy Horse was given the duty to act as a scout. At first, being sympathetic with the Nez Perce, he did not want to accept the job. After careful reconsideration, he consented. An army interpreter named Frank Grouard, who was one of the people who hated Crazy Horse the most, is rumored to have purposefully misinterpreted what Crazy Horse said when he agreed to his duty. General Crook received report that Crazy Horse had said he vowed to "fight until not a white man is left." Crazy Horse was arrested and on the promise of the arresting officers, agreed to return to Camp Robinson where they were supposed to have explained what had happened and clear Crazy Horse with the Army.

Upon arrival at Camp Robinson, the commanding officer refused to listen to any explanations and ordered Crazy Horse to be confined. When Crazy Horse learned of his impending confinement, he tried to break free and was bayoneted by one of the guards. A surgeon was brought to attend to Crazy Horse, but he died just before midnight on September 5, 1877.

These are Crazy Horseís last words to 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 teepees. We preferred huntiing 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.


Telegram from Colonel Bradley to Lt. General Sheridan reporting the arrest and death of Crazy Horse.

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