by Todd Underwood
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
are Crazy Horseís last words to Agent Lee:
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.
from Colonel Bradley to Lt. General Sheridan reporting the
arrest and death of Crazy Horse.