You know that you are a child of the 60’s/70’s when you visit an historical site and your first thought is about a TV show. Arriving at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, I immediately flashbacked to an episode of the Twilight Zone in which three 1960's Army National Guard soldiers on tank maneuvers near the Little Big Horn battle site find themselves unwittingly involved in Custer's 7th Calvary last stand. The most memorable part of the episode was when the soldiers did not return to present day but the officer’s of their unit found the abandoned tank and their names (Connors, Langsford and McCluskey) added to the battlefield memorial. One officer commented, “They should have brought the tank.”
The Little Bighorn Battlefield formally called Custer Battlefield National Monument, is not one of the National Park Service most informative or organized sites. The visitor’s center is very small with limited displays and the battlefield is unkempt. I am certain part of the issue is that no one from Custer’s command (over 210 soldiers) survived therefore most of the battle information came from the Indians who participated in the combat. Additionally, the park is located in the middle of the Crow Indian reservation so perhaps that limits what the park service can accomplish.
Historians explain Custer’s 7th Calvary defeat by claiming Custer underestimated the size and fighting power of the Sioux forces. Additionally, Custer divided his regiment into three battalions assigning troops to Major Reno and Capt. Benteen – who were involved in their own Indian battles a few miles away.
Probably the most disappointing aspect of the National Monument is the complete turn toward political correctness -hence the change in the battlefield name, the addition of red battlefield markers (indicating where an Indian combatant was killed - less than 100) and the constant reminders that the Indians were “defending their way of life.” This is tolerable until you learn that the Indian’s stripped Custer and his dead and dying troops of their clothing, personal effects and mutilated their bodies. These atrocities are explained as the “Indian way of life” and therefore we must consent to it in order to appreciate peace. As an American, I know we have committed our own atrocities (slavery, Wounded Knee, WWII Japanese Internment Camps) yet we do not require acceptance or consent – but we beg for forgiveness, make reparations for our cruelties and never permit the evils to occur again. I’m just sayin’…….
While in the area, we rented a pontoon boat and spent a day touring the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. This also included a stop at spectacular Yellowtail Dam (see photos). On another day we drove into Sheridan, Wyoming and toured the Trail End house of former Wyoming Governor John B. Kendrick. Kendrick was a self-made millionaire via cattle ranching. The house was completed in 1910 and named in honor of his retirement not for the famous sculpture.
It is all part of the adventure!