A Clash of CulturesLittle Bighorn Battlefield National Monument memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. Here in the valley of the Little Bighorn River on two hot June days in 1876, more than 260 soldiers and attached personnel of the US Army met defeat and death at the hands of several thousand Lakota and Cheyene warriors. Among the dead were Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and every member of his immediate command. Although the Indians won the battle, they subsequently lost the war against the white man’s efforts to end their independent, nomadic way of life.
Today was our tour of Little Big Horn Battlefield. We used US Park Service Senior Pass, and went on bus tour with an Indian College guide. She told a very long and detailed story of the events leading up to and including the battle of Little Big Horn, or the Battle of Greasy Grass, as the Indians called it. The tall clump grasses that grow in the area have a flower at the tip that feels greasy and leaves a shiny appearance on their horses’ legs and bellies.
The white Americans broke so many promises and treaties with the native people, who only wanted to be left alone on the small areas of land that the US Government was assigning to them; but because the government was broke after the Civil War and the land was so rich with so many kinds of ore (silver, gold, coal, etc), the government could not keep the miners out and treaties were broken.
It was a chilling and sad story. Then she described the battle as the bus drove us along the ridges. We could just imagine what it looked like as we saw the surrounding mountains, the ridges & valleys, and the meadow and river that the Indians were camped by the thousands. Custer thought he would just surround them and take them off to a new reservation. Only he underestimated their numbers.
“From “The Crows Nest”, a vantage point 14 miles away in the Wolf Mountains, Custer’s Crow and Arikara scouts saw evidence of the massive Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho encampment. Convinced that he was discovered, Custer abandoned plans for a reconnaissance and a delayed attack. He divides his forces into four groups along Reno Creek deciding to strike the village before it could scatter. As Custer’s battalions approach the Little Bighorn Valley, he orders Major Marcus Reno with approximately 175 soldiers and scouts to cross the river and charge. Custer, with approximately 225 soldiers and scouts, veered to the northwest and appear on the ridge for their first view of the village.”
After the bus we listened to the Ranger talk outside the visitor center. He told the US Army version, and wanted us to learn from battle both to accept others and honor the difference of people.
To learn more, you can visit The Battle of Little Bighorn
We had lunch at the Trading Post and shopped a little (bought some Indian earrings) and afterwards we drove and walked the ridge tour of the battlefield. There is also a National Military Cemetery here that includes the soldiers from this battle, as well as future US Veterans.
We were able to get back to our rig before the storms came through again, not as bad as yesterday, but the temperature dropped from 93º to 65º from the thunderstorm, and left us with a lovely sunset.