The name of Crazy Horse (Ta Sunka Witko) is well known because he
was one of the principal chiefs at the Battle of the Little Big
Horn, the most celebrated Indian massacre of them all. As a war
chief of the Oglala Teton Sioux, he led his followers in resistance
against the encroachment of white gold hunters in the Black Hills in
1875. His close friend and advisor was the great medicine man,
He was born about 1844, and is supposed to have received his name
because a wild mustang raced through the village at the time of his
birth. His hatred of the white man became known when the Indian
Agent at the Red Cloud Agency on the Platte River in Wyoming moved
his tribe from their traditional home in 1873. In the ensuing years
the relationship between Crazy Horse's band and the United States
authorities continued to deteriorate, on numerous occasions
threatening to erupt into warfare. When the celebrated
paleontologist, Prof. O.C. Marsh came to Sioux country to search for
fossils, it was evident that the Indians were being defrauded in
their rations. Marsh's report caused an investigation and won the
Indians some support.
It was the unauthorized invasion of their lands by the gold seekers
in violation of the Sioux treaty that instigated open hostilities.
General George Crook, the famed Indian fighter, was placed in charge
of the Platte River region when war appeared inevitable. The famed
campaign of 1876 followed , as we have told in the story of Sitting
Bull. After the death of Custer, Sitting Bull and many of the Sioux
fled into Canada, but Crazy horse elected to remain in his homeland.
With about 1,000 followers, he moved south toward the Platte.
The situation was even less tenantable than before at the Indian
Agencies. Public outrage over the Custer massacre was such that the
Army gained jurisdiction over the agencies, the less stringent
"Peace Policy" becoming a thing of the past. Of all the Sioux, Crazy
Horse was the one most likely to be blamed for any trouble that
arose, not only because of his eminence in the war but because he
made no attempt to conceal his dislike for the United States forces.
Crazy Horse became a scout for the Army, bringing with him some of
his leading warriors. Not only did he fail to win the trust of the
Army, but he had many enemies among the Indians as well. One who
hated him was Frank Grouard, who worked as an interpreter for the
With the uprising of the Nez Perce in Oregon and Idaho, General
Miles and other military leaders conceived a plan to put down the
hostiles which included the utilization of the Sioux scouts. Crazy
Horse, who was not unsympathetic toward the plight of the hostiles
(it being somewhat of a repetition of what had happened to the
Sioux), spoke against putting Indians into battle against Indians.
Later he decided to consent to the plan, and reported to his
superiors. Grouard, perhaps purposely incorrectly translated Crazy
Horse's words so that the officers though the former war leader had
threatened to "fight until not a white man is left." General Crook
received the report and ordered that Crazy Horse be captured and
"sent out of harm's way."
Crazy Horse fled to the Spotted Tail Agency, but scouts found him
there and placed him under arrest. He agreed to return to Camp
Robinson on the promise of the arresting officers that they would
explain what had happened and clear him with the Army. When they
arrived at the camp, the commandant, Colonel Bradley refused to
listen to any explanations. Crazy Horse was ordered continued.
When they neared the guardhouse, Crazy Horse realized what was
happening and tried to break free. In the struggle he was bayoneted
by one of the guards. A surgeon was brought to the scene, but Crazy
Horse died just before midnight on September 5, 1877. Some of his
followers later stole the martyred chief's remains and carried them
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