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Crazy Horse

Native American Nations | Indian Warriors

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, Sitting Bull.

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 Army.

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 to Canada.

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Collection of books and papers, 1922-1925

Indian Warriors


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