Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Great American Road Trip - Battle of Little Bighorn

The stop to visit the Little Bighorn Battle site was an impromptu decision.
But it proved to leave a lasting impression.

First, I didn't realize it was a National Cemetery.
Most of these people died in the "Indian Wars", including General Custer (upper left),
but there are a few from WWI, WWII, and Korea.
All around there are billboards for "Custer's Battlefield", "Fort Custer" and "Custer's Last Stand" and I found out that Little Bighorn Battlefield had only recently, in 1991 been renamed from in an effort to include both sides of the story.

Yes, this was the site of General Custer's Last Stand against the Native Americans.
The plaque reads:
A Clash of Cultures
"Sitting Bull - You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hard tack , and a little sugar and coffee"
He was the spiritual leader of the Lakota, shunned the reservation way of life
in favor of their traditional nomadic hunting ways.

"President Ulysses S. Grant - to Christianize and civilize the Indian
and to train him in the arts of peace"
He issued an ultimatum that all Indian who were not on the reservations by January 31st, 1876 would be brought by force.

This tomb on Last Stand Hill, placed in 1881, marks the burial spot of Gen. Custer and his 7th Calvary Regiment, although his remains were later moved to West Pointe Cemetery.
They were outnumbered by about 2,000 of Lakota-Northern Cheyenne & Arapaho Indians.
The markers in the fenced area show where each man, including Custer, fell.

And, there are markers all over the hillside, 249 total, a haunting reminder of where each of the soldiers fell,
making this the most unique battlefield in the U.S.
Only recently have a handful of red granite markers been placed on the field.
They read
"A Cheyenne Warrior fell here on June 25, 1876
while defending the Cheyenne way of life".

I learned that most Native Americans were respecting the Peace Treaty of 1868 and staying in their designated area. But in 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills and their land was being overrun, causing them to leave and resume raids on the new settlements & travelers infringing on their domain.

Thus, military force began.
As you know, the Indians eventually lost the battle for their way of life.
If you want to learn more about our ancestry now you can travel to a reservation or a museum.

So, I gotta wonder:
Was the West won...or was it really lost?


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