Crazy Horse


When I think back of the stories that I have heard about
how the Native American Indians were driven from their land
and forced to live on the reservations one particular event
comes to my mind. That event is the Battle of the Little
Big Horn. It is one of the few times that the Oglala Sioux
made history with them being the ones who left the
battlefield as winners. When stories are told, or when the
media dares to tamper with history, it is usually the
American Indians who are looked upon as the bad guys. They
are portrayed as savages who spent their time raiding wagon
trains and scalping the white settlers just for fun. The
media has lead us to believe that the American government
was forced to take the land from these savage Indians. We
should put the blame where it belongs, on the U.S.
Government who lied, cheated, and stole from the Oglala
forcing Crazy Horse, the great war chief, and many other
leaders to surrender their nation in order to save the
lives of their people. In the nineteenth century the most
dominant nation in the western plains was the Sioux Nation.
This nation was divided into seven tribes: Oglala's,
Brule', Minneconjou, Hunkpapa, No Bow, Two Kettle, and the
Blackfoot. Of these tribes they had different band. The
Hunkpatila was one band of the Oglala's (Guttmacher 12).
One of the greatest war chiefs of all times came from this
band. His name was Crazy Horse. 

Crazy Horse was not given this name, on his birth date in
the fall of 1841. He was born of his father, Crazy Horse an
Oglala holy man, and his mother a sister of a Brule'
warrior, Spotted Tail. As the boy grew older his hair was
wavy so his people gave him the nickname of Curly
(Guttmacher 23). He was to go by Curly until the summer of
1858, after a battle with the Arapaho's. Curly's brave
charged against the Arapaho's led his father to give Curly
the name Crazy Horse. This was the name of his father and
of many fathers before him (Guttmacher 47). 

In the 1850's, the country where the Sioux Nation lived,
was being invaded by the white settlers. This was upsetting
for many of the tribes. They did not understand the ways of
the whites. When the whites tore into the land with plows
and hunted the sacred buffalo just for the hides this went
against the morale and religious beliefs of the Sioux. The
white government began to build forts. In 1851, Fort
Laramie was built along the North Platte river in Sioux
territory (Matthiessen 6). 

In 1851, the settlers began complaining of the Indians who
would not allow them to go where they wanted. U.S. Agents
drew up a treaty that required the Indians to give safe
passage to the white settlers along the Oregon Trail. In
return the government promised yearly supplies of guns,
ammunition, flour, sugar, coffee, tobacco, blankets, and
bacon. These supplies were to be provided for fifty-five
years. Ten thousand Sioux gathered at the fort to listen to
the words of the white government and to be showered with
gifts. In addition the treaty wanted the Indians to allow
all settlers to cross their lands. They were to divide the
plains into separate territories and each tribe was not to
cross the border of their territory. The treaty also wanted
no wars to be waged on other tribes. They wanted each
Indian nation to choose a leader that would speak for the
entire nation. Many Indians did not like this treaty and
only after weeks of bribery did the whites finally convince
a sizable group of leaders to sign. The Oglala's were among
those who refused (Matthiessen 6). This Treaty however did
not stop the trouble between the Indians and the settlers.
The Indians however, did not cause violent trouble, they
would perhaps approach a covered wagon to trade or extract
gifts of food. The most daring warrior might make away with
a metal pot or pan but nothing violent like the books and
movies lead us to believe (Matthiessen 7). 
The straw that broke the camels back took place on August
17, 1854 when the relations between the Indians and Whites
were shattered. Among the settlers heading west was a group
of Mormons and as they were passing, a few miles south of
Fort Laramie, an Indian stole a cow. The Mormons reported
this to Lieutenant Hugh B. Fleming, the commander of the
post. Fleming demanded that the offender, High Forehead of
the Minneconjou, face charges. Chief Conquering Bear
suggested that the Mormons come to his herd of ponies and
pick out the best pony he had to replace the cow, which to
the Sioux these ponies were their wealth. This seemed to be
a very gracious offer. Fleming would not agree and sent
Lieutenant John L. Grattan to bring back the warrior. When
Grattan arrived at Conquering Bears camp, he was given
another offer. This time they could choose five ponies from
five herds among the tribes. Grattan refused and began to
open fire (Guttmacher 14-19). This outrageous act of war
was not called for. The Mormons would have surely been
satisfied with the ponies or the money the ponies would
have bought. The government just did not want to keep the
Indian-White relationship peaceful. Crazy Horse, then
called Curly, was only thirteen when the soldiers and the
Indians fought. The Indians outnumbered the soldiers and
won the battle (Guttmacher 20). 
Crazy Horse eventually became a leader of his people. In
today's society our leaders are given money and gifts but
in the times of Crazy Horse it was almost the opposite. He
was expected to live modestly, keep only what he needed and
give away the rest. After hunting he would give the needy
the choicest meat and keep the stringy meat for himself. He
did however, have the honor and prestige that allowed him
to make the decisions for the tribe (Ambrose 125). 
As well as other Sioux leaders, Crazy Horse lead his people
into the Powder River country. The reason for this move was
to leave behind the ways of the white man and continue
living the ways of the Sioux. The white man had brought to
their country sickness, liquor and damaging lifestyles much
different from the lifestyles of the Sioux. 
In 1865, U.S. officials wanted to obtain land from the
Indians. They offered many different bribes, such as gifts
and liquor, to the Indians who lived around the forts. They
were very good at making the sell of land seem temporary
and they convinced many that what the right thing to do was
sell. The land they wanted was access land into the Powder
River country. The government did not have the luck they
needed in obtaining the land with money or bribes. So in
the summer of 1865 they sent more than two thousand
soldiers from Fort Laramie into the Powder River country
(Ambrose 151). In 1866 the government, knowing that the
land they wanted was worth much more, offered the Sioux
fifteen thousand dollars annually for access into Powder
River country. The Indians did allow whites to use the
Bozeman Trail just as they allowed immigrants to use the
Holy Road. The U.S. Government had an obligation to protect
its citizens but not to provoke a crisis. They did create a
crisis when they established forts in the heart of Oglala
territory. After conquering the confederates the U.S. Army
was full of optimism and wanted desperately to have an all
out war to exterminate the Sioux. Although the Indians were
allowing the whites to use the Bozeman Trail, the
government was not satisfied. They wanted the legal right
to use the trail. E.B. Taylor, a government agent at one of
the Indian Offices, tricked some of the Indian Leaders into
going to Fort Laramie in 1866 for a treaty. He deliberately
attempted to deceive them; he said nothing about building
forts along the trail, only that they wanted to use the
Bozeman Trail. He offered them guns, ammunition, gifts plus
money. The Indians did not sell (Ambrose 213-214). 
In June 1867, the government officials produced a new
treaty. This treaty, like all the ones before, only
promised lavish gifts to those who would sign. One of the
Oglala chiefs, Red Cloud, wanted more for his nation than
the simple gifts offered. He wanted the troops to move from
the forts; Reno, Philkearny and C.F. Smith. During the
summer of 1868 his request was accepted. The troops moved.
A civil war hero William Tecumseh Sherman moved into the
territory as the new commander of the plains. He had plans
to get the treaty signed. His hopes were to, shut up the
congressional critics, get the Sioux to agree on a treaty
and maintain the army's morale. After negotiations were
made Red Cloud lead one hundred-and twenty-five leaders of
the Sioux nations to sign the treaty of 1868. This treaty
guaranteed "absolute and undisturbed use of the Great Sioux
Reservation. No person shall ever be permitted to pass
over, settle upon, or reside in territory described in this
article, or without consent of the Indians pass through the
same" (Matthiessen 7-8). This treaty also stated that the
hunting rights on the land between the Black Hills and the
Big Horn Mountains "as long as the grass shall grow and the
water flows".(Guttmacher 73). It forced the Indians to be
farmers and live in houses. There could be no changes made
to the treaty without three fourths of all adult males of
the Sioux nation agreeing (Ambrose 282). The Indians had
divided into those who agreed with the treaty, the
"friendly" and those who wanted nothing to do with the
treaty, the "hostile". The U.S. government did not
recognize these separate groups. They forbid trade with the
Powder River Indians until all Indians moved to the
reservation. This was not in the Treaty of 1868,
(Guttmacher 76). Even though the government was getting
the best part of the treaty they were not satisfied with
progress. In 1871 the Indian Appropriation Bill was passed
which stated "hereafter no Indian nation or tribe within
the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an
independent nation, tribe or power with whom the U.S. may
contract by treaty" (Matthiessen 7-8). 
General Armstrong Custer was appointed as the new commander
of the plains. He led the Seventh Calvary on a mission to
subdue a band of hostile Cheyenne. The calvary came across
an Indian village and attacked them instead. Black Kettle,
the chief of the village and his wife were killed as they
rode to surrender. This killing of 100 Cheyenne, mostly
women and children, and 800 ponies was advertised as
Custer's victory against the brutal savages (Guttmacher
81-82). The U.S. Army led an expedition into the Sioux
territory. According to the Treaty of 1868 this expedition
was not legal. The expedition was to survey land for the
Northern Pacific Railroad. The railroad meant progress.
(Guttmacher 81). 

Since the civil war the American economy was booming.
Railroad stocks led the way. On, September 18 1873, banking
crashed. Farm prices plummeted, grasshopper plaques ruined
crops, yellow fever struck in the Mississippi Valley, and
unemployment went sky high. The government figured that
it's role was to pour money into the economy. The gold
supply was insufficient. President Grants solution to the
economy was to open new territory for exploration. So in
the spring of 1874 troops were sent to open a fort in the
Black Hills. The government, exaggerated at the best or
lied at the worst, said the Indians were not keeping up
their part of the treaty. Custer was in charge of this
expedition. During this expedition Custer claimed that
there was gold in the Black Hills. Grant looked at this as
an opportunity to show the country he could pull them from
the depression and he opened the Black Hills for
prospecting. This broke the treaty of 1868 again (Ambrose
343-346). The Black Hills was a sacred place to the Sioux.
It was a place where spirits dwelled, a holy place called
Pa Sapa by the Sioux. The whites had only the crudest
concept of what the hills meant to the Indians. By 1876 ten
thousand whites lived in Custer City, the frontier town of
the southern Black Hills. 
Agency Indians were not living very well on the
reservations. Government agents were corrupt. They would
accept diseased cattle, rotten flour and wormy corn. They
would get a kickback on the profits. The Indians were
undernourished and even starving. The agents also claimed
the Indians exaggerated in their numbers just to receive
more rations. However, in a census conducted by the
government trying to prove this, they found that the
Indians were actually claiming less (Ambrose 359). 
In 1876, the agencies were taken from the churches and
given to the army to control. This was petitioned to
Washington with statements that soldiers were obnoxious and
their dislike for Indians was very obvious. Also the army
was corrupting the Indians by introducing and encouraging
alcohol and gambling. The petition also stated that all the
agency troubles had been caused directly or indirectly by
the soldiers. No change in policy was done on behalf of
these petitions (Kadlecek 33). 
Unwilling to pay for the Black Hills and unable to defeat
the Sioux in war, on August, 15, 1876 Congress passed the
Sioux Appropriation Bill. This bill stated that further
provisions would not be given to the Sioux until the
hostiles gave up the Black Hills, Powder River country and
Bighorn country. They would also have to move to the
Missouri River in Central Dakota or to Oklahoma. Upset
because of there defeat the Government demanded
unconditional surrender of the Sioux or they would starve
those in the agencies. Red Cloud and the other chiefs were
told to sign a treaty or their people would starve. Crazy
horse and Sitting Bull continued to fight for land that was
stolen from them in a misleading treaty (Ambrose 417-418).
The Treaty of 1876 was not signed by at least three fourths
of the male members of the Sioux nation as the Treaty of
1868 had stipulated. So they cheated by calling the treaty
an "Agreement" instead of a treaty (Friswold 19). The
government had changed or disturbed nearly every part of
the Indians lives. They had taken their horses (their
wealth), taken their land, taken the buffalo and taken
their tipis. They still had their religion. They had seven
ceremonial rites of which two were the most beneficial; the
Vision Quest and the Sun Dance. The Vision quest was an
individual dance and the Sun Dance a community affair. In
June 1877 the biggest Sun Dance seen on the reservation,
twenty thousand strong, was held to honor Crazy Horse. This
was the last big Sun Dance (Kadlecek 37-42). 
Crazy Horse was finally persuaded to bring his people in to
live on the reservation. Crazy horse was lied to when a
government official told him that he was needed at a
conference. He realized this was a trap when he saw bars on
the windows. He drew his knife and attempted to break
loose. A white soldier, William Gentiles, lunged at Crazy
Horse with a fixed bayonet that punctured his kidney. Crazy
Horse died September, 5 1877 (Kadlecek 53). 

The Sioux Indians had lost nearly everything that made them
a strong nation. In 1881 the government prohibited all
reservations from allowing the Sun Dance. The government
went against the First Amendment and took away the Sioux's
greatest religious ceremony. General Sherman, never known
as an Indian lover, said a reservation was "a parcel of
land inhabited by Indians and surrounded by thieves"
(Matthiessen 17). This type of harassment did not stop. In
1887 the General Allotment Act (the Dawes Act) was passed.
This Act was designed to assist the Indians to mainstream
into America. Each male Indian was given 160 acres of land
from the reservation. Of course the excess land was taken
by the government and sold to the whites. The Indians were
not accustom to dealing with thieves and the majority of
them lost their land through shady dealings (Matthiessen
17). The U.S. Government used many deceptions to obtain
the land the Indians once owned. The Sioux Indians were not
treated with the most respect to say the least. They must
be commended for staying strong and still being a big part
of the United States today. Budd 3 


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