Little Big Horn
(as told by a relative of Sitting Bull)
I thought perhaps you would be interested in reading a Lakota account of what happened at Little Big Horn........
I am Tanpa, Gilbert Walking Bull's sister and I would like to offer you an account of the battle as it was told to Gilbert, as Gilbert has relayed it through one of his books........
Gilbert Walking Bull
Born in the distant hills of South Dakota, Gilbert is the grandson of Moves Camp, a Sioux Sacred Man, and is the great grandson of Sitting Bull. On his mother's side he is also related to Crazy Horse and Black Elk.
Selected from a young age to help carry on the spiritual teachings of his people, Gilbert was raised largely by his grandparent's generation, and educated in the traditional healing ceremonies, songs and culture of the Lakota. He was kept out of government schools and did not even begin to learn about the ways of modern American society and the English language until he was 16 years old. Gilbert's knowledge of the traditional aspects of the Lakota is pure and true, and represents an unbroken cultural lineage possessed by very few others.
Gilbert is the author of four definitive books on authentic traditional Lakota culture, and Since 1992, Gilbert has shared the intact traditional ways of his upbringing with Wilderness Awareness School, which has greatly enhanced the forming of our own mentoring culture. In 2000 he founded Tatanka Mani Camp along with his wife Diane Marie, and Marilynn Bradley.
Custer's Fateful Day
I was very fortunate late this summer, Aug 1977, when I went back to the reservation to see some of my relatives. To my suprise, one of my great uncles, who I thought had died many moons ago, still meets the early rising sun, still is very bright and active for a man of eighty two years of age. I spent from early evening to the time when the hoot owl hoots the loudest (past midnight) talking with him. He spoke of his childhood years as fond memories, for in those days there were many of his close relatives who had helped put a scare and fear in the hearts of Crows and the United States Army by annihilating the Seventh Army. Those men were still alive when my great uncle was young, and the guidance they gave him he still retains, for this is the old way.
One of the stories he told me that night was a version of this minor incident in the fighting strength of the great Sioux Nation.
He said there were fewer than one hundred i-cha-sh-ke yu-ha-pi (stake them selves down in front of the enemy, or the Strong Heart Society) of my great uncle, Crazy Horse's band, and my great grandfather Sitting Bull's band who displayed their light calvary tactics against Custer and his two hundred and twenty six men, and that's besides the Crows, Pawnees and other Indian scouts as well, and wiped them out. He said that he was told by one of his true Christian straight-tongued Lakotas about the real facts as to how Custer died.
My great uncle said that this Lakota told him that he and two other Lakotas were the key witnesses of the event as they were standing on top of a hill watching several Lakotas chasing the soldiers across the ridge from where they were standing, about the distance of the flight of an arrow. As they were chasing them, they were knocking them off their horses with their tomahawks. As the soldiers were fleeing from this handful of warriors, a lone warrior on horseback popped up in front of the soldiers to the north end of the ridge which caused turmoil amongst the fleeing pony soldiers. The lone warrior that appeared was Ta-shu-ke wi-tko (Crazy Horse).
The ones who were in the lead tried to stop their galloping horses but the ones behind them ran over them and caused a big pile up. While this big commotion took place right alongside the west ridge, the pursuing handful of warriors got in amongst the pont soldiers and many hairs were lifted.
Out of this commotion a pony soldier on horseback fled downhill towards the west. As he did so a couple of warriors took after him. Just as they got alongside him, a shot rang out. The pony soldier fell off his horse so one of the warriors turned his horse around and came back to the fallen pony soldier, while the other one pursued the fallen soldier's horse. He reached over and grabbed hold of the reins of the spooked horse and turned it around. He led the horse back to where the other Lakota was looking over at the fallen pony soldier. (Along about that time the lifting of hair was about all over with.)
They said they went over to where the two Lakotas were looking over the pony soldier. One of them said that just as they got even with him, the pony soldier shot him self through the head. As the Lakota was telling them this, he turned the pony soldier over on his back, and, as he did so, they could see that he was telling the truth because the wound was right under the pony soldier's chin and had come out on the top of his head. Both of the Lakotas that had chased this pony soldier said that neither one of them had shot this soldier. In fact, the only weapons they had in their hands were coup sticks.
As they were standing there, they were talking about how a man could claim to be something he was not, and, when the time came for him to face the truth, he could not face it because he had no strength. And as they were gathered around this pony soldier and were talking about him, two other Lakotas rode up on their ponies. One of them said that the fallen pony soldier was the one who was called the Pe-hi han-ska (Long Hair or Custer). He said that he went to Fort Lincoln on a mission as a spy earlier that spring to get information from a reliable source, one of Custer's reliable scouts, and at that time he saw this man who had long hair, but soon after that he had it cut while he (the Lakota) was still there getting information about Pe-hi han-ska.
So one of the Lakotas took the pony soldier's sword and said, "So this is the man that attacked a village and killed old women and innocent babies and children while the warriors were out hunting. He deserves not to lie here with his head intact." Whereupon the Lakota severely cut the head from the body with Custer's sword and kicked the head down into a ravine.
But, as you can see, other soldiers came along and found Pe-hi han-ska's (Custer's) body lying far away fromthe main group of bodies which had been slain and found on the west side of the ridge. These soldiers didn't have to be told why this great pony soldier died so far away from the others, and they covered up his shame by taking his head and body up to the rest of the group upon the ridge and made a statement that the man had died bravely with the rest of them. We Lakotas were there and saw what took place and saw where Pe-hi han-ska fell from his own weapon and where his body was lying shamefully when we Lakotas left that coup de grace ground.
"So this is the story that was told to me by one of those Lakotas who witnessed how Pe-hi han-ska had ended his life shamefully on that hot summer day many summers and winters ago," my great uncle said. He said that, "Anyone that always tells the truth and lives an honest life gets to live to be kan i-hu-ni (old age). This must have been true because this Lakota who told the true story about Pe-hi han-ska lived to be ninety five years of age before he returned back to Mother Earth."
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