Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Little Bighorn National Monument

We spent several hours at the Little Bighorn National Monument.  It's well worth visiting if you are in this part of the country.  There is also a National Cemetery on the grounds.  This monument caught our attention, as it memorializes those who died in the cause of "clearing the district of the Yellowstone of hostile Indians."  See the teeny tiny white plaque stuck in the ground?

This is what the tiny plaque says.

There is a visitor's center.  It primarily deals with the artifacts retrieved from the ground after a wildfire in 1983 destroyed all of the obnoxious scrub that had taken over the grass land.  Once the fire cleared the vegetation, archeologists came in and dug for artifacts.  They did touch on the subjugation of the native peoples.  It's interesting that the US government would train the Native Americans in the "arts of peace", while they themselves were engaged in systematic genocide.

Custer's Last Stand took place on July 25 & 26, 1876.  In this time frame, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull knew their peoples' way of life was over.  The whites had all but exterminated the bison herds, so they really had no choice but to accept the reservations.  However, in this year, the Lakota and the Northern Cheyenne wanted to have one last traditional summer.  They and many other Native Americans came to Little Bighorn to live as nomadic people.  The US Army was sent in to force them all back on to the reservations.  Troops were arriving from three points, Custer's men were on horse back.  They knew there were Native Americans in the area, but what they did not know was that there were 7,000 of them.  Custer was on a hill about a day's ride away; he was concerned that the Native Americans he had seen, would see him and disappear.  Based on bad intel and arrogance, he attacked.  Custer's men never had tactical advantage, they were outnumbered and the Native Americans had the high ground.  By the end, 280 Calvary and Scouts were dead, and 60 Native Americans were dead.  That was history light, a much more detailed accounting may be found here.
The white markers are where 7th Cavalry fell.  The markers are either isolated, or sometimes in groups where many men died at once.

These are the markers for the Native Americans.

There is a 5 mile drive that is well worth doing.  Along the way there are plaques with text explaining what happened on the point where you're standing, and there is a cell phone number you call which brings up someone telling you what you're seeing.

There are also horses.

See the little white dots?  Prong horn butts in the distance.

This is the memorial that was erected to the 7th Cavalry.  The non-officers who died in the battle are buried at the base of it.  The officers were all disinterred and their remains taken elsewhere.  Custer was taken back to West Point at his widow's request.

The marker with the black on it is where Custer's body was found.  It had been moved, no one knows exactly where he was when he died.


It's a sobering place.  The loss of that many soldiers increased the Army's resolve to force the Native Americans onto reservations, and increased the harshness of their treatment.  In the end, they had to accept the reservations, or the government would withhold food rations, resulting in starvation.

On a lighter note, here is a photo of rush hour in Garryowen.  They make this trek every night, right about 6 pm.

1 comment:

  1. Great post about the Little Bighorn. It is a sobering place to visit for sure. We found that out when we were there about 6 years ago.