What better way to start out the day than with a history lesson at The Battle of the Little Bighorn? If you are not familiar with what The Battle of the Little Bighorn is, it is where General Armstrong Custer made his last stand.
I had arrived early in the morning and took a quick lap around the visitor center. I then joined a ranger lead talk about the battle and found myself captivated by the ranger as he vividly described the battle, so life-like, that I felt as though the arrows were flying past our heads as he spoke.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn took place over June 25th and 26th of 1876. Issues had developed between the United States government and the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne tribes once gold was discovered on the reservation lands of the two tribes. The irony was a little thick with this discovery. The tribes were asked to move on to the reservation lands and then were told to move again because the government wanted the gold. The tribes were given a deadline to move off the land, which they had missed.
After the missed deadline the army was sent out to assess the situation. General Custer led about 600 men into the Little Bighorn Valley where the tribes had been seeking refuge. The Native Americans were aware that an attack was imminent and had planned accordingly. On the 25th the army advanced on the tribes but they were quickly overtaken as they were outnumbered by a 15 to 1 ratio. Within the hour Custer and all of his soldiers were dead.
One take away that I did get from the ranger talk was about Custer. I had always believed Custer was an evil monster. And sure he was not the nicest guy, slightly arrogant at times, but he was following orders. He was told to go in by the army. These orders in no way made it right what happened at Little Bighorn but that was a fact. It is always easy to judge in hindsight. Should he have waited for reinforcements? Yes. Would it have changed the outcome? Maybe, maybe not. It did not however change the fact of what the government was unfairly doing to the Native Americans all for the sake of gold.
After the ranger talk had completed, we walk up to the hillside where the Native Americans fought the army for their land and their way of life. Headstones scattered the hillside where the soldiers had fallen. The Native Americans had removed most of their fallen warriors after the battle, before they could be marked, so it is primarily the army soldier’s spots marked.
A gravel trail led down to the ravine where I found scattered gravestones along the way as well. The path ended at the ravine with an interpretive sign. There is controversy regarding what happened in the ravine. There are disputes of whether the legendary Lakota leader, Crazy Horse was involved in the battle. It is unknown if he was at the ravine or if he was fighting at a different location. There are also discrepancies over the casualties in the ravine or if there were any at all. The sign indicated that there were 28 casualties. I will leave that up to the historians to decide as clearly 137 years later it is still debatable . Regardless of what truly happened in the ravine The Battle of the Little Bighorn is a haunting reminder of a sad time in our nation’s history.