Northern Rockies: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument:

The monument is located on the Crow Reservation and is just off of I-90 near Crow Agency, Montana.

History

The battle of Little Bighorn/Greasy Grass was one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their culture. This battle was also where Custer and the five companies under his leadership, were wiped out.

The Indian encampment along the Little Bighorn River numbered approximately 7,000 people from the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes. Of this number, there were approximately 1,500 to 2,000 warriors. The tribes were led by Sitting Bull and they refused to be restricted to a reservation, preferring a nomadic way of life.

Lt. Colonel George Custer’s decisions on the battlefield remain controversial. President Ulysses S. Grant criticized Custer’s actions, saying it was Custer’s folly and hubris that resulted in the massacre. It should be noted that Custer had implicated Grant’s brother in an Army supply price gouging scheme, had arrested Grant’s son for drunkenness, and was writing articles critical of President Grant. Grant, in turn, had Custer arrested and ordered to stand for court martial. Other army leaders blamed the incompetence of Custer’s subordinate officers for the massacre.

To further the complexity of the situation, Custer was believed to have entered a traditional marriage with Mo-nah-se-tah, daughter of Little Rock, a Cheyenne chief. This was rumored marriage was in addition to the marriage he had with Elizabeth Bacon, whom he married in 1864. Custer had also promised Stone Forehead (Medicine Arrows), a Cheyenne chief and Keeper of the Medicine Arrows, that Custer would never fight against Native Americans again. Custer also told his Native American scout, Bloody Knife, that if he was victorious in his last Indian campaign, he would run for president and use the power of the office to protect Native Americans.

Impact

How would history be different if Custer had kept his promise to Stone Forehead? If white settlers and the US government could have treated Native Americans with respect? We unfortunately will never know in this universe.

Gallery

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