by Brother Gerald del Campo
Crazy Horse was born with the name Tashunca-uitco in 1843. He was only 34 years old, when he died from injuries resulting from being stabbed in the back by a soldier at Fort Robinson while under U.S. Army protection. The date was September 6, 1877. He had been a great leader. Perhaps best know for his battle cry: “It is a good day to fight: it is a good day to die.” Even in his youth, Crazy Horse had made a name for himself as a warrior. Before he was 13, he stole horses from the Crow Indians and led his first war party at nineteen. He fought along side of Chief Red Cloud against settlers in Wyoming when he was 23 years old. He refused to have his picture taken. This picture is of a memorial.
He did not have an equal as a warrior or a chief. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he refused to give himself or his people up to the submission to any man, Indian or white. He demanded his birthright as an Indian to roam at will on the hunting land of his ancestors. When asked where his lands were, he pointed and said: “My lands are where my dead are buried.”
The only peace he was concerned with revolved around the right to live as he and his people willed to live, to roam as they willed, without having to submit to the white man’s rules of reservation life, which were little more than concentration camps. On this, he would never compromise. He never signed a treaty, or registered at any bureaucracy.
Crazy Horse witnessed the violation of the treaty of 1868. This treaty had been signed by the President of the United States himself, and promised that the Black Hills would forever be the sacred land of the Indians. But he did not take the warpath until he saw his friend Conquering Bear killed, and it became apparent that the breaking of guarantees of meat, clothing, tents and other necessities were little more than plots for genocide.
The original government plans for dealing with the Lakota Indians involved three regiments under the command of Crook, Gibbon, and Custer to ambush the greater part of the Lakota and Cheyenne population between them, and slaughter them. Crazy Horse does not get much credit for Custer’s defeat, but it was in fact his band that turned General Crook’s forces back at Rosebud Creek. Without Crook’s infantry support, Custer didn’t have a chance. The arrogant Custer, underestimating indian military prowess, divided his regiment into three parts to ensure that fewer Indians would escape. The battle of Little Big Horn was one the greatest fiascoes of the United States Army. Thousands of Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors drove Custer’s troops back, surrounded them, and killed all 210 of them. All of this bloodshed because the U.S. Government wanted to break the treaty. White scholars, suffering from historical amnesia, portray Custer as an elegant and gentle man who was surrounded and killed by bloodthirsty savages. He does not get a place on these pages.
In 1877 Crazy Horse’s daughter, his only child and wife both began to die from tuberculosis while staying at Fort Robinson. Crazy Horse’s safety was assured in and out of the Fort, and Crazy Horse resolved to speak with the Commanding Officers. He may have seen this as the last opportunity to see his family, or to visit with his people imprisoned there, but the Officers in charge had a different agenda than the one they shared with Crazy Horse. When he walked into the building and saw the bars on the windows he drew a knife and rushed to try to free his brothers and sisters imprisoned in the stockade. Under the command of an Indian policeman, Little Big Man, who was a friend and companion of Crazy Horse, seized his arms, and a infantry man drove his bayonet into his back, mortally wounding him.
His betrayal makes him the epitome of the tragedy of the Red Man since the White Man moved in on their land. He is here honored for the singularity of his purpose, his humble life, for his fierce determination to preserve his people’s traditional way of life, and the way that he brought meaning to his people with his unshakable valor.