We lucked into a gathering of historians, interpreters and descendants of the Great Plains tribes - the Lakota, the Cheyenne and some Arapaho - that fought to preserve their nomadic way of life.
|Life sustaining land for the Plains tribes. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Like most interaction between the settlers and Native Americans, it is a sad story of promises made and broken. This had been designated by treaty Plains tribes' land but when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, the government decided to move the Plains peoples to another reservation. Despite having vowed to never raise his gun against a Cheyenne ever again, Custer entered the fray.
|National cemetery. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|Last Stand Hill. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|Photos © by Judy Wells.|
A short distance from the hill is a circular earthwork, the monument to the Plains tribes. The "spirit door" welcomes the departed soldiers inside.
|The Native American version of Custer's death. Photo © y Judy Wells.|
Walls of the sacred circle display the names and words of those who fought and surround a sculpture of "spirit warriors."
|Spirit Warriors. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
There is signage from the Visitors Center to Last Stand Hill and beyond to tell what happened where.
|Signage above, scene below. Photos © by Judy Wells.||\|
|Re-enactor of Crazy Horse. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
It was hot, just like on "that" day, but we were in bleachers and definitely not dressed in wool uniforms as the soldiers had been. We also had water bottles instead of canteens.
|Dusty like that day, too. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
According to the narrator, Custer met his end here, not Last Stand Hill. After weeks of meditating and fasting, Sitting Bull had envisioned Custer at the battle, his death and a great victory. Tribal lore says the Lakota had recognized him from his long blond hair and captured and killed him long before battle's end. Interpreters and historians we spoke with at the battlefield insisted the Indians did not even know Custer was here until it was all over, nor would they have recognized him. The summer had been so hot he had cut off that long blond hair.
|A member of the 7th cavalry takes aim a Crazy Horse. He missed. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Whatever the truth may be, it was an afternoon of young riders in war paint whooping wildly back and forth on their war-painted ponies and bugle-blowing and formation keeping lines of cavalry. Quite colorful.
|Occidental owner David Stewart. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|A real store for a fictional sheriff. Photo by Judy Wells.|
History and literature - a potent combination.