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Monday, August 29, 2011

THE KILLING OF CRAZY HORSE

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I had put aside the history/biography The Killing of Crazy Horse just before the time came when the Army soldier following orders so shamefully bayonetted him in the back twice. After he had been promised six times he would not be arrested when he was invited to the fort for a talk. He had his feelings and his dreams that told him in advance, but he went by a white man's word. I'd been reading in this beautifully written history. Fascinated as some people get with a Patricia Cornwell story, when it came time for Crazy Horse to be betrayed the last time, I thought I'd take a break, get into something else, Inside The Neolithic Mind. Read half way into it in full attention, every page a treat, I felt it was time to dive back in and see what happened to Crazy Horse, how the historian writing it, Thomas Powers, would find completion for this great big story he told of the Indian Wars from both the Lakota side and the USArmy side. He told the killing in You Are There detail pieced together from newspaper accounts and diaries, one of the diaries by the soldier whose bayonet did the trick; he never felt anything but despair over what he'd done all the rest of his life.



I have a liking for books about the Indian Wars like some have about the Civil War. And my interest in the Indian Wars was with the Indians. My interest in the Civil War was with the South, but that just generally. It was the Indian Wars that interested me all my life. When I first found out about Indians I wish I had been born an Indian. I felt like they were my real people and I'd been born with white skin; none of my people would recognize me now in the skin of the enemy. That was that. I never made any attempts to connect with any Indians. They have their own world. I feel tremendous sorrow for their circumstances in concentration camps policed by the FBI over a hundred years. Then I wonder if the Indians now are the souls of the people that were in on the killing of their ancestors. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse I have held up high as long as I've known about them. They were warrior chiefs, Sitting Bull also a shaman, who held out against the white tsunami to the very last. Sitting Bull wanted it noted for the record that his rifle he was turning over was the last rifle taken from a Lakota.



Robert Utley's biography of Sitting Bull brought him so much to life in my imagination that I felt like I had known this man well. His values were my values. That's where we connected. He could ride a horse as good as a horse can be ridden. In warfare, he was fierce and fearless. He had wounds all over his body. He had a limp from being shot in the foot riding his horse full tilt. He could ride his horse into a herd of stampeding buffalo, riding bareback, no hands, and shoot a running buffalo in the right place to make it fall in place. To fall off your horse in such a moment is death as soon as you hit the ground. He was one rugged individual. He'd done the sun dance several times. A short time before he was killed, he was out walking in the land beyond the concentration camp of log cabins the Indians were living in outside the fort. Out there under sky from horizon to horizon in all directions, Sitting Bull heard a meadowlark singing and interpreted it that the bird was telling him he would be killed soon by his own people. They were scouts for the Army sent to arrest him. Bullhead shot him in the chest and almost simultaneously Red Tomahawk shot him in the back of the head. I doubt he felt a thing.



The deceitful ways they were killed was in proportion to the regard the generals and soldiers had for both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. They hated them unto death. These guys were a dreaded enemy, powerful influences on their people. Much as I have low regard for the killing of both these men, I'm also glad they both were not allowed to grow old. Pictures of Red Cloud in his old age are images of despair. When I ask myself the question I never ask myself, what historical figure that I know of do I look up to as a man or as a woman with full admiration? Sitting Bull is the automatic first answer. He's a man like in the Bo Diddley sense, that's spelled M - A - N. He was a good hunter, a good warrior, a man of wisdom. He was something of a Robert E Lee of the Indian Wars. By the end, Sitting Bull had become the hub of the remaining Lakota. He was also untameable as mountain lion. He might go to New York and Paris in a Wild West Show, but when he returned to his land, he was still part of it.



Crazy Horse was a wild man on the battlefield too. They were not the only warriors with SuperBowl rings. They were 2 warrior chiefs among a great number of them. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull became legends because they were the hardest to catch and held out the longest. They were my childhood heroes that continue as heroes of my lifetime. Both have become even moreso after reading well-researched and well-written biographies of them. They were what I call true human beings. That's not to say they're the only ones. There are many true human beings about. I read of these people and the people they lived among, their women, their tribes, their families, their way of life, and feel respect all the way around. They didn't leave a lot of trash. I'll go on now and read what happens after Crazy Horse was murdered, or assassinated. I think about a letter to the editor April Holcomb Joines wrote some years ago likening the wave of people from Away moving to the mountains and pushing the mountain people out, to the white take-over of all the Indian land. Then, it was done with guns. Now, it's done with money.



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