Battle of Little Bighorn: 25 – Crook to the Hills, the Sioux to Washington

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"The Custer Fight" by Charles Marion Russell. Lithograph. Shows the Battle of Little Bighorn, from the Indian side.

While General George Crook patrolled the Black Hills in the summer of 1875, he met with a large group of miners. He encouraged them to stake out formal claims, then requested that they leave the Hills. In his report to Washington, Crook stated the reasons for his actions, and made a good point in the process. He wrote: “I respectfully submit that [the miners’] side of the story should be heard, as the settlers who develop the mines and open the frontiers are the nation’s wards no less than their more fortunate fellows, the Indians.”

President Grant

Crook’s statement could also be turned around to declare that the Indians were no less the wards of the nation than were the miners. But, unfortunately, it was up to the Indians to speak up for themselves, which they did. The Sioux spoke directly to Present Grant in the nation’s capitol where many were in alignment with the view of the nation’s leader that “strict observance of Sioux treaty rights was now ‘at variance . . . with sound public policy.”

It may have been summer in Washington City but the weather forecast was predicting an ill wind for the Sioux when Red Cloud and Spotted Tail entered that modern eastern capitol.

Red Cloud

Red Cloud, an Oglala “Bad Face”, was a wise leader and fully realized that nothing he agreed to while in Washington would be valid without the consent of the other Sioux. Included in this ‘other Sioux’ group was the noted war leader Crazy Horse, along with Black Twin who was the brother of No Water, the man from whom Crazy Horse had attempted to steal his wife.

Red Cloud didn’t even bother to invite Sitting Bull to come along on this jaunt to Washington. He knew this Hunkpapa war leader and holy man would refuse to have anything to do with the detested whites and their lying treaties.

Sitting Bull

Hoping for a more positive response, Red Cloud asked Crazy Horse and Black Twin to accompany the group to represent the wild Sioux of the north. Wisely, he may have wanted these two warriors to see the power of the whites as could only be observed in the east, so they would know what they were actually up against. But Crazy Horse and Black Twin flatly refused.

Red Cloud even invited Young Man Afraid of His Horse to come along to represent the more militant agency Indians. But this man, whose misleading name reflected that he was such a ferocious fighter that his enemies were afraid of him as well as his horse, also refused to go to Washington.

Young Man Afraid of His Horse

The mistrust of the whites that Sitting Bull and other Sioux warriors possessed proved out again. Red Cloud and Spotted Tail thought they were going to Washington to relate to the President the many complaints they had about the dishonest agents. Instead, the government only wanted to discuss selling the Black Hills.