“They [the Indians] neither occupy nor make use of the Black Hills, nor are they willing that others should.” These are George Armstrong Custer’s words. That the Indians were not willing for the whites to use or occupy the Black Hills was true—and why should they be? The Black Hills belonged to the Sioux and lay within the boundary of the Sioux reservation.
That the Indians did not use the Black Hills was a lie and Custer surely knew it. The Indians now had a new name for Custer. Had they known, they might have called him Liar. Instead, they dubbed him Thief. But more than just their sacred Black Hills were to be stolen by white means from the Indians, in particular from Crazy Horse.
The Black Hills
While Custer invaded the Black Hills, Crazy Horse was warring against the enemy of the Sioux — the Crow. When Crazy Horse and his warriors returned to their village close to the Tongue River, Crazy Horse headed towards his lodge where his wife, Black Shawl, awaited him. But his father, Worm, took his arm and pulled him aside. It was Worm’s sad duty to tell his brave son that in his absencs his beloved little girl, They-Are-Afraid-of-Her, had caught one of the dreaded white man’s diseases. The toddling child had contracted cholera and had died.
Residing in Crazy Horse’s camp was a man named Frank Grouard, the son of a Mormon missionary and a Polynesian woman. Grouard arrived on the plains as a child but ran away to Montana. Sometime later, while riding along, swaddled in a dense fur coat, Frank was attacked by Indians. While in the throes of defending himself and well on his way to meeting his maker, a lone Indian rode up and sharply commanded something of Grouard’s attackers that Frank could not understand.
But what really mattered was that his assailants suddenly released him. After Grouard was placed on a horse and led back to the Indians’ village ,he learned that his savior was none other than Sitting Bull who was so amused by the way Grouard looked in his great fur coat that he named him Standing Bear.
Now, it was Grouard whom Crazy Horse came to, seeking the location of his baby daughter’s death scaffold. When they found the scaffold, Crazy Horse climbed upon it and lay down beside the still body of his beloved child. He stayed there, mourning, for three days and nights.
Prior to the death of his daughter, Crazy Horse had withstood the deaths of his best friend, Hump, and his younger brother, Little Hawk. He had reconciled to the loss of the love of his life, Black Buffalo Woman, whom he had tried to steal from No Water. He had married Black Shawl at the urging of his friends who wanted to see him happy. Now, he must suffer the death of his daughter. Crazy Horse had always been known by two traits, that of being an exceedingly quiet man, and being extremely reckless in battle. Now these two traits intensified–as did his hatred for the whites.