Battle of Little Bighorn: 27 – The Black Hills: Not For Sale!

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

The miners continued to pour into the Black Hills. The Army did little, if nothing, to stem this flood of gold seekers.

Freight to the Black Hills

Many believed that Crazy Horse, either in his grief, or because of his hatred of the whites, or both, did what he could to at least discourage this white invasion of the Hills. While Red Cloud and Spotted Tail made their futile trip to Washington, Crazy Horse, this quiet man of the Oglala, often went off by himself for long stretches of time.

No one knew where it was that Crazy Horse went, or what he did there. But a strange thing was happening to the miners in the Black Hills. Over a period of time, dozens of them were found, or their lifeless bodies were found. And each had a single arrow stuck in the ground beside their bodies. Also strange, these white men who were stealing what belonged to the Sioux were found with their scalps intact. But was this so strange? Perhaps it was not.

In his early teens Crazy Horse underwent his vision quest. It was an extremely dramatic event for this young man, with many rules that he must adhere to. It was one of these rules that led many to believe that it was Crazy Horse who was killing the miners in the Black Hills. During his vision quest, Crazy Horse had been instructed to never take the scalp of his enemy.

While General Crook failed to convince the miners to stay out of the Black Hills, Colonel Dodge took no action at all in the same direction. Not even Crazy Horse’s possible actions made much of a dent in the number of prospectors that were entering the Hills. And though Red Cloud and Spotted Tail went to Washington and failed to achieve anything positive for their people, Grant and his cohorts also failed to convince these two Indian leaders to sell the Black Hills. In essence, nothing much was being accomplished.

The Sioux delegation left Washington and two weeks later, in August of 1875, a commission chaired by Senator William Allison, headed for Sioux country. Their purpose was to buy or lease the Black Hills from the Indians. One factor would be almost humorous were not the situation so gravely serious.

Before the commission left Washington, the Secretary of the Interior reminded the commissioners that, out west in the Dakotas, they would be dealing with people, the Indians, who were “an ignorant and almost helpless people.” If a present-day term were used, after much dickering between the Sioux and the commissioners, the Indians could have very well asked these white men from Washington just what part of the word “NO!” don’t they understand?