Back in the 1840s, the waving grasses, flowing streams, and distant hills of the Dakota plains were considered sacred. Only those children of the red man's Great Spirit wandered them without fear. They lived simply until conflict with the white man began, but until then, the peaceful and harmonious ways of the Sioux tribe were the custom during the time Crazy Horse was born to become a great leader of his people..
Near Rapid Creek, South Dakota, the Sioux dominated the plains, consisting of several bands, with Crazy Horse being from the Ogalala Lakota.. Their size and strength gave them control of the largest territory, protecting their lands from the neighboring Crow, Irikara, Araphoe and Shoshone. Over the years, by driving back these intruders as a reminder to whom the land belonged, the Sioux eventually became the most powerful and numerous band along the northern plains.
It's reported that during his vision quest, Crazy Horse received instruction that led to the way in which he lived his life. For four days he fasted in solitude to open his mind and body to the Great Spirit's word. The young warrior was shown a future in which he would avoid adornment, seek simplicity and go into battle without fear. The arms of his people would protect him. Although he rode closest to the soldiers, he was never wounded. His people assumed he possessed special characteristics and spiritual medicine that protected him.
Despite his mysterious aura and self-imposed separation from people, he soon became the second most powerful leader; the first being Sitting Bull. Although there is very little documenting the life of Crazy Horse, oral history from his ancestors tell how he stood out at a very early age. More fair-skinned than his brotherhood, and having curly brown hair, his black eyes hardly maintained eye contact. He seemed shy and withdrawn, but never remiss in defending his homeland. His story has been long a legend among the people but other information about him was written by the whites and showed prejudice rather than recognition as a truly talented and admired warrior. Despite the abundance of photographs taken of other chiefs and tribal members, either through an aversion to photography or his shyness, no pictures of this legendary warrior exist..
White American Society began moving onto the Sioux land in the 1850s, and shortly after, life changed.. With interest drawn by the abundant herds of animals moving along the impinging trails, the occasional pilfering of a cow or horse resulted in complaints being lodged with the armies who occupied the many forts built along the traveled paths to protect the white settlers. The Sioux assumed the infantry would disregard the infrequent theft reports and engaged in trade with some of the whites. These types of offenses were handled by Indian Agents with great success. Although the practice of interacting with the whites introduced the Sioux to many new things, it also brought to them diseases previously unknown to them, making them wary of these intruders to their land. The Sioux were also wrong in their assumptions about the army and their treaties..
The first dispute along the Great Platte Road resulted because of one lone cow It was 1854, and the sick and lame animal wandered from a Mormon wagon train into Conquering Bear's camp at a time when Crazy Horse was there. Approximately 4,000 Brule and Ogalala Sioux camped peacefully, according to their treaty of 1851, when Lt. Hugh Fleming and a small garrison consulted with the chief about the return of the animal. The owner demanded $25.00 instead of a replacement cow or horse taken from the Chief's own personal herd. Lt. Fleming demanded the brave who killed the cow be delivered to the fort, but the Chief refused. The slayer of the animal was a visiting Miniconjou, and the Chief did not want to appear inhospitable..
It was this ridiculous argument that resulted in General William S. Harney, leading a garrison of 600 men to teach the Lakota a lesson. He found the Indians peacefully camped and unaware of the pending attack, slaughtering over eighty men, women and children. During this time, Crazy Horse was away from camp, training a pony, and upon his return once again witnessed the brutality of the paleface he now considered enemy.
So, could things have played out differently? I think so, but we'll never know because there are always going to be those who need to flex their muscles and prove something to the world.. General William Harney was known to have a mean streak, and his actions later earned him the title of "The Butcher." His saying "By God, I'm for battle, no peace," proved his intentions. I'm ashamed to say he was from Tennessee. We can be like the Sioux an continue to fight for what we believe is right, but will we be anymore successful?