Thursday, September 8, 2016

Little Bighorn National Battlefield

Today we veered from our nature/outdoor path a bit - we went to visit The Little Bighorn National Battlefield.... known to some as Custer's Last Stand.

This trip has really helped our imaginations - as we ride over these lands we are constantly saying things like....
"Can you imagine doing this on a wagon train?"
"Can you believe that the calvary rode all the way out here from North Dakota - on horseback!"
"Can't you just imagine how this looked 200 years ago with Buffalo everywhere!!!"
"Can't you just see the Native American tribes camped here!"

It is harsh, and beautiful, and amazing, and honestly sometimes just indescribable.

And today our stop really was like watching a train wreck of beauty and ugliness hit head on.

 The Battle of the Little Bighorn - June 1876.  Custer and several units rode out to this area to "round up the savages" that refused to go to the reservations.  NONE of the US army  made it off that field.

 This is from the top of Custer's Last Stand...

 These grasslands were the site of a horrific battle.   Archeological studies have shown that most of the fighting was actually hand to hand combat.  You stand there and hear about the battle and how it all took place - which unit came from which direction - which unit basically sacrificed itself so another could get away - but the other didn't know what was happening so it charged in...

Just sad.  Custer's last order that day was to tell his men to shoot their horses.  He knew they were going to die.  The indian warriors who were there reported back that the US men who fought were the bravest of any they'd ever battled with.
 And why????
In the picture below is the area where there had been an Indian encampment.  These were tribes who either refused to go to the reservation or who had been there and had left.  So Custer and his men were sent to round them up and force them to go!

But the other side of the story is equally  appalling..... The Natives were given this land.  They signed treaties with the US govt that gave them this very land!  They were living on the land they were given!  But then gold was discovered in the black hills - and miners wanted it.  The govt said, no - it's Native American land.  Then the government decided that maybe they could take that part back.  No treaties were signed to give it back - no offer was made to pay for it - nothing.... "we" just took it by force.

Many of the Native Americans did go to the reservations - BUT..... as part of the treaty the US government said they would send them food and supplies.  None of it ever came.  They were literally starving.  So they made a choice to go back to their land and hunt and carry on with their way of life.  It was better to live the old way than on a reservation starving.

So this horrible event happened.  Most people don't realize that in 1979, the Supreme Court passed their first verdict in this issue and said that this land was illegally seized.   

The beauty of this is the forgiveness that the Native tribes have shown.  On the premises, not only is there a tribute to the fallen US soldiers, who gave their lives in the line of duty - but there is also a memorial to the Native Warriors who fell - and to the way of life that was lost.

This was definitely a stop geared more towards the adults.... but the girls were still able to complete their Jr. Ranger books (thankfully it was more about the life of a warrior and the life of a calvary man).

To finish off the trip - as if all of our "Can you imagine..." questions came to a head - we saw a local Native Cowboy herding up his horses and they ran across the road in front of us!  Amazing!

The battlefield is in the middle of the Crow reservation - so wherever you go, you are reminded of what life is now like for a people who used to roam freely and really understood the value of their freedom and of caring the land.

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