Crazy Horse

For other uses, see Crazy Horse (disambiguation).Template:Infobox Biography

Crazy Horse (Sioux: Tasunka witko, pronounced tashnka uitko), (c. 1838September 5, 1877) was a respected member of the Oglala Sioux Native American tribe and is noted for his courage in battle. Crazy Horse was recognized among his own people as a visionary leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life and leading his people into a war against the take-over of their lands by the White Man.


His Life

Crazy Horse's exact birth date cannot be determined. He Dog, an Oglala warrior, said during an interview on July 7, 1930, "I and Crazy Horse were both born in the same year and at the same season of the year.... I am now 92 years old." That would mean that Crazy Horse was born about 1838. Encouraging Bear, spiritual adviser to Crazy Horse, reported that Crazy Horse was born in the fall "in the year in which the band to which he belonged, the Oglalas, stole 100 horses." According to winter counts kept by Cloud Shield and White Bull, the year was 1840.

The location of Crazy Horse's birth is also up for debate. A September 14, 1887 article in the New York Sun reporting Crazy Horse's death gives his birth place as the South Cheyenne River. All other sources point to either Rapid Creek, near present day Rapid City, South Dakota, or near Bear Butte outside Sturgis, South Dakota.

Crazy Horse's father, also named Crazy Horse (c. 1811), but took the name Worm after passing the Crazy Horse name to his son, was Oglala Lakota and his mother, Rattling Blanket Woman (c. 1815), was Miniconjou Lakota. Rattling Blanket Woman may have been a member of the One Horn or Lone Horn family, leaders of the Miniconjou. Crazy Horse had a sister whose name has been forgotten, and a half-brother, Little Hawk, born when his father remarried the two sisters of the Brul Lakota chief Spotted Tail. Historians believe that his mother either hanged herself when Worm's brother was killed in a raid on the Crows, or, that she returned to her Miniconjou family.

Crazy Horse's name at birth was either Light Hair or Curly Hair, depending on the historical source. As was the custom of the Lakota, his name changed over the years. When he was about 10 years old, Worm changed the boy's name to His Horse On Sight (also translated as Horse Stands In Sight, His Horse Looking or His Horse Partly Showing) after his son's role in the capture of wild horses in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Worm passed on the name Crazy Horse after his son bravely fought with the Arapahos when he was about 18 years old.

It is believed that Crazy Horse was in the Brul camp when it was attacked by U.S. troops during the Grattan Massacre. After witnessing the death of Sioux leader, Conquering Bear, Crazy Horse wandered alone into the lake country of the Sand Hills, where he had the vision that would guide him for the rest of his life. His vision led him to go against Lakota customs by not wearing face paint or a war bonnet in battle, and to rub dust over his hair and body before going into battle. When he returned after three days, Worm was angry because Crazy Horse had gone off alone while everybody in the village was concerned about the dying of Conquering Bear. When Crazy Horse told Worm that he had gone in search of a vision, Worm exploded because Crazy Horse had not properly prepared himself for such a sacred quest.

Through the late 1850s and early 1860s, Crazy Horse's reputation as a warrior grew as did his fame among the Lakota. Little written record exists of the fights involving Crazy Horse because the vast majority of them were raids against other preliterate Plains tribes. Because of his fighting ability, Crazy Horse was installed as an Ogle Tanka Un (Shirt Wearer or war leader) in 1865.

On December 21, 1866, Crazy Horse led the Oglala contingent of a war party comprising 1,000 warriors, including members of the Cheyenne and Miniconjou tribes in an ambush of U.S. troops stationed at Fort Phil Kearny that became known as the Fetterman massacre. Crazy Horse led a decoy party that drew the U.S. soldiers out of Fort Kearny while the main body of warriors hid around the Lodge Trail Ridge. The ambush was the worst army defeat on the Great Plains at the time.

In 1870, Crazy Horse married Black Buffalo Woman, already the wife of No Water. It was Lakota custom to allow a woman to divorce her husband at any time. She did so by moving in with relatives or with another man, or by placing the husband's belongings outside their lodge. Although some compensation might be required to smooth over hurt feelings, the rejected husband was expected to accept his wife's decision for the good of the tribe. No Water was away from camp when Crazy Horse and Black Buffalo Woman eloped. No Water gathered a war party and tracked down Crazy Horse and Black Buffalo Woman. When he found them, he shot Crazy Horse in the shoulder. Several elders convinced Crazy Horse and No Water that no more blood should be shed and that as compensation for the shooting, No Water gave Crazy Horse three horses. Because of the incident, Crazy Horse was stripped of his title as Shirt Wearer (leader). At about the same time, Crazy Horse's younger half brother Little Hawk was killed while on a war expeditions south of the Platte River. Sometime during 1871, Crazy Horse married his second wife, Black Shawl.

On August 14, 1872, Crazy Horse, along with Sitting Bull took part in the first attack by the Lakota on troops escorting a Northern Pacific Railroad survey crew. The Battle of Arrow Creek ended with minimal casualties on either side. On June 17, 1876, Crazy Horse led a combined group of approximately 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne in a surprise attack against General George Crook's force of 1,000 cavalry and infantry and 300 Crow and Shoshone warriors in the Battle of the Rosebud. The battle, although not substantial in terms of human loss, delayed Crook from joining up with the 7th Cavalry under George A. Custer, ensuring the Custers defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

At 3:00 p.m. on June 26, 1876, Custer's 7th Cavalry attacked the Lakota and Cheyenne village, marking the beginning of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Crazy Horse entered the battle by repelling the first attack led by Major Marcus Reno. After driving back Reno's force, Crazy Horse's warriors were free to pursue Custer. In the counterattack that destroyed Custer's 7th Cavalry to the last man, Crazy Horse flanked the Americans from the north and west as Hunkpapa Warriors led by chief Gall charged from the south and east.

On January 8, 1877, his warriors fought their last battle, the Battle of Slim Buttes, with the United States Cavalry in Montana and on May 8 of that year he realized that his people were weakened by cold and hunger and he surrendered to United States troops in Nebraska. While staying at Fort Robinson, Crazy Horse took Nellie Laravie, a young half-French, half-Indian daughter of a trader, as his third wife. To encourage Crazy Horse to go to Washington D.C. to meet with the then newly elected President Rutherford B. Hayes, Lieutenant William Philo Clark made him a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Indian Scouts on May 15, 1877. Crazy Horse still declined to make the trip.

The attention that Crazy Horse received from the army made Red Cloud and Spotted Tail, two Lakota who had long before come to the agencies and adopted the white ways, jealous. Rumors started to spread in the Red Cloud Agency and Spotted Tail Agency about Crazy Horse's desire to slip out of the agency and return to the old ways of life. In August 1877, officers at Camp Robinson received word that the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph had broken out of their reservations in Idaho and were fleeing north through Montana toward Canada. Crook planned to send a large contingent of Lakota warriors to stop them and wanted Crazy Horse to lead attack. Crazy Horse and 7-foot-tall Miniconjou leader Touch the Cloud objected to the plan, saying that they had been promised peace when the surrendered. Crazy Horse finally agreed to the plan, saying that he would fight "till all the Nez Perces were killed". But, Frank Grouard, who had a personal vendetta against Crazy Horse, was acting as the official interpreter, and reported that Crazy Horse had said that he would "go north and fight until not a white man is left". Uproar over the misinterpretation grew until it reached General Philip Sheridan, who ordered Crook to investigate the matter.

Spotted Tail and Red Cloud conspired against Crazy Horse by reporting to Crook that the next time he held council with Crazy Horse, that the Crazy Horse would kill him. Friends of Crazy Horse learned of the plot and told him. He responded by taking his ill wife to her parents at the Spotted Tail Agency, where his enemies circulated stories that he had fled Fort Robinson. Crazy Horse then went to the Bruls agent, Captain Luke Lea, who said that Crazy Horse should return the Fort Robinson and correct the false rumors. When, on September 5, 1877, he returned to Fort Robinson, the guards attempted to arrest him. He resisted and private William Gentiles, a 20-year army veteran who never rose above the rank of private, lunged at Crazy Horse with his bayonet, striking him near his left kidney. He died during the night with his father singing the death song over him. His body was taken away by his parents and laid to rest somewhere in the Badlands.

Controversy Over His Death

Missing image

According to military records he died before midnight, making it September 5, 1877. According to the Oglala Sioux he died after midnight, making it September 6, 1877. The monument located at the spot of his death says September 5, 1877. Each year the Oglala Sioux meet at the spot of his death on September 6, which makes it very confusing. The photo of the monument to the right says "On This Spot Crazy Horse Ocallala Chief Was Killed Sept. 5 1877"

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse is currently being commemorated with the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, a monument carved into a mountain, in the tradition of Mount Rushmore.

There is much debate over the authenticity of the picture that is claimed to be Crazy Horse. He resisted being photographed during his life because he had strong beliefs in preserving the culture and ways of the traditional Native Americans. See link below A sympathetic but detailed account of his life and death for a discussion of the validity of the photo on this page.


Further Reading

  • Crazy Horse and Custer: The epic clash of two great warriors at the Little Bighorn. Stephen E. Ambrose. 1975
  • "Debating Crazy Horse: Is this the Famous Oglala". Whispering Wind magazine, Vol 34 # 3, 2004. A discussion on the improbability of the Garryowen photo being that of Crazy Horse (the same photo shown here). The clothing, the studio setting all date the photo 1890-1910.
  • Crazy Horse (Penguin Lives). Larry McMurtry. Puffin Books. 1999. ISBN 0670882348

External links

de:Crazy Horse fr:Tashunca-Uitco it:Cavallo Pazzo ja:クレイジー・ホース pl:Szalony Koń zh:疯马


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