What appears to be a peaceful pasture setting in Montana is actually the site of one of the most historic battles in the west, that of the U.S. Army, under the command of Lt. Col. George Custer, against the native tribes of eastern Wyoming.P1050343

Looking closer, you realize the hillside is dotted with tombstones, erected where the individuals fell, white stones for the Army and red for the Native Americans.P1050314  

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The Visitor Center at Little Bighorn has an excellent film on the days preceding the battle and the battle itself, giving honor to both sides.

What led to this infamous battle?  Who was at fault?

In 1868, believing it “cheaper to feed than to fight the Indians”, the U. S. Government tried to put a stop to the strife between the two factions by signing a treaty at Fort Laramie, WY, with the Lakota, Cheyenne and other tribes of the Great Plains, designating a large area in eastern Wyoming as a permanent Indian reservation.  The government promised to protect the Indians “against the commission of all depredations by people of the United States”.

What the government didn’t count on, however, was the discovery of gold in the Black Hills.  Thousands of gold seekers began to flow into the area, and of course, confrontations developed.  The army tried to keep the prospectors out, and the government offered to buy the Black Hills, but to the Indians, it was an affront to the treaty.  White man had no right to be in the lands the Indian had been promised.

The Indians left the reservation and commenced raids on the settlements and travelers to try and force them out.

The tribes were ordered by the government to return or be treated as hostiles.  Obviously they chose not to, and the campaign was planned against them.

The battle has been called a massacre.  Was it?  No.

It was a battle in which one side was vastly outnumbered.  Custer’s total command numbered about 600.  He vastly underestimated the number of warriors , as many as 1500 to 2000, warriors who would fight to the death, if necessary, to defend their homes and families.

Today the stones and memorials stand to remind us of a treaty broken… of a clash of cultures, caused by greed.P1050310

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