Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chief Crazy Horse - Sioux

Chief Crazy Horse

Tȟašúŋke Witkó, Cha-O-Ha and Curly, who became Crazy Horse, was born about 1840 on the South Cheyenne River.


His father who was also named Crazy Horse (Born 1810) and his mother, Rattling Blanket Woman (Born 1814).

Rattling Bucket Woman was the daughter of Black Buffalo and White Cow (aka Iron Cane).  Black Buffalo is famous for stopping Lewis and Clark on the Bad River.  Rattling Blanket Woman had two sisters, Lone Horn, Good Looking Woman, and Looks At It.

How Crazy Horse got his Name

A contemporary tribesman and cousin of Crazy Horse, in his classic text, Black Elk Speaks: being the life story of a holy man of the Oglala Sioux was said to provide an account of Crazy Horse's vision from which he derived his name.
"When I was a man, my father told me something about that vision. Of course he did not know all of it; but he said that Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world. He was on his horse in that world, and the horse and himself on it and the trees and the grass and the stones and everything were made of spirit, and nothing was hard, and everything seemed to float. His horse was standing still there, and yet it danced around like a horse made only of shadow, and that is how he got his name, which does not mean that his horse was crazy or wild, but that in his vision it danced around in that queer way."
Battle of the Red Buttes and and the subsequent Platte River Bridge Station Battle

Through the late 1850s and early 1860s, Crazy Horse's reputation as a warrior grew, as did his fame among the Lakota. The Lakota conveyed accounts of him in their oral histories; they had no written language. His first kill was a Shoshone raider who had killed a Lakota woman washing buffalo meat along the Powder River. Crazy Horse fought in numerous battles between the Lakota and their traditional enemies, the Crow, Shoshone, Pawnee, Blackfeet, and Arikara, among Plains tribes.

In 1864, after the Third Colorado Cavalry decimated Northern Cheyenne in the Sand Creek Massacre, Lakota Oglala and Minneconjou bands allied with them against the US military. Crazy Horse was present at the Battle of Red Buttes and the subsequent Platte River Bridge Station Battle in July 1865. Because of his fighting ability, in 1865 Crazy Horse was named a Ogle Tanka Un (Shirt Wearer, or war leader) by the tribe.

Fetterman Massacre

On December 21, 1866, Crazy Horse and six other warriors, both Lakota and Cheyenne, decoyed Capt. William Fetterman's 53 infantrymen and 27 cavalry troopers under Lt. Grummond into an ambush. They had been sent out from Fort Phil Kearny to follow up on an earlier attack on a wood train. Crazy Horse lured Fetterman's infantry up what Wyoming locals now call Massacre Hill. Grummond's cavalry followed the other six decoys along Peno Head Ridge and down toward Peno Creek, where several Cheyenne women taunted the soldiers. Meanwhile, Cheyenne leader Little Wolf and his warriors, who had been hiding on the opposite side of Peno Head Ridge, blocked the return route to the fort. The Lakota warriors swept over Massacre Hill to attack the infantry. Additional Cheyenne and Lakota hiding in the buckbrush along Peno Creek effectively surrounded the soldiers. Seeing that they were surrounded, Grummond headed his cavalry back to Fetterman.

The combined warrior forces of nearly 1,000 killed all the US soldiers, in what became known as the Fetterman Massacre. It was the Army's worst defeat on the Great Plains up to that time.

Wagon Box Fight

On August 2, 1867, Crazy Horse participated in the Wagon Box Fight, also near Fort Phil Kearny. Lakota forces numbering between 1000 and 2000 attacked a wood-cutting crew near the fort. Most of the soldiers fled to a circle of wagon boxes without wheels, using them for cover as they fired at the Lakota. The Lakota took substantial losses, as the soldiers were firing new breech-loading rifles. These could fire ten times a minute compared to the old muzzle-loading rate of three times a minute. The Lakota charged after the soldiers fired, expecting the delay of their older muskets before being able to fire again. The soldiers suffered only five killed and two wounded, while the Lakota suffered between 50 and 120 casualties. Many Lakota were buried in the hills surrounding Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn River
On June 17, 1876, Crazy Horse led a combined group of approximately 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne in a surprise attack against brevetted Brigadier General George Crook's force of 1,000 cavalry and infantry, and allied 300 Crow and Shoshone warriors in the Battle of the Rosebud. The battle, although not substantial in terms of human losses, delayed Crook's joining with the 7th Cavalry under George A. Custer. It contributed to Custer’s subsequent defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

A week later at 3:00 p.m. on June 25, 1876, Custer's 7th Cavalry attacked a large encampment of Cheyenne and Lakota bands along the Little Bighorn River, marking the beginning of his last battle. Crazy Horse's actions during the battle are unknown. Possibly Crazy Horse entered the battle by repelling the first attack led by Major Marcus Reno, but it is also possible that he was still in his lodge waiting for the larger battle with Custer.

Hunkpapa Warriors led by Chief Gall led the main body of the attack. Crazy Horse's tactical and leadership role in the battle remains ambiguous. While some historians think that Crazy Horse led a flanking assault, ensuring the death of Custer and his men, the only proven fact is that Crazy Horse was a major participant in the battle. His personal courage was attested to by several eye witness Indian accounts. Waterman, one of only five Arapaho warriors who fought, said that Crazy Horse "was the bravest man I ever saw. He rode closest to the soldiers, yelling to his warriors. All the soldiers were shooting at him, but he was never hit."[18] Sioux battle participant, Little Soldier, said, "The greatest fighter in the whole battle was Crazy Horse."

Surrender and death

Crazy Horse and other northern Oglala leaders arrived at the Red Cloud Agency, located near Camp Robinson, Nebraska, on May 5, 1877. Together with He Dog, Little Big Man, Iron Crow and others, they met in a solemn ceremony with First Lieutenant William P. Clark as the first step in their formal surrender.

For the next four months, Crazy Horse resided in his village near the Red Cloud Agency. The attention that Crazy Horse received from the Army drew the jealousy of Red Cloud and Spotted Tail, two Lakota who had long before come to the agencies and adopted the white ways. Rumors of Crazy Horse's desire to slip away and return to the old ways of life started to spread at the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies. 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. When asked by Lieutenant Clark to join the Army against the Nez Perce, Crazy Horse and the Miniconjou leader Touch the Clouds objected, saying that they had promised to remain at peace when they surrendered. According to one version of events, Crazy Horse finally agreed, saying that he would fight "till all the Nez Perce were killed". But his words were apparently misinterpreted by half-Tahitian scout, Frank Grouard (not be confused with Fred Gerard, another U.S. Cavalry scout during the summer of 1876), who reported that Crazy Horse had said that he would "go north and fight until not a white man is left". When he was challenged over his interpretation, Grouard left the council.[21] Another interpreter, William Garnett, was brought in but quickly noted the growing tension.

With the growing trouble at the Red Cloud Agency, General George Crook was ordered to stop at Camp Robinson. A council of the Oglala leadership was called, then canceled, when Crook was incorrectly informed that Crazy Horse had said the previous evening that he intended to kill the general during the proceedings. Crook ordered Crazy Horse's arrest and then departed, leaving the military action to the post commander at Camp Robinson, Lieutenant Colonel Luther P. Bradley. Additional troops were brought in from Fort Laramie and on the morning of September 4, 1877, two columns moved against Crazy Horse's village, only to find that it had scattered during the night. Crazy Horse fled to the nearby Spotted Tail Agency with his sick wife (who had become ill with tuberculosis). After meeting with military officials at the adjacent military post of Camp Sheridan, Crazy Horse agreed to return to Camp Robinson with Lieutenant Jesse M. Lee, the Indian agent at Spotted Tail.

On the morning of September 5, 1877, Crazy Horse and Lieutenant Lee, accompanied by Touch the Clouds as well as a number of Indian scouts, departed for Camp Robinson. Arriving that evening outside the adjutant's office, Lieutenant Lee was informed that he was to turn Crazy Horse over to the Officer of the Day. Lee protested and hurried to Bradley's quarters to debate the issue, but without success. Bradley had received orders that Crazy Horse was to be arrested and forwarded under the cover of darkness to Division Headquarters. Lee turned the Oglala war chief over to Captain James Kennington, in charge of the post guard, who accompanied Crazy Horse to the post guardhouse. Once inside, no doubt realizing the fate that was about to befall him, Crazy Horse struggled with the guard and Little Big Man and attempted to escape. Just outside the door of the guardhouse, Crazy Horse was stabbed with a bayonet of one of the members of the guard. He was taken to the adjutant's office where he was tended by the assistant post surgeon at the post, Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy, and died late that night.

The following morning, Crazy Horse's body was turned over to his elderly parents who took it to Camp Sheridan, placing it on a scaffold there. The following month when the Spotted Tail Agency was moved to the Missouri River, Crazy Horse's parents moved the body to an undisclosed location. There are at least four possible locations as noted on a state highway memorial near Wounded Knee, South Dakota.[22] His final resting place remains unknown.

Controversy over his death

A monument dedicated to Crazy Horse's memory.Dr. McGillycuddy, who treated Crazy Horse after he was stabbed, wrote that Crazy Horse "died about midnight." According to military records he died before midnight, making it September 5, 1877.

John Gregory Bourke's memoirs of his service in the Indian wars, On the Border with Crook, details an entirely different account of Crazy Horse's death. Bourke's account was from an interview with Crazy Horse's relative and rival, Little Big Man, who was present at Crazy Horse's arrest and wounding. The interview took place over a year after Crazy Horse's death. Little Big Man's account is that, as Crazy Horse was being escorted to the guardhouse he suddenly pulled from under his blanket two knives, one in each hand. One knife was reportedly fashioned from the end of an army bayonet. Little Big Man, standing immediately behind Crazy Horse and not wanting the soldiers to have any excuse to kill him, seized Crazy Horse by both elbows, pulling his arms up and behind him. As Crazy Horse struggled to get free, Little Big Man abruptly lost his grip on one elbow, and Crazy Horse's released arm drove his own knife deep into his own lower back. Blood splattered all over them as the attempt to escape was still possible. The guard stabbed him with his bayonet in his back, already punctured. He fell and surrendered to the guards and his commentators.

When Bourke asked about the popular account of the Guard bayoneting Crazy Horse, Little Big Man explained that the guard had thrust with his bayonet, but that Crazy Horse's struggles resulted in the guard's thrust missing entirely and his bayonet being lodged into the frame of the guardhouse door.

Little Big Man related that, in the hours immediately following Crazy Horse's wounding, the camp Commander had suggested the story of the guard being responsible as a means of hiding Little Big Man's involvement in Crazy Horse's death, and thereby avoiding any inter-clan reprisals.

Little Big Man's account, as related by Bourke, is questionable, as it is the only one of as many as 17 eyewitness sources (aside from one other account that states the eyewitness was "not sure" of the identity of the perpetrator) from Lakota, US Army, and "mixed-blood" individuals which fails to attribute Crazy Horse's death to a soldier at the guardhouse.

The "last words" often attributed to Crazy Horse contains a terse implication of the guard. This widely published account directly contradicts the prior, witnessed statement made to the Post Commander:

“ My friend, I do not blame you for this. Had I listened to you this trouble would not have happened to me. I was not hostile to the white men. Sometimes my young men would attack the Indians who were their enemies and took their ponies. They did it in return. We had buffalo for food, and their hides for clothing and for our tepees. We preferred hunting to a life of idleness on the reservation, where we were driven against our will. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to leave the reservation to hunt. We preferred our own way of living. We were no expense to the government. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers were sent out in the winter, they destroyed our villages. The "Long Hair" [Custer] came in the same way. They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same thing to us had we not defended ourselves and fought to the last. Our first impulse was to escape with our squaws and papooses, but we were so hemmed in that we had to fight. After that I went up on the Tongue River with a few of my people and lived in peace. But the government would not let me alone. Finally, I came back to the Red Cloud Agency. Yet, I was not allowed to remain quiet. I was tired of fighting. I went to the Spotted Tail Agency and asked that chief and his agent to let me live there in peace. I came here with the agent [Lee] to talk with the Big White Chief but was not given a chance. They tried to confine me. I tried to escape, and a soldier ran his bayonet into me. I have spoken."
Photograph of Crazy Horse

An Italian named Abiuso believes he found the photo of Crazy Horse in a book called:

"To Kill an Eagle: Indian Views on the Last Days of Crazy Horse", by Edward Kadlecek

The tin-type that was used to create the picture is now owned by the Custer Battlefield Museum in Garryowen, about 70 miles south of Billings.

Abiuso believes that he had a dream in which he was walking with Chief Crazy Horse and Chief Crazy Horse turned to him and faced him.  The picture in the book and the vision in the dream were the same.

The same tin-type was used in the following books:

Author J.W. Vaughn published the tintype in 1956 in the book, "With Crook on the Rosebud."

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial - Black Hills - South Dakota

Crazy Horse is commemorated by the incomplete Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota — a monument carved into a mountain, in the tradition of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial (on which Korczak Ziółkowski had worked with Gutzon Borglum). The sculpture was begun by Ziółkowski in 1948. When completed, it will be 641 ft (195 m) wide and 563 ft (172 m) high. It is still incomplete because of funding constraints. His famous quote is "my lands are where my dead lie buried."

The following websites give information about the Crazy Horse Memorial:


Map - Crazy Horse Memorial

The Family of Chief Crazy Horse

From the following website:

Post by Agnes on Dec 1, 2004, 11:06am

Dear Everyone!

I'm Agnes and I'm curious for the family of the famous leader Crazy Horse. Therefore I started this topic. I warmly welcome any comment, correction, and observation.

I know the following:

The name of the father of Crazy Horse was Crazy Horse. After he transferred his name to his son, he was called as Worm. He was perhaps a Hunkpatila-Oglala.

He had at least two brothers, Little Hawk and Spotted Crow. Also was Bull Head and Ashes the uncles of Crazy Horse?

Crazy Horse mother was perhaps a Minneconjou and her name was Rattle Blanket Woman. Perhaps she connected somehow to the famous Minniconjou chief Touch-the-Clouds, but it's not sure.

Crazy Horse had an unkown sister, who married with Little Killer's brother Club Man. They had 8 children, but she and her children all died before 1901.

Crazy Horse's little brother name was Little Hawk. He died in spring or summer of 1870. Perhaps he was never married?

Crazy Horse married three times. Firstly he was with No Water's Wife, Black Buffalo Woman, but they stayed together a few days. It said that the woman later gave birth a light haired girl, who still lived in the 1900's.

When he was 26 years old, he married Red Feather's sister, Black Shawl. By her he had one girl, Kokipapi, They-Are-Afraid-of-Her, who died when about 2-3 years old. When he surrendered at Fort Robinson, he married a young french-Cheyenne girl, Nellie Laravie, but Crazy Horse didn't have a child by her.

The following website has information about a descendant of Crazy Horse


Donovin Sprague, a history instructor at Oglala Lakota College and Black Hills State University in South Dakota.

Sprague is also a descendant of Crazy Horse's mother's family and the author of a collection of historical photos, "Images of America, Cheyenne River Sioux."

Crazy Horse's great-grandson, Don Red Thunder, of Dupree, S.D.

The following website purports to have the family history of Crazy Horse:
Here are some snippets from the website:
For over a century the true story of Crazy Horse has been shrouded in mystery. Many have attempted to unravel the mysteries by identifying what they perceived to be the 'facts' of his life...but they never interviewed those who were truly closest to this spiritual leader---his family.
The Great Grandsons of Waglula or Crazy Horse, Sr who participated in this project are Floyd Clown, Doug War Eagle, and Don Red Thunder. In the year 2000 they crossed paths with a film maker named William Matson. In 1998 while his father, Emerson, who had been a writer and recorder of Native history, was on his deathbed, he asked his son William to finish what he had started on telling the Native side (Lakota and Cheyenne) of the battle of the Little Bighorn. William was anything but an expert on Native history. But he could not say no.
Upon going back to Bear Butte the following year, he was given the phone number to the Crazy Horse family. He had not asked for it nor did he even know they existed. But he called it.

The family invited him out to meet him. Unbeknown to William, they had been told by their grandfathers that 'someone from the west was coming to help them'. William was from Oregon. He was asked to go to a ceremony by the family to see if he had a good heart. Apparently he passed. He has been working closely with the family ever since. The in depth coverage of their DVDs, "The Authorized Biography of Crazy Horse and His Family", series attests to that.

During the taping of their entire family oral history it was learned that the family still carried the family sacred pipe. They told of his maternal grandfather, Black Buffalo, the same Black Buffalo that met Lewis and Clark on the Bad River in 1804 and nearly was involved in a battle with them. They also spoke of Crazy Horse's eldest maternal uncle, One Horn, who met with the famed painter George Catlin and had his picture painted by him (currently at the Smithsonian).

Also according to the family, Crazy Horse's mother, Rattling Blanket Woman, hung herself when Crazy Horse was four years old. Crazy Horse was then raised by his eldest maternal aunt, Good Looking Woman, who had been unable to conceive children of her own

Crazy Horse married Black Shawl in 1867 and together they had a daughter who they named, They Are Afraid Of Her, after his youngest maternal aunt who carried the same name (his aunt was originally named Looks At It...but that was before a fight with her husband).

The series was produced by Reel Contact and is available for purchase online.


If you are LDS (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and you have a new FamilySearch account, you can find Crazy Horse and his descendants on new.familysearch.org. Once you are in new.familysearch.org, type in your user name and password.  Click on the Search tab. Click on the Search by Number tab. Type in 
KL7X-FFH in the Person Identifier box.  Click on Search

Crazy Horse's pedigree with children will appear. At this point you will be able to move around and see his ancestors and descendants.  If you have trouble, contact your ward family history consultant.

Other Sioux Chiefs
Sitting Bull
Red Cloud
Red Fox

Other Chiefs
Keokuk - Sak
Chief Joseph - Nez Perce
Cochise - Apache
Geronimo - Apache
Osceola - Seminole
Quanah Parker - Comanche
Tecumseh - Shawnee