This was always called Fettermans Massacre when I was a boy growing up in Story and was regaled with the tales by the old timers. A "victory" for the Lakota and Cheyenne, who outnumbered the patrol by a paltry 20 to 1, it will always be a story of heroics on both sides of the tale.
This link tells one side.
Thank you alpha49er for your comments. When I was growing up in California in the 50's and 60's I was taught a lot of lies about Native Americans and Black Americans. Thankfully times have changed. Not just for the benefit of Red people and Black people, but especially for White people. A great burden is being lifted as we slowly progress.
The title on my picture at the Fetterman site refers only to the bias of the bronze plaque overlooking the site which was installed some time ago by groups with vested interests in one side of the story. I was thinking the NPS should instal one of their signboards. The full historical situation is better described nowadays at Fort Phil Kearny a few miles away.
BTW I noticed at the Little Bighorn Battlefield there are now a few red granite markers amongst the white; one at each location where a Native American warrior died, inscribed that [name] fell here 25th June 1876 defending his people and his way of life.
Dear MaxFarrar. Too bad you got your education in the public schools. The California public schools in particular. No monument should ever be in this place to the Lakota or the Cheyenne. This land belonged to the Crow Indians before the Sioux and the Cheyenne murdered them out of it. One of the original name proposals for Wyoming as it approached statehood was Absaroke, the native American name by which the Crow called themselves. Why do you think there were so many Crow scouts with Custer? They had a score to settle, that's why. Of course, once you go there, you have to ask who owned the land before the Crow murdered them out of it.
I am really tired of whiners.
Thanks for your comments chichikov. I did truly receive a bad education, including lots of lies as I mentioned above. Sadly, the history and prehistory of Wyoming, Montana and the Americas are drenched in the blood and hatred of Native Americans fighting each other.
And some Lakota infantrymen who served in Vietnam have glorified their role in Southeast Asia, oppressing indiginous peoples. It never seems to end.
If the Crow and the Lakota/Cheyenne had united against the invaders they might have succeded in preserving their freedom to some extent. Tecumseh attempted to form a confederacy of tribes in the early 19th century to stop the whites at the Appalachian mountains and sadly failed.
It's not just pre-histoy that is drenched in blood and savagery. You don't have to go any farther than Massacre Canyon in 1873 Nebraska to see how recently the Sioux were butchering other Indians (in this case the Pawnee)with abandon. Interesting place. Ought to be visited by more people to help keep things in perspective. The Comanches nearly exterminated the Apaches, and the Iroquois tried to exterminate everybody (as, by the way, did the Sioux, who started out in the 1600's in the millelak region of Minnesota and mauraded and murdered their was west.)
It is true that the inability of Indians to band together and overcome their historic and prehistoric hatred of each other complicated their fight against the white man but, like Custer, union of forces would have done no good anyway. They encountered in the European a numerically and technologically superior tribe. The European settlers and the US army did no worse to the Indians than the Indians had always done to themselves. In fact, they were much better treated by the white settlers than they treated each other. The army took prisoners. The white man brought with him not only the rifle, but also a conscience. The Indian, outside the tribe, had no conscience. That is why you saved "the last bullet for yourself."
The lies that are getting told today are lies about European settlement. What gold was to the European, buffalo and hunting range was to the Indian. And the tribes seeking buffalo ranges had their own assorted manifest destinies in mind when they went out in the dark of the moon.
The worst enemy of an American Indian was likely the tribe clostest to him that wasn't his own.
chichikov: There is an immense amount of knowledge and wisdom in what you say.
I have seen the big monument to the 5 Aug 1873 incident at Massacre Canyon on Hwy 34 near Trenton, NE. I would like to find the actual site which is several miles up the canyon (closer to Hwy 25) to pay my respects.
You can see my pictures, if you're interested, in GE documenting a number of attrocities such as Sand Creek (Chivington,CO), Indian Island (Eureka,CA), Wounded Knee, (SD), Hayfork Massacre (Southeast of Hayfork, CA), Crazy Horse murder (Fort Robinson, NE), Bloody Island Massacre)between Upper Lake and Nice, CA), and the Kent State Massacre (Kent, OH).
I've also paid my respects at Prophetstown in Indiana where Tecumseh lived for a time.
I'll put some thought into changing the title of this picture. Can you suggest anything that would convey the clash of cultures in 1866 and our better understanding today.
I can't think of an appropriate caption other than Fetterman Massacre Site. However, I will provide you with two contending Indian quotes, somewhat lengthy, from which you might be able to sythesize the significnce of the area.
This first quote, somewhat lengthy, is spoken by an unidentified Crow chief who is preparing to ride with the US cavalry against the Sioux. The second is from a Sioux chief at the Ft. Laramie conference.
"Many wild and semi-civilized Indian scouts joined army expeditions for the same reasons as their white counterparts--money, glory and sheer adventure. Some tribes had added incentives, as John Finerty of the Chicago Times discovered during a council between General Crook and the Crow:
'The Great White Chief will hear his Indian brother. These are our lands by inheritance. The Great Spirit gave them to our fthers, but the Sioux stole them from us. They hunt upon our mountains. They fish in our streams. They have stolen our horses. They have murdered our squaws, our children. What white man has done this to us? The face of the Sioux is red, but his heart is black. But the heart of the pale face has ever been red to the Crow. ([Grunts of 'Ugh! Ugh! Hey!']. The scalp of no white man hangs in our lodges. They are thick as grass in the wigwams of the Sioux. ['Ugh!']. The Great White Chief will lead us against no other tribe of red men. Our war is with the Sioux and only them. We want back our lands. We want their women for our slaves, to work for us as our women have had to work for them. We want their horses for our young men, and their mules for our squaws. The Sioux have trampled upon our hearts, but we shall spit upon their scalps. ['Ugh!''Hey!' and teriffic yelling)." Scalp Dance: Indian Warfare on the High Plains 1865-1879, pp. 84-85.
Now for the Sioux:
"Evidence indicates that they [i.e., the Sioux: Chichikov] had few friends and many enemies in the north. According to Kiowa tradition, in about 1775 they [i.e., the Kiowas: Chichikov] were defeated by the Dakotas (or Sioux), who exterminated the entire Kuato band of Kiowas.
At the Treaty of Laramie in 1851 an Oglala Sioux named Black Hawk spoke on the matter to the peace commissioners:
" 'You have split the country and I don't like it. What we live upon, we hunt for, and we hunt from the Platte to the Arkansas, and from here up to Red Butte and the Sweet Water. The Cheyennes and the Arapahoe agree to live together as one people; that is very well, but they want to hunt on this side of the river [north of the Platte]. These lands once belonged to the Kiowas and Crows, but we whipped these nations out of them, and in this we did what the white men do when they want the lands of the Indians. We met the Kiowas and Crows and whipped them, at the Kiowa Creek just below where we now are. We met them and whipped them again, and the last time at Crow Creek. This last battle was fought by the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and Ogallahlala combined and the Ogallahlala claim their share of the country.' " Tribal Wars on the Southern Plains, pp. 91`-92.
The massacres you mention all took place, but they were not part of any official policy, as opposed to that which was motivated by Indian culture, and they were preceded by sporadic but continuous Indian depradations where unspeakable things were done. Also, especially in the Chivington case, the newspaper editorials and pulpit thunderings in the East savagely condemned Chivington and what he had done (and rightly so: the white man brought a conscience to these encounters.) I am not sure you understand what they found when they went out to look for Fetterman and his command. When it became apparent that further resistance was impossible, Captains Fetterman and Brown, evidently by prearranged pact, shot each other in the left temples (powder burns were found at the wounds, indicating point-blank discharge.)
Colonel Carrington, the Fort Kearney commander, took wagons out in the blizzard to recover bodies and bring them back to the fort for burial. This was very risky, because nobody knew if Red Cloud and his Sioux were still there. As a precaution against attack on the now seriously undermanned and defenseless fort, he had his adjutant move all of the women and children into the fort's powder magazine with orders to blow them all to Kingdom Come if the Indians took the fort, rather than let them be captured. In his offical report, Carrington described what they found on the ridge where the Monument now stands:
" On January 3, 1867, thirteen days after the Fetterman fight, Colonel Carrington wrote an official report of the sad affair, which he dispatched to the Deparment of the Platte headquarters at Omaha. This report was first published in 1887, twenty years after it was written, when Congress by Senate resolution requested the War Department to submit to it papers relating to the incident. A few passages from the report will disclose a little of the terribly mutilated condition of the bodies. Carrington concluded the report by stating. 'I give you some of the facts as to my men, whose bodies I found just at dark, resolved to bring all in..." Mutilations: eyes torn out and laid on the rocks; brains taken out and laid on rocks, with members of the body; hands and feet cut off; arms taken from sockets; skulls severed in every form from chin to crown; punctures upon every sensitive part of the body. Some of the more indecent forms of mutilation listed by Carrington need not be stated explicitly here.
"After enumerating the forms of mutilation, Carrington's report continued: 'All this does not approximate the whole truth. Every medical officer was faithfully aided by a large force of men and all were not buried until Wednesday after the fight.
" 'The great real fact is,' he said, 'that these Indians take alive when possible, and slowly torture. It is the opinion of Dr. S.M Horton, post surgeon, that not more than six were killed by balls. Of course, the whole arrows, hundreds of which were removed from the naked bodies, were all used after the removal of clothing.' (Carrington apparently means the men were captured and shot full of arrows while still living." Great Western Indian Fights, pp. 129-130.
This sort of scene was found after every Indian raid. It was not just an atypical scene. It is little wonder that Chivington's mountanman militia did what they did, as revolting to the conscience as it was. But it was not official policy. With the Indians, it was official policy. And it was not resrved for white settlers. It was the fate of every enemy Indian who was taken alive as well. I can document this with horror story after horror story of Indians treatment of other captive Indians, but see no real point in abusing my welcome further than I already have.
I appreciate your willingness to have civilzed discourse on these unfortunate matters.
chichikov: I always suspected there were good reasons for the Crow to fight the Lakota but I didn't know any of these details. I realize those reasons go back thousands of years. The opportunity for revenge for previous attrocities was just too good to pass up when the white men appeared out of the East and seemed to be a powerful ally against the Lakota.
Do some Crow people now think that things turned out for the best (with the white man dominating the North American continent)?
I try to empathize with all people treated unjustly. I hope for all oppression to end soon, (but may have to wait for awhile).
I thank you for your lengthy and useful comments.
BTW I noticed the big sign when I was driving North on I-25 into Montana that says 'You Are Now Entering Crow Country'. It needs to be documented in G-E.
I'll dig out my copy of the autobiography of the Crow Medicine Man Yellowtail and re-read it.
I've changed the title of this picture but it won't be visible until the next G-E update.
Thamk you for your patience.
The hatreds among the tribes did, did, indeed, go back to prehistoric times, although the Sioux-Crow antagonism was not prehistoric, since neither were in the area in pre-history (by which is generally meant the European arrival, although that is istself ethnocentric). Most of the tribal hostilities continued until the middle to late 19th. century. In part it was fueled by ancient hatreds and mythic tales, but in part it was just the way Indian life was. Warfare and pony stealing was the only way to prestige, power, and glory. It is said of the Apache, that, like the Bedouin, "raiding was there agriculture."
I can't say whether the Crow think that the way things turned out for them was preferrable to the way things were. Too many variables in that question, not the least of which is that "how things would have turned out for them" is an unkn own. They might have been exterminated, if not by the Sioux thenby some other tribe which would have risen to prominence.
Personally, I am not sitisfied with how things turned out. I don't mean for th Indian. I mean for me. I do not much care for being one of the governed.
I don't think you willsee an end to oppression. It has slipped its chains compeltely and is now on the loose. In this country it is coming inthe name of "our own good" but it is coming nevertheless.
I have always thought that if the European had never "discovered" North America, some sort of bloody showdown would have occurred that assured continental domination between maybe the Comanches and perhaps the Sioux and Blackfeet (also a Siouan tribe). But it is possible that somebody would have come along more ferocious than the Comanches. But there would have been no peace until somebody won. All of the tribes had their own notions of Manifest Destiny. Aztecs and Incas included. It is, alas, part of the human psychology. And not just human. Bears, cougars and wolves all have their ranges, which they defend against intruders.
It seems to me to be difficult to empathize with all people who have been treated unjustly, since all people have been so treated. But, in return, all people have been unjust in their treatment of others. Ego and envy and power are very powerful accelerants.
chichikov: It's hard for me to add anything to what you've said. I think you've said it all.
Your vision of the bloodbath that might have happened in North America in the last 500 years without the Europeans is thought-provoking. From what little reading I've done on the Aztecs they seemed to have lost most of their human self control and most certainly stood a chance of imposing military domination on as many tribes as they could. (But Aztec history's a big subject and they didn't get to tell their side of the story.)
I would be interested whenever you have any more thoughts about these things.
I'm sorry - I'm breaking into your conversation. But some statements made by Chichikov make me laugh. "... have always thought that if the European had never "discovered" North America, some sort of bloody showdown would have occurred that assured continental domination between maybe the Comanches and perhaps the Sioux and Blackfeet (also a Siouan tribe)." Well, at first - Blackfeets are not Siouan tribe (well-educationed, you mix up them with Sihasapa-Sioux) but Algonkinian. If the European had never "discovered" America, The Great Plains would remain not occupied. And above-mentioned tribes never would become such powerful, without having horses. It's a fact. Fierce Sioux terminated poor Pawnees? But what about human sacrifices among Pawnees - the only Great Plains' tribe which made it? Due to it Pawnee were hated by all tribes around. The Sioux' (I preffer to use their own name - Lakota) native land were Great Lake' region, from where they were drove away by Ojibways, who got fire-arms long before Lakota people got it. Crows have settled in "their" Montana' lands only in 18 century, only one hundred years before Sioux came in. So it's hard to call Montana "Crow' Motherland". And so on... I think, people all over the world are interested in American Indian culture due to Indians Wars in the 19 century. And real heroes of this wars were Sioux, Comanche, Cheyenne, Nez Perse (who were the Crow' most faithful friends, but have been betrayed by them during Chief Joseph' War), Apache. Not Pawnees or Crows. Human history is made by passionate nations. Hoka hey!
Vasily you are very welcome to contribute what you know of a big, complicated and sometimes contradictory subject. I had wondered about the Pawnees myself, and also the reason the Lakota migrated westward. Still, I regret the way things turned out during the Indian wars.
Chichikov raised many good points which made me think. We whitemen all have to overcome an "education" that we received when we were young.
MaxFarrar. Where are you from? I live in Moscow, Russia, and began interested in Lakota history and culture when I was a small boy, in 1973, I think you'll understand why.
WOW!!!! every commentator has a very valid and good point. I have nothing too add but what has already been said. In retrospect especially for our Russian friend whom has had such a unique and valid interest in such a complex and controversial period in American-History we all as contributors should remember no one tribe, race, or anything in the realm of human existence is not without blame..we can only learn from the past for those whom do not are well SCREWED!!! these places of Historical interest are here cause it happened and we cannot bicker over whom is too blame. It is the 21st century it is a bigger world out their HISTORY is important as a lesson in events in the past not controversies too be debated. God bless us all for we all have passion in our beliefs and lets pray that we all can find a way too find compassion for human-existance and all that it entails.
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