148th Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn – June 25th, 2024

Riders from the Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho and Lakota tribes making their annual ride across the Battle of the Greasy Grass battlegrounds. (Photo by Diane Spotted Elk)

BATTLE OF LITTLE BIG HORN SITE, CROW AGENCY, Mont. — Though it was an extremely sultry day, as it must have also been 148 years ago, thousands of people gathered at the Battle of the Little Big Horn Historic Site, near Crow Agency to observe the 148th Anniversary.  That Battle is perhaps one of the most famous and well-know conflicts between the U.S. Military and American Tribes in American history, indeed across the world.

“Though this happened 148 years ago, it is still very fresh in our minds, hearts, and collective historical memory.  It still pains us and the names of those who fell are still remembered as if it happened yesterday,” said Eugene Little Coyote who introduced tribal speakers at the anniversary event.

The combined forces of the Sioux Tribes, Northern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho then brought General George Custer and the 7th Calvary to it’s knees, the first and only time that has happened. The Battle has different names from different Tribes (Where Long Hair was wiped out, Northern Cheyenne); (Peji Sla Creek Battle, Great Sioux Nation) and sometimes (Greasy Grass).

This is a special day for the descendants of the Tribes who were involved, providing an opportunity to share their perspectives of that event. Otherwise, the interpretive tours of the Battle are provided by members of the Crow Tribe, which has a contract with the Park Service to do that, and by Park Rangers and other personnel.

The Tribes are also dedicated to sharing their points of view with tribal youth and non-Indians as the oral tradition is not generally available elsewhere.

The theme for this year’s event was “Long ago, we were enemies. Today we are friends,” quoted from Chief Little Wolf, Northern Cheyenne who participated in the Battle, helping to “wipe Long Hair” out. Later in his life, he urged reconciliation.

The day begins with a Sunrise Ceremony at the Battlefield site conducted Northern Cheyenne ceremonial people, which is mostly a private tribal affair.

In the morning, Sioux riders make a dramatic horseback charge on “Last Stand Hill,” located not far from the Battlefield proper, but easy to see.  It is quite a thrilling and wild ride they make.

Michael Bearcomesout, Northern Cheyenne Sacred Hat Keeper offered the Opening Prayer, followed by a posting of colors and Flag Song, Cheyenne Color Guard and Drum Group and a Welcome by Dustin Sene, Battlefield Superintendent.

The morning agenda was replete with tribal officials and members of many different Tribes who had traveled long distances to attend the event.  They included: Reggie Wassana, Governor, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Oklahoma; Ernest Littlemouth, Vice-President Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Montana; Vincent Whitecrane, Chairman, Northern Cheyenne Cultural Commission; Harvey Pratt, Cheyenne and Arapaho Veteran and Chief who designed the Indian Memorial at the Battlefield; Justing Grey Hawk, Chairman, Ft. Peck Tribes of Assiniboine & Sioux, MT; Steve Leadercharge, descendent of the First Tokala’s of the Great Sioux Nation at the Battle; Pauline Cloud Mn and Shane Red Hawk, descendants of Sicangu Lakota at the Battle. Also in attendance was the Chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Peter Lengkeek and Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Ryman Lebeau. 

Tribal Leaders including: Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman Peter Lengkeek, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Ryman Lebeau, Governor of the  Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Oklahoma Reggie Wassana, Vice-President Northern Cheyenne Tribe Ernest Littlemouth, Chairman, of the Northern Cheyenne Cultural Commission Vincent Whitecrane at the Battle of Greasy Grass Commemoration.

In the afternoon, there were additional speakers and activities Those included Manny Iron Hawk, Grandfathers Iron Hawk and Little Bird, Cheyenne River Sioux; a parade of the Morning Star horseback Riders through the parking lot; Wendall Yellowbull, Bighorn riders, Oglala, Pine Ridge reservation; Elvyn Bissonette, Crazy Horse-Hunkpatatila Oyate Band, Pine Ridge; and Ben Ridgely Cultural Director, Northern Arapaho, Wind River Reservation, WY.

In concluding events, the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council recognized and honored leaders from the Great Plains. The Tribes have recently been meeting and working together to address concerns about a proposed new Visitors Center at the Battlefield. Finally, the Northern Cheyenne Youth Runners, under the direction of Phillip Whiteman, Jr. arrive at the Battlefield after making a long and arduous run.

It was an educational and successful day, providing the opportunity for tribal pride. 

(Contact Clara Caufield at 2ndcheyennevoice@gmail.com)

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