Nebraska Moments

By Donald R. Hickey; Susan A. Wunder et al. | Go to book overview

11. The Murder of Crazy Horse at Fort Robinson

At Fort Robinson during the early evening of September 7, 1877, the great Sioux patriot, Ta-Shunka-Witca, Crazy Horse of the Oglalas, was assassinated, murdered with a bayonet driven deep into his torso after he had surrendered to U.S. military authorities. It was a time when the worlds of the citizens of the Plains, and especially those of the Sioux peoples, stood still, for this was a moment that would forever shape the lives of so many. In just over a decade, the leadership of the Sioux would be decimated—first Crazy Horse, and then Spotted Tail, chief of the Brulés, killed in 1881 on Rosebud Reservation, and finally Sitting Bull, chief of the Hunkpapas, struck down at Standing Rock just some fifteen days before the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.

Crazy Horse was born sometime between 1839 and 1845 on Rapid Creek, a tributary of the Cheyenne River in west-central South Dakota. First known as Curly by his family and band, his mother was the sister of Spotted Tail and his father, named Crazy Horse, was an Oglala medicine man. Curly was the oldest of three children, having a younger brother and sister.

Early in his brief life Curly personally witnessed a number of confrontations that would define his later experiences of vigilantly protecting the Lakota people. In 1854 one of the earliest encounters between the U.S. Army and the Sioux that turned deadly occurred over the unlikely killing of a cow. On the Oregon Trail near Fort Laramie, a scrawny cow owned by a Mormon emigrant was killed by a young member of a Brulé camp headed by Chief Conquering Bear. Curly, in his early teens at the time, and his family lived in the camp.

Conquering Bear sensed there would be trouble over the cow, but he was not prepared for the brash tactics of Lt. John Grattan, who led a

-81-

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