Having just toured the Little Big Horn battlefield in Garryowen, Montana, I have a newfound appreciation for what happened there and why.
I won't bore you with the battle particulars, but I found the larger picture painted by Patrick Hill, (firstname.lastname@example.org) our half Crow/half Pawnee tour guide, absolutely riveting.
Here's a concise summary:
Several years prior to the fateful events of June 25, 1876, gold had been discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota. As a result, there was a literal stampede of some 40,000 money-hungry whites anxious to stake a claim.
Sadly, though, the Black Hills were sacred to the Sioux Nation. And, they'd been promised to the Sioux in perpetuity by the U.S. government.
Since no one could stop America's westward movement, our government once again broke its word and the Sioux were forced to relocate to the Big Horn Mountains of Montana (where they'd later encounter the vainglorious Custer).
Our guide likened the Sioux being kicked out of the Black Hills as akin to:
- The Roman Catholics being kicked out of the Vatican City
- The Muslims being moved out of Mecca
- Or, the Jews being jerked out of Jerusalem.
So, when Custer, Reno and Benteen happened upon a massive village of Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho camped along the Little Big Horn River one June day in 1876, it wasn't pretty. But, in retrospect, the slaughter and mutilation of the 7th Cavalry is quite understandable.
Patrick Hill's tales were amazing, and his perspective on man's age-old rationalization of religion as justification for his military or monetary designs certainly holds true today.
I honestly believe the best way to understand today's events is to gain a greater grasp of yesterday's.
Many of us grew up believing the lionized, sanitized version of Custer written by White America. As it turns out, the balanced account relayed by Patrick Hill is much more interesting (and understandable). Now, if only organized religion didn't keep rearing its ugly head.