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Hoka Hey

  • Published
  • By Anthony Muzereus, Baumholder Facilities Program Manager HQ USSOCOM Command Engineer

No, the title is not in Klingon.  It's in the Native American Lakota language, and the saying was the battle cry of Chief Crazy Horse.  This is Native American Month, and one of the most important figures in Native American history was Chief Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse (Tashunkewitko) was recognized among his own people as a visionary leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life.  Part of that way of life was refusing to allow any photographs be taken of him.

Crazy Horse was born somewhere between 1842 and 1845, and he earned his reputation as a legendary warrior from a young age.  He stole horses from the Crow Indians before he was thirteen, and he led his first war party before turning twenty.

Crazy Horse fought to prevent United States encroachment on Lakota lands.  This fight began in the 1865-68 war led by Oglala Chief Red Cloud against settlers in Wyoming, where Crazy Horse played a key role in destroying William J. Fetterman's brigade at Fort Phil Kearny in 1867.

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 was supposed to preserve Lakota lands.  The treaty signed by the President of the United States said, "As long as rivers run and grass grows and trees bear leaves, Paha Sapa (the Black Hills) will forever be the sacred lands of the Lakota Indians."  However, that peace didn't last long.

In 1873, General George Armstrong Custer sent a surveying party into the Black Hills, which Crazy Horse attacked in defense of the treaty.

When the War Department ordered all Lakota bands onto their reservations in 1876, Crazy Horse became a leader of the resistance.  Closely allied to the Cheyenne through his first marriage to a Cheyenne woman, he gathered a force of 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne at his village and turned back General George Crook on June 17, 1876, as Crook tried to advance up Rosebud Creek toward Sitting Bull's encampment on the Little Bighorn.  After this victory, Crazy Horse joined forces with Sitting Bull, and on June 25th, he led his band in the counterattack that destroyed Custer's Seventh Cavalry.  Crazy Horse flanked the troops from the north and west as Hunkpapa warriors led by chief Gall charged from the south and east.  This victory was even more amazing in that the encampments were caught by surprise.

Following the Lakota victory at the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and Gall retreated to Canada.  However, Crazy Horse remained to continue the battle against General Nelson Miles, who relentlessly attacked the Lakota and their allies through the winter of 1876-77.

The constant military harassment and the decline of the buffalo population eventually forced Crazy Horse to surrender on May 6, 1877.  Except for Gall and Sitting Bull, he was the last important chief to surrender.

Even in defeat, Crazy Horse remained an independent spirit.  In September 1877, he left the reservation without authorization to take his sick wife to her parents, and he was arrested by General George Crook for fear that he was plotting a return to battle.   Crazy Horse did not resist arrest at first, but when he realized that he was being led to a guardhouse, he began to struggle, and while his arms were held by a soldier and fellow Native American, a soldier ran him through with a bayonet.

There is a memorial being sculpted into the mountain of their sacred Black Hills of South Dakota. Though he has passed on, the family of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski continues the efforts today.  Crazy Horse was a true American warrior that lived a life of "Service Before Self,” setting the example for other Americans who have served our Nation.