- Historic Sites
Echoes Of The Little Bighorn
June 1971 | Volume 22, Issue 4
It was the time when ponies are [June]. During a sun dance we held on Rosebud Creek ten days earlier, my uncle, Sitting Bull, had offered a hundred pieces of his flesh to Wakantanka [Great Holy Spirit] and had been granted a vision of white soldiers without ears falling upside-down into camp. He told me that this vision was a promise of a great victory yet to come. Three days later we beat [General George Crook] in a light on the Rosebud. But my uncle said an even greater victory was coming.
The night before the fight with Long Hair. Sitiing Hull went out to the ridge where the monument now stands. He sang a thunder sons;, then prayed lor knowledge ol things to come. As he repeated for me later, he wailed aloud. ollering a filled pipe as he prayed:
“Wakantanka , hear me and pity me! I oiler you this pipe in the name of my people. Save them. We want to live! Guard my people against all danger and misfortune, lake pity on us!
Then he stuck slender wands in the ground to which he tied tiny buckskin bags of tobacco and willow bark. Next day Long Hair’s horse soldiers would knock them all down, but that night my uncle knew that “Wakantanka had heard his prayer. Before sunup an old woman died in the Hunkpapa camp. She was the wife of Sitting Bull’s uncle, Four Horns. As Sitting Bull later told me, the death of such an important woman made him wonder if the promised victory might not come that very day.
I was twenty-three that summer and had been a warrior a long time. Another Hunkpapa named Gray Eagle and I were Sitting Bull’s special bodyguards. It was our duty to watch him and see that he had protection. I also had the duty of seeing that his orders were carried out by others and Io look after his property, That morning I took (he lamily horses to the river.
At midday I went back to the pony herd and drove the horses to the river lor the noon watering, just then I heard shooting near the Hunkpapa camp tircle. I knew our camp soldiers [police] did not allow olfhand linng. So I recognized the shots as a warning of some kind of danger. I quickly caught my best pony and turned the other sttxk loose, knowing they would head back to camp as stxin as the hobbles were oil. Not faraway I sawdust rising and heard iron-shod hoofs pounding against loose rocks. I raced back to the tepe I shared with my uncle.
The Hunkpapa camp was in an uproar. Warriors were rushing around to catch their ponies, Women were streaming and children were crying and old men were shouting advice as loud as they could. Then the women and children began to run off to the west, not taking the time to strike their tepees or to carry of belongings.
I reached the tepee ahead of my uncle. I grahlx’d my old muzzlcloader and quickly checked it. Just then Siding Hull entered the tepee and took the old rifle out of my hands. He handed me a stone-headed war club, then took his own rawhide shield out of its buckskin case and hung; it over my shoulder. This shield was both for protection and to be used as a badge of the chief’s authority.
“You will take my place and go out and meet the soldiers that are attacking us,” he ordered. “Parley with them, if you can. If they arc willing, tell them I will talk peace with them.”
Sitting Bull was buckling on his cartridge belt as we hurried outside. His deaf-mute adopted son came running up with the chief’s black stallion. Another bodyguard, named Iron Elk, handed my uncle a Winchester carbine and a revolver and held the stallion’s jaw rope. Sitting Bull jumped on the stallion’s bare back and galloped off to look for his old mother and get her to safety. Many young warriors gathered around me. I raised my uncle’s shield high so they all could see it. Then I led them out to meet the soldiers.
One Bull soon discovered that any talk of peace with Major Marcus A. Reno’s attacking troopers was out of the question. Soldiers now on the firing line began shooting as soon as they saw the raised shield. Rec [Arikara] Indian scouts, serving the jth Cavalry, were trying to capture the huge herd of Sioux ponies west of the camp. Chief Black Moon rode up with a large force of Hunkpapa camp police to save the pony herd. One Bull rallied his warriors for a charge.
The Sioux onslaught began suddenly, sweeping back the Ree scouts and halting Reno’s advance. Black Moon’s Hunkpapas hit Reno’s exposed flank. As One Bull told me:
The soldiers were mixed up. Some got off their horses and began firing again as we rode in. Others stayed mounted. Two soldiers couldn’t hold their horses in all the excitement. The horses bolted, carrying their riders right into our warriors. These soldiers didn’t last long!
Then the soldier chief shouted something, and all the soldiers did a strange thing. They all got off their horses, except for every fourth man who held the horses for the other three. Then they ran on foot trying to get into the timber along the river. I raised my uncle’s shield again and led another charge to chase them. They were turning around to shoot at us, but we rode right into them, chasing them into the river. VVc killed many on the river bank and in the water.
I rode up behind one soldier and knocked him over with my war club. Then I slid off my pony and held the soldier’s head under water until he was dead. I killed two more soldiers in the water.