Echoes Of The Little Bighorn


Another warrior named Yellow Nose, a Sapawicasa [Ute] who had been captured as a boy by the Shahiyela and had grown up with them, was very brave that day. After we chased the soldiers back from the ford, he galloped out in front of us and got very close to them, then raced back to safety.

I kept riding with the Shahiyelas , still hoping that some of them might tell Meotzi later about my courage. We massed for another charge. The Shahiyela chief, Comes-in-Sight, and a warrior named Contrary Belly led us that time. The soldiers’ horses were so frightened by all the noise we made that they began to bolt in all directions. The soldiers held their fire while they tried to catch their horses. Just then Yellow Nose rushed in again and grabbed a small flag (guidon] from where the soldiers had stuck it in the ground. He carried it off and counted coup (struck blows] on a soldier with its sharp end. He was proving his courage more by counting that coup than if he had killed the soldier.

Now I saw the soldiers were split into two bands, most of them on foot and shooting as they fell back to higher ground, so we made no more mounted charges. I found cover and began shooting at the soldiers. I was a good shot and had one of the few repeating rifles carried by any of our warriors.∗ It was up to me to use it the best way I could. I kept firing at the two bands of soldiers first at one, then at the other. It was hard to see through the smoke and dust, but I saw five soldiers go down when I shot at them.

Indian informants agree there were probably not more than a dozen or so repeating rifles in working order in the entire village, although more were captured as the battle progressed.

Once in a while some warrior showed his courage by making a charge all by himself. I saw one Shahiyela , wearing a spotted war bonnet and a spotted robe of mountain-lion skins, ride out alone.

“He’s charging!” someone shouted.

He raced up to the long ridge where the soldiers of one band were making a defense standing there holding their horses and keeping up a steady fire. This Shahiyela charged in almost close enough to touch some of the soldiers and rode around in circles in front of them with bullets kicking up dust all around him. He came galloping back, and we all cheered him.

Ah! Ah! ” he said, meaning “yes” in Shahiyela .

Then he unfastened his belt and opened his robe and shook many spent bullets out on the ground…

The old man grinned at the memory of such courage.

It was a day of bravery— even for our soldier enemies. They all fought well and died in courage, except for one soldier on a sorrel horse. He broke away from the others and started riding off down the ridge. Two Shahiyelas and a Lakota chased after him, shooting at him as they rode. But the soldier’s horse was fast and they couldn t catch him. 1 saw him yank out his revolver and thought he was going to shoot back at these warriors. Instead he put the revolver to his head, pulled the trigger, and fell dead.∗∗

This may have been 2nd Lieutenant Henry M. Harrington, C. Company, whose body was never identified.

In a little while all my bullets were gone. Hut by that time the soldiers lay still. Wc had killed them all. The battle was over. Soon we were shouting victory yells. When the women and children heard us, they came out on the ridge to strip the bodies and catch some of the big horses the soldiers had ridden. Some women had lost husbands or brothers or sons in the fight, so they butchered the soldiers’ bodies to show their grief and anger.

I began looking for bullets and weapons in the piles of dead bodies. Near the top of the ridge 1 saw a naked body and turned it over. The face had little hairs on il and kx)ked like the white man who had worn the buckskin jacket and had lired at me across the ford—the same one I had shot off his horse. I rememlx’red how close some ot his bullets had come, so I thought I would take the medicine of his trigger linger to make me an even better shot. Taking out my knile. I Ix-gan *o cut oil that linger.

Just then I heard a woman’s voice behind me. I turned to see Meotzi and Yellow Bird and an older Shahiyela woman standing there. The older woman pointed Io the while man’s body, saying:

“He is our relative.”

Then she signed for me to go away. I looked at \leotxi then and smiled, but she didn’t smile back at me, so I wondered if she thought it was wrong for a warrior to be cutting on an enemy’s body. I decided she wouldn’t be as proud of me if I cut off the white man’s finger, and moved away. Pretending to be busy looking for bullets, I glanced back. Meotxi was looking down at the body while the older woman poked her Ixine sewing awl deep into each of the white man’s ears. I heard her say:

“So Long Hair will hear better in the Spirit Land.”

That was the first I knew that Long Hair was the soldier chief we had been fighting and the white man 1 had shot at the ford…