- Historic Sites
The Man Who Killed Custer
To Stanley Vestal, the old Sioux warrior White Bull describes the day when he counted his greatest coup
February 1957 | Volume 8, Issue 2
The short straight lines behind each of the two men in the drawing represent the tracks—and so the persons—of their comrades, and indicate that the fighting was then on foot. Had the soldiers and Indians been then on horseback, the tracks would have been horseshoe-shape, as in some of the other drawings made by White Bull of this same battle. The date on the drawing, April 8, 1932, indicates the date at which my copy of the drawing was made. The words “age 26 years” give White Bull’s age when he struck the soldier. To his signature—Pte-San-Hunka, Buffalo White Leader- in English, Chief White Bull—is added the further identification, “Nephew Sitting Bull.”
His description of the fight is in Sioux: Kici-ecamu-Welo (I had a fight with him), Ie Wokte (I killed him). To further identify the soldier killed and to cite a witness to attest his exploit, White Bull added Cetan-wan-Kol-un oki-he-kte (Hawk-Stays-Up killed him [i.e. struck him] second). This is followed by a repetition of the first Sioux phrase. Hawk-Stays-Up, of course, testified to White Bull’s coup on this soldier at what one may call the Court of Honor held after the battle, at which such honors were awarded.
Because of the hostility shown towards White Bull by his white neighbors, I was unwilling to publish these facts while the Chief and his immediate connections were still alive. If those who knew him felt so strongly, I feared that if this story were published in my biography of the Chief (Warpath, The True Story of the Fighting Sioux, 1934 ) some hothead might harm the old man. Now it can be told.