Wednesday, August 15, 2012

LITTLE? BIG? HORN?

What could possibly be little and big at the same time. . . Oh I know!

Found this funny card on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota and he helped make my little horn big. Today we're off to see the site of the Battle of the Greasy Grass (aka the Battle of Little Big Horn or if you're partial to the pale face, that bastard Custer's "Last Stand"). Sit down already, Mary, right?

The battleground is located in Crow Agency, the headquarters of the Crow Nation Reservation in Montana. Unfortunately, we will miss Crow Fair, the largest gathering of American Indians in the United States but I hope to score some fry bread and spit on the monument to "the Man" and his "last stand."

9 comments:

  1. Woo, woowoowoo, woo, woowoowoo! Well, tickle my ass with a feather!

    Don't think you'll see many indians w/ the blue eyes, though.

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  2. Hock up a nice wet loogie for me, Colby, as I'm not planning on going to Montana any time soon to do it myself.

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  3. Okay, people. It's time for a little history lesson and some objectivity here.

    Custer was not a villain. He was a military man who followed orders, but who did NOT execute those orders in a sadistic manner, as many of his colleagues did in their engagements of Native Americans during the period between 1862 and 1890.

    In fact, Custer was involved in a total of only three engagements with Native American warriors, including the Battle of the Little Big Horn River.

    The first engagement, known as the Battle of Washita River, occurred on November 27, 1862. In that encounter, Custer reported that 103 Native American warriors were killed; the Cheyenne people counter that in actuality, only 11 warriors died that day. (The Cheyenne also claim that 19 women and children were killed; Custer mentions that “some” women and children were killed, but does not specify the number.) Custer did order the slaughter of nearly 900 Indian ponies, so if we’re going to hate him, perhaps it should be as a man who didn’t respect the lives of intelligent animals.

    On August 4, 1873, the next encounter with Native American braves, in which Custer was sent to defend a railroad survey party against the Lakota Sioux, only one man on each side was killed that day!

    Now, we come to Custer’s final conflict with Native Americans, on June 25, 1876, when he came upon a large force of warriors – some historians claim that the number of Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho braves exceeded 3,000 – at the Little Big Horn River in Montana. The total forces of the United States 7th Cavalry in position that day was less than 700 men, enlisted soldiers and officers. Custer’s death, and the slaughter of all 208 men under his command, (including his younger brother, Thomas, his younger brother, Boston, who was a civilian, his nephew, and his brother-in-law,) was inevitable.

    While I would never claim that the United States Army was innocent and blameless, I do think it is unfair to blame Custer for the policies of the American government and the demands of the American people. It is very important to remember that plain, everyday American citizens were insistent that the United States government eradicate the Native American peoples, simply because the Americans wanted to settle on lands belonging to Native Americans. The government had to wage these “Indian Wars” because plain, everyday American citizens constantly killed innocent Indians to take their lands, in spite of agreements and treaties that had been signed. Also, plain, everyday American citizens had come from the East coast of this country to kill the American bison for sport, and had nearly made the animals extinct by 1880! The Native Americans, who had based their entire culture and livelihood on the judicious killing of those great animals, were nearly made extinct themselves, when they could no longer provide food and other necessities for themselves.

    The Native Americans simply wanted to return to their lands, where they felt they could once again provide for themselves and their families, rather than being banished to the wastelands that the United States government saw fit to provide for them as reservations.

    So, let’s not spit on any one’s memorial marker, shall we? It’s not appropriate in this case. Now, if Hitler had a grave, I’d say we should have one giant piss party on that!

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  4. Custer--what a douche. Randal's obviously very knowledgeable-- but Custer acted on his own in more than one instance (had a reputation for arranging to conveniently evade receiving them), personally arranged with lobbyists in DC to encourage white settlement on Indian land to arrange a fait accompli that the army would have no choice but to defend (in a very similar move to West Bank settlers in recent times), and was universally considered a publicity hound and poor soldier. In fact, during the Oliver North mess of the Reagan years he was more than once compared to Custer as someone who was better at PR and cultivating political contacts than doing his job. When "Custer's Last Stand" made headlines, popularly opinion and pundits widely noted the irony of this douche securing himself a place in history; people who otherwise reviled him felt called upon to mourn him, but as matter of policy, popular opinion was still against him.
    And it's impossible to say anything definitively about public opinion in the past, but New York and other east coast newspapers regularly judged Custer one of the most unpopular men in America, and popular opinion in the 1870s was decidedly not in favor of the eradication of Indians--which is the reason that "Indian-hating" had the reputation of being the obsession of a vocal minority, somewhat like the tea party today. Americans tolerated terrible policies and countenanced massacres committed in the name of security then as they have done recently, but that doesn't mean that the average American believed in genocide as a policy. (Of course genocide was a more popular policy among white settlers than elsewhere in the US, so it's easy to find shocking statements coming from Montana and the Dakotas--which seems to be true now, too.)
    More significantly, though--I don't think spitting on a memorial, or undertaking another symbolic action, is directed at some person, as an unkind or ungenerous act. It's a way of negating the memorialization, which honors not a person but a concept. Memorializing Custer doesn't in any significant way memorialize honor or duty or valor. It memorializes treaty-breaking--since even Custer's defenders admit there would have been no conflict for Custer to get involved in if he hadn't personally precipitated treaty-breaking--and the power of invaders against a nearly defenseless populace. The only issue about Little Big Horn is who won; otherwise you might as well memorialize the soldiers who massacred women and children at Wounded Knee. (They at least really were following orders.)
    Sorry, I don't usually run off like this in comments. I understand that all historical records are debatable. It's really only the . . . semiotics . . . of spitting on a grave that I can claim to have any right by training to comment on.
    I would certainly eradicate Mt. Rushmore if I could, but that means no disrespect to the presidents featured there; it stands not for them but for the very worst and most horrifying aspects of America's history and myth.

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  5. Bernard, too, seems to have quite a bit of knowledge regarding Custer’s life. I’m wondering, respectfully, how much of that knowledge is based in actual fact, and how much is based in newspaper articles of the time. I can tell you from hard experience, that journalism was far from a highly-respectable and ethical profession at that time – not to mention often quite inaccurate and incomplete.

    I am certainly not trying to say that Bernard is incorrect, but I will say that he presents information I have not come across in my studies of the man and soldier, George Armstrong Custer. I’m not aware of any personal papers, letters, or other documents that support the statements Bernard made in his response.

    But, all that aside, my main point was – and still is – that I believe it to be highly, highly unfair to blame Custer for a prevalent feeling in the “civilized” American public. I will concede that, perhaps, it was a vocal minority that constantly railed against the Native American peoples. However, if that were true, where were the voices of the majority of the American public? I don’t find many who were outraged by the treatment of the American Indian until much later, after 1890.

    I think it’s naïve to believe that there weren’t a LOT of Americans that wanted Native Americans out of the way, gone from their lands and from the lives of plain, everyday Americans. And, I am sad to say, as an active Episcopalian, that certainly includes Christians. I also believe, since my German ancestors immigrated to this country in 1762 and landed in North Carolina, eventually settling in Illinois in 1810, that my own ancestors may very well have been guilty of those feelings!

    This is also true with the question of slavery in America, for we all have to take a bit of responsibility for the attitudes and actions of our ancestors who are to blame for the fact that the institution survived for so long in this country, and that it took the bloodiest, deadliest war in the history of our country to eradicate it. (I don’t think it will be lost on my audience here that racial prejudice, just as anti-homosexual bias, continues into the 21st Century, and will continue for long after.)

    The solution is easy: let’s not dwell on those aspects of our past as we try to move positively forward. I say to Colby: remember the Native Americans when you are at the Little Big Horn River. It is their suffering we should all burn into our hearts and minds, and don’t blame Custer for the sins of the many. He was just a man, as are we all!

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  6. lighten up ladies, it's just big shoe diaries.

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  7. Yeah. Randal, I appreciate your very temperate response.

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  8. If you ever get down to AZ. I would be happy to make you some frybread or as we call them down here, popovers. lol. :)

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