Crazy Horse

A war leader of the Oglala Lakota. He took up arms to fight against encroachments on the territories and way of life of his people. He led the war party to victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876.

Birth

Sitting Bull was born in Dakota Territory. Sitting Bull’s great-grandson asserted from family oral tradition that Sitting Bull was born along the Yellowstone River, south of present-day Miles City, Montana. He was named Jumping Badger at birth. When Jumping Badger was fourteen years old he accompanied a group of Lakota warriors (which included his father and his uncle Four Horns) in a raiding party to take horses from a camp of Crow warriors. Jumping Badger displayed bravery by riding forward and counting coup on one of the surprised Crow, which was witnessed by the other mounted Lakota. Upon returning to camp his father gave a celebratory feast at which he conferred his own name upon his son. The name, Tȟatȟaŋka Iyotȟaŋka(Tatanka Iyotake), which in the Lakota language means “Buffalo Bull Sits Down”, would later be abbreviated into English as Sitting Bull. Thereafter, Sitting Bull’s father was known as Jumping Bull. At this ceremony before the entire band, Sitting Bull’s father presented his son with an eagle feather to wear in his hair, a warrior’s horse, and a hardened buffalo hide shield to mark his son’s passage into manhood as a Lakota warrior.

Shirt Wearer

In 1864, after the Third Colorado Cavalry decimated Cheyenne and Arapaho in the Sand Creek Massacre, Lakota Oglala and Minneconjou bands allied with them against the US military. Crazy Horse was present at the Battle of Platte Bridge and the Battle of Red Buttes in July 1865. Because of his fighting ability, in 1865 Crazy Horse was named a Ogle Tanka Un (Shirt Wearer, or war leader) by the tribe.

Wagon Box Fight

Crazy Horse participated in the Wagon Box Fight, on Friday, August 2, 1867 also near Fort Phil Kearny. Lakota forces numbering between 1000 and 2000 attacked a wood-cutting crew near the fort. Most of the soldiers fled to a circle of wagon boxes without wheels, using them for cover as they fired at the Lakota. The Lakota took substantial losses, as the soldiers were firing new breech-loading rifles. These could fire ten times a minute compared to the old muzzle-loading rate of three times a minute. The Lakota charged after the soldiers fired the first time, expecting the delay of their older muskets before being able to fire again. The soldiers suffered only five killed and two wounded, while the Lakota suffered between 50 and 120 casualties. Many Lakota were buried in the hills surrounding Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming.

Battle of the Rosebud

On June 17, 1876, Crazy Horse led a combined group of approximately 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne in a surprise attack against brevetted Brigadier General George Crook‘s force of 1,000 cavalry and infantry, and allied 300 Crow and Shoshone warriors in the Battle of the Rosebud. The battle, although not substantial in terms of human losses, delayed Crook’s joining with the 7th Cavalry under George A. Custer. It contributed to Custer’s subsequent defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Fatally Wounded

Four months after surrendering to U.S. troops under General Crook in May 1877, Crazy Horse was fatally wounded by a military guard, using his bayonet, while allegedly resisting imprisonment at Camp Robinson in present-day Nebraska. He ranks among the most notable and iconic of Native American tribal members.