passion of Crazy Horse’s life failed and brought serious disorder to his people. It was not long after this that he also suffered the loss of his reckless brother Little Hawk, who was killed when he foolishly
attacked some well-armed miners. Meanwhile, though the Sioux had their treaty, the railroads were coming and with them the whites. There was no serious attempt made to police the area that was then, by law, off-limits to the whites. Who was supposed to have policed an area that vast, anyway? By 1872 the railroads had come so far that Custer, Sheridan, Buffalo Bill Cody, and other dignitaries could take Grand Duke Alexis of Russia on a buffalo hunt, with the grand duke traveling well into Kansas in the comfort of his railroad car. To the north, things were still quiet. The Northern Pacific was only just edging into North Dakota. It would be a while before it threatened the Sioux sanctuary. But no quiet, no peace, really lasted long; the endgame was now about to begin. In late summer of 1872 a force of several hundred soldiers pushed up the Yellowstone River into eastern Montana, precipitating the first major conflict between the wild, mainly undisturbed northern Sioux, including Sitting Bull’s people, the Hunkpapas. Crazy Horse had perhaps drifted north by then; he may have been dissatisfied with the more and more passive conditions to the south, where both Red Cloud and Spotted Tail were now firmly (and permanently) committed to peace. Both had been given agencies of their own; they made no more war on the whites. Spotted Tail was criticized in some quarters for being, in a manner of speaking, a kind of Vichy Indian — but this is quite unfair. Spotted Tail was never a toady, and never sycophantic in his dealings with the whites. Given a choice, probably he would have been happy just to get out of the way; but the Brulés, whom he l ed, really couldn’t get out of the way. So Spotted Tail negotiated, for the most part effectively. He survived his two-year imprisonment with his dignity intact, and it was to remain intact until the end, when, like Sitting Bull, he was killed by one of his own people, a rival named Crow Dog. But agency life, with its endless compromising and its constant haggling with the white agents, would never have appealed to Crazy Horse, any more than it appealed to Sitting Bull. The engagement that Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse fought in August of 1872 came near to being a disaster for the Indians. The force against them, some four hundred soldiers, was well armed and could not be tempted into any rashness. Crazy Horse had learned at the Wagon Box Fight how ineffective bows and arrows were against soldiers who were both well armed and competently led. In this fight in the north the Sioux were very daring, but simply could not get close enough to the soldiers to inflict any damage without paying a huge price in lives. As it was, several of the unrestrainable young Sioux were killed early on. It was in this
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- Spring '18
- History, Sioux, Crazy Horse