Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Remembering History

On June 25, 1876, the Sioux and Cheyenne (under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse) defeated the Seventh Cavalry (under George Armstrong Custer) at the battle of the Little Bighorn. Custer's detachment was wiped out. The other squadrons, under Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen, suffered serious losses and fled.

Custer died because he made overwhelmingly bad decisions. He underestimated the number of his enemy. He planned his strategy without knowing what kind of ground he would need to cover. He thoroughly lived up to his standing at the very bottom of the West Point Class of 1861.

But the war for the Black Hills -- sacred ground to the Sioux and Cheyenne, a source of gold for the whites -- was not over. Within a year, the Indians were defeated, and their lands were taken away. It is particularly outrageous that one of their mountains was later carved into the likeness of four dead presidents.

Today is a day to ponder the racism, arrogance, and stupidity of some American leaders, civil and military. To remember that, instead of being the good guys, the US government can act with evil, and that they do so on behalf of every American of any race, creed, language, gender, and political opinion. To mourn for the soldiers who died on both sides, not forgetting the humanity of our enemies or our own troops. And to resolve never again to allow this kind of shameful behavior to stain the history of this nation.

Lakota Account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn

White Scout's Account of the Battle.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. If you haven't yet read this well-researched, meticulously documented book, read it. After nearly forty years, its narrative has not lost its power to shock or to move.

Little Big Man. Dustin Hoffman as a 101-year-old white man raised by Indians. This underrated movie intersperses hilarious satire with utterly shattering scenes of the white war against the Indians. Arthur Penn directed just three years after his landmark Bonnie and Clyde. Features Chief Dan George, Faye Dunaway, and Richard Mulligan (later a star of Soap). Mulligan's turn as Custer is worth the price of the DVD.

1 comment:

Faye Musselman said...

Hi - you might find my blog interesting on
Fall river and Lizzie Borden. I think I know who the schoolmate of Lizzie's was that is mentioned in Parallel Lives.

Faye Musselman