8/09/2011

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

What to say about The Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument? Once again we took the kids through the Junior Ranger Program and you learn quite a bit searching out the answers with your children.

If there is one thing I would recommend everyone do at a National Park or Monument site is the Ranger led walk. If you get the right ranger the story will come alive for you. We got an excellent one. He told the story from several sides:

The immigrants coming to America that needed somewhere to go and were not wanted on the east coast. Some of them would end up in the Army maybe even the 7th Calvary. Then there were the American Indians who'd left the reservations, the 7th Calvary whose job it was to subdue and return them to the reservation, and the Indians whose reservations the other Native Americans were now living on. This was not a simple matter but this explanation is a simplistic one. As much as I would love to, I won't go into the entire story but it is fascinating and devastating on both sides of the coin. I will give a few links to a more detailed explanation.

At the top of Last Stand Hill stand the white marble headstones. The bodies of the calvary were temporally buried until they could be moved. Some were moved months or years after and buried elsewhere the headstones were placed in remembrance. These headstones can be found throughout the park but Custer's is located on the hill, as well as many of his family members. The headstones are placed where the soldiers fell.

Monument to the soldiers, the enlisted men are buried here. Custer was moved to West Point.

Here is the view Custer would have had from the top of the hill. Can you imagine looking down and knowing there were over a thousand Native Americans looking up at you? That you were trying to send them back to the one place they didn't want to go?
According to our Ranger, Custer ordered the men to kill their horse to use them for protection. This marker is for all the horses that died.

The red marble are the headstones marking the Native American deaths. The exact number of Native Americans who passed is unknown as the tribes had their own rituals for burial, so there are considerably fewer markers for them. I believe the Ranger said the ones that were placed in the park were put their by request of the family... but don't take my word on that.
In 1991 the name of the park was changed and prior to this there had been no monument for the Native Americans. In the paper work to change the name, a monument was ordered. The monument is a circle which has permanent marble panels(not yet carved) which include the statue below. This place has a very spiritual feel to it. Somehow it really made me feel and understand the Native American plight. In everything I knew (which was little) about this battle, somehow the Native American side was just missing.
These were taken on the walk to the ravine.



There is a 5 mile drive (with audio tour) from Last Stand Hill to the locations of the battles in which Benteen and Reno participated. Along the way you pass through private ranch lands. There are herds of gorgeous horses along the way.

Along the five mile drive:


Later in the day we went to the Custer Museum in Garryowen. It was 5 dollars per adult and kids were free. Though small, it had an amazing collection of artifacts and pictures. I would call this a must see place. They also have a movie to watch on one of the controversies surrounding the battle. It presents the idea that if Benteen and Reno had gone to Custer's aid he might have survived. Personally, I don't think so but that's just me. Sorry the pictures didn't turn out well.

As we were finishing up at the museum a freak storm blew in and we rushed home to find our awning pulled off it's poles and rolled over the top of Minerva. We hurriedly pulled it down and went about trying to help some of our tent camper neighbors. After the storm passed we spent an evening talking to our Sturgis bound neighbors and Shawn got some pictures of the sunset.

Wikipedia websites:

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