Crazy Horse Memorial

09-05-Did Little Big Man Turn On Crazy Horse?

On this day, September 5, in 1877, Crazy Horse (Tȟašúŋke Witkó) died of a bayonet wound to the back.

Crazy Horse was a highly revered and well-liked leader of the Oglala Sioux, who fought to keep the lands and preserve the traditional ways of his people. He participated in many battles against the U.S. Army, including the Battle of Little Bighorn where George Armstrong Custer fell.

Little Big Man, also known as Charging Bear, also participated in these battles. He was known for his fearlessness as a warrior, and he rode with Crazy Horse, more or less as his lieutenant.

Little Big Man


The year after the Battle of Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse and some others came to the conclusion they had little choice but to surrender. They saw no other way to stay alive and keep their people alive. Crazy Horse and other Oglala leaders went to the Red Cloud Agency, not far from Fort Robinson in Nebraska. On May 5, 1877 in a ceremony attended by Crazy Horse, Little Big Man, He Dog , and others, the northern Oglala Sioux leaders surrendered to the United States. For the next four months Crazy Horse stayed in his village close to the Red Cloud Agency.

In the summer of 1877, things were not going too well for the Native Americans at the Red Cloud Agency. A counsel of the Oglala leaders was called to meet at Fort Robinson. General George Crook went to Fort Robinson to meet with the Oglala leaders. While there, he heard a rumor that Crazy Horse was planning to kill him at the meeting. (Historians believe this rumor was the product of a miscommunication.) So General Crook cancelled the counsel and put out a standing order to lock up Crazy Horse when he would arrive at the fort. Then General Crook left Fort Robinson.

Wife Of Geronimo
Wife Of Geronimo with one child


Unknown to Crazy Horse that the meeting would be cancelled, he set off on the morning of September 5 for Fort Robinson. He was accompanied by Lt. Lee, and a number of Indian scouts. When the party reached Ft. Robinson in the evening, Lt. Lee was told to hand Crazy Horse over to be arrested and locked up. Lt. Lee protested, but it was verified that there was a standing order for the arrest of Crazy Horse. So Lt. Lee had to comply.

The post guard, including Little Big Man, took Crazy Horse to the post guard house. Once inside, Crazy Horse struggled with the post guard and Little Big Man, and he tried to escape. Just outside the door of the post guard house, a member of the post guard used his bayonet to stab Crazy Horse in the back.

Though he was seriously wounded and dying, Crazy Horse refused to lie on a white man’s cot. He insisted on lying on the floor.

Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy, a controversial surgeon because of his efforts to build relationships between the U.S. and Native Americans, tended to Crazy Horse’s wounds. He pronounced Crazy Horse dead close to midnight.

The last words that Crazy Horse spoke to Little Big Man were (allegedly), “Let me go my friends. You have got me hurt enough.”

The question remains, “What was Little Big Man’s role in the killing of Crazy Horse.” They had gone to battles together, and they had been friends. They had also gone together to surrender.

Historians say that after the major battles, and certainly after the surrender, Little Big Man saw Crazy Horse as a rival. Could this explain why Little Big Man was with the post guard when they tried to lock up Crazy Horse?

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