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Where the Big Crow Walked Back and Forth


Life was not easy in the early days of the Dakota Territory. Settlers had to contend with too much rain or not enough. They had to deal with heat in the summer and cold in the winter. And they had to face the constant threat of Indian attacks.

Certain names struck fear in the hearts of settlers. Gall, Sitting Bull, and Inkpaduta were Sioux leaders with fearsome reputations. Another was Crazy Horse. Among his people, Crazy Horse was known as an accomplished hunter and a superb horseman. Among the settlers, his reputation was that of a fierce warrior – a formidable opponent. Even a rumor of Crazy Horse in the area was enough to for settlers to keep their rifles close.

Crazy Horse participated in the defeat of Lt. Colonel George Custer at the Little Big Horn. One result of that battle was legislation to increase funding for the Army in the West. A significant massing of cavalry and infantry poured into the Black Hills. Their intent was to break the Sioux resistance once and for all.

By the end of 1876, those who followed Crazy Horse were getting tired. In December of that year, five Sioux headsman of the Crazy Horse camp approached the 5th Cavalry camp, looking to explore a settlement, but the emissaries were attacked by the army’s Crow Scouts. All five were killed.

Colonel Nelson Miles sought out the main Sioux camp. On January 8, 1877 Crazy Horse engaged in his last battle when he met up with the cavalry – The Battle of Wolf Mountains. The Northern Cheyenne call the battle, “Where the Big Crow Walked Back and Forth.”

The allied Northern Cheyenne and Sioux broke off the battle after five hours. Colonel Miles tried to chase them down and the temperature dropped as low as minus 28 degrees, with falling snow. The soldiers had to cross and re-cross the ice-choked Tongue River, but despite the snow and cold, Miles kept his troops in the field.

The constant military harassment and the decline of the buffalo population eventually forced Crazy Horse to give in. The following May, he and his people surrendered at Camp Robinson, Nebraska. The war was over.

The Wolf Mountains Battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark on October 6, 2008.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Bureau of Land Management. "http://www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/january/wolfmtnsanniv.html" http://www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/january/wolfmtnsanniv.html Accessed 11 December, 2014.

Prairie Public. “Crazy Horse.” "http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/a_c/crazyhorse.htm" http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/a_c/crazyhorse.htm Accessed 11 December, 2014.