Battle of the Little Bighorn
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as the Battle of the Greasy Grass or Custer's Last Stand, was an armed conflict that took place on June 25, 1876. The battle was between the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Native American tribes and the United States federal troops. The U.S Army, led by George Armstrong Custer, was sent to confront the tribes after they failed to move from their land into reservations. The Indian fighters were led by Sitting Bull and severely outnumbered the American army, who quickly lost the battle.
During the 19th century, the United States government implemented policies that intended to force Native Americans into Indian Reservations. Leaders of the Sioux tribes, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, refused to accept the orders to leave their land, and tensions between the Indians and the U.S. government mounted. When, in 1875, gold was discovered in South Dakota's Black Hills, land which belonged to the Native Americans, the U.S. federal troops illegally invaded the region.
Refusing to accept this treachery, men from the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes left their reservations to join Sitting Bull and fight alongside him and Crazy Horse. Overall, by 1876, over 10,000 Native Americans assembled to fight along the Little Bighorn River.
On June 25, after being sent to lead the 7th Cavalry to scout for enemies, Custer decided to defy orders and lead his 600 men into battle, without reinforcements. His troops were quickly overwhelmed, as they did not expect the large number of Indians who had pledged to fight for Sitting Bull.
Upon hearing about the invasion, Crazy Horse guided 3,000 of his troops to confront the attackers. Custer and all his soldiers were dead within one hour.
Consequences of the Battle
The Battle of the Little Bighorn represented the worst defeat for the U.S Army during the Indian war and reinforced the idea that white Americans had of Native Americans being dangerous and wild. Because of this, efforts to confine the tribes into reservations were increased, and in five years most of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes were imprisoned in reservations.
The site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana now houses the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Today, it is a memorial for those who lost their lives during the battle on both the 7th cavalry and the Native American forces. However, for many years following the battle, the place were the fighting took place was only a national cemetery and the place of rest for Custer and his troops. While the cemetery still stands, in 1991 the United States government recognized the sacrifices of the Native American people, and an Indian Memorial was built in honor of their warriors, themed "Peace Through Unity".