Who is Crazy Horse?
Tasunka Witco, Crazy Horse, is considered to be the greatest of all Lakota warriors. He fought bravely and with honor, refusing to allow the U.S. government to take the Lakota’s sacred land and force his people onto a reservation. Crazy Horse resisted until he ran out of warriors, ammunition, and food. He finally untied his pony’s tail and surrendered on May 6, 1877, moving his people to the Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska. He would die there only a few months later.
Birth & Name
On or around 1840, Crazy Horse was born along Rapid Creek near present-day Rapid City, South Dakota. Crazy Horse took his name from his father, who had received it from his father. His mother, Rattle Blanket Woman, committed suicide by hanging herself when Crazy Horse was about four years old. Called Curly as a youngster because of his light-colored hair (his skin was light also, compared to most dark-skinned Lakota), Crazy Horse established himself as a great fighter from a young age.
Warrior & Chief
Crazy Horse was on the battlefield December 21, 1866, when the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho killed William J. Fetterman and 78 soldiers (an entire command) and two civilians on a narrow ridge of the Bozeman Trail, near Fort Phil Kearny in the Wyoming Territory. He was also one of the Lakota leaders at the Greasy Grass Fight (known to the whites as the Battle of the Little Bighorn) where the Lakota and Cheyenne defeated and killed George Armstrong Custer and over 260 soldiers. A week before the Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse led the Lakota at the Battle of the Rosebud, where they (along with the Cheyenne) held off General George Crook and some 1000 U.S. soldiers. In his late-20s, Crazy Horse was also one of the last of the Shirt Wearers, considered the highest honor that a Lakota warrior could receive.
Husband & Father
Crazy Horse was married to Black Shawl, a Miniconjou Lakota, from 1870 until his death in 1877. He married her shortly after being shot in the face by the Bad Face Lakota warrior No Water after Crazy Horse had run off with his wife, Black Buffalo Woman. Just a few months before he died, Crazy Horse married Nellie Laravie, the daughter of a French trader and a full blood Cheyenne woman.
He had one daughter, They Are Afraid of Her, with Black Shawl. The child died before she was four years old of an undisclosed illness while Crazy Horse was away on a war party. Upon returning, he traveled back through enemy territory (the village had moved since the child’s death and her father’s return) to find her burial scaffold. He sat and mourned alongside the dead body of They Are Afraid of Her for three days and nights.
Death of Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse was killed less than four months after he surrendered at Camp Robinson, Nebraska. His death was prophesied to him in a vision when he was a young man, and all his life Crazy Horse believed that he would die not on the battlefield from bullets or arrows, but as a result of being stabbed while held by one of his own. He even carved this vision into a limestone rock resembling an owl that you can still see today at Deer Medicine Rocks, outside Lame Deer, Montana.
On Sept 5, 1877, Crazy Horse was stabbed by a soldier’s bayonet as he struggled to keep from being put in an army guardhouse. At the time of the stabbing, his hands were being held by his friend Little Big Man, who was trying to take the knife that the Lakota war chief was wielding.
In the end, many of his own people had turned on him, jealous of his celebrity stature and success. He died just as his dream had foretold.
His parents took his body after he died and hid it. No one knows (if any Lakota does, they are not telling) where Crazy Horse is buried.
Interview with Kingsley M. Bray
Kingsley M. Bray has studied the Lakota & Plains Indians for over 20 years. His book Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life is considered one of the definitive books on the life of the Lakota war chief Crazy Horse.
Full Interview About Crazy Horse with Kingsley Bray
Crazy Horse at Little Bighorn
Crazy Horse at Fetterman Battle
Death of Crazy Horse
Dave Wooten, author of Crazy Horse: Where My Dead Lie Buried conducts the above interviews. He will be hosting the Crazy Horse tour offered on this website.