Crazy Horse: Where My Dead Lie Buried
The new book Crazy Horse: Where My Dead Lie Buried follows the Lakota war chief Crazy Horse (Tasunke Witco) during the final 14 months of his life. The book of historical fiction traces the Lakota leader’s life from the Battle of the Little Bighorn (June 25-26, 1876) until his death just over a year later on Sept 5, 1877, at Camp Robinson, Nebraska.
Crazy Horse: Where My Dead Lie Buried reveals the bravery and vulnerability of the Lakota war chief as he battles the U.S.Army, his wife’s sickness, and even his own people. It is an odyssey of struggle, sorrow, and courage for the man the Lakota Indians still consider their greatest warrior ever.
Read below an excerpt of the first chapter from Crazy Horse: Where My Dead Lie Buried.
For many moons, Crazy Horse knew that a big fight with the bluecoats was coming. Soldier chiefs had been threatening the Lakota, warning them that if they did not bring in their women and children to the government-run agencies, many soldiers would be sent out to force the Lakota to do so. The wasicus wanted the Lakota’s land, and Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were determined not to give it up.
Red Cloud, the former feared leader of the Bad Face Oglala Lakota, had already untied his pony’s tail and surrendered to the wasicus. At present, he lived with his people on an agency bearing his name. The very same Red Cloud who declared war on the wasicus, and drove them to abandon their road and forts they had constructed across the sacred Lakota hunting grounds, now relied upon the white man for his food and clothing.
Only ten winter counts past, Crazy Horse had fought under Red Cloud when the Lakota had wiped out a company of bluecoats led by a chesty soldier chief with the wasicu name Fetterman. On a clear, bitter cold morning, warriors had lured the bluecoats out from their warm fort along Buffalo Creek, employing decoys to bait the mounted and walking soldiers over a high icy ridge.
No longer under the protective eye of the fort, one thousand screeching Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians swarmed up from their hiding places in the frozen gullies and dense scrub below a narrow ridge of the Bozeman Road.
Eighty-one white men died that day; their eyes ripped out and placed on nearby rocks, along with severed noses, ears, and entrails. The Lakota—and their Cheyenne and Arapaho allies—were sending a ghastly message to the bluecoats that they were not welcome in their homeland.
The soldier chiefs soon closed their wooden fort on Buffalo Creek and removed all of their blue-coated soldiers. Satisfied, Red Cloud put away his war club. Crazy Horse’s uncle Spotted Tail, the esteemed leader of the Brule Lakota, also untied his pony’s tail, signaling that he too would no longer take up arms against the wasicus. Like Red Cloud, Spotted Tail now lived on an agency with his name on it.
Crazy Horse could not remember a point in his life when wasicus were not crowding in on him. They began showing up when he was born next to a bosky creek close to Mato Paha, Bear Butte. These first wasicus promised only to disturb an area the width of one of their square wagons as they moved through Lakota land. But this, and many more things the white man promised, turned out to be untrue.
During the hunting season, the wasicus traveled through Lakota territory in a seemingly endless line, decimating the land in their wake. Along the sides of the deep ruts carved out by the rolling wheels of their tent-covered wagons, these strange visitors discarded their waste and personal belongings. They also heedlessly cut down trees and stripped the land, killing and driving away most of the buffalo and wild game that Crazy Horse and his Lakota relied upon for food.
Then one day the wasicus decided that a road was not enough. Their Great Father in the East—they referred to him as the President—desired the land itself. He coveted the Lakota’s Paha Sapa, the Black Hills, the very heart and breath of all the earth that Crazy Horse and his people held sacred. The Great Father did not care that the Lakota had already touched the pen on a white man’s paper, legally making the Paha Sapa theirs forever. He turned his back to the treaty, refusing to honor it, when it was discovered that the Lakota’s most sacred land contained a yellow-colored rock that made his people act crazy when they found it.
The Great Father tried to make good by giving the Lakota money for the Paha Sapa, but, of course, they refused to sell it, for how could you sell something that could not be owned? Land, the earth, belonged to Wakan Tanka and could not be carved up and handed over to another like a piece of deer meat. Could you also sell the moon and the stars?
When the Lakota said no to giving up their blessed land, the Great Father became angered. He ordered Crazy Horse and his people onto the agencies. A place where they would be herded like ponies and treated like children; a place where they would be made to become more like the white man Crazy Horse despised.
Crazy Horse refused to surrender—could not surrender. Let Red Cloud and Spotted Tail go to the wasicu’s reservation. They were free to do as they please. But I will never go live among the wasicus! Crazy Horse pledged. I will die first!
David Wooten is the author of Crazy Horse: Where My Dead Lie Buried. A passionate student of the West, his interest in Crazy Horse and the Lakota Indians was formed from his time living in Sheridan, Wyoming, which is located in the region where the Lakota leader made his home for much of his life. He is also the author of That’s Here? 25 Historical Places to Visit In & Around Sheridan, Wyoming.