After two and a half months on the road we’re making a southeastern turn towards home but we plan to take advantage of every and any interesting stop along the way. One of these (which Leo really wanted to see) it’s the Little Big Horn Battlefield Memorial.
We rolled into the 7th Ranch RV Park in Garyowen, Montana which is a stones throw away from the Battlefield Monument. This campground is very nice and spacious and it does have a view of the battlefield. We found a strategically placed tree in our picnic area for shade, and that’s important because Montana is having a heat wave while we’re here….102 degrees out there today.
But now for a little history lesson. I knew about Little Bighorn but I had no idea how large the area of the battlefield was. We arrived at the visitor center and viewed a wonderful exhibit of the background of the “political players”, the US government, the Crow Indians and their ongoing battle with the Lakota-Cheyenne Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull, and the US Calvary soldiers of the period. The Calvary was made up of 40% immigrants, all troopers were poorly trained, but all remarkably were highly loyal and motivated towards their mission, which at the time was to ensure the plains Indians stayed in their reservations and kept their agreements with the US government (who largely did not keep its end of the agreements signed with the Indian nations).
This area of Montana is Crow country and the Crow made an alliance with the US Calvary in order to defeat their enemies and acted as guides for the US Calvary. As wars always go things are very complicated but even though this battle was a resounding defeat for the US army, it still resulted in the last triumph the plains Indians had against the US, in subsequent years they lost their historical way of life.
The US Calvary 7th battalion totaling 600 soldiers faced, unknowning, an army of over 8,000 Lakota-Cheyenne warriors, their fate was sealed from the beginning. The fields of Little Bighorn are littered with the grave markers of those that were able to be identified and with mass graves of unknown soldiers, and also the native Americans who perished in the running battles.
It is a somber but strangely beautiful self guided 4.5 mile drive that takes you through these fields. We walked some of it and drove most of it, stopping along the way to read the markers that recreated the key moments of the many running battles that culminated at Last Stand Hill, where ultimately Custer and the surviving troopers were all killed.
This is just one example of the difficult relation the US has had with Native Americans as the westward expansion of this nation occurred during the 19th and early 20th centuries.