HOT! Murder! AND CUSTER myth?

PHOTO: Very cool ocean currents on the WHAT ON EARTH TV show on Discovery, which I am addicted to watching now.

Hi everyone!!!

We are trying to stay cool but geez-louise, it's HOT. Not as hot as Seattle, my old home, but New England has days ahead of humid hot horrible. Too hot for this Wisconsin girl.

I have been posting about the residential school graves being re-discovered by the news media - - honestly, we were talking about ground-penetrating radar (and hidden residential schools gravesites in Canada and the US) when my memoir came out which was 2009-2010. Not that tribal nations didn't know their children, their babies, never came home.

AND we know it was murder. But because it was churches who ran the schools, it couldn't be that - no, not murder, they claim. REALLY?

These children were held hostage - governments knew exactly what they were doing. Canada and the US know about these mass murders.

Please check out my other website AMERICAN INDIAN ADOPTEES for current news.


Haskell Indian Nations University Cemetery
Haskell Indian Nations University Cemetery - Lawrence, Kansas

Haskell Indian Nations University cemetery is a moving reminder of the days when Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas was an American Indian boarding school where the United States government forced Native American children to live, removed from the influences of their families and community.

103 students are buried in Haskell Cemetery. The headstones have the name of the child, their tribal affiliation and the years of birth and death. Some causes of their deaths were accidents, consumption (tuberculosis), heart problems, kidney problems, pneumonia and typhoid-malaria. The boarding school opened with 22 American Indian students on September 1, 1884 and the burials were made from 1885 until 1943, though most of the burials were in the first 30 years. (I saw the graves behind Haskell in Kansas. There are many graves without children's names, only their age and the tribe, which may or may not be accurate.)


In keeping with my LARA blog theme: "WE are NOT supposed to know" here is some history which may surprise you:

The following piece has previously appeared here on the June 25 anniversary of what the Sioux and Cheyenne call the Battle of the Greasy Grass, known to most Americans as the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

“Maka ki ecela tehani yanke lo!” —The war cry of Crazy Horse (T葻a拧煤艐ke Witk贸). Translation: “Only the Earth lasts forever.”  (1876)

"There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry." George Armstrong Custer (1876) [↑I have this quote framed in my bathroom. He was so wrong]

The Custer Myth is a living thing, which refuses to die despite the efforts of careful historians to reduce it to uncontroverted facts. Almost everything about it is in some degree disputed."
—The Custer Myth, by William A. Graham (1953)

On June 25, 1876, the Custer myth got its start as Sioux (Lakota, Dakota), Cheyenne (Tsitsistas), and Arapaho (Hinono'eino) warriors defended themselves and their families against the U.S. Army's Seventh Cavalry in Medicine Tail Coulee and the surrounding area on the Greasy Grass River (Little Big Horn) in Montana Territory. When the shooting was over, five companies of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's command had been wiped out, with 262 men dead and 68 wounded, half the entire 586-soldier battalion. So startling was the Native victory that when Crow (Aps谩alooke) scouts who had been riding with Custer met up with Gen. Alfred Terry the day after the fight and told him what they had seen, he refused to believe them.

So why even care about this event from the distant past in which all the participants and the children of every participant are long dead? Because the myth continues today to have a stereotyping impact, warping how non-indigenous Americans view Indians, not just the Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, but all Indians.

Since that June day 145 years ago, hundreds of books, most of them bad and some of them brimful of outright lies from beginning to end, and more than 50 movies, most of them dreadful, have kept the myth (or collection of myths) flourishing except among the better scholars. A good deal of this was spun into being by Libby Bacon Custer, the brevet general’s widow, who wrote three books glorifying and sanitizing her husband to transform him from a reckless, aggressively ambitious military politician into a heroic legend. For most Americans historically, and some still today, Custer’s “last stand” represents the most important part of the story passed down over the decades, with the Indian side of what happened as well as contrary white survivors’ versions ignored or denigrated. This effort was assisted by two factors.

One was keeping secret the Official Record of the Court of Inquiry of 1879 until 1951. The inquiry was requested by Major Marcus Reno to clear his name for conduct he had been accused of during the battle. It was not until retired Col. William A. Graham wrote The Custer Myth: A Source Book of Custeriana (1953) that a book came close to telling the actual details of that bloody day on the Greasy Grass.

The second factor was President Theodore Roosevelt's persuading Edward Curtis in 1908 to leave an account of the three Crow scouts he had interviewed out of his photo-rich, 20-volume The North American Indian. The scouts' version conflicted greatly with the image that Libby Custer had created over three decades with her books, lectures and interviews.

This depiction of the Battle of the Greasy Grass or Little Big Horn was done by Kicking Bear, aka  Mat葻贸 Wan谩葻taka, an Ogala Lakota who was a first cousin of Crazy Horse (T葻a拧煤艐ke Witk贸) who, at the request of Frederic Remington in 1898, painted the battle as he remembered it.
This depiction of the Battle of the Greasy Grass (or Battle of the Little Big Horn) was done by Kicking Bear, aka Mat葻贸 Wan谩葻taka, an Ogala Lakota who was a first cousin of Crazy Horse (T葻a拧煤艐ke Witk贸). At the request of Frederic Remington in 1898, he painted the battle as he remembered it.

Custer was a favorite hero of Roosevelt—having said of him that he was “a shining light to all the youth of America,” The president informed Curtis that Americans would not take kindly to having their "memory" of the "Last Stand" besmirched by a trio of Indians, who, of course, were untrustworthy just by being Indian even though they had been trustworthy enough to guide U.S. Army troops on numerous occasions. Curtis dutifully left out that part of the story. Indeed, despite ample opportunity, the Indian side did not fully emerge into the view of the general public until the 1970s. That came about in part because the murderous policies that led to the battle and hundreds of others throughout American history began then to be examined outside the scholarly circles that had for 40 years challenged Libby Custer’s version.

Seventh Cavalry Guidon Seventh Cavalry Guidon

Graham's now 66-year-old book was the first popular work to dismember the myth, as historians and other writers have done in microscopic detail since. Yet, even today, in spite of the scholarly delving into the battle, archeological studies of the ground where the fight took place and the amateur and professional exploration of every scrap of minutiae, every bullet casing, every written or recorded word, elements of what happened at the Little Big Horn remain in dispute. Moreover, some Americans continue to revere Custer as a major hero. For instance, Congress voted in 1991 to rename Custer Battlefield National Monument the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. In the year before the change, the National Park Service received a steady flow of mail filled with racist slurs and other hate speech against the name-change, these missives bolstered by a twisted patriotism and labeling of the move as everything from a travesty to treason. White supremacy has not vanished.

As Graham wrote in reply to his publisher's pressure to ditch the word "myth" from the title:

Just what is a Myth? Ever since I began the study of history, many long years ago, I have been making the acquaintance of myths in one form or another. The exploits of the ancient gods of Greece and Rome come to one's mind instantly when one speaks of myths; but each of them, very probably, was founded in greater or less degree upon the accomplishments of some man, whose identity, once known, was lost in the maze of traditions, fictions and inventions that ascribed to him the attributes of a superman; and as the centuries passed, endowed him with the character of a supernatural person.

We have ourselves created myths in the course of our own short history, which spans less than two hundred years. Washington was in fact a very human person, as contemporary records prove; but the Washington the average American knows is not the real Washington. As "Father of his Country"; the all-wise leader, the military hero, the champion of freedom and foe of tyranny, his human qualities have all but disappeared. He has become a Myth.

So also with Lincoln, martyred savior of his country; about whom and around whom has been built so fantastic a structure of fictitious tales and absurd stores, that the real Lincoln has been obscured from view; and so in our own day with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who to millions of Americans was a selfless, immaculate latter-day Messiah, who gave his life on the altar of self sacrifice. Both these men were human beings—very human; but the Lincoln and the Roosevelt known to the average American are Myths.

And so with Custer, and so with nearly everyone involved in the Custer story. It began in controversy and dispute; but because a devoted wife so skillfully and so forcefully painted her hero as a plumed knight in shining armor—a "chevalier sans peur and sans reproche," that all who stood in the way of her appraisal were made to appear as cowards or scoundrels; and because her hero went out in a blaze of glory that became the setting for propaganda which caught and held, and still holds, the imagination of the American people, what began in controversy and dispute has ended in Myth; a myth built, like other myths, upon actual deeds and events, magnified, distorted and disproportioned by fiction, invention, imagination and speculation. The Custer known to the average American is a Myth; and so is Reno; and so also in Benteen.

In 1991, 115 years after the battle, hate mail flowed into the National Park Service from people furious that the battlefield was soon going to be renamed from the Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Not a few of that correspondence called Custer a hero and not a few contained racist slurs. 

The Little Big Horn battle was neither the greatest nor most important fight in the Indian Wars that began in North America in 1540 when Francisco Vasquez de Coronado attacked the Tiwa in what is present-day New Mexico and ended in Bear Valley, Arizona, in 1918 in a clash between the African American 10th Cavalry "Buffalo Soldiers" and a band of Yaqui.

But the battle practically every American older than 10 can name has come down to us as the mythical "Custer's Last Stand" and has in a multitude of ways shaped the American psyche regarding the collision between Europeans and Natives. Although the myth has been under attack for decades, both by scholars and Indians alike, it refuses to yield completely.  


 The Custer Myth: A Source Book of Custeriana, W.A. Graham, 1953 and 1981
 Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Big Horn, Evan S. Connell, 1991
Little Big Horn Remembered: The Untold Indian Story of Custer’s Last Stand, Herman J. Viola, 1999
A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Big Horn—The Last Great Battle of the American West, James Donovan, 2008

“I thank you for being educated.” Read Kurt Vonnegut’s words for the class of 1994. | Lapham’s Quarterly


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