Native History: Crazy Horse Killed by U.S. Soldier While in Custody
This Date in Native History: On September 5, 1877, Crazy Horse, an Oglala Sioux Indian chief who resisted removal efforts, was killed at Fort Robinson by a soldier's bayonet.
He led an incredible life, starting in 1840 when he was born. He refused to be photographed and never signed any documents. Crazy Horse fought throughout his life to regain the land and way of life his Lakota people had known when he was a child, when they had the full Great Plains to themselves.
But, the discovery of gold in the Black Hills made that an impossible task. Lakota were forced onto reservations, but Crazy Horse and his ally Sitting Bull refused. In 1876, the two of them led 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne warriors against General George Crook, making his men turn back as they advanced on Sitting Bull’s encampment on the Little Bighorn River. A week later, General George Armstrong Custer was defeated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, likely the greatest victory for Natives Americans over U.S. troops. Sitting Bull led his men into Canada while Crazy Horse continued to fight. He surrendered in May 1877 and was taken to Fort Robinson. He died at the end of a soldier’s bayonet there in September.
George Kills in Sight was in his 70s when he was interviewed by Joseph Cash of the University of South Dakota in 1967 about Crazy Horse’s death and secret burial. Kills in Sight’s father’s mother was Crazy Horse’s cousin and Kills in Sight was taught to revere Crazy Horse as a hero.
He tells of Crazy Horse being brought to a cell at “Fort Robertson… So there’s two guards on each side of the gate. And this Pine Ridge, members of the Pine Ridge, that escorted him, they told him that was a jail—in Indian. So he [Crazy Horse] turned around, and this guard—he was a white soldier—just run his bayonet through, through the guts. He didn’t shoot him or anything, just… Killed him there. They just let him lay there, and of course he was dead.”
Read the transcript of the interview at HistoryMatters.gmu.edu.