Monday, July 21, 2008

Little Big Horn

Rattling long the hot high plains, all passengers half asleep, Dave – by some stroke of lucky timing – pulls into the Little Big Horn National Monument minutes before a NPS interpretative presentation. I wish remembered the name of the ranger who gave one of the most interesting and engaging talks that I’ve ever heard. A college professor at Texas Temple University, he has spent the last 19 summers conducting research and giving talks at Little Big Horn. Thankfully sitting in the shade of the visitor center awning on this 95F day, we listened enraptured to his animated lecture on the happenings on these hollow grounds of the high plains.

On June 25, 1877, Native Americans led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse stood up to Euro Americans led by General Custer during a two hour battle in similar 95F heat, a battle remembered as “Custer’s Last Stand” or “The Battle of Little Big Horn.” Bringing that fateful day to life, he told the story through the eyes of four different people: two Indians (13 year old Black Elk & an 18 year old warrior named Wooden Legs) and two white men (George Brown a candy maker who enlisted from St. Louis & a doctor from Boston, who was the only medical man with the Calvary). Drawing upon his extensive knowledge of history, the ranger painted a vivid picture of each of these men, their lives, interests and their actions on that day. Riveted we listened and learned about the expensive goals of the US Calvary and the desperate attempts of Native people to maintain their nomadic way-of-live.

Clearly one of the most knowledgeable on Little Big Horn, our speaker pulled together many aspects of places we have visited on our journey: U.S. Constitution Hall, Gettysburg and the Black Hills (where “search for yellow rock” drew thousands into Indian land). References to current events (Custer’s lack of good pre-battle intelligence and current misinformation about weapons of mass destruction) illustrated some of the human consistently in battles over the centuries. The ranger concluded with the timeless wisdom of Black Elk (a great spiritual leader who fought the edges of this battle because he was only 13 years old at the time) in his native language and then in English (I am paraphrasing because I didn’t write it down) May People Know the Power of Peace.

Afterwards, I purchased “Black Elk Speaks” at the visitor center. At Kim’s request, I am reading this book of wisdom and visions connected to the Earth aloud at bedtime.

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