Posted on Mar 11, 2022      185

A feared warrior, he defended the Indian way of life in battle, but in the end it was not only the U.S. soldiers who brought him death. Crazy Horse led the fight for freedom for longer than any other chief of his time.


There may not be a single photograph of him, and sources about his youth are sketchy. And yet Crazy Horse is one of the best-known figures in American history. Sometime between 1838 and 1840, he was born, somewhere in what is now South Dakota. The year could never be pinpointed. His youth coincides with a time when the Sioux are being pushed further and further back by the white settlers, and Crazy Horse experiences the deadly clashes between the two sides as a teenager.


In 1854 begins the series of so-called Sioux Wars, in which Crazy Horse will later play a decisive role. The battles between the Sioux and the U.S. Army escalate several times, while Crazy Horse increasingly earns a reputation as a warrior. No verified sources exist about this period. The accomplishments for which the great war chief follows later in his life.

Beginning in 1866, he is involved in battles against the U.S. Army and eventually becomes an important Sioux leader. The Battle of Little Bighorn, in 1876, which he commands along with great war chiefs such as Sitting Bull, results in the defeat of the U.S. cavalry under George Armstrong Custer, who is killed. It is one of the greatest triumphs of the Indian tribes in fighting the U.S. Army, but fortunes in the Indian Wars will turn soon after.


The U.S. Army goes on the offensive after the Battle of Little Bighorn. The Indians cannot resist the superior force and finally Crazy Horse, as one of the last leaders, has to surrender in 1877. He has continued his fight as long as almost no other of the great chiefs of his time. Life on the reservation now awaits him and his warriors, where dangerous tensions soon arise.

Conflicts arise between Crazy Horse and other Sioux, the exact causes of which are still disputed today. Most of the chiefs had surrendered much earlier and chosen the way to the reservation, while Crazy Horse had relied on fighting until the end. As a result, rumors spread from the reservation that he had fled to resume the fight against the whites.

Crazy Horse turns himself in to the U.S. Army to counter the rumors, but the situation escalates. He resists arrest, whereupon a soldier stabs him with a bayonet. Accounts of the arrest differ, which is why doubts remain about the exact course of events. To this day, it is disputed whether Crazy Horse was the victim of a politically motivated murder.


While Crazy Horse and his accomplishments are mostly widely recognized, a major project in his honor has been the subject of criticism for decades. The Crazy Horse Memorial, to be carved from stone in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is to be a sculpture 195 meters long and 172 meters high. The motif is the war chief himself, sitting on a horse. Work on the project began back in 1948 and is being funded by a foundation. There is no date for completion in sight.

The criticism refers, first, to the fact that Crazy Horse refused to be photographed. Therefore, the sculpture cannot draw on any actual images. In addition, many Indians regard the project as the destruction of a landscape that has great historical significance for them.