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Crazy Horse, Sioux Warrior: His Life and Death

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 10/24/2013

Did you know that Crazy Horse was actually called Curly when he was young? Learn more about the Sioux warrior and why there is a monument being built for him.

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    Studying the great American Indian leaders is exciting. Such leaders included Sitting Bull, Geronimo and Crazy Horse. As the white men86px-Chief Crazy Horse  began to spread into the Indian territories, tensions rose and horrible things happened. The thing about studying these events and leaders is that you will never learn the exact truth. Remember that stories are slightly different depending on who is telling them.

    In this article, we are going to learn about Crazy Horse, Sioux warrior. Find out why he is an important figure in American history.

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    Curly

    Curly, later to be renamed Crazy Horse, was born sometime between 1840-1845 just east of the Black Hills area of South Dakota. His father, also named Crazy Horse, was a holy man in the Ogala Sioux (Lakota) tribe. His mother, who died when Curly was very young, was part of the Brule Sioux (Lakota). This part of the Sioux tribe was known as the Plains Sioux. They moved from place to place following the buffalo herds.

    From the beginning, Curly was different from the others. He had light skin, light brown wavy hair and hazel eyes. The Sioux viewed these traits as special gifts. He was gifted with horses, riding and taming them.

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    Vision Quest

    Around the age of 12 or 13, young male Indians would go away for several days without supplies. They would wait for a dream or vision to tell them what they were supposed to do in their lives. The holy men of the tribe would interpret the dream. Curly’s vision was that of a horseman riding through bullets and arrows but remaining uninjured. The horseman wore no war paint or headdress. The horseman told Curly never to take from the enemy and give to himself. He said to throw dust on himself and his horse before going into battle. His father, a holy man, told Curly that the vision he saw was of himself. It was time for Curly to become a warrior.

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    Curly Becomes Crazy Horse

    In a battle against the Arapaho, Curly followed his vision and remained unhurt as he rode through the flying arrows. However, when he scalped two of the opposing warriors and took their scalps, he was hit in the leg with an arrow. He learned from his mistake because he knew his vision had told him not to take from the enemy. When Curly’s group won the battle, his father was proud of his son’s bravery and gave him his name Crazy Horse.

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    Gold!

    Gold was discovered in Montana, and quickly soldiers were building forts in hopes of having a safe route to the gold through the Sioux territory. Though they negotiated a peace treaty with the Sioux, they still did whatever they wanted in the area by moving into the Indian hunting grounds. The Indians were becoming angry. Crazy Horse served as a decoy in a battle known as Fetterman Massacre. Crazy Horse tricked the soldiers into going to an area where 2,000 Indians were hiding. All of the soldiers were killed in less than 30 minutes.

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    How Did Crazy Horse Die?

    Gold was found in the Black Hills. The government tried to buy the land from the Sioux. Crazy Horse and others did not want to sell their holy land. Chief Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull and their warriors fought against soldiers at Rosebud Creek. The Indians claimed a victory. A week later they fought again at the Battle of Little Big Horn against General Custer. Custer led 647 men against thousands of Indians and lost. It was a great victory for Crazy Horse.

    All winter the battles continued. Buffalo were destroyed and disease spread. Crazy Horse finally surrendered in 1877 because he felt it was best for his tribe. He remained safe for a while but later in the year they took him to a jail in Fort Robinson. In the struggle to get him into the filthy cell, Crazy Horse pulled a hidden knife out and stabbed a guard. A soldier stabbed Crazy Horse in the back with a bayonet. He died at approximately the age of 37.

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    The Monument

    An image of Crazy Horse is being carved in Thunderhead Mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota. A completion date for the monument is undetermined. When completed, it will be the largest sculpture in the world! It will show Crazy Horse pointing over the top of a horse’s head. In 1998, the face of Crazy Horse was completed. A large museum is in the area with much to offer. The monument is not just to honor Crazy Horse but it is a memorial to all Indian People of North America.

    Now you know who was Crazy Horse and why is the monument being built. It is a tribute to all Native American Indians. It is hoped that you will want to study more famous Indian leaders as you learn about the history of the United States. Below you will find resources to help you find out more.

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    Resources

    1. Great Indian Leaders and Nations, DVD Format; Winner of the American Indian Film Festival; Available in libraries

    2. The Monument Website: http://www.crazyhorsememorial.org/

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    References

    Sanford, William. Crazy Horse, Sioux Warrior. Enslow Publishing Inc., 1994.

    Haugen, Brenda. Crazy Horse. Compass Point Books, 2006.

    Image: Chief Crazy Horse: Wikimedia Commons/uncredited, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chief_Crazy_Horse.jpg, Public Domain

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