Comanche, The Only Survivor

 A childhood interest in the west: cowboys, Indians, mountain men and explorers lead to a lifelong job as a history teacher (now retired). I remember well my first lesson in the Indian wars, Custer and the famous last stand, what else?

That day we learned everyone died in the fight on the Greasy Grass river (Little Big Horn), everyone. None of us questioned this fact. But what about the Indians, why didn’t we ask? Not sure, but years later I still remember being taught that the Calvary horse Comanche was the only survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn. Maybe we didn’t really study the Indian wars in the west, we were just told about them. Told about them by a teacher not so many generations removed from the plains battles and maybe still just a little bit prejudiced.   

My question since I became a teacher of western history has always been why had Custer not followed General Terry’s orders, instead following his own wrong instincts? He should have known of the great camp of Cheyenne and Sioux, must have known. Some historians speculate he knew but expected the warriors to fight and retreat to fight another day, (a common practice among plains tribes). But this day they outnumbered Custer and the 265 members of his 7th by such a huge margin that they stood their ground and in less than two hours the battle was one for the history books.

 Hundreds, or maybe thousands of Indians survived and much of what we know of the actual battle comes from their stories. Much has also been made of Benteen and Reno and the rest of the 7th that day, but that will be for another time.

I hope that today’s teachers are doing a better job of presenting both sides of the western Indian wars today than they did in the past. That is if today’s schools have enough time to squeeze in some history as they fight battles over, No Child Left Behind and the multitude of  new government mandates to teach better and for students to learn better than they have in the past. But that will also be left for another time.

Weekend in the Black Hills

 Spent a nice weekend in the Black Hills, sorry to see fires burning there much like the ones we have here in Wyoming. Love the night lighting of the faces at Mount Rushmore, very patriotic, something every American could enjoy. (We have been there for the lighting before and will do it again)

We took along our seven year old grandson; he really enjoyed the trip, his favorite places, Reptile Gardens, Bear Country and Flintstone Village.

Found some neat and inexpensive museums and a lot of western entertainment throughout the hills.

Western entertainment abounds throughout the hills, from cookouts to trail rides and don’t forget Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried side by side in Deadwood. But you might have to circle wide around the one armed bandits in Deadwood.

Incompetence and Politicians –Governor Moonlight

Colonel Thomas Moonlight was likely the worst commander in the history of Fort Laramie and may well have been responsible for the escalation of the Indian wars in Wyoming and the west.

Black Foot and Two Face (Oglala Chiefs) brought in a white woman, Lucinda Eubanks, who Big Foot had purchased from the Cheyenne who’d kidnapped her on the Little Blue River* in southeast Nebraska, several months earlier. She was in bad shape after being badly abused (by her captors before Big Foot and Two Face) and Moonlight who seemed to make decisions based on emotion and bad judgment  ordered the Sioux Chiefs hanged with trace chains by the neck. The two died a slow agonizing death and were left hanging, as an example, for months. The Sioux retaliated in kind.

And just what terrible punishment did Moonlight face for this torture and killing without due process or a trial of any kind?  He bounced around in the army for a few more years then went into politics in Kansas and was later appointed Governor of Wyoming Territory by President Cleveland (January 5, 1887). Governor Moonlight took the oath of office January 24, 1887 served until April 9, 1889, staying in government service as U.S. Minister to Bolivia for President Cleveland from 1893 to 1897.
*I grew up on the Little Blue River in southeast Nebraska but never heard this story untill I moved to Wyoming-not too far from Fort Laramie. Most of our knowledge of local history was centered around Wild Bill and the Rock Creek Station shoot-out.

Wyoming Statehood

On this day (July 10) in 1890 Wyoming became a state # 44.

 Ten Wyoming facts

1.   Wyoming has the lowest population of all 50 United States.

2. Wyoming Cowboy’s—War Memorial Stadium at over 7,000 feet is the highest Division One Football Stadium in America (Go Pokes)

3. Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote.

4. Yellowstone is the first official National Park (1872)

5. Devils Tower was designated as the first National Monument (1906)

6. The majority of Yellowstone Park lies within the boundaries of Wyoming.

7.  Guernsey State Park in Platte County has some of the best examples of CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the United States

8.  The continental divide splits and goes around the desert on all sides leaving the basin without normal drainage.

9. The Wind River actually changes its name in the middle of the stream becoming the Big Horn River at a site at the north end of the Wind River Canyon

10.         Deer have been in my garden at least 4 times this summer—that is why people still hunt in Wyoming. They seem to love tomatoes and strawberries best

The Treaty of Fort Laramie

The famous Great Council of 1851 (Treaty of Fort Laramie) is well recorded in History books, especially Wyoming History. But by 1890 when Wyoming became a state the famous treaty location was actually in Nebraska. Fort Laramie (Wyoming) itself only covers a few acres and at the time of the Great Council camps of both whites and Indians were spread out for miles. Grass was eaten down to nothing pushing all involved farther and farther from the actual fort as the government waited on gifts from the east to arrive.

This treaty was supposed to solve the problem of Indian wars against the white men on the plains but many historians point to this as the beginning of the Plains Indians wars of the west. The council that tried to keep Indians away from the trails by giving payments to the tribes for the game they lost after being relocated away from the North Platte River. Although all tribes were invited it was the Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne that were closest to the trails and most dangerous to travelers, these tribes were among the first and longest lasting of the Plains Indians trying to stop expansion into their territory.

The United States government made only one payment thus breaking the treaty that they had pushed so hard for. The treaty would be redone in 1868, but it to would also fail and wars on the plains would continue until 1890 and Wounded Knee.

Not Buffalo but 5 nice Bucks in the Backyard

Deer everywhere. Ate some strawberries (plants not the berries) and the tops of some of my tomato plants. Love life in a small town, deer and citizens share equally of garden produce, streets, sidewalks and parks.

Been away a long time-much too long for me and I hope for my followers. Since I last posted I have retired and moved to a nice little town on the Oregon Trail just east of Laramie Peak. No, I didn’t go crazy, I just retired, (still live in Wyoming, will never leave). Retiring was a tough decision, but a decision almost everyone will make some day. Not sure what a typical retirement will look like yet, hope to rev up my blogs again, write a bunch and travel. This month we have had grandkids most every day- but school will start again and September will tell what our real retirement will be. I am sure it will be both good and bad, I feel bad that I will no longer spend my days with a classroom full of high school students, but am happy to not have to read any more papers, post any more grades, or attend any more in-service.