Brief Intro (scroll down if you just want to read the poem):
The Battle of the Little Bighorn took place on the Little Bighorn River in Montana. It was more famously known as Custer's Last Stand. Indian people called the Little Bighorn the Greasy Grass. This is a work in progress, and I welcome feedback of any kind. It might become part of a larger piece I’m mulling over. The word wasichus is Lakota (Sioux, Oglala) for white people. “It is a good day to die” is a Lakota saying that means it is better to fight and die, than to be captive to the wasichus. There are reports from both sides of Crazy Horse being bulletproof.
My resources for this poem include James Welch’s Killing Custer: The Battle of the Little Bighorn and The Fate of the Plains Indians, and Flight, by Sherman Alexie. I read Flight today, to escape from everything else. What a fun and interesting trip. While Flight is a dark story, large chunks of it read like poetry.
Teachers: Jospeh Bruchac wrote a picture book illustrated by S.D. Nelson, called Crazy Horse’s Vision. Picture books offer a great introduction into American Indian culture.
Under stars, dance and song
readied them for the wasichus
warriors howled preparation.
Some tethered mountain hawks
to their hair— hawks
that woke to bone whistles
during hand-to-hand combat.
Crazy Horse painted his face
with lightning and hail
which rendered him utterly bulletproof.
The next day, 25 June 1876
cold steam rose in a circle with sun
“a good day to die” on Greasy Grass.
Some Indians scouted for America.
In Custer’s camp before embarkation,
Bloody Knife, an Arikara
faced the rising sun and signed
I shall not see you go down
behind the hills tonight.
By late afternoon
attack plans sweltered
for the Seventh Calvary.
Crow scout Half Yellow Face told Custer
You and I are going home today
by a road we do not know.
Strategically systematic Sioux and Cheyenne
outwitted the seventh cavalry with
a cyclone of horses, arrows and guns.
Through evening’s feathery descent ,
Oglala women and children
ululated victory songs and
posthumously butchered bodies.
Legend needled awls in and out
of Custer’s ears to open them
for listening in the afterlife.
Gouging out eyes, the victors
rendered their enemies blind
in the great beyond.