Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument was a short way off I-90 and as students of history, my husband and I were both interested in visiting. On this trip, I had encountered several Native American markers and sights, some of the more memorable being the Mission in Kansas City, Trail of Tears signs across the south, the reservations in Oklahoma, Mesa Verde, the California Missions, and the Nez Perce Trail. I had felt a continued Native American presence throughout the western portion of my trip and I wanted to see the sight where the Native American warriors won the battle but shortly afterwards lost the war against the white man. My husband, after visiting many battlefields and cemeteries of WWI and WWII while we lived in Belgium, was interested in seeing this battlefield that had been taught in our history classes as “Custer’s Last Stand”.
At the Visitor’s Center we perused the extensive book offerings on Native Americans, the West and the Battle, visited the small museum which held artifacts from the battle and items once belonging to Custer. The rangers, as I had found throughout my trip, were informative and helpful in assisting us on how best to utilize our time during our visit. Walking the path to Last Stand Hill, we began to understand the battle and the outnumbered cavalry troops in poor position against Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. Then we drove the battlefield road, where we encountered several horses in the road, to see the five mile area from Last Stand Hill to Maj. Reno’s entrenchment, where his troops had retreated to after being routed by the warriors in the valley and were unable to aid Custer. There are 249 memorial markers set across the battlefield where Custer’s men had fallen, including the 41 men and Custer on Last Stand Hill. This was done in 1890 by the Army. In 1999, memorial markers were erected where three warriors had fallen and a larger memorial to the warriors who fought and why was created.
As the pamphlet we received at the Visitor Center stated, this battle continues to fascinate people, it is part of our western heritage with heroism, brashness, and defeat. A battle lost but not forgotten and a rallying point used to gain a final victory over the Native American tribes which would end their nomadic lifestyle permanently. For me it was a fascinating visit, stirring and thought provoking on Custer, Indian policies, and manifest destiny. .