There were no white survivors at the Custer fight which ended quickly and in broad daylight. Here is one of the eye-witness Indian accounts told by Black Elk who, as a twelve year old boy, took part in the battle as a member of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux). and scalped a soldier. Black Elk was a second cousin to Crazy Horse, who played a major role in the battle. He lived until 1950 and is buried at the St. Agnes Catholic Cemetery in Manderson-White Horse Creek, South Dakota….RB
Black Elk’s full account of the Battle at the Little Bighorn, June 25-26, 1876 (long):
“Crazy Horse whipped Three Stars on the Rosebud that day, and I think he could have rubbed the soldiers out there. He could have called many more warriors from the villages and he could have rubbed the soldiers out at daybreak, for they camped there in the dark after the fight.
He whipped the cavalry of Three Stars when they attacked his village on the Powder that cold morning in the Moon of the Snowblind [March]. Then he moved farther west to the Rosebud; and when the soldiers came to kill us there, he whipped them and made them go back. Then he moved farther west to the valley of the Greasy Grass. We were in our own country all the time and we only wanted to be let alone. The soldiers came there to kill us, and many got rubbed out. It was our country and we did not want to have trouble.
We camped there in the valley along the south side of the Greasy Grass before the sun was straight above; and this was, I think, two days before the battle. It was a very big village and you could hardly count the tepees. Farthest up the stream toward the south were the Hunkpapas, and the Oglalas were next. Then came the Minneconjous, the San Arcs, the Blackfeet, the Shahiyelas; and last, the farthest toward the north, were the Santees and Yanktonais.
Along the side towards the east was the Greasy Grass, with some timber along it, and it was running full from the melting of the snow in the Bighorn Mountains. If you stood on a hill you could see the mountains off to the south and west. On the other side of the river, there were bluffs and hills beyond. Some gullies came down through the bluffs. On the westward side of us were lower hills, and there we grazed our ponies and guarded them. There were so many they could not be counted.
There was a man by the name of Rattling Hawk who was shot through the hip in the fight on the Rosebud, and people thought he could not get well. But there was a medicine man by the name of Hairy Chin who cured him.
The day before the battle I had greased myself and was going to swim with some boys, when Hairy Chin called me over to Rattling Hawk’s tepee, and told me he wanted me to help him. There were five other boys there, and he needed us for bears in the curing ceremony, because he had his power from a dream of the bear. He painted my body yellow, and my face too, and put a black stripe on either side of my nose from the eyes down. Then he tied my hair up to look like bear’s ears, and put some eagle feathers on my head.
While he was doing this, I thought of my vision, and suddenly I seemed to be lifted clear off the ground; and while I was that way, I knew more things than I could tell, and I felt sure something terrible was going to happen in a short time. I was frightened.
The other boys were painted all red and had real bear’s ears on their heads.
Hairy Chin, who wore a real bear skin with the head on it, began to sing a song that went like this: “At the doorway the sacred herbs are rejoicing.”
And while he sang, two girls came in and stood one on either side of the wounded man; one had a cup of water and one some kind of a herb. I tried to see if the cup had all the sky in it, as it was in my vision, but I could not see it. They gave the cup and the herb to Rattling Hawk while Hairy Chin was singing. Then they gave him a red cane, and right away he stood up with it. The girls then started out of the tepee, and the wounded man followed, learning on the sacred red stick; and we boys, who were the little bears, had to jump around him and make growling noises toward the man. And when we did this, you could see something like feathers of all colors coming out of our mouths. Then Hairy Chin came out on all fours, and he looked just like a bear to me. Then Rattling Hawk began to walk better. He was not able to fight next day, but he got well in a little while.
After the ceremony, we boys went swimming to wash the paint off, and when we got back the people were dancing and having kill talks all over the village, remembering brave deeds done in the fight with Three Stars on the Rosebud.
When it was about sundown we boys had to bring the ponies in close, and when this was done it was dark and the people were still dancing around fires all over the village. We boys went around from one dance to another, until we got too sleepy to stay up any more.
My father ‘woke me at daybreak and told me to go with him to take our horses out to graze, and when we were out there he said: “We must have a long rope on one of them, so that it will be easy to catch; then we can get the others. If anything happens, you must bring the horses back as fast as you can, and keep your eyes on the camp.”
Several of us boys watched our horses together until the sun was straight above and it was getting very hot. Then we thought we would go swimming, and my cousin said he would stay with our horses till we got back. When I was greasing myself, I did not feel well; I felt queer. It seemed that something terrible was going to happen. But I went with the boys anyway. Many people were in the water now and many of the women were out west of the village digging turnips. We had been in the water quite a while when my cousin came down there with the horses to give them a drink, for it was very hot now.
Just then we heard the crier shouting in the Hunkpapa camp, which was not very far from us “The chargers are coming! They are charging! The chargers are coming!” Then the crier of the Oglalas shouted the same words; and we could hear the cry going from camp to camp northward clear to the Santees and Yanktonais.
Everybody was running now to catch the horses. We were lucky to have ours right there just at that time. My older brother had a sorrel, and he rode away fast toward the Hunkpapas. I had a buckskin. My father came running and said: Your brother has gone to the Hunkpapas without his gun. Catch him and give it to him. Then come right back to me.” He had my six-shooter too–the one my aunt gave me.
I took the guns, jumped on my pony and caught my brother. I could see a big dust rising just beyond the Hunkpapa camp and all the Hunkpapas were running around and yelling, and many were running wet from the river. Then out of the dust came the soldiers on their big horses. They looked big and strong and tall and they were all shooting. My brother took his gun and yelled for me to go back. There was brushy timber just on the other side of the Hunkpapas, and some warriors were gathering there. He made for that place, and I followed him. By now women and children were running in a crowd downstream. I looked back and saw them all running and scattering up a hillside down yonder.
When we got into the timber, a good many Hunkpapas were there already and the soldiers were shooting above us so that leaves were falling from the trees where the bullets struck. By now I could not see what was happening in the village below. It was all dust and cries and thunder; for the women and children were running there, and the warriors were coming on their ponies.
Among us there in the brush and out in the Hunkpapa camp a cry went up: “Take courage! Don’t be a woman! The helpless are out of breath!” I think this was when Gall stopped the Hunkpapas, who had been running away, and turned them back.
I stayed there in the woods a little while and thought of my vision. It made me feel stronger, and it seemed that my people were all thunder-beings and that the soldiers would be rubbed out.
Then another great cry went up out in the dust: “Crazy Horse is coming! Crazy Horse is coming!” Off toward the west and north they were yelling “Hokahey!” like a big wind roaring, and making the tremolo; and you could hear eagle bone whistles screaming.
The valley went darker with dust and smoke, and there were only shadows and a big noise of many cries and hoofs and guns. On the left of where I was I could hear the shod hoofs of the soldiers’ horses going back into the brush and there was shooting everywhere. Then the hoofs came out of the brush, and I came out and was in among men and horses weaving in and out and going up-stream, and everybody was yelling, “Hurry! Hurry!” The soldiers were running upstream and we were all mixed there in the twilight and the great noise.
I did not see much; but once I saw a Lakota charge at a soldier who stayed behind and fought and was a very brave man. The Lakota took the soldier’s horse by the bridle, but the soldier killed him with a six-shooter. I was small and could not crowd in to where the soldiers were, so I did not kill anybody. There were so many ahead of me, and it was all dark and mixed up.
Soon the soldiers were all crowded into the river, and many Lakotas too; and I was in the water awhile. Men and horses were all mixed up and fighting in the water, and it was like hail falling in the river. Then we were out of the river, and people were stripping dead soldiers and putting the clothes on themselves. There was a soldier on the ground and he was still kicking. A Lakota rode up and said to me: “Boy, get off and scalp him.” I got off and started to do it. He had short hair and my knife was not very sharp. He ground his teeth. Then I shot him in the forehead and got his scalp.
Many of our warriors were following the soldiers up a hill on the other side of the river. Everybody else was turning back down stream, and on a hill away down yonder above the Santee camp there was a big dust, and our warriors whirling around in and out of it just like swallows, and many guns were going off.
I thought I would show my mother my scalp, so I rode over toward the hill where there was a crowd of women and children. On the way down there I saw a very pretty young woman among a band of warriors about to go up to the battle on the hill, and she was singing like this:
“Brothers, now your friends have come!
Be brave! Be brave!
Would you see me taken captive?”
When I rode through the Oglala camp I saw Rattling Hawk sitting up in his tepee with a gun in his hands, and he was all alone there singing a song of regret that went like this:
“Brothers, what are you doing that I can not do?”
When I got to the women on the hill they were all singing and making the tremolo to cheer the men fighting across the river in the dust on the hill. My mother gave a big tremolo just for me when she saw my first scalp.
I stayed there awhile with my mother and watched the big dust whirling on the hill across the river, and horses were coming out of it with empty saddles.
After I showed my mother my first scalp, I stayed with the women awhile and they were all singing and making the tremolo. We could not see much of the battle for the big dust, but we knew there would be no soldiers left. There were many other boys about my age and younger up there with their mothers and sisters, and they asked me to go over to the battle with them. So we got on our ponies and started. While we were riding down hill toward the river we saw gray horses with empty saddles stampeding toward the water. We rode over across the Greasy Grass to the mouth of a gulch that led up through the buff to where the fighting was.
Before we got there, the wasicus were all down, and most of them were dead, but some of them were still alive and kicking. Many other little boys had come up by this time, and we rode around shooting arrows into the wasicus. There was one who was squirming around with arrows sticking in him, and I started to take his coat, but a man pushed me away and took the coat for himself. Then I saw something bright hanging on this soldier’s belt, and I pulled it out. It was round and bright and yellow and very beautiful and I put it on me for a necklace. At first it ticked inside, and then it did not any more. I wore it around my neck for a long time before I found out what it was and how to make it tick again.
Then the women all came over and we went to the top of the hill. Gray horses were lying dead there, and some of them were on top of dead wasicus and dead wasicus were on top of them. There were not many of our own dead there, because they had been picked up already; but many of our men were killed and wounded. They shot each other in the dust. I did not see Pehin Hanska, and I think nobody knew which one he was. There was a soldier who was raising his arms and groaning. I shot an arrow into his forehead, and his arms and legs quivered.
I saw some Lakotas holding another Lakota up. I went over there, and it was Chase-in-the-Morning’s brother, who was called Black Wasicu. He had been shot through the right shoulder downward, and the bullet stopped in his left hip, because he was hanging on the side of his horse when he was hit. They were trying to give him some medicine. He was my cousin, and his father and my father were so angry over this, that they went and butchered a wasicu and cut him open. The wasicu was fat, and his meat looked good to eat, but we did not eat any.
There was a little boy, younger than I was, who asked me to scalp a soldier for him. I did, and he ran to show the scalp to his mother. While we were there, most of the warriors chased the other soldiers back to the hill where they had their pack mules. After awhile I got tired looking around. I could smell nothing but blood, and I got sick of it. So I went back home with some others. I was not sorry at all. I was a happy boy. Those wasicus had come to kill our mothers and fathers and us, and it was our country. When I was in the brush up there by the Hunkpapas, and the first soldiers were shooting, I knew this would happen. I thought that my people were relatives to the thunder beings of my vision, and that the soldiers were very foolish to do this.
Everybody was up all night in the village. Next morning another war party went up to the hill where the other soldiers were, and the men who had been watching there all night came home. My mother and I went along. She rode a mare with a little colt tied beside her and it trotted along with its mother.
We could see the horses and pack mules up there, but the soldiers were dug in. Beneath the hill, right on the west side of the Greasy Grass, were some bullberry bushes, and there was a big boy by the name of Round Fool who was running around the bushes. We boys asked him what he was doing that for, and he said: “There is a wasicu in that bush.” And there was. He had hidden there when the other soldiers ran to the hilltop and he had been there all night. We boys began shooting at him with arrows, and it was like chasing a rabbit. He would crawl from one side to the other while we were running around the bush shooting at him with our bows. Once he yelled “Ow.” After awhile we set fire to the grass around the bushes, and he came out running. Some of our warriors killed him.
Once we went up the back of the hill, where some of our men were, and looked over. We could not see the wasicus, who were lying in their dug-ins, but we saw the horses and pack mules, and many of them were dead. When we came down and crossed the river again, some soldiers shot at us and hit the water. Mother and I galloped back to the camp, and it was about sundown. By then our scouts had reported that more soldiers were coming up stream; so we all broke camp. Before dark we were ready and we started up the Greasy Grass, heading for Wood Louse Creek in the Bighorn Mountains. We fled all night, following the Greasy Grass. My two younger brothers and I rode in a pony-drag, and my mother put some young pups in with us. They were always trying to crawl out and I was always putting them back in, so I didn’t sleep much.
By morning we reached a little dry creek and made camp and had a big feast. The meat had spots of fat in it, and I wish I had some of it right now.
When it was full day, we started again and came to Wood Louse Creek at the foot of the mountains, and camped there. A badly wounded man by the name of Three Bears had fits there, and he would keep saying: “Jeneny, jeneny.” I do not know what he meant. He died, and we used to call that place the camp where Jeneny died.
That evening everybody got excited and began shouting: “The soldiers are coming!” I looked, and there they were, riding abreast right toward us. But it was some of our own men dressed in the soldiers’ clothes. They were doing this for fun.
The scouts reported that the soldiers had not followed us and that everything was safe now. All over the camp there were big fires and kill dances all night long.
I will sing you some of the kill-songs that our people made up and sang that night. Some of them went like this:
“Long Hair has never returned,
So his woman is crying, crying.
Looking over here, she cries.”
“Long Hair, guns I had none.
You brought me many. I thank you!
You make me laugh!”
“Long Hair, horses I had none.
You brought me many. I thank you!
You make me laugh!”
“Long Hair, where he lies nobody knows.
Crying, they seek him.
He lies over here.”
“Let go your holy irons [guns].
You are not men enough to do any harm.
Let go your holy irons!”
After awhile I got so tired dancing that I went to sleep on the ground right where I was.
My cousin, Black Wasicu, died that night.“