Crazy Horse and General George Armstrong Custer- a Comparison of Two Leaders
Crazy Horse and General George Armstrong Custer are two figures which the readers easily spotlight in the message Frazier and Neihardt gave us in their books. They were real people, unique fighters and leaders of their armies, who about one hundred fifty years ago left the world with a great trace of their thoughts and heroic deeds. Many people still remember and admire them today.
The central figure in booth Frazier’s and Neihardt’s works is Crazy Horse, who is a member of the Sioux Indian tribe. He held no high ranking position in the tribe. Even though he did not have any official titles in the tribe, he was much respected.
First of all, Crazy Horse was an incredible warrior; he was so fast and accurate, that he used to kill his enemies before they could see him. Neihardt states, “they [white people] could not kill him in the baattle” (109), and furthermore, he never lost any battles. On the other hand, as Frazier notes, Crazy Horse was admired by his natives for being “a lover of peace” (117). Crazy Horse never fought against others with the aim to
get advantage, to
Secondly, Crazy Horse was a great patriot, not only of his native land and Native Americans, but also of his beliefs and outlook towards the world. He not only felt responsibility to protect his nation and risk his life in the fights with white people, he not only refused to eat and starved when his countrymen did not have enough food, he not only, as Frazier believes, “made sure that his wife was safe before going to where he expected to die” (118) demonstrating his concern for others at the expense of himself, but also never lied to anyone, never betrayed hiis own beliefs, even when it was obvious that he was going to die for them (Crazy Horse was trying to escape when he found out that he was going to be imprisoned), never, as Frazier adds, “ met the President”, “rode on a train”, “slept in a boardinghouse”, “wore a medal or a top hat or any other thing that white men gave him”(118)- never cared about the values of white people, never elevated gold and land above his creed; ne
Thirdly, Crazy Horse was a mysterious person. When Indians were pushed north, where they faced cold and famine, and some started to surrender to white people, Crazy Horse started to behave strangely, in fact, he began to walk alone outside the camp, not eating anything and not greeting others. Because he was able to predict the future, “he was afraid something would happen” (Frazier 109) and “he had seen that he would soon be dead”(Neihardt 104).
The final and perhaps the most important reason why Crazy Horse was respected by other Indians was that he always was a free man. First, he was always free to say what he was thinking. He never lied in contrast to white people and some Indians, who joined
the white people. In addition, he sometimes used irony to sneer at white people: “My Father is with me, and there is no Great Father between me and the Great Spirit”(Neihardt 108),- he diplomatically refused to go to Washington with Red Cloud and Spotted Tail. According to Frazier, Crazy Horse was “so free that he did not know what a jail looked li
To add, Crazy Horse was respected by white people as well. When he went to Red Cloud Agency, Wachitus (white people) were visiting him and showing the respect by bringing money and presents.
Frazier and Neihardt saw Crazy Horse as an idealized leader of his nation. Any information about his decisions or behavior, which would show him from negative side, any mistakes hardly can be found about Crazy Horse in their books. Frazier even named him as “a kind of Sioux Christ” (117). But perhaps they could not help idealizing him, because Crazy Horse and the nation he represented were so different from new Americans. Perhaps it was the only way readers would compare the ideals and cultures of Crazy Horse and their own nations and generations.
Most likely the readers of “Black Elk Speaks” and “Great Plains” can find a lot of similarities of the culture of our days and the culture represented by the General Custer, who is the other central figure of the works of
First, Custer was an irresponsible person like most of Wachitus were. He was irresponsible at United State Military Academy, where he did not succeed with his
studies and was nearly expelled from the academy. Later on “several days after graduating last in his class, he failed in his duty as officer of the guard to stop a fight between two cadets” (“New perspectives on the West” 2). From the movie “Little Big Man” we also find out, that during the battle against Indians, Custer gave an order not to shoot women unless they do not surrender, though all the women were shot down, even those who were pregnant or had little babies (for instance Sunshine and her 3 sisters), that when he saw Little Big Man with an Indian paint on his face he ordered to hang him, though after a while Custer remembered him and accused his captain for doing “bad decisions” and intending to hang “a good man” (the movie “Little Big Man”).
Secondly, Custer did not accept his failures as white people did not accept that they were making mistakes by signing treaties with Indians and attacked in a sneaking way. Furthermore, he was not very patriotic and his own interests were more important than the interests of his nation. He used to hunt in the middle of military campus and he, as Frazier illustrates, ordered to shoot “the deserters [the soldiers, who did not obey Custer’s unlawful orders] while on a forced march across Kansas primarily to see his wife” (177). This also shows that Custer’s interests were above the interest of his country.
Frazier and Neihardt suggest that Indian culture was higher, more pure and more profound than the culture of white people. And it is hard not to agree with them: white people were those who were breaking treaties, acting fraudulently and corrupting the morality of those Indians who decided to follow them. Moreover, their ideas are supported by the character of Little Big Man in the film “Little Big Man”, who was a
white man, but grew up with Indians, who was baptized, married the white woman, but returned to Indians, who, indeed, was someone between white people and Indians (in the movie “Little Big Man” Little Big Man says: “Indians were trying to kill me for the white, white were trying to kill for the Indians”). Little Big Man was the one, who like Indians did not lie and could not stand lies. After he saw his step mother, who used to teach him Christianity, meeting secretly and making love with the bar owner, he lost his interest in white men religion ( “It was the end of my religion”). He, like his fellow Indians, was a very good shooter, but could not kill people for nothing, he believed, that “not only human beings are alive, but stones, rivers, trees” (the movie “Little Big Man”), that white people “believe everything is dead, stones, water, even people”( the movie “Little Big Man”).
Even though Indians were more cultural than white people, General Custer is a person, who has a lot of similarities with the idealized Indian Crazy Horse.
They were both leaders and great warriors of their armies. “Out of the thirty-seven years of his (Custer’s) brief life, fourteen were spent in active warfare” (Stanley and Marie Klos 9). Despite Custer’s ‘hobby’ to act unpredictably, he managed to get the support of his warriors; even after the decisions for which he was punished he still had the trust of his subordinates and commanders. Furthermore, despite the fact, that Custer’s moral state was lower than Crazy Horse’s (Custer used to kill women and children, killed his own horse when was about to die.), Custer was a free person as Crazy Horse. Custer had his own outlook towards the world, he did not care about his government and military rules and most of time he was doing what he wanted to do. And finally, even
though Crazy Horse died and, as Frazier confirmed, “took no one with him when he died” (118) and Custer, as Frazier notes, “killed a man when he fell” (178), they both acted according to their values and died as free people. They did not change even in the face of death. While dying, Crazy Horse remained peaceful and looked like he was still thinking about his natives, whereas Custer remained happy, irresponsible and not thinking about anything else except himself. May be the wife of Custer Elizabeth was right saying that her husband believed “he was the happiest man on earth” (Frazier 177). Crazy Horse and Custer both lived and died in freedom.
Frazier, Ian. “Great Plains”. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. May 2001
Neihardt, John G. “Black Elk Speaks”. The University of Nebraska Press. 2000
“New perspectives on the West”. http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/a_c/custer.htm
Stanly and Marie Klos. “George Armstrong Custer.” 2001
The movie “Little Big Man”. Director Arthur Renn ( 1970)