By 1875 the remaining sovereign Indian tribes were decimated by the relentless hordes of army soldiers; loss of food and shelter, and kept constantly on the move and in fear of surprise attacks, they ultimately preferred the detestable reservation life to cold and hunger. Sherman and Sheridan’s total-war strategy against the American Indian had been validated.
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
Trading Guaranteed Indian Land for Rations
“The national stage of the United States in 1877 held a great variety of actors and actions. The values of the Indians opposed the values of white men. The purposes of farmer and banker, of factory worker and industrialist, of railroad president and merchant, often clashed. [This era saw] industrial bureaucracies such as Standard Oil [clash with] the hunting cultures of some Indians.
Crazy Horse was a great war chief of the Ogala Sioux. About 35 years old in 1877, he had been the leader of the war party in Wyoming in 1866 that left behind the corpses of Captain William Fetterman and 80 other soldiers. Through the next decade he fought white troops, down to that glorious day in June 1876 when he helped to wipe out the entire detachment of Colonel Custer.
Most of the Sioux were already in government agencies, but not Crazy Horse. After the Battle of the Little Big Horn he and his lodges went to the Black Hills, sacred to the Sioux. Then to the Tongue River, where several couriers from the government came to urge them to lay down their arms. At noon on 5 May 1877 Crazy Horse rode into the Red Cloud agency in Nebraska with 1,100 former hostiles, including 300 warriors. They had only 117 guns.
Even the agency Indians were wary of the army. The Federal government had recently decreed that no more rations would be given to them until they agreed to surrender much of their land including the Black Hills region, even though it had been guaranteed to them in perpetuity by a treaty of 1868. They also had been given the choice of removing to the Missouri River or of going to the strange Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
Crazy Horse brooded. Rumors held that he planned to flee with his warriors. Spies were set on him. His words were distorted in translation. On 4 September a large military force and some agency chiefs started from nearby Fort Robinson [and taken there after capture]. Entering a guardroom there the next day with some other chiefs, he drew a knife from his clothing [and] Crazy Horse was bayoneted in the stomach [and] died that night in the camp hospital.
Another chief, his hand on the breast of Crazy Horse, said: “It is good; he has looked for death.”
An era had died. With the suppression of the Nez Perce, the last of the great Indian wars had been fought. Instead of hostile Indians streaming across the plains, grasshoppers came, across Dakota Territory, Kansas, Nebraska, south to Texas, eastward to Missouri, north to Minnesota. In 1874, and 1875, and 1876, and 1877, when the crops were half grown. The cumulative weight of hordes of grasshoppers broke the limbs form trees [and] they ate everything [and] mowed crops to the ground. Against them there was no defense.”
(Age of Excess, The United States from 1877 to 1914, Ray Ginger, MacMillan and Company, 1965, pp. 3-5)