Posts made in December, 2014

Custer’s Last Stand, An Arapaho Eyewitness Tells All

In the 1920s, two Arapaho Elders, Waterman and Left Hand, were interviewed about their involvement at Custer’s Last Stand. Tom Shakespeare Sr. was the interpreter for Col. Tim McCoy and it is interesting to note that afterwards, Shakespeare stated that the Arapaho were captives and not involved in the fighting. (http://www.arapaholegends.com/five-arapahoes-at-little-big-horn/) However, when you read the following statement from Waterman, he does admit to fighting against the white troops and even admits to killing a soldier. Since this death was a ‘mercy killing’ and Left Hand accidently killed a Sioux during the fighting, perhaps this, in the Arapaho way of thinking, means that the Arapaho were not part of the battle and were rather mere bystanders protecting themselves and those around them. Or perhaps their involvement was just not official since our tribe did not want to lose their standing with the U.S. Government as “friendly Indians”. I will let the reader draw their own conclusion about the following statement from an Arapaho eyewitness to the Battle of the Little Bighorn as recorded in The Custer Myth: A Source Book of Custerania, written and compiled by Colonel W.A. Graham in 1953. Waterman’s Account of Little Big Horn A long time ago when I was a young man, it was the custom of the young Indian to go on small war parties looking for Shoshones or other unfriendly tribes. If our medicine was good, we sometimes returned to camp with a scalp or a number of ponies. Sometimes when an Indian slept he would keep his best horse at the door of his tepee, holding in his hand the rope to which the horse was tied. It was considered a very brave deed for an Indian to slip into an enemy camp at night and cut the rope of a horse outside a tepee, and ride him away. I had lived twenty-two snows at the time of the great battle on the Little Bighorn River. That was a long time ago, but my mind is clear, and I will tell you all I know about that battle. There were five of us Arapahoes in that fight. Three have joined the spirits of their fathers, and now only Left Hand and I, Waterman, still live. Soon we too must go to the long sleep, and no one will be alive to tell the story, so I will tell you, whom the Arapahoes call their Soldier-Chief, everything just as I saw it, and nothing that is not the truth. The Arapahoes were camped at Fort Robinson where they drew their rations from the government, and I, with four other young bucks, slipped out of the agency to go on a scouting party...

Read More

Five Arapahoes at Little Big Horn

Left Hand, Yellow Eagle, Yellow Fly, Waterman and a Southern Arapaho known as Green Grass or Well-Knowing One were five young Arapaho men present at the Battle of the Little Big Horn where General Custer was killed. The following is the story as told by Tom Shakespeare Sr., who was the Indian Interpreter used to translate the story for Colonel Tim McCoy in the 1920’s. Note that he spells Arapaho as Arapahoe though today we spell our tribe’s name without the “e” and Arapahoe refers to the town. Instead of paraphrasing the story, I have chosen to present it in the words of Shakespeare himself as it appeared in his book, The Sky People.  “In the North, more trouble arose. By the treaty of 1867, the Sioux had agreed to give up all the territory south of the Niobrara River and to retire to south-western Dakota before January 1867. However, before this date trespassers on their reservation discovered gold in the Black Hills. Miners rushed in and the Sioux attempted to drive them out. The military was sent to protect the treaty-violating gold seekers. The Sioux went wild with fury, left their reservation and swept westwards towards the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Major Reno and General Custer went hunting for Indians, located their village on the Little Big Horn River in southern Montana and swiftly attacked. Two hundred and forty-seven white troopers died that day, June 25, 1876, while the Indians lost fort-three brave warriors. The great Sioux Chief Gall said later he had with him Oglallas, Minnecojous, Brules, Tetons, Uncapapa Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahoes and Gros Ventres. Now here is an absolutely true story by eyewitnesses. I, myself, was selected as an official interpreter. The hearing took place somewhere in the early 1920s in Riverton, in the basement of the Teton Hotel. Colonel Tim McCoy and I think, two or three more army officers were present. The late Mr. J. A. Delfelter, who was mayor of Riverton at the time, was also present. The two eyewitnesses of the battle were the only two left alive. Formerly there were five in the group of Northern Arapaho but the other three had died long before this. These five Arapahoes had been young men at the time. They had gone out wandering around the country for sport and adventure when they happened to come along that part of the Little Big Horn where the battle later took place. There was no sign of any inhabitants around. They were suddenly surrounded by Sioux Indians. When asked what they were doing,the five said that they were out on their own accord for adventure. They were told that they had been captured and were taken to the...

Read More

The Lover’s Flute

Arapaho Courting Flute from the Library of Congress, Dayton C. Miller collection, DCM 0687  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.music/dcmflute.0687 The Native American flute has been reported to be the third oldest known musical instrument in the world, with bone flutes dating back over 60,000 years according to Roger McGee, an artist with a passion for Native American flute making and playing. Mr. McGee shares the following legend from the Lakota, a tribe with close ties to our own in current years. “This story was told to me by a Lakota Elder named Phillip “Brown Bear” Lane….he came to visit my studio to see the statue I was sculpting of Walla Walla Chief Peo Peo Mox Mox ( Yellowbird )…he heard that a statue was being made to honor the Native People and he could not believe this was happening….He said he was afraid with his passing that his old Indian ways would be forgotten…..He was proud to see the statue I was working on.. I showed him my flutes and I played for him….that is when he sat down and told me his story of the first flute….He passed on shortly there after…..I am sure he would be pleased to share the story with you and your readers…Yes please use the story as you see fit….I only ask that you do not change any of the story, from the way it was told to me……Thank You again for your interest……..Many Blessings to You!    Aho!….Roger McGee  Legend of the first flute A very long time ago there was a young man who was very interested in a beautiful young girl. He was always trying to get her attention, but she never seemed to notice him. Whenever she was present he would ride his horse proudly, but nothing he did seemed to attract her. One day when the girls were down by the river getting water, the young man went down to the river and began diving off rocks and swimming across the river, to show her how skilled he was, but again she paid him no mind. Dejected, the young man walked into the nearby old growth forest and sat down at the base of a long dead cedar tree. As he sat there thinking about this girl, a woodpecker landed on a hollowed limb that was over his head, the limb had been hollowed over time from the wind and weather. The woodpecker began to peck holes….tap, tap, tap……… along the length of this hollowed limb…….. tap. tap, tap…….as the woodpecker pecked, the limb broke off and fell next to the young man, and as the wind blew over this hollow limb with the holes in it, he heard musical voices coming from it. He picked...

Read More