Hero or Traitor? Curly is Laid to Rest

Today in History, May 23, 1923:

Ashishishe, son of Strong Bear and and Strikes by the Side of the Water, husband to Bird Woman and later Takes a Shield, is laid to rest at the National Cemetery of the Bighorn Battlefield in Montana, alongside the members of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry who had died there on June 25, 1876.

He was known by his US Army contemporaries as Curly.

Curly was a Crow Indian serving the US Army as a scout with the 7th Cavalry leading up to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Just before the battle began, as was customary, Custer released his Native American scouts. Curly rode off with the others, stopping on a hill about a mile away. He watched the battle through field glasses.

When it became obvious that the 7th would be defeated, Curly rode for two days until he met an Army supply boat at the confluence of the Big and Little Big Horn rivers, and made his report.

Curly told of how the 7th fought for hours, until they had expended all of their ammunition; by Curly’s estimation taking approximately 600 Sioux warriors with them.

Hailed as a hero for being the “lone survivor” reporters attempted to glorify his actions used poetic license to say that he was actually in the battle and escaped by pretending to be one of the Sioux allies.

Curly’s original and later accounts were that he “did nothing wonderful.” Some reporters “quoted” Curly as saying that he had been in the battle, which angered some of the Sioux that were. But in many accounts Curly repeated that he was not, and that he “did nothing wonderful.”

He served in the Crow Police and was given a military pension only three years before his death from pneumonia.

I find his story interesting as an example of why we must attempt to view history in the context of the times in which our ancestors lived.

Is Curly a traitor to his people because he served the US Army against other Indians? I found while researching this that at that time of the battle, the Sioux and the Crow were dire enemies, so the Crow allied with the US Army.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Did he “desert” the 7th Cavalry? No. It was customary not to keep the Indian scouts in the midst of battle; his leaving was expected of him.

A Sad End to an Amazing Life


Today in History, December 15: 1890 –

Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux medicine man, is killed by his own people. Sitting Bull had been an important and historical figure amongst his people, long before his conflicts with the white man.

He had a vision of the white soldiers falling before the Sioux, and it came to pass with Custer’s Last Stand during Battle of the Little Big Horn. He would survive that battle and spend several years spent in Canada.

Later he would tour with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show across the nation. Eventually he retired to the Standing Rock Agency. In the year of his death young Sioux had begun taking part in a resurgent “Ghost Dance” movement…agency officials feared that Sitting Bull would lend his name to the movement, and sent Indian Agency Police to arrest Sitting Bull. Things went south quickly, and the Indian Agency Police shot and killed Sitting Bull, leading to the first incident at Wounded Knee.