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How Many Sioux and Cheyenne Died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn?

By Mr. History
9/1/2015 • Ask Mr. History

Custer and around 260 of his men died at Little Bighorn, but how many Sioux and Cheyenne Indians died at Little Bighorn June 25, 1876?

? ? ?

Fatalities in the 7th Cavalry Regiment during the Battle of the Greasy Grass (to use the winners’ term for it) totaled 259. Figuring out the Indian casualties has been complicated by inconsistencies in their accounts and pictorial depictions, largely because Indians often bore more than one name and some of the deaths may have been duplicated.

Attached is a recent listing by name (or names) that may reconcile those factors to set the losses at 31 warriors (seven of whom were Cheyenne, the rest Lakota), six women and four children.

http://www.littlebighorn.info/Articles/IndianCasualties.pdf

John Koster, one of those contributing writers to Wild West for whom the Little Bighorn borders on obsession, came up with a similar statistic:

“One Bull, a Cheyenne who lived near the Little Bighorn battlefield on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation supplied Walter Mason Camp with a list of 26 warriors killed at the Little Bighorn battle in 1876, with their names. I believe he said there were seven Cheyenne and 19 Lakota. Major Marcus Reno said he saw 18 dead Indian warriors on the battlefield. Since the Lakota leave their dead above-ground on scaffolds, in burial tepees or in trees, this would fit the One Bull tally closely. Some 10 to 20 women and children were also killed. The Arikara who were on the U.S, side, lost three or four warriors.

“Left Hand—Napeh Chatkah—was a Hunkpapa Lakota, not a Cheyenne. He was carried on the Hunkpapa (Standing Rock) tribal casualty list. He had scouted for Custer until early June, then rejoined his own people. I think maybe they killed him by mistake but he got a warrior society funeral…”

Sincerely,

 

Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History
www.historynet.com

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2 Responses to How Many Sioux and Cheyenne Died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn?

  1. C. Lee Noyes says:

    The cited analysis concludes that 31 warriors and 10 Indian non-combatants died during this clash of cultures. However, the late Kenneth Hammer compiled a list of 55 potential warrior fatalities that has been posted on the CBHMA website (http://custerbattlefield.org/ssi/pdfs/indians_who_died.pdf) for that should cause further speculation. This longer list is based in part on the unpublished research of former Little Bighorn Battlefield Historian John Doerner.

    Ethnographic challenges complicate any serious attempt to document Indian casualties accurately as well as related subjects. Confusion concerning tribal affiliations and warrior names (among other factors) has frustrated efforts to compile a complete and definitive list of warriors (and non-combatants) that died at the battle.

    Part of the challenge is the fact that distinctions between the seven Lakota Sioux divisions were not as precise as our stereotypes divide them. Although there were no apparent major linguistic or other cultural differences that separated Hunkpapa from Oglala, there were significant geopolitical divisions within each Lakota band: the non-reservation, “Northern” roamers led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull; the permanent residents of the reservation established by the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty; and the Summer roamers from the agencies who temporarily joined the northern bands.

    Moreover, these bands intermingled and intermarried. Close ties existed, for example, between the Oglala war leader Crazy Horse and the Minneconjou because of his mother’s affiliation with the latter division. As a child he often lived with the Minneconjou. Following the death of his mother, Crazy Horse’s father married two sisters of the Brûlé leader Spotted Tail; and prior to being killed in 1877, he had fled to the agency named after his famous “uncle.” In another instance, Minneconjou White Bull, a nephew of Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa), was camped in the tribal circle of his Sans Arc wife on the day of the battle.

    Further compounding and accounting for such confusion is the fact that two (or perhaps more) men of the same name had different tribal affiliations. For example, there was a prominent Minneconjou as well as a Hunkpapa leader known as Black Moon. Moreover, the Lakota knew the Cheyenne by different names (for example, Lame White Man/Bearded Man; Limber Bones/Flying By, etc.). Relationships outside the Lakota further defy such categorization. The father of the “Arikara” scout Bloody Knife, for example, was Hunkpapa.

    In addition to the sources that Dr. Hammer cites, please refer to Richard G. Hardorff, Hokahey! A Good Day to Die. For an examination of Lakota affiliations, customs and organization, we recommend James R. Walker, Lakota Society. Articles on the Warrior Marker Project at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument appeared, for example, in the June 27, 2003, June 19, 2005, June 23, 2006 and June 26, 2008 issues of Billings Gazette, Fall 2006 CBHMA Battlefield Dispatch and March 2014 LBHA Newsletter.

    Please feel free to forward this message or otherwise distribute this information to all interested persons and parties.

    C. Lee Noyes

    • Dog Soldier says:

      Why are the Lakota and Hunkpapa predominantly listed when it was the Cheyenne (Dog Soldiers) that led the fight? GOD Bless

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