Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
Dog's Story of the Battle
DOG'S ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE
MY GRANDFATHER [Dog or Ho-ta Me-he in Cheyenne] said he could always tell who was going to become the best warrior. He told me about a little boy the Cheyennes captured once when they attacked a Ute camp. There was this little boy standing around crying. You know how it is. One of the Cheyennes picked up the little boy and took him home on his horse. When the chiefs saw what happened, they said to the warrior, "Go give this little boy to an old lady to raise, a grandmother. We'll raise him as a Cheyenne. We won't tell him that he's from another tribe. We'll raise him as a Cheyenne and see what happens." [Note: this is similar to what happened to Yellow Nose, who was a Ute raised by the Cheyeene and one of the heroes at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.] Well, this little boy was raised by the grandmother. He was raised like a Cheyenne. Everybody watched him grow up because they knew he was not a Cheyenne. But he turned out to be the best of them.
My grandfather said on the day Custer came to attack their village, the Cheyennes had runners watching in the hills. This boy was one of the runners. He came running down to warn the village that soldiers were coming. He told them how far away Custer was and what part of the day he was going to be there. He could tell by the sun. When the sun gets to here, that's when the soldiers are going to come riding. [Note: The Sioux and Cheyenne received numerous scouting reports on the whereabouts of the American invaders on the morning of June 25, 1876, including Fast Horn and the Sioux boy Brown Back, who was the brother of the Sioux boy, Deeds, the first casualty of the battle who was murdered by Custer's men at the very beginning of the battle.]
These runners -- there were two of them -- used this root that grows out here. It glows blue at night. They use that. They put it on their ears, on their arms. It makes them strong. It's Indian medicine. They used it when they had ceremonies like the Contrary Ceremony. They would use it, too, to represent animals. The medicine men put that root on these two runners. When they put their ears to the ground, the runners could hear those hooves coming. They could analyze how far away Custer was. And they could see from that point those flashing buttons on their coats. One of the boys ran down to the village and one stayed up there. The runner told them, "This is how far away they are."
Some of the warriors were down by the river in sweat lodges. They were sweating. Someone sent the Crazy Dogs to go down and tell them to get out of there and to get ready. The Crazy Dogs also took the Sacred Hat Keeper, some of the girls and boys, and some families up into the hills where they would be safe, where they wouldn't be hurt in case the warriors all got killed. The Cheyennes knew that's what Custer was determined to do, to kill all the Cheyennes. So they left. The old people and the children, they went out of the village, but the warriors came running.
As the warriors were running around getting ready, a man got up and took his drum and began singing. He was singing the Suicide Song. And all these warriors who were getting ready, they were putting on their best moccasins, so that they could die in their best. They were getting their horses ready too. They came running to this man who was playing the Suicide Song. They began dancing to the song. If you dance to that Suicide Song, it means you must stay out there to the very end, because you have made a vow to win or die. That's the purpose of the Suicide Song.
Today if anyone sings that Suicide Song, we would probably all head for the hills because we're different now, you know! But at that time, those young men came running over and began dancing. Some young girls, when they saw their brother dancing, why they said, "I'm going to go join my brother. I'll die with my brother today." Some of the first ones did that, not that many. [Note: Here is more information on the "Suicide Boys."] Most of the young women took care of the old ladies, the elderlies, and the children. That was their job.
My grandfather said that Ute boy was the first one over there dancing to the Suicide Song. [Note: See Indian Battlefield Tactics for more info.] Then he got on his horse and he was leading the charge to meet Custer. This shows that he was raised to be one of the best warriors that they could ever have as a Cheyenne, but he wasn't a Cheyenne at all, he was a Ute. He was the first one out there ready to meet the soldiers. He made everyone proud. He showed everyone that old lady did a good job raising him.
My grandfather said that when the fighting stopped some women ran up there to see who was still alive, to see who died, to see who needed help. Some of the dead were facing down, and they were turning them over. I read in a book somewhere that Indian women went through the pockets of the dead soldiers, robbing these men. My grandfather never said anything like that. He said they were worried, because someone might still be alive that needed help, that might be just wounded. That's what they were doing when they were out there. And he also said, "I really felt bad that all those young people died, including white kids. From what I seen of them, they were just young boys, like kids. They had to die because of Custer..."
[Florence Whiteman explained:] My grandfather told me that Custer had met the Cheyennes before. He had talked with them in Oklahoma. They had a meeting with Custer to make peace. At the meeting they smoked the pipe. All of them, the chiefs and Custer, they smoked the pipe. The chiefs told him that they were going to become friends, because they were smoking a pipe. They explained this to Custer. After Custer got all through smoking this pipe, there was nothing left in it but ashes. The chiefs then told him to stand up. He had his boots on. They told him to take that pipe and tap it on his boots, so the ashes could come out of the pipe and fall on the ground. Then they told him to take the sole of his boot and rub the ashes into the ground, so that's what he did. The chiefs then said, "Now, if you ever double-cross the Cheyenne, that's how you're going to end up. That's the purpose of smoking the pipe and rubbing those ashes into the ground. There's going to be nothing left of you, if you ever double-cross the Cheyenne." And that's what happened to him at Little Bighorn. That happened because he probably didn't believe us. That's the way it was back then. Whatever the medicine men said at the time after they did ceremonies, it always, always came true. That's one of the stories my grandfather told me.
Little Bighorn Remembered -- The Untold Indian Story of Custer's Last Stand, by Herman J. Viola, Times Books, New York, NY 1999, pages 46-49
Dog's account provides additional detail about what the free Sioux and Cheyenne knew regarding the whereabouts of the American invaders on the morning of June 25, 1876, as well as testimony to the presence of girl warriors among the "Suicide Boys."
Dog's grandaughter, Florence Whiteman was the last woman warrior among the Cheyenne. Here is John Warner's 1999 note on Florence Whiteman from Herman J. Viola's beautifully produced Little Bighorn Remembered -- The Untold Indian Story of Custer's Last Stand:
"Florence Whiteman lives near Lame Deer on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Raised by her grandparents, at age twelve she was initiated into the Elk Warriors Society, and she is the last woman warrior among the Northern Cheyennes. She also has the distinction of being the last Cheyenne woman given to her husband for a bride-price of four horses. The traditional marriage, which took place in 1943, when Florence was fifteen years old, was arranged because of her special status as an Elk Society warrior. After her first husband died, she married her present husband, Philip Whiteman. "I picked him myself," she laughs. "I told my Society brothers that one arranged marriage was enough." She is the mother of two sons and seven daughters."