Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
Foolish Elk's Story of the Battle, #2
SPOTTED CALF CUSTER'S SLAYER, AGED INDIAN EYEWITNESS SAYS
Mitchell, S. D. -- Out of a mass of contradictory story and legend, Foolish Elk, Brule Sioux Indian and an eyewitness of the death of General George A. Custer, has emerged to name Spotted Calf, Santee member of Chief Inkpaduta's band, as the real slayer of the cavalry leader at the battle of the Little Big Horn.
Foolish Elk, 80 years old now and blind, unable to read or speak the English language, unaware of the long controversy over Custer's death, has told his story to William J. Bordeaux, federal Indian interpreter for the United States district attorney at Sioux Falls, S. D., who presents the new version of the slaying in a copyrighted article in the Mitchell Republican.
For Bordeaux, himself a quarter-blood Brule Sioux, the evidence of the old Indian culminates a long effort to discover Custer's actual slayer. The effort was begun by Bordeaux's father, Louis, now, dead, long an Indian trader.
Custer was slain, Foolish Elk says, early in the battle; and the famous painting by Frederick Remington, "Custer's Last Stand" which pictures the cavalry leader, with his locks flying, standing alone in the midst of a circle of howling, riding Indians is in error.
The Indian's tale, as set down by Bordeaux, relates that Foolish Elk had been wounded in a battle against General Crook in 1865 just eight days before the battle of the Little Big Horn, and that when Custer's cavalry charged the Indian villages Foolish Elk sat in the door of his wigwam, saw Custer and one or two officers cut off from his troops, and saw Spotted Calf, the Santee, a survivor of the Santee massacre of 1863 in Minnesota, fell the cavalry general with one blow of his tomahawk.
The statement that Spotted Calf was Custer's slayer stands undisputed among the Sioux, Bordeaux declares.
In substantiation he has among several statements one made by Crazy Horse on that chief's deathbed in 1877, in the presence of his father:
"No one could identify Custer in the excitement of the battle. But we disposed of the leaders in a very short time and if he was unfortunate enough to be one of the groups in the lead he was one of the first to fall."
Bordeaux's conclusion is that doubt no longer exists that Custer was one of the first to fall and that the Sioux, know rightly who killed him: Spotted Calf, the Santee, avenging a massacre of his own people 13 years earlier. [Note: The eye-witness record indicates that Custer was killed at the beginning of the battle by White Cow Bull. See Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-witness Answer for more info.]
There were two warriors named Foolish Elk at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, one an Oglala and the other a Brule. Here is another account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn by the Brule Sioux warrior Foolish Elk.
The Seventh Cavalty officer Foolish Elk described seeing Spotted Calf kill right across the river from the village, at the outset of the Custer Fight, could conceivably have been Custer, or perhaps the Ney York Herald correspondent Mark Kellogg.