This Day in History

Sept. 5, 1877: Murder of Tashunca-uitco (Crazy Horse)

Time Periods: Industrial Revolution: 1877 - 1899
Themes: Native American, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

On Sept. 5, 1877 Tashunca-uitco (Chief Crazy Horse) was murdered.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, notes that, 

Crazy Horse was a new kind of leader to emerge after the Civil War, at the beginning of the army’s wars of annihilation in the northern plains and the Southwest. Crazy Horse became a part of the Akicita, a traditional Sioux society that kept order in villages and during migrations.

His life is described on PBS/WETA,

Crazy Horse (1849-1877) earned his reputation among the Lakota not only by his skill and daring in battle but also by his fierce determination to preserve his people’s traditional way of life. He fought to prevent American encroachment on Lakota lands following the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, helping to attack a surveying party sent into the Black Hills by General George Armstrong Custer in 1873.

When the War Department ordered all Lakota bands onto their reservations in 1876, Crazy Horse became a leader of the resistance. Closely allied to the Cheyenne through his first marriage to a Cheyenne woman, he gathered a force of 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne at his village and turned back General George Crook on June 17, 1876, as Crook tried to advance up Rosebud Creek toward Sitting Bull’s encampment on the Little Bighorn. After this victory, Crazy Horse joined forces with Sitting Bull and on June 25 led his band in the counterattack that destroyed Custer’s Seventh Cavalry, flanking the Americans from the north and west as Hunkpapa warriors led by chief Gall charged from the south and east.

Following the Lakota victory at the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and Gall retreated to Canada, but Crazy Horse remained to battle General Nelson Miles as he pursued the Lakota and their allies relentlessly throughout the winter of 1876-77. This constant military harassment and the decline of the buffalo population eventually forced Crazy Horse to surrender on May 6, 1877; except for Gall and Sitting Bull, he was the last important chief to yield.

Even in defeat, Crazy Horse remained an independent spirit, and in September 1877, when he left the reservation without authorization, to take his sick wife to her parents, General George Crook ordered him arrested, fearing that he was plotting a return to battle. Crazy Horse did not resist arrest at first, but when he realized that he was being led to a guardhouse, he began to struggle, and while his arms were held by one of the arresting officers, a soldier ran him through with a bayonet.

Read a longer bio for Chief Crazy Horse at the Manataka Indian Council website.