Account by an Arikara scout
LITTLE SIOUX'S STORY
source: The Arikara Narrative of Custer's Campaign against the Hostile Dakotas, June 1876, pages 149 - 157
IT WAS EARLY in the morning, just at sunrise, and there came down from the butte, Red Star and Bull. By this time the army was all together and the mule pack train was with them. Custer told all the scouts to come to him and they made a circle about him. He said to them: "Well, I want to tell you this, the way I want it. We all want to charge together and after we get to the Sioux camp I want you to run off all the horses you can." Then the charge began for the Dakota camp; they went three or four miles and then Custer went up on the high butte and came down again after seeing the Dakota camp. The scouts led on with the charge and reached the lone tepee about noon. It was about as far to the Little Bighorn as it was from the high butte to the lone tepee. It was nearly 3 o'clock when they reached the Dakota camp. They rode at full speed with Custer and Little Sioux about the middle. When he reached the river he saw going up the bank on the other side, Young Hawk, Strikes Two, Boy Chief, and Goose. As he came up the bank he saw before him a curved, flat space covered with sage brush and with timber at the right. The soldiers were forming a line at right angle to the timber and then the firing began. In front of the soldiers, while he was a little way from the bank, Little Sioux saw Black Fox and Forked Horn. Away to the left and in front of the soldiers, near some buttes, he saw Bob-tailed Bull.
Some Dakotas were riding in between Bob-tailed Bull and the soldiers. Little Sioux was about half way to the line of soldiers with others all around him, and then he saw Bloody Knife swing in from the timber along which, from the direction of the Dakota camp, he was driving three horses. Bloody Knife was his uncle and he came up to him and said: "Take these horses away back, this is what Custer told us to do." Little Sioux paid no attention and Bloody Knife turned back without waiting to see what became of the horses. With Little Sioux there were Red Star, Strikes Two, and Boy Chief. As they stood there together looking across the river they saw at the foot of the ridge (about where they were to cross later) three women and two children coming across the flat running and hurrying along as best they could, on a slant toward the river. Little Sioux fired twice at them and so did Red Star. Then all four of the scouts rode through the timber toward the river to kill them. But just at this point they saw across the river on the flat a large herd of about two hundred Dakota horses in the sage brush, so they stopped pursuing the women and children and started after the horses. Little Sioux had no trouble at either bank, he rode his horse swimming. On the opposite side there was much sage brush and willows and the four all crossed together.
They started to head the horses upstream. Red Star rode farthest to the left, then Boy Chief, then Strikes Two, and last of all Little Sioux. While they were driving the horses he first saw the tepees of the Dakotas, three-quarters of a mile away across the river, just the tops of the poles and very many of them. They had ridden farther ahead than the battle line of the soldiers, that is, farther down-stream in order to head off and drive the horses back to where they could get them away from the Dakotas. They had hardly headed the horses before the Dakotas came across the river from the village where he had seen the tops of the tepees and from there they carried on a running fight up the valley for over a mile with the pursuing Dakotas chasing and firing at them. They reached and crossed the high bluff, at which point was the hardest fighting, and the Dakotas chased them back on the trail seven or eight miles. This fight for the horses was kept up until nearly dark or until the red blaze from the guns could be seen and there were only five Dakotas left. These seemed to have ridden around in front of the herd and attacked the scouts as they went by. The flat between the ridge and the river was about threequarters of a mile wide and they drove the horses nearer the river than the ridge. They crossed the ridge because it curved in front of them and they did not turn out o£ their course. Where they crossed the ridge, was a mile below the first crossing and about threequarters of a mile from the second crossing. The two places on the river where Little Sioux crossed were about a mile apart. While he was driving off the horses on the flat he heard the battle going on very plainly at his right and on his left also. Slightly behind him he heard sounds of another battle but not quite so plain.
As Little Sioux came up the ridge he met the other scouts that had been left behind and they all went on together. From the ridge he saw that the battle was over, dead men and horses lay all the way from where the battle line was to the river, and also on the bank and up to the hill. They rode on and looking back they saw some dismounted soldiers, who had straggled up from the river, fighting the Dakotas back. He saw a dead soldier lying just where he came up over the ridge on the hill. Here Little Sioux's horse played out, the one he had ridden from the first. He was riding ahead of the other scouts when he saw a black horse with a piece of buckskin around his neck from which hung a bell. He threw himself off his horse, caught the Dakota horse, put his own saddle on it, and turned his own horse loose, all of this during his ride up the hill. At the time he looked back to the battleground he also looked toward where he had heard the firing at his left. There he saw, about two miles west, near enough to hear the guns, along the ridge, a high sloping hill, the sides of which were covered with Dakota horsemen, thick as ants, riding all about.
At the top some soldiers were lying down and were shooting down at the Dakotas, who were firing back. He noticed many little fires on the prairie where the first fighting took place, much smoke but no blaze. He saw also on the hill at the south, groups of Indians moving off here and there. He noticed that these groups scattered as they got up higher and broke up in every direction, this was about three miles off. He saw also on the battleground Dakotas riding about among the dead bodies shooting at them. There were five Dakotas in the last attack which was made on the scouts who were driving off the herd of Dakota horses. Stabbed told some of them to dismount and hold back the enemy. Those who stopped to do this were Little Sioux, Soldier, Strikes Two, Boy Chief, Stabbed, and Strikes-the-Lodge.
When the four scouts met the others at the top of the hill some of them stayed behind to fight back the Dakotas. These were: Soldier, Little Sioux, Stabbed, Strikes-the-Lodge, Strikes Two, and Boy Chief. They fought on foot to hold back the Dakotas who had by this time killed all the dismounted soldiers. Their horses were tied to their cartridge belt by a loose slipknot and when riding this rope hung in a coil on the saddle-horn. This device was used by all the Indians so that they might never be in danger of losing their horses in battle. When this group of scouts had stopped the Dakotas and driven them back, it was about an hour from sunset and they tried to find the herd but missed the way for a time. In the last fight with the five Dakotas, already referred to, the herd of horses was so close that the firing scared them and in spite of all the other scouts could do the whole herd was lost. Little Sioux fell back now with the other five scouts for they thought all the soldiers were killed and all the horses lost. Stabbed drove his horse and rode a mule taken from the big herd when the scouts first met him. They rode all night long and all the next day till evening without stopping and they came to where the steamboat unloaded.
Here were some spoiled crackers and they made camp all night and rested and ate. While they were in camp here they were seen by the party led by Running Wolf, who thought that they were Dakotas. After sunrise the next day Black Fox came up and joined them. After he was seen in distance Little Sioux was sent back to meet him and he called to him that he was an Arikara, but Black Fox could not hear him for the wind blew toward him and he thought it was a party of Dakotas. Black Fox got off of the Dakota horse he was riding, leaving the saddle, and mounted his own bareback. He rode into a blind washout with high banks but here he heard Little Sioux's voice echoing back from the high bank and he recognized him and rode out again. He was glad to see Little Sioux and gave him the horse he had caught. The six scouts slept under the roots of a fallen tree and they had a fire. They were cooking some camp leavings when Black Fox came in sight a long way off, about 8 o'clock. The seven scouts traveled all day and camped at the mouth of Tongue River and slept there. The next day they came to the Powder River base camp just as the bugles were blowing for dinner. Some soldiers came out to meet them and they told them what had happened but the soldiers did not believe them. Then the commanding officer called them in and the scouts told him what they knew.
He said nothing when they had finished and sent them out again. In camp they found four scouts, Horns-in-Front, Cha-ra-ta, and two others. About three days later the commanding officer ordered them to bring their horses up for inspection, as mail was to be carried. But the horses were all worn out so two mules were used instead. He sent the mail out by two scouts, Crow Bear and a half breed, to General Terry on the Bighorn River. No other scouts had come in yet. Before they had reached Terry's camp the steamboat came in with the wounded. Until the boat came in seven scouts were missing, the three who were killed and the three with Young Hawk, besides the interpreter, [Fred] Gerard. The steamboat took the scouts across the river, about twenty-four of them, and they went up the river and met the Crow Indians who had come together too late to help
Custer at the mouth of the Rosebud. They recrossed the Elk River by steamboat and it went along with them up the river. They marched on the east side of the river and met some soldiers and later some other soldiers with Arapahoes. All of these were to meet and go with Custer against the Dakotas but it was now too late. As the Arapahoe Indians came near, the soldiers first took them for Dakotas and got ready to fight. The Arapahoes told the scouts that the whole plan had been made for battle after all the soldiers had assembled, but Custer had fought too soon.