What it means for the Little Bighorn study
CONTRADICTION IN INDIAN ACCOUNTS
By David Cornut, author of the historical chronicle Little Big Horn, autopsie d'une bataille légendaire (France, 2006)
Something very strange in Indian accounts is their mix of very detailed action, stories of hot fire and hard struggle, with overall comments of little fight, quick charges and low casualties. As
Historian Michno and others showed, the Indians often related very detailed stories of their deeds which needed considerable time to be done. For example, Indian charges against Custer's large defensive perimeter were very dangerous and some failed. It is thus impossible to say that the fight was quick, for time is needed to prepare and conduct the assault. One cannot believe that several Indian charges failed and were launched again in a matter of a few minutes.
The difference between a "regular" Indian account (with detailed action) and a comment on the overall battle is the purpose that was driving the Indian witness.
While relating the action, he was simply telling what he had done and what he had seen. But when it was time to say a little comment about the whole action, the Indian felt that it could cause him troubles - and the witness often said something that was downplaying his role, the importance of the battle and the action itself.
In the 1920s, some interviewers understood that many Indians were changing their stories because they thought that anything about killed Whites could cause them troubles. Two Moon talked a lot about torture in the village in his detailed accounts until he realized that it wasn't the cleverest thing to say. He then began to firmly deny it. However, other Sioux accounts told us the same story of men being burnt alive during ceremonies of torture in the village.
If we ignore the context, we cannot explain why Indians began to mix detailed action and comments which downplayed this very same action. Like: "See, they just didn't fight, they somewhat wanted to die, so we killed them"
This is something the student of the battle must keep in mind. Contradictions about the battle tell more about the Indian witness that about the story itself. Thus it is much more useful to analyze the detailed action rather than to pick up a general statement on Little Bighorn.
Indian drawing of the aftermath of the battle