A North Star Dakotan Interview with She Walks with Her Shawl
A Hotly Contested Battle
A young woman of 23, Tasina-mani-win is a Hunkpapa Sioux who was digging wild turnips on Sunday morning, June 25, 1876. She heard noise and a huge dust cloud and ran to her village.
What did you find when you reached your village?
We saw soldiers on the bluff across the Greasy Grass [Little Bighorn] River. My mother told me that my brother had already been killed. Then the soldiers began firing into our camp. When I saw my father prepare for battle, I sang a death song for my dead brother.
Did you run to hide?
No, my heart was filled with revenge. I ran and found my black horse, painted my face with crimson and unbraided my hair to show my mourning. When the soldiers killed some more of our people, including some women and children, I mounted my black horse and followed my father into battle.
What happened in the battle?
The soldiers tried to cross the deep river. We rode among them. Some were unhorsed by Indians with tomahawks. We chased these soldiers across the river and came back to the bottom. Then we heard a commotion far down the valley. We rode in the direction of a new group of soldiers that we later learned were led by Long Hair [Custer].
What happened to Long Hair and his troops?
There was dust from stampeding horses and powder smoke, so everything was almost dark and hard to see. I heard Red Horse yell, “There was never a better day to die.” Long Hair’s troopers were trapped in an enclosure. There were Indians everywhere. The Cheyennes attacked from the north and other Indians from the south. The Lakota Indians encircled the troopers. Not one got away! The Lakota used tomahawks. It was not a massacre, but a hotly contested battle.
What happened when it was over?
Not a single soldier was burned at a stake. Very few soldiers were mutilated, as some white reporters say. The Lakota do not torture their enemies in battle. After it was over, we took all the equipment and horses belonging to the soldiers. The brave men who came to punish us were defeated, but in the end, I think we will lose.
Did you know it was Custer?
We did after we heard an interpreter told us that these soldiers came from Fort Lincoln. We did see the cross saber insignia and the letter seven on saddle bags.
Did you celebrate that night?
No, because we brought back over sixty of our own people for burial. We mourned our dead that night.
I have one more thing to say. I have not boasted of my conquests. I am a woman, but I fought for my people. The white men will never understand the Indian. I have said everything! The end!
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council