Shortly after the end of America’s Civil War, turmoil raged in the Midwest. For many years the American government had been increasingly placing restrictions on Native Americans and their customs. Amidst the climate of change that increased with each move westward, the United States Government became uneasy when dealing with Native Americans and their lifestyles. This discontent grew until battle became inevitable.
On June 25, 1876, Hunkpapa Lakota Mary Crawler also known as Moving Robe Woman was doing yard work when she heard that her brother had been slain by General Custer and his army. She immediately abandoned her work and headed to avenge her brother’s death. She describes this day in an interview given with Frank Zahn in 1931 of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “I ran to a nearby thicket and got my black horse. I painted my face with crimson and braided my black hair. I was mourning. I was a woman, but I was not afraid.” She rode into battle with her father and other warriors and described the scene with, “It was not a massacre but a hotly contested battle between two armed forces.” “She is implicated in the killing of Isaiah Dorman, a black interpreter who was married to a Lakota woman, but chose to ride against his wife’s people”, says Richard Hook in his book Warriors at The Little Bighorn, 1876. Moving Robe Woman does not contest these claims but ends her interview with, “In this story I have not boasted my conquests. I am a woman, but I fought for my people.”
The Battle of Little Bighorn remains as one of the most well known and publicized battles between the Native American population and the American government. It is interesting to note that although this battle and many like it are historically significant ,the artwork portraying them, like the lithograph above, reveals a profound absence of women and their involvement. Moving Robe Woman is only one of many Native American women in history to have joined in the fight for Native American rights and liberties. By choosing to honor her family and her people, Moving Robe Woman continues to set a precedent for many Native American women to come.
Hardorff, Richard ed. Lakota Recollections of the Custer Fight: New Sources of Indian-military History. Spokane: University of Nebraska Press, 1991. Print.
Hook, Richard. Warriors at the Little Bighorn 1876. Oxford:Osprey, 2004. Print.
The Battle of Little Bighorn, General Custer’s Death Struggle, 1878, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2009633807/resource/
Moving Robe Woman, 1931, http://nativeamericanencyclopedia.com/moving-robe-woman/