‘This is good. He sought death and now he has found it.” — Touch The Clouds, Crazy Horse’s cousin, and witness to his death.
“No shot was fired, and Crazy Horse– a man who had lost his brother, his daughter, the woman he loved, several friends, his way of life, and even, for a time, his people–began his leaving as a man and his arrival as a myth, a man around whom stories that are like little gospels accumulate. A variation death of Crazy Horse would consist of at least a score of versions, all contributed or recollected by people, white and red, who were in the fort that night.”
— Larry McMurtry, Crazy Horse
Public political assassinations are not a new American story. In my own lifetime there have been the brazen and shocking murders of JFK, his brother Robert, Martin Luther King, and Malcom X. In all cases, there were plenty of witnesses and one thing can be said of all of them; nobody ever tells the same story of the same killing. Such is also the case of the assassination of Crazy Horse. Many claim he was held by fellow red men while bayoneted by a white soldier. Little Big Man, his betrayer, claims he stabbed himself. There are many versions; so many, any is impossible to believe. What is known is that for the interests of the Army and some Indians, he could not be allowed to leave the fort he was murdered at. He was onto them.
When Crazy Horse witnessed the filth and conditions his fellow Indians were subjected to, for him, all bets were off.
Early in Larry McMurtry’s account of the life of Crazy Horse, the author is clearly puzzled by the perceptions of Crazy horse by whites and by Native Americans: “They depict Crazy Horse as a kind of being never seen on earth: a genius at war yet a lover of peace; a statesman who apparently never thought of the interest of any human being outside his own camp; a dreamer, a mystic, and a kind of Sioux Christ, who was betrayed in the end by his own disciples–Little Big Man, Touch-the-Clouds and the rest. One is inclined to ask, what is it all about?”
Crazy Horse is certainly an American kind of enigma; a man many would build monuments to and then sneer at clay feet of their hero. The more I read about Crazy Horse, the more fascinated I am. Every account I’ve read seems to be about a different person. He defied type and was his own man.