The book belonged to a Lt. McIntosh of the US 7th Cavalry and the bullet hole came from a shot fired by a Lakota warrior who was defending his family from an early morning ambush by military forces led by General George Armstrong Custer at a place called the Greasy Grass River, known by white men as the Little Bighorn.
To indigenous peoples, Custer was a ruthless murderer. He was known among the Lakota and Cheyenne as a butcher of women and children, ordering attacks on peaceful villages in his quest for military and political honor. And killing Indians has always, even today, been a good way to get it. It was Custer who in blatant violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, led an expedition into the sacredest of holy lands, the place of origin for the Lakota people, Paha Sapa, the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota. There he discovered gold and announced it to the media, instituting a gold rush which continues today. When the Lakota expressed outrage at this violation of their treaty with the U.S. Government, they were offered pennies per acre for the heart of their earth mother. That money still sits in a bank, the Lakota still today refuse to accept money for their land. The Lakota want the return of what was stolen from them.
When the Lakota attempted to evict the gold miners in the 1870's, the U.S. military was sent in to "destroy the hostile Indians". Hostiles are any Indians who refused to live life in near starvation on the reservations, where disease and social disorder was rampant. In 1876 U.S. forces engaged the "hostiles" on the Rosebud River and got their asses kicked big time. General Crook who with Custer led the attack, later recounted the battle crediting the Lakota and Cheyenne with incredible acts of bravery, including that of a woman who charged into the midst of the battlefield to rescue her wounded brother. Two weeks later, Custer discovered an immense encampment on the Little Bighorn. Not wanting to await reinforcements from Crook, Custer ordered a charge on the camp of over 3,000. Lakota and Cheyenne warriors rallied to defend their people from the man they called the "Chief of Thieves". With shouts of "Brave hearts forward! Coward hearts to the rear!" indigenous leaders Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse led their people to victory, completely destroying Custer's 7th Cavalry of over 200 men. Many soldiers were mutilated by the Indian women in retaliation for the mutilation of women and children by these very same men. Custer's body was left alone because no Lakota or Cheyenne wanted to dirty themselves by touching it. Yet some Indian women took leather awls and poked holes in Custer's ears saying, "In your next life with these added holes maybe you will listen when we tell you Lakota land is not for sale..."
The victory at the Greasy Grass signaled the end of the Sioux Wars as the whites called them. Increased military repression led to the defeat of the Lakota Nation, and one by one leaders such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull led their battered and broken yet proud people onto reservations where many remain today. Within a few short years hundreds more would be slaughtered after both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were assassinated on the reservation for attempting to lead their people in a new way of life. As bands of Lakota fled towards the camp of Red Cloud, one of the last surviving great leaders, they would be surrounded and shot at a place called Wounded Knee.
Eighty years later something began to happen as the restless spirits of those whose blood was spilled by the U.S. government began to fill the hearts of young Indian men and women in the 1970's. A resurgence was born and the American Indian Movement was began. A.I.M. warriors converged on the Lakota reservation at the invitation of elders whose relations had fought and died against Custer on the Plains. Fighting tribal government corruption on the Pine Ridge reservation which sold uranium-rich lands to the mining industry, A.I.M. also began to rebuild traditional communities, bringing back the old ways to the youngsters of the sweat lodge and sundance ceremonies. A.I.M. brought something to the reservations that the U.S. government thought it had destroyed. The memory of who we as indigenous people are, people with our own proud heritage of resistance and an identity with a culture that keeps our bond to mother earth alive.
It wasn't long before corrupt officials and the U.S. government sent back in the Cavalry. Launching a counter-intelligence program, the F.B.I. planted infiltrators, agent provocateurs, and began a major smear campaign against A.I.M.'s most vocal leaders. The FBI also supplied arms and ammo to A.I.M.'s opponents who threatened, intimidated and murdered some of the Lakota's finest young traditional leaders. By 1980 over 150 A.I.M. members and supporters were dead with no investigation of their murder. Many also went to prison such as Leonard Peltier who still sits in prison, charged with the killing of two F.B.I. agents who like Custer had charged into a peaceful Lakota encampment with guns ablazing.
In 1992 I visited the Greasy Grass battlefield to pay my respects to my fallen indigenous brothers and sisters who had given their lives past and present to defend Lakota sovereignty. I was outraged at the presentation of Custer's defeat as a great tragedy committed by Lakota and Cheyenne "hostiles". There was no space on the battlefield or in the adjacent museum to present the TRUTH of the U.S. government's violations of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 or the justifiable response of the indigenous peoples who defended their families and way of life from sanctioned butchers. No grave markers like those for the 7th Cavalrymen, detailing the many indigenous warriors who fell. I decided to counter this disrespect of indigenous sovereignty and heritage with the theft of a Cavalryman's journal on display that was taken from a Lakota woman on the reservation by a soldier distributing food rations. For stealing this over-glorified shopping list I received 57 months in prison while graverobbers and pot-hunters on indigenous lands who desecrate the graves of our ancestors routinely receive probation. When I stole the journal I issued the following press release:
Crazy Horse Retribution Society accepts responsibility for stealing Lt. McIntosh's notebook from the battle monument. It was done to draw attention to the continued genocide inflicted on Native American peoples and lands by the U.S. government. Custer's defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn is described at the battlefield museum as a tragedy. The real tragedy is what leads native people to such drastic actions. Rape, mutilations, poverty, religious persecution, and cultural assassination carried out by the 7th Cavalry continues to this day by other U.S. agents of repression on reservations across North America.
Misrepresentation of the struggle by Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapahoe to maintain their ancient traditions by fighting imperialist assimilation has forced native people today to take action. The desecration of native religion by the profane display of sacred objects in museums, and the destruction of sacred lands to mine uranium and coal for bombs and T.V.s, is not conducive with the lessons given by the Great Spirit.
We demand equal representation on the battlefield in the form of displays and exhibits approved by the American Indian Movement. The explanation of the justified actions of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull to defend their home and people at the Little Bighorn is necessary before the notebook can be returned.
Until the U.S. Government recognizes native sovereignty and suspends exploitive attitudes, teachings and behavior against the First Americans, we will rise up against the modern Custers of U.S. society.