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Indian Memorial Dedication

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June 25, 2003       Bookmark and Share

By Bob Reece

Photos © Bob Reece unless otherwise noted


The evening of June 24 was the coldest I'd ever experienced in my 20+ years of visiting the battlefield this time of year. The Bighorns received up to a foot of snow (you'll notice the snow in some of the photos below). But, morning broke on the 25th as partly cloudy, cool -- very comfortable for spending a whole day at the battlefield.

Photos below, evening, June 24, 2003



June 25, 2003

The battlefield was expecting thousands (which they got), so they limited parking to only the elderly, handicapped and dignitaries. The rest parked on a large gravel pit just off the southbound Crow Agency exit from I-90 and were bussed in and out all day.

The Friends had volunteers manning the Keogh and Deep Ravine Trails and Reno/Benteen Battlefield. We set-up our command post on the shady patio of the staff's apartments below the Stone House. Our volunteers numbered about 35, but we didn't start until the afternoon so we wouldn't miss the dedication.

The Indians started at sunrise with private ceremonies at the Memorial. About 9:30 a.m. I noticed a long line of riders approaching from Medicine Tail Ford along Battle Ridge road. It was quite a site viewing about 200 Indians, 7th Cavalry and Buffalo Soldiers marching along the road -- just about the same number of men Custer had.


Color Guards




Private Ceremonies




Indians, 7th Cavalry & Buffalo Soldiers March to Last Stand Hill



The dedication ceremony started promptly at 10:00 am. A large tent with seating was set-up at the amphitheater below the National Cemetery. I was standing at the back of the visitor center visiting with Park Historian, John Doerner when suddenly hundreds then thousands of people started streaming to the tent and its surroundings. Children were playing with their parents or each other amongst the crowds and the tipis.

Then, I saw something that I've never seen before on the Custer Battlefield. Indians in full war regalia and horses dressed for war riding at a full gallop all over the battlefield -- along Battle Ridge, over and across the Deep Ravine Trail. One rider suddenly came out of nowhere crossing over Deep Ravine Trail riding as fast as he could toward Calhoun Hill. What really struck my interest was just how long it took him to travel that distance. It was sometime before he finally stopped.

The lone Indian horseman showed up just before the ceremony started. He gently and silently moved through the crowd. At one point he spurred his horse and went flying by the tipis on his way to Last Stand Hill. All the while, standing vigilantly were members of the 7th Cavalry holding one rider less horse representing the fallen soldiers. They waited by the tipis before their entrance at the beginning of the dedication ceremony.


The Lone Horseman



7th Cavalry & Cheyenne Rider Less Horses


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