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Photos © Bob Reece unless otherwise noted
The winning design for the Indian Memorial was selected from over 500 submitted, by the public, for review by the Indian Memorial Committee. The designers, John Collins and Alison Towers, provided a simple but elegant yet symbolic concept that has proven quite popular to the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year at Little Bighorn. The Indian Memorial will surprise you. It will astonish you because if you didn't know it, you wouldn't know it's there. From the visitor center it appears to be a mound, slightly lifted above the ground. There is already prairie grass sprouting from the outside walls blending it beautifully within its environment.
You cross the street from Last Stand Hill and the first thing you come to is the wayside for Wooden Leg Hill and the Unknown Warrior marker on a distant ridge. Wooden Leg witnessed the death of an unknown warrior wearing a warbonnet when he was shot through the head.
From there you turn northwest and pass by the Horse Cemetery with the new marble marker including a 7th Cavalry Horse drawn by Park Historian, John Doerner. There is a wayside exhibit explaining the archeological dig that was conducted there. From there you follow the sidewalk to where it forks going east and west. The proper way to enter the Memorial is from the east entrance and exit from the west. As you approach the memorial it begins to swallow you into its power. It becomes taller and more mysterious. As you approach the east entrance of the Memorial you can see just above the mound the very tops of the Spirit Warriors (see photos below).
When you enter the Memorial, you enter another world -- somber, deep, retrospective, and sacred. The Memorial is in the shape of a perfect circle. In the center is a circle of red dirt. Around it is a circled stone walkway. On the inner walls sit panels for each tribe that fought in the battle (Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Arikara). Each tribe lists their dead and there are some pictographs.
You are immediately taken by the Spirit Warriors standing high above you to the north. The area is wide open so the Montana prairie shines through. If you turn around from the Spirit Warriors you look through a gap in the mound called the Weeping Wall. It is here that water continually trickles down into a pool representing tears for the fallen warriors and soldiers. And, centered perfectly within the Weeping Wall can be seen the 7th Cavalry Monument. This Spirit Gate welcomes the fallen soldiers to enter the Memorial and join the fallen warriors in friendship; “peace through unity.” Its symbolism is powerful in so many ways to say the least.
It is peaceful in this place, within this circle. When I stand inside the Memorial I feel that it has always been there but is just now showing itself.
Photos © Joanne Blair
Along the walls inside the Indian Memorial are panels for each tribe that fought in the battle: Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow and Arikara. Below are photos of these panels. Imagine if you will that you've entered the memorial from the east and now standing in the center of the memorial. You turn around facing east and the first panel you see is for the Crow just to the left of the east entrance. These photos are arranged in the order you would see them if you started looking right completing the full circle with the Arikara panel.
A Closer Look At Some Of The Panels
Photos below © Kris Nyström
Photos below © Jim Eshleman,
Hardin Photo, Hardin, MT. 406-665-2800
Webmaster's Note: Jim Eshleman is gracious to let us use his photos of the inside of the Indian Memorial. I think you would agree that these include some of the most unique perspectives seen of any photos so far of the memorial.
Copyright 1999-2013 Bob Reece
Friends Little Bighorn Battlefield, P.O. Box 636, Crow Agency, MT 59022