Friends Of The Little Bighorn Battlefield

The Next Generation In The Study Of Custer's Last Stand

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Peter Gill

Webmaster's Note: Peter Gill has been a member of Friends since 2006. Peter lives in Canada.

Peter Gill

As a child of thirteen growing up in a small town in the province of Ontario, Canada, I saw many western movies at Saturday matinees. Hollywood westerns at the time depicted the American Indian as being anything but good. I, on the other hand, yearned to see something where the Indians were victorious. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to the Battle of the Little Bighorn in public school and instantly realized that this was what I was looking for.

I thought I knew enough to describe the Battle of the Little Bighorn in my seventh grade history class. Because my knowledge of the battle wasn’t extensive I’d thought it was only the Sioux (Dakota & Lakota) and the Cheyenne against the 7th Cavalry. I didn’t know at the time that the Crow Indians played a vital role as well. Regardless, I did my best. When I was finished with the battle description the teacher and girls applauded me, while some of my classmates did not react positively. News of my history project had spread around the school by lunch break, and all of the bullies surrounded me in the schoolyard, calling me “Indian lover”.

I was swarmed...punched and kicked. I tried fighting back but there were ten or more guys, and I was knocked to the ground and stepped on. I got up and ran to the school door, but didn’t tell anyone what happened. After school I was on my way home and the bullies swarmed me again, all because of my passion for the Native American involvement in the battle. Despite all of this, nothing would deter me from further developing my interest in the Little Bighorn.

I continued to visit my school library in eighth and ninth grade where I began studying the tribes and the linguistic families they belonged to. I devoured books and articles dealing with the tribes that participated in the battle, thus embarking on my own journey of sorts. On February 15, 1964 I wrote a short article in the Toronto Daily Star where I mentioned “we have a lot to thank the North American Indians for; names of towns, cities, provinces, states, etc.” (I didn’t get swarmed by anyone for that!) I received a letter from a reader from the model/Indian activist, Kahn Tineta Horn, of the Caughnawaga Mohawk people from the reserve near Montreal. She said, “Thank you Peter for your kind words about my people. Someday become a lawyer and protect my people always!” I still have that letter and will always treasure it.

I can say with confidence that I will forever be a student of the Battle of the Little Bighorn and its people.
October 2008

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