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Thank you for listening to the Rest is History. For bonus episodes, early access, ad-free listening, and access to our chat community, sign up at restishistorypod. Com. That's restishistorypod. Com. I have a very big and exciting announcement. Tom and I will be following in the footsteps of Adele, Jimi Hendrix, and Jay Z, or Jay Z, as I call him, to name but a few, because we will be performing at the Royal Albert Hall. It's on Friday, the 18th of October. We will be accompanied by a live orchestra. Don't worry, Tom will not be singing because what we will be doing is we will be diving into the lives of Mozart and Beethoven, arguably the two greatest composers in history, if you discount Bach. We will be exploring their music, their lives, how the French Revolution overshadowed Mozart's final years, and how the Napoleonic Wars played their part in the making of Beethoven's greatest symphony. You've got all that to look forward to.


Tickets are on sale now, and you can, of course, get them at therestishistory. Com. And on that bombshell, on with the show. I see. I know. I began to see when I was not yet born, when I was not in my mother's arms, but inside of my mother's belly. It was there that I began to study about my people. God gave me the power to see out of the womb. I studied there in the womb about many things. I studied about the smallpox that was killing my people, the great sickness that was killing the women and children. I was so interested that I turned over on my side. The God Almighty must have told me at that time that I would be the man to be the judge of all the other Indians, a big man, to decide. Made for them. That, Dominic, was the Lakota chieftan sitting Bull, talking to a Chicago Times reporter in 1877, which is the year after the Little Bighorn, when he was Probably one of the most famous people, not just in America, but maybe in the world. Yeah, that's right. It's all, from our perspective, quite odd, isn't it?


It's odd, yeah.


Being given visions in the womb and things like that.


Yes, absolutely it is. Captures There's this strangeness, I think, that has always surrounded the Sioux sitting Bull. I guess to people from Britain, there's always this sense of Tom. To use a Tom Hollandism, is it not a case of the weird?


I think it is. That, I guess, is also completely part of the fascination and charisma of not just sitting Bull, but of the Lakota and the Indians generally, who for Custer and people like him back in the late 19th century, were objects of fascination, but also seen as savages, as primitives. Obviously, that is a perspective that has changed quite radically over the past decades.


It has, absolutely. When I was growing up in the '70s, cowboy and Indian films were still on TV a lot. I had children's books, I can remember them, Ernest and the Wild West. There was the Lady Bird book.


The Lady Bird book of Custer.


Custer's Last Stand. Those books freely use the term, which a lot of people now find very offensive, Red Indian. Or indeed, Redskins, like the Washington Redskins. But there was always a sense of, you call it the weird, that the divide between the world of the everyday mundanity and the supernatural was very thin with Native Americans. That still hangs over them. There's a sense of, oh, all the books about them are called things like, The Earth is Weeping, The Earth is All That Lasts.


Well, in the '90s, there was Sacred spirit.


Sacred spirit, yeah.


Which was ambient music put to Native American chanting. It conveyed an idea of timeless wisdom, I suppose. A sense that Native Americans were guardians of the Earth.


All of that stuff is still very apparent. If you go, last year, I was traveling in the American Southwest, and in the shops and stuff. There's still a lot of buy this lovely blanket. Here's a CD of people chanting. Here's some incense that you can burn that will make you commune with the spirits. Sort of new agey, I guess, is the... Yeah. The thing about being timeless. As we were discussing today's podcast, which is all about the Lakota, about Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, their world is absolutely not timeless. Their world has changed enormously, and it's always changing the whole time. And nobody's in the right place. Everybody's customs have changed a lot in recent years. They are as liable to the influence of technology and trade and all those things as anybody else. So it's a huge stereotype.


So the classic image of the Plains Indians, as they would have been called in the 19th century, is they're hunting Buffalo. They have horses, they have guns. They're not just armed with bows and arrows. Obviously, all of these are very recent. Totally, exactly.


By the way, we've already, so far in the first few minutes, gone all over the shop with our lomenclature, haven't we?


Yeah, we have.


Because we We call them the Lakota, the Sioux. We've used Native Americans, and we've used Indians. Obviously, the one thing that they're not is, as it were, Indians from India, which is a label put on them by European settlers. But the complicating thing is that some natives now have reclaimed the word Indian and are very keen on it, and some absolutely loathe it. So whatever we do, Tom, well, we're going to be offending somebody.


Well, I think it also reflects the fact that no matter the D. Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and all the attempts to see how the West was won as being how the West was lost, it remains the fact that it is a Western, white, American historiographical tradition that frames this story.


Totally is.


And it's really, really It's really, really difficult to get back into the mindset of a people whose traditions and way of life are utterly devastated over the course of the period that we are describing. So much so that you don't even appreciate often the entirety what has been lost. And that sense of the strangeness of the weirdness, of course, it's only strange and weird to us.


Yeah, absolutely.


It's not to them.


No, you're absolutely right. Even that quotation that we began with, by the way.


Yeah, because he's giving it to a newspaperman. And so he's playing a part. He's playing a role. And he'll go on to play the role of the Indian chieftan in Buffalo Bill's Wild West story.


Yes, exactly that. It's filtered through the newspaperman. And even in all the books that I've read, all those books that I was just talking about, the Earth is all that lasts, the Earth lies weeping, all that. The vast majority of them are by white American university academics who are often putting on a Cod Native American voice when they're telling you the story.


But I would say that even if you are... I mean, I hesitate to say this because obviously I'm way out of my comfort zone. But I would suspect that it is very difficult now, even if you are Lakota, even if you are steeped in the traditions of your people, to get back to the mindset of someone like Sitting Bull who lived in a world that was not yet entirely American. Because the scale of the devastation, the cultural devastation, is so profound that everyone in America now is completely Americanized.


Yeah, I think there's a degree of truth. And of course, we know how the story plays out, which Sitting Bull never knew.


But I think part of the tragedy and the heroism of this story is that they do know. The smartest of them do know. Right.


Some of them certainly do know.


And as we'll see, Sitting Bull has a power to see into the future, at least. At least that is what people believe. I mean, his people believe it, he believes it. And the visions that he gets, although they do foretell the great victory over Custer that will happen at the Little Bighorn, it's full of ominous forebodings as well.


All right, Tom. Well, we're We'll get onto that in due course, but maybe we should crack on with the story. Let's start. Should we give some very, very broad context so the camera will zoom in as the first half of this podcast continues? So let's go back to the very beginning of this story, the very, very beginning. So 1492, Columbus arrives in the new world. In today's United States and Canada, how many native people are there? There are probably somewhere around the region of three, four million. Some historians would go as high as seven or eight million. But that number drops incredibly dramatically over the next few centuries, largely because of disease, not because of campaigns, battles, or anything like that, but it's smallpox in particular. By 1776, the birth of the United States, that number is probably halved. Then as the former, what we want the decent law-abiding, taxpaying American colonists, expand, they become independent, and then they expand westward. Disease obviously travels, and the number of native peoples continues to collapse. By about the early 1800s, there may be fewer than three quarters of a million and continuing to fall very quickly. Now, you compare that with the population of European settlers and African slaves and their descendants, that number is surging from about 5 million in 1800 to about 25 million in 1850.


So at the heart of this story is a massive demographic mismatch. The native peoples are totally out and up.


But also, Dominic, a movement West, right?


And a movement West, exactly. And the more westward you move, the more the mismatch widens.


Because by 1860, I read an estimate, there were 1.4 million Euro-Americans in the trans-Miss Mississippi West. By 1890, an estimated 8.5 million. So that sense of a tidal wave of people moving westwards Totally. Kind of submerging and swamping the peoples of the plains.


Yeah. That sense of it being like an unstoppable natural phenomenon, almost, although, of course, it isn't. Now, a really important thing for people to get into their heads is that there is no sense of unity whatsoever among the native peoples of North America. Those people who listen to our podcast about Cortés and the fall of the Aztecs will remember that the people of Mesoamerica spent all their time fighting among themselves. There was no sense of unity against the Spaniards, and it's exactly the same story. They don't think of themselves as Indians. They don't think of themselves as part of a common ethnicity because they're not at all. They're big rivals. If you're a porny or something, your big rivals are the people over the next hill that you're fighting for hunting grounds with, not the white settlers far away on the Coast.


But don't you think, I mean, I entirely accept that, but by the 1860s or 1870s, there is a sense on the part of the various peoples who are living in the Great Plains who are not white, that the white settlers are a quantum difference?


I think possibly by that stage, yes. Certainly among some of the more far-sight leaders, so I'll come to a guy called Red Cloud later. There are people who say, Listen, hey, these white people, they're not just another variable.


Yeah, they're not like us.


They're not another tribe. They're a transformative factor.


Although against that, I mean, one of the really noticeable things of this story is how readily various Native American peoples are willing to side with the Americans to do down their rivals.


Yeah, massively important, Tom.


So wherever the American cavalry are going or American Infantry, they're being guided by Native American guides Absolutely.


We talked in the last episode about Osage scouts at the Wichita River Massacre. They always, as you say, have allies. There are some who tend to side with the United States. So the crows or the porny, they're often allied with the Americans. Actually, the Lakota Sioux-Yeah, they're allies, aren't they?


From the beginning of the 19th century.


Yeah, you're absolutely right.


So there are lots of white emigrants going across the Great Plains in the first half of the 19th century who say that they would never have made it without the help of the Lakota.


Yeah. And the other thing that makes this a really complicated story. So your sacred spirit, the Earth cries out or whatever stuff, assumes a fixedness on the part of the Native Americans. These are our ancestral lands. They've been sacred to us for generations. That is all tosh. Everybody is a migrant. So all of these people are settlers and conquerors. They have all moved around. We talked about the Cheyenne last time, having moved from the woods of Minnesota. That's exactly the same story with the Lakota. So it's really important to remember the fluidity of the sea, that the great plains are this great expanse where people are moving around and they're fighting and nobody is stuck in the same place.


And stealing each other's land.


And stealing each other's Everybody's a conqueror. War is the way. 1776, when the United States is born, how does it propose to deal with all of these peoples to the West? The answer is at first, they sign lots of treaties.


And then they break them.


If you go to the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, there's a huge exhibition about treaties, all of which they end up breaking, sometimes willfully, but also sometimes because, frankly, the treaty proves outdated because a huge wave of settlers arrives and the federal government make a very feeble and half-hearted attempt to restrain them, and it ends up completely futile.


I mean, that was a huge part of the American War of Independence, wasn't it?


It was. They didn't want to be restrained.


The British were trying to uphold treaty that said, You can't go so far, and the American settlers just kept ignoring it.


Then in the But let's say, the 1830s or so, there's a change attack associated very much with President Andrew Jackson. There's a policy of what is called, very euphemistically, removal. We might call it actually ethnic cleansing. So this is to take tribes like the Choctaws, the Chickasaws, the Creeks, the the Syrikees, the Seminoles, and to physically move them hundreds of miles to the west, west of the Mississippi, get them all out of the area east of the Mississippi. If we basically dump 300,000 natives west of the Mississippi, then All the rest of the land will be for us. At the time, people say, Well, this will work in the long run, because actually, why would we even want to go to the Great Plains? It's nothing there. It's no point. It's not suitable for human settlement. They talk of a permanent Indian frontier, this chain of forts that goes from Minnesota to Louisiana, and they say, Everything to the west of that, let them have it. We don't care. But obviously, almost straight away, that collapses because, first of all, people want to build trails to get to Oregon and California and so on.


The Bozeman Trail. I think that's my top trail.


Yeah, the Bozeman Trail we'll come to. It's your favorite trail. Yeah. Then, of course, you get the gold rushes. So 1848, in the middle of the Mexican-American War, when the United States is going to acquire a lot of territory, gold is discovered in California, you get mass migration. So at this point, people are setting off in stage coaches and wagon trains and all these kinds of things. And of course, later on, there will be railroads going across the Great Plains. And so at that point, the Great Plains are suddenly back on the table. The native people don't want all these people coming through their lands to get to the gold of California. So by the time that George Armstrong Custer is growing up, which is the 1840s, the focus has moved from the East Coast very much to the Plains. And as we said, the Plains is this vast landscape of constant warfare and conquest and battles for hunting grounds. The culture of the peoples there has been transformed by the arrival of the horse. Theo was very keen in the last episode that we point out that it's European who brought the horse to America.


Although, of course, originally the horse was American.


I know. Isn't that weird? What happened to the horses in the meantime, Tom?


They went extinct.


And then they returned? Yeah. The return of the horse. Return of the horse. Anyway, the horse returned. And so then you get the rise of big scale Buffalo hunting. So that wouldn't have been possible without horses.


No. And so the habit of Buffalo hunting changes because in the 18th century, it's still very much a habit of chasing Buffalo over cliffs. But by the 19th century, they can gallop along, use their guns. So they are killing Buffalo in the way that Europeans will. The difference, obviously, is one of massive, massive scale.


Yeah, of course. But they are... I mean, later on, when the European demand, or the capitalist demand, should we say, for leather, goes off the charts, not least because people want it for conveyor belts and factories, then it's often plains Indians who do a lot of the killing. They are actually integrated within the trading structure. Although, Tom, I have to say there are some absolutely terrible stories about white settlers.


Oh, it's horrendous. It's horrendous.


The train would rattle along the Plains. People be leaning out of the window just taking random pot shots of passing Buffalo.


Yes, Yes. The guns get so hot that they can't hold them anymore. I mean, the scale of the slaughter is horrendous up there with the passenger pigeon as one of the great tragedies of mass extinction in North America.


You feel these things, don't you? Very keenly.


Very, very keenly. I mean, can you imagine seeing Buffalo herds surging over the plains? I went to Yellowstone purely so that I could see Buffalo in the wild. When I say wild, I use the term loosely.


Yeah. Did you?


Yeah, I did.


Oh, that's nice. Well, anyway, we'll crack on with the story. I don't want it to generate into maudlin holiday reminiscences. Anyway, again, a point worth emphasizing. Peter Cousins does this brilliant in his book, The Earth Lies Weeping. He says, The grand iron in the Great Plains is that none of the tribes with which the army would clash were native to the lands they claimed. This cannot be over emphasized. The wars that were to come between the Indians and the government for the Great Plains, the seat of the longest and bloodiest struggles, represented a clash of immigrant peoples. A way of life was lost, but it had not been one of long duration. That's quite surprising because we don't think of it that way. We're conditioned, aren't we, to think of it as a class between industrial modernity and a timeless, unchanging way of life.


Yeah, that couldn't be less true. It's changed both because Well, let's focus in on the people called the Sioux now. Yes. But it's changed because they are migrants. They have moved from the east to the west. But also, as we're saying, they have horses and guns, and they are using them in a way that they simply wouldn't have done before because previously, they were hanging out in forests.


They were. Everything about them is very complicated, even the name. So the name is wrong, isn't it? The name comes from-It's French, isn't it? It's come French, and the French heard it from some people called the Adubois. Who hated them. And called them the Snakes. It Basically, it means the snakes, the bad guys. The bad guys, yeah. Actually, it's the Sioux. I mean, we'll still use the word because some Sioux have reclaimed the word and say they do want to use it. Again, it's contested and stuff. They are the people who wear the eagle feather head headdress that is identified with Native Americans. They are the paradigmatic stereotypical Native Americans.


They are. So Guy Gibben, who wrote a brilliant history of the Sioux, for most people in the world, the very symbol of Indianness is the Sioux eagle feather headdress. Even other Indian people throughout North America wear some version of this headdress at power hours as a symbol of Indian unity. So what that implies is that the Western sense of the Sioux as the archetype of Native Americans is one that other Native Americans have adopted for cultural reasons.


Yeah, isn't that weird?


Which is an example of how complex the story is.


Yeah, it is complex. So as you were saying, they're not in, as it were, in a verticum, the right place. By the way, for people who remember the Aztec podcast, that was true, the Mexica as well, wasn't it?


Yeah, they had migrated southwards, hadn't they?


They had migrated southwards. So they had originally been in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, so not that far from the Great Lakes on the border with Canada, although that would have been a meaningless description to them then. And then they've moved south and they've divided into three groups, the Dakota, the Lakota, and the Lakota.


Well, it's all the same word, isn't it? It's just linguistic variants, it's dialect. It's just dialect, isn't it?


And the Lakota are the most famous. They're the biggest group, and they move towards the place called the Dakotas, and also Montana and Wyoming. They are the people who are... When you think of the Sioux riding around on horses, as you said, Tom, firing their rifles at bison, that's the Lakota. They themselves are divided into seven groups, which we call tribes. Though, again, that word is quite a loaded word. It is.


Let's use tribe. But with a recognition that it is, again, projecting European stereotypes.


With an invisible asterisk next to it, Tom. Is that what we were doing?


With an invisible asterisk, yes.


And those seven tribes are called the Oglalas, the Bruleys, the Miniconjus, the Toukettels, the Hunkpappers, the Black feet and the Sons Arks.


Sons Arks? Yeah. That doesn't sound French in any way. Or indeed, the brûlée.


The Bruley, yeah. I mean, again, everything is filtered through the white people's descriptions.


Well, so Oglala, and Crazy Horses Oglala, It was spelt in some American documents, O, Galala, and there was talk that perhaps they were of Irish extraction. I saw that. Although, interestingly, Custer thought that they were Israeli.


Custer, bonkers.


In the beginning of My Life on the Plains. He has this mad rift where he talks about how the native peoples of America are clearly Israeli.


You can't go anywhere in the 19th century, can you? I know. Without some fool telling you that the people you've met are actually the lost tribe of Israel or something like that.


Yeah, well, that's what he thought.


So the Lakotas, they're not a top-down nation state. By any stretch of the imagination, they don't have a central authority. They're very decentralized.


And that is a crucial part of the appeal of them ideologically for, say, anarchists or radicals in America at the moment, isn't it?


It is, absolutely.


The sense of that they are completely decentralized.


Although in some ways, they're not terribly good role models for very progressive people. The German explorer, Prince Maximilian Wied, traveled up the Missouri in 1833, Tom, and even he was quite struck. He thought they were quite regressive in their gender relations. He said, The women have to do all the work, and the men lead a very easy and comfortable life once they have provided food. They sit about all day, smoke their pipes or walk about leisurely.


Well, so in some ways, not progressive, but in other ways, quite progressive, as we'll see, perhaps, in due course, when we come to another aspect of gender relations.


I very much look forward to it. So war is enormous Mostly important to them. They are fighting all the time. They have regular allies, particularly the Cheyenne and the Arapajos. They have regular enemies. So the people they absolutely despise, far more than white Americans. They can't stand the pornees.


Or the crows.


And the crows. They hate the crows. The crows have incredibly long hair.


They do. And they oil it with bear grease.


Bear grease, yeah. Imagine that. Do you think that would smell? Not if you're a crow, of course.


But a fascinating parallel with Custer, with his pomade. That's true. And his nickname was Cinnamon.






Actually, they should have bonded over their love of grease.


Anyway, they- Well, they do, don't they? I mean, the crows end up riding with Custer.


That's true. Yeah. Maybe this is an underappreciated element. The shifting loyalties of the plains, Tom.


Hair care products is what bonded them.


There's a great article on this. It doesn't mention hair care products at all. It was written in 1978 by a girl called Richard White, and it was absolutely transformative in the world of Native American studies. It was called the Winning of the West. And he basically said, Listen, we've got the Lakota all wrong in seeing them as passive victims, and indeed, seeing all these plains Indians as passive victims of American expansion. They are ruthlessly expansionist people themselves with a very profound sense. Maybe national identity is not quite the right word, but what really animates them is this relentless drive to expand their hunting grounds.


The Lakota are displacing the crow, aren't they?


They are. Actually, they're very conscious of this. So there's a guy called Black Hawk who says to an American official in the mid-19th century, he says, These lands once belong to the crows, but we whipped those nations out of them. And in this, we did what white men do when they want the lands of the Indians.


That's fascinating. Yeah, that is fascinating.


So there's a sense where we were winners of the game, and now we're on the losing side.


But another way in which the Lakota are also, in a sense, paralleling the advantages that the Whites have is that they had all been inoculated, hadn't, against a lot of diseases.


They had by missionaries.


The crows hadn't. So the crows all get wiped out. Their numbers plummet, and the Lakota are able to move in and displace them. That's right.


And also, some of their rivals, like the porny, are a little bit more sedentary They're more agricultural. That means that smallpox can take hold and will destroy a settlement. The Lakota are moving around, they're more nomadic. So actually smallpox doesn't take hold with them in the same way that it does with some of the others. So again, that gives them a big advantage.


It feeds into the Lakota contempt for farmers, for sedentary people, which is also an important part of the story.


Totally. The question is, how are the US government going to deal with the Lakota? In 1851, they signed a treaty at Fort Laramie in Wyoming. Basically, this treaty said, You will stop fighting other people. You won't fight us. You'll allow us to build roads and forts through your territory. You won't molest our pioneers and stuff.


The Bozeman Trail, Dominic.


I know you're desperate to talk about the Bozeman. What is it? It's just something about the name.


It was driving through Montana and seeing Bozeman, full of the romance of the American West.


Okay, well, we'll come to Mr. Bozeman in due course. So under the treaty, the Native Americans are supposed to do all this. It'd be very nice. On the other hand, the government say, We will shield you from white settlers. We'll pay you annuities. We'll give you supplies and all this stuff. Well, this treaty in 1851 is a total and counter fiction. First of all, the Plains Indians have absolutely no intention of stopping fighting or respecting the boundaries that the Americans are asking them to keep to. And on the other hand, the federal government has absolutely no intention of protecting them from white incursions, from settler incursions. Actually, what happens is in the rest of the 1850s, the decade before the Civil War, there was a huge influx of miners, of people traveling on the the Oregon Trail and all these other trails.


So there's that. And then in 1862, Dominic, gold is discovered in Montana. And the Bozeman Trail kicks off.


And not only that, Tom, in 1862, Congress passed the Homestead Act. So this is under Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War. And this basically says, if you go out West and you live on some land for five years, it is yours. You can establish your homestead, and it will be yours by right. And there's a huge flood of people during the Civil War. Actually, it's during the Civil War, the six new territories. So a territory is the precursor of a state. You become a territory first, then you'll become an official United States state. And they are Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, Dakota, then not divided into north and south, and Colorado. And through and to these new territories. There are stagecoach lines and telegraph lines, and of course, in due course, there will be railroads.


This is the classic thing that is often repeated now as being an expression of anticapitalism, the idea that you can own the Earth. Because that is something very difficult. It is.




I mean, it makes no sense at all that you can draw lines and say, I own this, and you got to keep out.


Exactly. They can't get their heads around that at first. It's only over time that they begin to realize what the implications of this are. So the expansion is coming, and this is obviously provoking great unrest and displeasure among the people of the plains. The other thing that happens in 1862, Tom, is that the Lakota win a big, big victory against the Crow. They wop them. They have been fighting for 20 years or so for a particular area called the Powder River Country, which is prime hunting grounds. And in 1862, they finally get it under this bloke called Red Cloud, who's this very formidable charismatic leader, the closest they have to a paramount chief. He's their big strategist. But as you rightly said, in 1862, they find gold in Montana, a man called Mr. Bozeman. And he wants to have a trail to Montana right through this territory and that the US government is going to build two forts, Fort Kehne and Fort Smith, to guard the trail. The forts are very disruptive for plains Indians because you get shanty towns connected with the forts. You get all the hangers on, the camphangers on, there's all that.


And it just basically destroys the ecosystem.


Although to look at it from the point of view of those who are in the forts, they are very, very isolated. So both sides are feeling nervous of the other, which obviously doesn't foster good relations.


Exactly. So Red Cloud says, What? We've just conquered this land from the crows. And now, literally within weeks, you're going to come in and build your forts and all that business? No way. And he becomes the figurehead for, I'm not going to use the word uprising because I think it's too loaded. It's a war. It's called Red Cloud's War. It's not an uprising because they're not controlled by the US. That's their way of looking at it. It's a fair fight, Red Cloud's War.


Well, they fought the crow over territory and land and the right to hunt, and now they're fighting the Americans, I guess.


Exactly. He is the political face of this, and the military face is this guy called Crazy Horse.


Dominic, I think just at this point, let's take a break, and when we come back, we'll continue looking at this extraordinary culture, this embattled culture, but I mean, so fascinating.


Welcome back to The Rest is History. We're talking about the Plains Indians. Tom, Crazy Horse. Now, Crazy Horse is a fantastic character. Crazy Horse was probably born in about 1840, and his name wasn't Crazy Horse at first, was it? It was Curly. No, even before that, it was Among the Trees.


Well, this is the difficult thing, isn't it, about following the lives of Native American heroes, is that their names are constantly changing.


But also, so a Crazy Horse. Everything we will say now is, I was about to say, probably untrue. It's very contested. It's very muddled. Everything is filtered through white newspapermen, people who are giving interviews telling white audiences what they want to hear, folk tales, legends, all that stuff.


But it's also an understanding, as you said earlier, that the boundaries between what white Americans would see as the natural and supernatural, a consequence of their Christian framing of the universe, is not something that is a part of the mental furniture of the Lakota. The supernatural is woven through the very fabric of everyday existence. And so visions and an interface with the supernatural is a part of every Native American story that is being told. And so in the life of someone like Crazy Horse, there'll be descriptions of him leading a war band and then suddenly having incredible visions, and the two are not distinguished.


Yeah, I think that's right, Tom. If If we were doing this podcast about Alexander the Great, we'd be telling all kinds of anecdotes about crazy things that had happened. And talking snakes and things. Talking snakes or whatever, exactly. And it would be fine because almost everybody in that world, you're using the same register for everyone in that world. The complicated thing with this is some of the characters, their lives are a compound of folk tales, myths, stories, as you say, about the porous boundary between the natural and the supernatural. They feel like the stories are Greek heroes. Then the on the other hand, you've got somebody like Custer occupying the same space. But the register that we use, the historical idiom with which we discuss him is totally different.


Well, and also the dimension of the supernatural is shot through with relationships to Buffalo, to the rhythms of the year that are migratory. So aspects of life that depend on them not being confined within reservations and made to live as farmers and take up Christianity. So Being pinned in a reservation, it's not just physical, it's also psychological and cultural.


Yeah, I think that's absolutely right. I think it's true. Okay, let's go back to Crazy Horse. We don't know what he looked like because he never posed for a photograph. It is said, and of course, it is said, he's doing a lot of lifting there, that he thought the camera would rob him of his soul. So we don't have any pictures of him. We do know that it was said that his hair was very light. People commented again and again, lighter than other Indians, when he had a androgynous look to him. So when Indian agent described him as a bashful, girlish-looking boy.


So like Custer being called Fanny?




And they're both called Curly?


They are both called Curly because he's called Curly because of his curly, lightish hair. There's a story in 1850 that he single-handedly tames this formidable stallion. I have to say this story sounds very Alexander the Great, and therefore I raise an eyebrow a bit. And some people say this is when he gets a name, his horse stands looking. There's a lot of different though, it's about how he gets his name Crazy Horse.


There's a lot of just so, isn't there? It's a lot, yeah.


But we can get a sense of what his early life was like because we know what Lakota boys, what happened to them. And it's actually quite an intimidating routine they go through. So five or six They are being trained for war. That is the way of things. At five or six, you're made to run long distances. You have to swim streams. You're often deprived of food or water to toughen you up. By about seven or eight, you've been given your first bow and arrows, and you're told to shoot, you're trained to shoot, you're trained to ride. You would take part in your first raid when you're about 14 or 15. You would be expected by the time you're 18 to have stolen a horse, to probably have taken a scalp. We'll get on to scalping in just a second.


But you can opt out, Dominic. Yes. So you were talking about how unprogressive the Lakota are in their gender relations. Yeah. But say you decide that the whole scalping-Not for you. It's not for you.


This is your loop Tom. Your loophole is that you can put on a woman's dress and turn to cooking and things like that, and you become a Winktay.


A Winktay. Which apparently is a contraction of a Lakota word, basically meaning a male who wants to be female.


So a Lakota Gordon-Ramsey would have been a Winktay. Well, he was actually a footballer first, wasn't he? So he'd have done both.


Yeah, I don't think he'd have gone for that. No. I think I probably would have gone for the Winktay option.


I knew you were gearing up to this.


What would you have gone for? Would you have gone for the whole scalping thing?


I'm very conventional. I would have gone for the scalping, I think. But I'd have tried to move into military intelligence as quickly as possible, if that were an option.


A Lakota flashman.


Exactly. Yeah.


Thanks. Bluffing.


Yes. So The hurdles that you cross, the most important one is this thing called counting coup. And basically, this does seem a bit odd to me, but anyway, I'm not a plains Indian, so no wonder. It's really a mark of tremendous distinction. And what you need have done is basically touched an enemy with a very long stick, and that's the highest war honor you get. Actually, what you want to do is you don't want to do it with a weapon because that's less audacious. It's touching him with this stick, a live enemy, not trying to kill him, but basically, it was tagging him, isn't it, Tom?




And to have done that when you've counted your first coup, that is seen as an absolute tremendous thing in a really crucial step towards manhood. You've dared, basically, to ride up to a crow, prod him with your stick and then ride away without him killing you.


Meanwhile, I'm off picking berries.


Of course you are. Now, the other thing you can do, which is obviously always fascinating to us, but that's actually regarded as lesser than counting coup, is taking a scalp. And the way that works, that doesn't actually necessarily kill somebody. I was surprised at this.


No, it doesn't. So there's this guy, William Thompson, who's an Englishman. Yes. So many Englishmen are going, they're obviously fascinated by it going out there. So there was that Old Etonian who got shot. Yeah, Mr. Williams. But there's this guy, William Thompson, who gets scalped, and he goes back to England, and he makes a living bending his head forward.


Showing off his scalp.


Showing off his basically tripandre skull.


So the way that would work is someone will grab your hair, they're very long hair, and they make a cut around your skull well, two or three inches, and then they literally pull it off. Yeah. And there's apparently a huge popping sound. But report like a pop gun, and then you might attach the scalps to your horse or something, or you would hang them from your tent, and they would show what tremendous fellow you were.


It's tough with white people, isn't it?


Yeah, because their hair's too short. I mean, in my case, Tom, a potential scalper would have a very tough task.


We'll come to what happens to customers in due course. Very interesting.


But if you did kill somebody, then the important thing is to mutilate their body, isn't it? And that's not just for sadistic reasons.


No, it's to stop them from functioning in the afterlife. Exactly.


I mean, they'd really go to town. They'd take out the teeth, they'd cut off your chin and your nose, take off the joints of your fingers.


We've talked already about how your private parts get chopped off and left on rocks. Yes. Eyes get taken out, don't they? They do. And left. So not fun. Actually, the fact that we are dwelling on that, we are part of a continuum that goes right the way back to Custer's age, because everyone, all white Americans, for understandable reasons, particularly if they're actually out in the planes, are obsessed by this. But I mean, Custer, for instance, is fascinated by scalping. He says it's Barbara Savage, but he is really, really very interested in it. As we are now.


Yes. Now, of course, we find it. I mean, it's always described in terms of this is a sign of savagery and gauriness and stuff. But obviously, that's not how the plains Indians themselves perceive it. So let's put it this way, Tom. I think to us, people with that lazy decadence. It seems like a very demanding lifestyle.


Definitely. But I imagine quite fun if you've been raised and you're good at the whole taking scalops and tapping people with sticks and things.


Yeah, if you're good at it, exactly. Very exciting.


Oh, it's definitely exciting. And I think the fact it's fun and exciting is a massive, massive part of it.


Do you know what? It is a massive part of it because this explains why younger men in particular, are very reluctant to accept a new life on their reservations. Because they say, Hold on, the older men are happy to accept the new life on their reservations because they've had their fun and they've proved their manhood. We are being denied our chance to have adventures.


But I think it's more than just wanting to prove their manhood. I think it's the fact that it's physically exhilarating. It's a bit like people who object to having fox hunting banned, who are growing up. People want the chance to break their neck because without the chance of breaking their neck, the excitement is... I mean, it's not my bag, but I can understand that. I think that that is a crucial, crucial part of why They don't want to give it up. They enjoy it.


No. Crazy Horse certainly enjoys it. They're all stories told about him when he's in his teens, seeing off grizzly bears, fighting arapajos, fighting crows and things. This is what gives him his name Crazy Horse.


Because his dad's called Crazy Horse, isn't he?


That's right. And his dad at one point says, basically, I'm no longer Crazy Horse. I give the name to you. This is quite common. Now, the other thing that people say about him is he's not just brave, but they say he has medicine. Now, this is such a mistranslation. We talk about a medicine man.


It sounds like a GP.


It does. It sounds like they're walking around with painkillers. Your medicine is much more than that. It is a...


The force.


It is a force, and it has an element of the... Did you read Harry Potter to your children? You probably didn't, did you? No. They have a thing called a patronus, which is like a spirit animal.


Oh, as in like Philip Pullman?


Kind of a bit like that. Yeah, a little bit like that. So there's an element of that with these chaps. So they would have a vision, and a creature might appear to you, and that becomes comes your medicine and you and that becomes your medicine. And you would emulate your helper. So it might be an eagle and you have the swiftness of an eagle or it might be the cunning of a fox. And you would paint that symbol on your shield.


What do you think you'd have?


Deep down, I know it's a dog. There's no way of getting away What would you have, Tom?


Oh, a philocoraptor.


A philoseraptor? I mean, you wouldn't be allowed that. Why not? They say you can have a bird of some kind, maybe.


Okay, so the same period, this is when the paleontologist are going out.


Oh, come on, we can't allow this to-So one of them will become big friends with Red Cloud.


Right. Okay. Othnill Charles Marsh, and he'll become a big ally of Red Cloud in Washington.


Is that so?


Yeah. Well, we'll come to that.


Okay. I think you'd have a sparrow or something.


Yeah, for me, a cat.


Anyway, the vision that you have is a massively serious thing, and actually has been greatly introduced by the New Agey way of talking about this. You would go for days without food and water. You would sit on a mountain top or something.


It's shamanistic, isn't it? It is.


I mean, there's a guy, John Fire, at a Coda. He said, It hits you sharp and clear like an electric shock. You're wide awake. Suddenly, there's a person standing next to you who you know can't be there at all. You're not dreaming, though. Your eyes are open. People would be desperate to have visions, and if they didn't have them, they would actually have to pay a medicine man for his medicine, for his supernatural powers. Crazy Horse, undoubtedly, has them. He has visions of thunderstorm storms, of being struck by lightning. There's a very famous vision he has where the wind blows grass into his hair. And then he has this vision when he knows that he has been given the role of fighting for his people. And from that point on, he always wear straws of grass in his hair.


But he also has this famous one, doesn't he? Of a man on a horse rising out of a lake.


It's right. Yeah, he does. Who says to him, You must never wear a war bonnet.


So he never does. And that's really unusual. So basically, apart from his pants and his moccasins, he rides naked, doesn't he?


He does indeed. He's also told he can't be killed by a bullet. You will die by being stabbed, but you cannot be shot. The trouble is, Tom, with all these stories, we've had them, obviously, very much at third hand by people telling scouts, Indians telling newspaper interviewers in later life what they wanted to hear. Perhaps there's some degree of taking all of them with a pinch of salt.


I think that's less true with Crazy Horse.


Than with Sitting Bull.


I think Sitting Bull definitely plays to the gallery. I think that most of them do. The thing about the photograph, Sitting Bull and Red Cloud both allow themselves to be photographed, both looking as American photographers expect a Sue Chiefton to look like. But also, Red Cloud pops up wearing top hats and things. Crazy Horse doesn't. No. Because Because I think one of the reasons why he's such a charismatic figure and why he's maintained his allure into the present day is that he seems to have had a integrity. He seems to have had a instinctive sense that he doesn't want to compromise with his truth.


I totally agree, Tom.


I suspect that the stories that he tells, I mean, true, again, is a loaded word, but I don't think he's shaping them to the expectations of his white listeners. I mean, I suspect that they are likely to be truer than, say, sitting Bulls. So all the stuff about how he paints white hail spots on his body, doesn't he? And a lightning bolt down his cheek, quite Harry Potter, and he ties brown pebbles behind one ear and all this. He has very distinctive rituals. I suspect that must be true, both because it would have come from him, but also because so many people would have seen him. It would have been his branding.


Well, he has a branding. He has a very strong, as you say, sense of his own. I think integrity is the right word. He's a loner. He doesn't join in with the rituals very much. He doesn't join in with councils. He doesn't even join in with the Sundance, the annual big, big religious ritual. He's a man who walks alone. But on one point, everybody agrees, Crazy Horse is by far the outstanding warrior. He's the bravest. He's the most intrepid. He's also a brilliant tactician. And so when Red Cloud's war starts in the mid-1860s, this is the moment when the Lakota are finally going to stand up to the incursions of all the white settlers, to the US Army and so on. When that fighting breaks out, it's Red Cloud, who is the political face of it, but it is Crazy Horse, who is going to be the military face, the standard bearer of resistance in the field.


I think that, again, this is the parallel with Custer. They've shared a boyhood nickname, Curly. But there are also obvious parallels that Crazy Horse has won Fame very young, as Custer has done. Clearly, Clearly, Crazy Horse has Custer's ability to spot an opportunity to strike hard, Alexander the Great style. Like Custer, he is completely fearless. But I think there is a difference, and that It means the fact that Crazy Horse is never reckless. He always scopes out the strategic context. It was noted of him and seen as something distinctive that he would dismount before shooting. And he wants to do this because he wants to make certain of his shot. Before going in for the kill, he will pause. He will work out what the best situation is. And that, of course, is a contrast with Custer. And it brilliantly sets up the dynamic for the rest of this series, which essentially is the great showdown between Custer and Crazy Horse. Although, Dominic, of course, Crazy Horse is not the only Lakota chieftan, we opened with the other celebrated leader. We did. Sitting Bull.


We shamed ourselves, Tom. We talked so long that we're going to have to record an entirely separate episode all about the other great character, and he is an incredible character, and that, of course, is Sitting Bull. I think in the next episode, what we'll cover, we'll talk about what happens in Red Cloud's War, the very tangled relationship between the Lakota Sioux and the federal government. We will talk specifically about the life and times of Sitting Bull. He really is a quite remarkable character.


Yeah, he's a brilliant character. I mean, in his way, just as charismatic as Crazy Horse, but in a completely different way.


Oh, definitely. If you like visions and religious rituals, which you do.


Oh, so much. If you like hooks being put into the sinews of the chest, you're going to love what's coming in the next episode. Have we got an episode for you?


If you love Hawks that much, you can listen to that episode right now, Tom. You can join our own. Is tribe the right word? I I don't know.


Our own Sundance.


I prefer tribe to chat community, which is the line that we're always being pushed to read by our producers. You can join the Restus History Club and hear that episode right now. If not, you'll have to wait till whenever Theo, in his wisdom, deigns to put it out. And on that bombshell, thank you very much. And we will see you next time for Sitting Bull.




Tom, I've just learned some absolutely extraordinary and exciting news. And anybody who's a history lover, anybody who, like me, loves spending their summer at festivals, will delight and rejoice at this news, won't they?


They Absolutely will. And the news is that in June, it is the Chalk History Festival in Broadchalk, in the Chalk Valley, the very village in which I grew up. My brother James and I, we talked about this the other day on a Restless History bonus episode. But for all All of you who didn't hear that, I can't recommend the Festival enough. There's an unbelievable array of talks from top historians and others beside, plus a mass of other things to see and do, live music every day, living history, performances, and of course, lots of food, drink, camping, all historically themed, and an absolutely stunning setting.


It's an amazing setting, Tom, and it's a real highlight of my year. I've had it inked into my diary for months, really looking forward to it. And the highlight of week, I have to say, has to be our special live performance of The Rest is History, which we will be doing on the Tuesday, weren't we? Tuesday, the 25th of June.


Yes. So that's the day you'll be there, Dominic. I know you've got to head off after that, but I will be still there doing a host of other things, and basically, I'll be there for most of the week. So please do join us. Tickets are on sale now, and you can get them at www. Chalkfestival. Com. And that's C-H-A-L-K-E. So chalk with an E on it, festival. Com. It'd be wonderful to see you there.