Chief Standing Bear, Likens Scalping to Modern Day Trophy
Custers last stand was not the inhuman massacre of a band of white by savage Indians as it has been pictured, but was an act of self-defense by the Sioux Indians following invasions of their lands and attacks on their people by the United States Army.
Such was the 'other story' of the world-famous battle between General Custer and his cavalry troop and the original Americans, told here yesterday by Chief Standing Bear, whose father, Chief Standing Bear the first, was one of Chief Crazy Horse's general in the memorable battle.
Chief Standing Bear is the first Indian ever to enter the portals of Carlisle Indian School, the first Indian ever to be admitted to United States citizenship, and is the author of a widely read book, called, "My People, The Sioux". He is here on a lecture tour *San Francisco* on behalf of the Indian and will be heard on radio station KPO today and tomorrow, and will make addresses in Palo Alto, San Jose and Oakland. He will speak at the Paul Elder Gallery here Saturday.
"My father often told me the story of the battle in which General Custer and 208 men of the 7th cavalry were killed," said the noted chief. "In all the movies and American story books the story presented has always presented the Sioux that took part in that battle as heartless savages. Our people have another story to tell, and it is to correct false impressions of this battle and other misstatements about my race that I am devouting my life."
Chief Standing Bear is a commanding figure, stalwart and well-knit, and appears every inch a chief. His bronzed, classic features radiate intelligence and force and he frequently chuckles with good humor as he mocks and mimics the Indian of the moving picture.
"My people were peacefully encamped on the Little Big Bear River and were not looking for battle that morning of June 24, 1876," said Chief Standing Bear. "Crazy Horse was the Chief."
"One of the Indians had gone eastward about five miles to get a horse that had strayed away. He took a boy with him. The soldiers saw the two and attacked them, killing the boy, but the man barely escaped with his life. He returned and told Crazy Horse of the attack.
Then General Custer and his cavalry men attacked. When the Indians were lined up for the battle, Crazy Horse commanded them to halt, while he galloped his horse directly at the soldiers. Although he was alone he rode right through the whole troop, turned and rode back through them. He was untouched by a bullet, in spite of the fact that the soldiers fired at him from arm's length.
Then my people attacked and the soldiers were completely disorganized. My father has told me that they were so completely panic-stricken that they fired their rifles into the air and even into their own ranks instead of at the Indians.
The battle lasted less than twenty minutes before all were dead."
As evidence that the Sioux were not prompted in the battle by any savage lust, Chief Standing Bear pointed out that there was no scalping done after the battle. Moreover, he gave a unique defense of scalping in Indian warfare.
"My people took scalps only to prove their stories that they had met the enemy and overpowered him," he said. "It is no different than the doughboys in the World war bringing back German helmets and other souvenirs."
The killing of Crazy Horse at Fort Robinson, months after the battle, and the reputation gained subsequently by Chief Sitting Bull as the hero of the battle of the Little Big Bear was also related by Standing Bear.
"Sitting Bull was never a Chief at all, he was only a medicine man and he had very little to do with the victory over Custer," said Standing Bear. "Sitting Bull was merely seized by promoters falsely billed him as the 'big chief' of the Sioux who had slain Custer."
Chief Standing Bear now makes his home in Los Angeles and is devoting
all his time toward bringing about a better understanding between the Indians
and their white conquerors.