Thursday we drove to Cheyenne, in Oklahoma not Wyoming. That is the location of The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site. We had never heard of the battle but we know that it is always worth our time to check out anything operated by the National Park Service.
We had heard about Lt.Col. George Custer before, of course. One summer we volunteered at an RV park in southern Montana near Little Big Horn National Battfield where Custer died in 1876 fighting the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians. It was one of the last armed contacts between the US Army and American Indians. But in 1868 he was in Oklahoma, then known as Indian Territory. After Col. J.M. Chivington attacked and destroyed a village headed by Cheyenne chief Black Kettle on Sand Creek, Colorado, relations between the army and Indians were very rocky. Black Kettle had been pursuing a policy of peace with the whites and believed his village to be under US Army Protection. Black Kettle survived but at least 150 Cheyenne and Arapahoe men, women and children were killed and horribly mutilated. Under treaties in 1865 and 1867, the Cheyenne, Arapahoe and other tribes agreed to settle on reservations in Indian Territory but many tribal officials refused to sign. Warrior societies of mostly young men continued hostilities.
General William Sheridan, in charge of the army in the plains, adopted a policy that "punishment must follow crime." He sent Lt. Col Custer to enforce that policy. He ended up attacking Black Kettle's village on Washita Creek at dawn on a snowy Nov. 27, 1868. Approximately 30 to 60 were killed, including Black Kettle and his wife, and Gen. Sheridan ordered the slaughter of the village's pony and mule herds, estimated at over 800 animals.
This mural in the visitor center shows the army riding through the village.
We walked the trail to the location where the battle occurred.
The path took us through the deep grass of the prairie.
In 1889 Indian Territory was opened to white settlement under a law that said they could enter the area at a designated time to claim their homestead. Those who entered before that time to get a jump on other settlers were called "sooners" and the name has stuck in Oklahoma. The Washita Battlefield site included a small stone dugout like those built by those settlers as their first homes. The windmill is a symbol of the changes white settlement made in the area.
We felt the NPS presentation of the battle was very fair to both sides and we learned a lot. We had known about Custer and the Sand Creek Massacre but not about this battle in Oklahoma. There are so many sad stories that are part of the westward white settlement of our country.
On an entirely different note, have you ever seen this before? We hadn't. There was this pig, really I guess a hog, tied with a harness and leash, at an RV site behind us a couple of days ago.