Lakota Sioux Kill Songs

(Kill songs are celebration verses composed to commemorate battles or individual actions during which  warriors performed deeds of great valour. The following are quoted By Black Elk as being composed immediately following the victory over Custer at The Little Big Horn)

“Long Hair has never returned,
    So his woman is crying, crying.
    Looking over here, she cries.”

“Long Hair, horses I had none.
    You brought me many. I thank you!
    You make me laugh!”

“Long Hair, guns I had none.
    You brought me many. I thank you!
    You make me laugh!”

“Long Hair, where he lies nobody knows.

Crying, they seek him

He lies over here.


On the 25th June 1876, George Armstrong Custer led elements of the Seventh US Cavalry into a massacre. The popular view now seems to be that he was a criminally stupid incompetent, driven by a lust for military glory fueled by political ambition. But this has not always been so, to some he was and remains a hero, betrayed by his government and his subordinates.

It is not for me an Englishman to stand in judgment on an American Historical icon, as my view is corrupted by those peculiarly British prejudices, and an over indulgence in Hollywood history. However I believe I can say that it is dangerous to make judgments in hindsight, and without a full appreciation of the moral imperatives that drove those living in mid 19th Century society.

If you really feel that Custer's assault on the huge conglomeration of native American tribes was madness, then I recommend you study the history of colonial expansion, where the contempt of white civilization for native peoples, a trust in God’s will, and a thirst for adventure led to seemingly impossible victories.

The truth about what happened on that bloody June day will never be known, much to the joy of authors and historians alike. And that is how legends are born.

John Sharples

December 2001

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