"I am an old man, and soon my spirit must leave this earth to join the spirit of my fathers. Therefore, I shall speak only the truth in telling what I know of the fight on the Little Bighorn River where General Custer was killed. Curly, who was with us, will tell you that I do not lie."
So spoke White Man Runs Him, a Crow Indian who with five other Crow warriors had served as a scout for Custer's Seventh Cavalry on June 25, 1876, the day of the battle known to generations of white Americans as "Custer's Last Stand." They survived the battle, but Custer and more than 250 troopers did not. Thus their accounts and those of the Lakotas and Cheyennes who triumphed at Little Bighorn (or Greasy Grass, as it was known to the Lakotas) offer the only firsthand picture of what happened that fateful day.
These stories—from leaders as renowned as Black Elk and Sitting Bull, warriors such as Wooden Leg, a Cheyenne woman, and Arikara and Crow scouts—at last bring one of the most unforgettable showdowns in American history to vivid, complex, multifaceted life.
Herman J. Viola was director of the National Anthropological Archives. His many books include Little Bighorn Remembered: The Untold Indian Story of Custer's Last Stand.