The Moon When Chokecherries Are Ripe

June 25, 1876:

“The time was early in the Moon When the Chokecherries Are Ripe, with days hot enough for boys to swim in the melted snow water of the Greasy Grass. Hunting parties were coming and going in the direction of the Bighorns, where they had found a few buffalo as well as antelope. The women were digging wild turnips out in the prairies. Every night one or more of the tribal circles held dances, and some nights the chiefs met in councils. ‘The chiefs of the different tribes met together as equals,’ Wooden Leg said. ‘There was only one who was considered as being above all the others. This was Sitting Bull. He was recognized as the one old man chief of all the camps combined.’

“… The news of Custer’s approach came to the Indians in various ways: ” ‘I and four women were a short distance from the camp digging wild turnips,’ said Red Horse, one of the Sioux Council chiefs. ‘Suddenly one of the women attracted my attention to a cloud of dust rising a short distance from camp. I soon saw the soldiers were charging the camp.’ …

“… Meanwhile Pte-San-Waste-Win and the other women had been anxiously watching the Long Hair’s soldiers across the river. ‘I could hear the music of the bugle and could see the column of soldiers turn to the left to march down to the river where the attack was to be made. … Soon I saw a number of Cheyennes ride into the river, then some young men of my band, then others, until there were hundreds of warriors in the river and running up into the ravine. When some hundreds had passed the river and gone into the ravine, the others who were left, still a very great number, moved back from the river and waited for the attack. And I knew that the fighting men of the Sioux, many hundreds in number, were hidden in the ravine behind the hill upon which Long Hair was marching, and he would be attacked from both sides.’

“Kill Eagle, a Blackfoot Sioux chief, later said that the movement of Indians toward Custer’s column was “like a hurricane … like bees swarming out of a hive.’ “

–Dee Brown, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”

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