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Shirt associated with Tashunca-uitco (Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota, 1849–1877)
ca. 1870s
South Dakota
Hide, human and horse hair, quill, pigment, woodpecker feathers, arrowhead, cocoon
87 x 142 cm
Major John G. Bourke Collection
Presented by Mrs. Alexander H. Richardson
and Mrs. Alexander W. Maish

“My land is where my dead lie buried.”
—Crazy Horse, 1877

Captain John Bourke, an aide to General George Crook, commander of the Department of the Platte, recorded that this Lakota war shirt was presented to him by Little Big Man, who led him to believe that it had once belonged to Crazy Horse, or that it had at least been worn by him. According to family history, the shirt cannot have belonged to the great Lakota chief, who never kept scalps he took in war but instead left them upon the ground.

Crazy Horse fought throughout his life to resist U.S. military incursions into Lakota territory. Little Big Man had been a Lakota headman along with Crazy Horse. In May 1877, however, after their surrender at Camp Robinson, Little Big Man became a scout. Little Big Man was involved in Crazy Horse’s death that September. Through a chain of events that remain tangled, Crook ordered Crazy Horse’s arrest. Crazy Horse resisted being locked in a guardhouse, produced a knife, and in the scuffle cut Little Big Man deeply on the wrist. A few minutes later, Crazy Horse was mortally stabbed with a bayonet while under surrender.

The red circular design on the chest of this shirt may represent the sun. The red streaked lines may represent thunder beings (lightning). Yellow may be associated with growth and the summer season. The blue may represent the sky, heavens, and water, an essential element of life. Feathers adorning the arms of the shirt are a symbol of honors earned by the owner.

—Donovin Sprague (Minnicoujou Lakota)
Historian and instructor, Black Hills State University

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