Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
Brave Bear's Story of the Battle, #1
BRAVE BEAR'S STORY OF CUSTER'S FIGHT ON LITTLE BIG HORN
LOTS OF WAR parties of Cheyennes and Sioux had just come into the villages from different points [after] making raids. I was with a party that had just returned with lots of plunder. War societies all through the villages were having scalp dances all night. I was about in [the] center of the big village, dancing until daylight when I went to my father's lodge to take sleep as I had been up all night dancing. I had been sleeping for some time when my father woke me up and told me to get up. Fighting was going on [at the] upper village. He told me he had my war horse and shield all ready. As I got up I heard lots of firing.
I took my small sack that had my porcupine-tail hairbrush and my paints. I had to put on [the] same paint that my shield was painted with, and had [to] put it on just as my shield was painted. This was on my face. My father took off my shield [the] blacktail deer tail. This was to [be] tied to my scalp lock. This charm was to turn bullets [away] from me. My father touched my head four times with this tail before tying it on to my scalp lock. This shield my father gave me of course knew all the medicine that belong[ed] to it.
As I went out [the] front [of] the lodge to mount my horse, women and children ran by me, saying soldiers were in camp fighting. I heard firing plainly now. My father held my shield towards the sun and said to the shield [and] to the sun to protect me from the bullets. Then he put the shield on my right side and told me to go and die in the battle.
As I started towards the battleground I met lots [of] women and children, mostly Sioux. They told us to hurry up as several of us had now got together and [a] lot more warriors were coming behind us. We were all singing our different society songs, some singing death songs, as this is the custom among all the Indians in going into battles. They also sing these songs when they are attacked and [are] in tight places. I heard lots of this singing at Sand Creek when Chivington attacked the village .
Brave Bear says when he and his crowd got to the battleground, the soldiers were fighting on foot and had their horses in the timber in rear of them. I ran, he says, very close to the soldiers. They were firing in every direction as the Indians were getting around their back at the other end of the firing line of the soldiers.
Two Crow scouts of Custer came charging towards me. I also charged on them. When I got near them they both jumped off their horses and got on [the] side of their horses so they could shoot better. Just then [a] lot of warriors rushed up to count "coe" [coup] on them, but I was first to count "coe" [coup] on one. This gave me [a] big honor or big name by counting first "coe" in [the] Custer battle. [Note: this was probably Arikara scout Little Brave. Here is Wooden Leg's account of the death of Little Brave.]
When I looked around towards the soldiers they were running to their horses, [and] Indians were thick as ants behind them. [Note: this was after Crazy Horse's flanking charge shattered Reno's defensive line in the timber. Here is Flying Hawk's account.] By this time the soldiers made quick for [the] Little Big Horn. The worst of it was [that] the soldiers struck very high banks of the river and all went over. When they struck the water it sounded like [a] cannon going off. This was awful as the bank was awful high.
When I rode to the bank the Indians were shooting the soldiers as they came up out of [the] water. I could see lots of blood in [the] water. I [had] only seen seven soldiers crawl out on the other side of [the] Little Big Horn. The Indians on that side killed them in [a] little while as they had nothing to shoot with [because] they had lost their arms in [the] water.
When I got across the river I saw three companies [of Custer's battalion] making [a] stand and [noticed] one company [on] the other side of them on [a] knoll. I can not understand why the three companies did not try and help those that jumped off the bank, or why all of them didn't cross over and fight in the village. I think Custer saw he was caught in [a] bad place and would like to have gotten out of it if he could, but he was hemmed in all around and could do nothing [but] only to die then.
These three companies turned all their horses loose; that is, the horses that were not shot down [already]. Only one officer stayed on his horse. It did not take long to kill them here. I saw Yellow Nose with a flag coming out [from] among the dead soldiers. Eight soldiers started towards [the] company on [the] knoll. The officer on horse[back] was behind them. [A] Cheyenne charged this officer, [and] this officer shot him in [the] head. [A] Sioux with scalp lock charged at him also, and he shot this Sioux in the breast. Another Indian [then] rode up and shot this officer off his horse. I captured his horse. It was [a] sorrel horse. This officer killed these two Indians. I have been told since [then that] Custer was with that one company on [the] knoll. [Note: although Brave Bear is sometimes credited with being the warrior who killed Custer, he actually did not claim he personally killed the officer on the sorrel horse, nor is there any evidence that he was carrying a gun. See Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-witness Answer for more info.]
I think Custer would have been better off if he had got in among the villages and made his stand there among them and got killed there with his men. I understand [the] whites don't like [to] hear that Custer did not act brave in this battle, but Indians here all think he acted cowardly. Twenty-eight Indians were killed in this battle.
Indian Views of the Custer Fight: A Source Book by Richard G. Hardorff, The Arthur Clark Co. Spokane, WA 2004, p 81 - 86
Brave Bear was a Southern Cheyenne who joined the Northern Cheyenne after the defeat of the Dog Soldiers at Summit Springs in 1869. He was present when General George Crook attacked Dull Knife's village in 1876, shortly before the Little Bighorn, and lost a son in that engagement.
Brave Bear is one of several warriors sometimes named as the man who killed Custer, based on his description of the killing an officer on a sorrel horse at the very end of the Custer fight. In fact, Brave Bear was voted the honorary title of The Man Who Killed Custer at the Rodman Wanamaker -sponsored last Great Council on the Little Bighorn in 1909.
However, based on both the eye-witness accounts of the battle and the subsequent developments on the battlefield that day, it appears that Custer was killed or seriously wounded at the very outset of the Custer Fight, probably by White Cow Bull at the river before Custer's troops were fully engaged in the battle. Later, in the confusion of the final moments of the battle, it is impossible to say who may have been riding a sorrel horse.
See Astonisher.com's Who Killed Custer -- Top Ten List for more info.
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Here is Brave Bear 's commentary on Monaseetah and Yellow Bird.