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Memorial Dedicated to the Victors of Little Bighorn

June 26, 2003|From Associated Press

LITTLE BIGHORN BATTLEFIELD NATIONAL MONUMENT, Mont. -- After demanding for decades that their ancestors be given their due, hundreds of American Indians dedicated the first permanent memorial Wednesday to the warriors who wiped out Gen. George Custer and his cavalry in 1876.

"I know the spirits of our ancestors dwell here," said George Amiotte, a Sioux who decorated his long gray-tinged hair with feathers for the ceremony. "It's a great day to be alive."

The memorial consists of a wiry sculpture of Indian warriors, a sunken stone circle -- a sacred symbol to many tribes -- and an open-air space for tribal ceremonies.

For more than a century, a hilltop granite obelisk and white headstones on the battlefield have honored the estimated 260 members of the 7th Cavalry who died in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Indians have long complained that they never received recognition for fighting off the invading force. They now have a monument within sight of the cavalry memorial.

"I never thought it was going to happen," said Donlin Many Bad Horses, a Northern Cheyenne. "But today it did happen and I'm very glad so many people came out -- came out to see what kind of people we are, the proud people we are."

On June 25, 1876, Custer attacked an Indian village along the Little Bighorn River but apparently miscalculated the size of the force that he and his troops would face. As many as 2,000 Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors fought back. The Indians were estimated to have lost fewer than 100 people.

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