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Crazy Horse and the Western Hero
Crazy Horse, believed born sometime in 1838, was a respected member of the Oglala Sioux Native American tribe and is noted for his courage in battle. He was recognized among his own people as a visionary leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life and leading his people into a war against the take-over of their lands by the White Man. The location of Crazy Horses birth is not conclusively known. Some sources report his birthplace as the South Cheyenne River. Other sources point to either Rapid Creek, near present day Rapid City, South Dakota, or near Bear Butte outside Sturgis, South Dakota.
Crazy Horse earned his reputation among the Lakota not only by his skill and daring in battle, but also by his fierce determination to preserve his people's traditional way of life. Celebrated for his ferocity in battle, Crazy Horse was recognized among his own people as a visionary and independent leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota people. This is what has made his legacy so strong. He refused, for example, to allow any photographs to be taken of him. He also fought to prevent American encroachment on Lakota lands following the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, helping to attack a surveying party sent into the Black Hills by General George Armstrong Custer in 1873.
Even as a young man, Crazy Horse was a legendary warrior. He stole horses from the Crow Indians before he was thirteen, and led his first war party before turning twenty. Crazy Horse fought in the 1865-68 war led by the Oglala chief Red Cloud against American settlers in Wyoming, and played a key role in destroying William J. Fetterman's brigade at Fort Phil Kearny in 1866.
It is believed that Crazy Horse was in the Brule camp when it was attacked by United States (U.S.) troops during the Grattan Massacre. After witnessing the death of Sioux leader, Conquering Bear, Crazy Horse wandered alone into the lake country of the Sand Hills, where he had the vision that would guide him for the rest of his life. His vision led him to go against Lakota customs by not wearing face paint or a war bonnet in battle, and to rub dust over his hair and body before going into battle.
Through the late 1850s and early 1860s, Crazy Horse's reputation as a warrior grew as did his fame among the Lakota. Little written record exists of the fights involving Crazy Horse because the vast majority of them were raids against other preliterate Plains tribes. Because of his fighting ability, Crazy Horse was installed as an Ogle Tanka Un (Shirt Wearer or war leader) in 1865.
On December 21, 1866, Crazy Horse led the Oglala contingent of a war party comprising 1,000 warriors, including members of the Cheyenne and Miniconjou tribes, in an ambush of U.S. troops stationed at Fort Phil Kearny that became known as the Fetterman massacre. Crazy Horse led a decoy party that drew the U.S. soldiers out of Fort Kearny while the main body of warriors hid around the Lodge Trail Ridge. The ambush was the worst army defeat on the Great Plains at the time.
On August 14, 1872, Crazy Horse, along with Sitting Bull took part in the first attack by the Lakota on troops escorting a Northern Pacific Railroad survey crew. The Battle of Arrow Creek ended with minimal casualties on either side. On June 17, 1876, Crazy Horse led a combined group of approximately 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne in a surprise attack against General George Crook's force of 1,000 cavalry and infantry and 300 Crow and Shoshone warriors in the Battle of the Rosebud. The battle, although not substantial in terms of human loss, delayed Crook from joining up with the 7th Cavalry under George A. Custer, ensuring the Custer's defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
When the War Department ordered all Lakota bands onto their reservations in 1876, Crazy Horse became a leader of the resistance. Closely allied to the Cheyenne through his first marriage to a Cheyenne woman, he gathered a force of 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne at his village and turned back General George Crook on June 17, 1876, as Crook tried to advance up Rosebud Creek toward Sitting Bull's encampment on the Little Bighorn. At 3:00 P.M. On June 26, 1876, Custer's 7th Cavalry attacked the Lakota and Cheyenne village, marking the beginning of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Crazy Horse entered the battle by repelling the first attack led by Major Marcus Reno. After driving back Reno's force, Crazy Horse's warriors were free to pursue Custer. In the counterattack that destroyed Custer's 7th Cavalry to the last man, Crazy Horse flanked the Americans from the north and west, as Hunkpapa Warriors led by chief Gall charged from the south and east
Following the Lakota victory at the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and Gall retreated to Canada, but Crazy Horse remained to battle General Nelson Miles as he pursued the Lakota and their allies relentlessly throughout the winter of 1876-77. On January 8, 1877, his warriors fought their last battle, the Battle of Slim Buttes, with the United States Cavalry in Montana and on May 8 of that year he realized that his people were weakened by cold and hunger and he surrendered to United States troops in Nebraska. This constant military harassment and the decline of the buffalo population had forced Crazy Horse to surrender. Except for Gall and Sitting Bull, he was the last important chief to yield. To encourage Crazy Horse to go to Washington D.C. To meet with the then newly elected President Rutherford B. Hayes, Lieutenant William Philo Clark made him a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Indian Scouts on May 15, 1877. Crazy Horse still declined to make the trip.
Even in defeat, Crazy Horse remained an independent spirit. "As a leader, Crazy Horse kept the interests of his people before him. He provided for them and protected them from harm. He signed no treaties, and he surrendered only because he did not want his followers to suffer depravation, cold, and hunger. Even in his dying moments he thought of his people. For all of those reasons, it is easy for the Lakotas to remember him and say his name as if it were a prayer."
In September 1877, when he left the reservation without authorization, to take his sick wife to her parents, General George Crook ordered him arrested, fearing that he was plotting a return to battle. Crazy Horse did not resist arrest at first, but when he realized that he was being led to a guardhouse, he began to struggle, and while his arms were held by one of the arresting officers, a soldier ran him through with a bayonet.
Westerns Films are the major defining genre of the American film industry, a nostalgic eulogy to the early days of the expansive, untamed American frontier, the borderline between civilization and the wilderness. They are one of the oldest, most enduring and flexible genres, and one of the most characteristically American genres in their mythic origins. This indigenous American art form focuses on the frontier West that existed in North America.
The western film genre often portrays the conquest of the wilderness and the subordination of nature, in the name of civilization, or the confiscation of the territorial rights of the original inhabitants of the frontier. Specific settings include lonely isolated forts, ranch houses, the isolated homestead, the saloon, the jail, the small-town main street, or small frontier towns that are forming at the edges of civilization. Other iconic elements in westerns include the hanging tree, stetsons and spurs, lassos and Colt .45's, stagecoaches, gamblers, long-horned cattle and cattle drives, prostitutes (or madams) with a heart of gold, and more. The western film genre has portrayed much about America's past, glorifying the past-fading values and aspirations of the mythical by-gone age of the West. Over time, westerns have been re-defined, re-invented and expanded, dismissed, re-discovered, and spoofed. The western has more or less died out as a genre, and the sort of gangster picture that made Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, and Humphrey Bogart famous has become a rarity.
Warshow's essays appeared from 1946 to 1955, primarily in The Partisan Review, The Nation, and Commentary. Because he died of a heart attack in 1955, at the age of 37, his life's work fits into a single volume. Warshow's posthumous fame, what little of it there is, rests largely on his film essays, especially "The Gangster as Tragic Hero" and "Movie Chronicle: The Westerner," which are occasionally included in anthologies of film criticism.
Warshow knows from his own experience that he is drawn to the Western, regardless of what others say about its value as a genre, and he wonders what draws him to it. The Western, he writes, "offers a serious orientation…[continue]
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