Lauren and Justin: So, after several weeks of giving directions, answering questions from the general public, we finally got a chance to see what all the fuss was about. First of all, it was about 95 degrees out, or at least it felt that way since we had both opted to wear full-length jeans and our black "History Matters" t-shirts. On bench stadium seating, with no cloud cover or canopy. Awesome. We had to show up at 12 o'clock for a 1 o'clock showing, in order to secure good seats. There was a tent for t-shirts, which also sold a small collection of animal-pelt crafts - meaning just ONE bearclaw necklace and ONE skunkskin medicine bag, a tent for food (despite declaring he would only order a hamburger, Justin eventually and proudly ordered an Indian Taco) and a a minitent for drinks. When things were finally set up, we had a long gauntlet of events to transgress before coming to the ultimate event. The most satisfying thing to watch was probably the paratrooper jump by the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborn out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Two large planes circled over the area, then ten minutes later each let loose a string of paratroopers, draping them over the landscape. As the men dropped from the sky, a couple of them became entangled and though it didn't result in any serious repurcussions, it did attract the concern of the crowd. Afterwards, the Native festivites could finally begin. First there was an introduction by the Emcee, then an "Indian Wedding" which mostly involved Indian singing, some smoke, and a couple of white people with their faces painted (and the woman's face painting looked suspiciously like a beard). Then there was a Naming Ceremony, where a little girl was christened with Indian smoke and prayer and given a name - "she who likes to look at horses" or something. Anyways, as she was named that she kept pointing at the horses, so even though there was no explanation of the name necessary, they still did it, then let her wander around to the "oohs" and "ahs" of the crowd for a few minutes. Then there was more singing by the local band - during which there was some confusion as they snuck in some English lyrics, and a young man who has participated in several Ultimate Warrior challenges was given a painting....of himself. During this ceremony, I (Lauren) started getting excited because I could see the cavalry gearing up to go- finally, we're going to see some fightin'! But no, it was just to escort several officers from the paratrooper group over the river. They rode all the way to the grass in front of us, dismounted, and the superior officer gave a talk and eventually shook hands with Sitting Bull's great (or great-great, we're not entirely sure) grandson. Then they announced the "players" in the reenactment and said that we would start the program. But the program, it turned out, was a lot more broad than we thought. They told the story with a narrative over the loudspeaker while actors mimed the actions described, INCLUDING: a father telling his son the story of the Battle of Little Bighorn, hand-to-hand combat including the act of scalping and dancing around a dead body, smoking the peace pipe, chasing a white man out of the village, and the herding of "wild" horses. Eventually, Clark and Sakagawea showed up, herding a group of Indian children ahead of them, which proved to be a kind of ineffectual misdirection to give the paratroopers enough time to ford the river and get to the "stage." They marched in to applause, and there was another talk, eventually ended with Sitting Bull's great (great?) grandson leading a massive circle dance around the field with the paratroopers following behind him. Then, once they had cleared off to go score some Indian Tacos, we were promised fighting. And, because we had been telling people that this was a reenactment of the Battle of Little Bighorn, we rightly expected the fighting to be of that historic event. WRONG!!! It was the Fetterman fight first, with Crazy Horse taunting the cavalry with a green towel. Not sure what the green towel had to do with it, but at least there were guns being fired. Then there was the Battle of Rosebud reenacted, and then finally, finally, FINALLY we got to the LBH action. Unfortunately, by this point Justin had lost all concentration and almost consciousness in the hot sun. This was compounded by the fact that the action of the majority of the battle was carried further away from the stands, across the Little Bighorn to a strip of land about 400 yards away. It was over in about 5 minutes, everyone cheered, and so did we because it meant we could finally get out of the sun. The swirling storm of Indians that crossed back over the river towards us was probably the most exciting part, while they rode around carrying the American and the 7th Cavalry flag. The whole thing was concluded with a song about Comanche. You know, Comanche- the horse. Yes, he has is own song, and it was sung while a horse was positioned on the top of the hill. It was an experience, and the pictures tell the majority of the story. In the same vein as Lauren's previous post, we've decided to compile a list of things we've learned after watching the reenactment:
1. Its very cool to watch but doesn't seem particularly pleasant to ride bareback as the Indians do. You have to contend with sweat, chaffing, and the chance that you'll fall off -at least the one that we saw knew where to land, since he fell off in the river.
2. It will ALWAYS be funny to watch a white guy get whacked off his horse by an Indian. Maybe it's schadenfreude, maybe it's retribution, either way it's hilarious.
3. If you put a lot of effort into coordinating an instructive cultural exhibition, don't ruin it by having people sell concessions like you're at a ballgame. It's hard to take the rammifications of Manifest Destiny seriously with "MOUNTAIN DEW!!! LEMONADE!!!COKE!!!" being screamed in your ear. And if the vendors are about 10 and dropping the waterbottles everywhere, it also doesn't help.
4. Justin should wear sunscreen on places other than his face.
5. When someone tells you the Indians do something "fast and loose," they mean it. Really.
6. Always tell Justin when you're planning on taking a video or he'll throw a strop.
7. Custer's role in the battle was little to none- he may be a schnazzy dresser but he didn't do jack.
After all the excitement and sun, we came back to the desk tired and sweaty and the rest of the day did tend to drag on a little, but we were comforted by the fact that we wouldn't have to answer any more questions on the location/duration/information of a reenactment. Next stop, Crow Fair!!!! -JD & L