Graves Beside a River: the Little Bighorn


I normally am not so affected emotionally when visiting a war memorial that the experience lodges in the back of my mind for months, maybe years, after the encounter. I was afflicted/affected, even sensing a welling of tears, while wandering amongst the hills, grasses, and gravestones scattered about the U.S. Park Service's monument in Montana dedicated to the soldiers and warriors who fought the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876. This is not only a place that remembers conflict between human beings; there is an incoherence here in this beautiful place that witnessed a tragedy.

I arrived on Custer's hill with only a vague memory of references to the Indian wars raging in the 19th century, especially on the American western frontier. The human cost of these wars disturbed me as I walked, the realization rising like a ghostly mist in the sunshine and settling like a haze on the horizon.

There are two main memorial sites at this sacred Federal property (one dedicated to Custer and his soldiers and the other to the native combatants) and these, I believe, offer a modest introduction to a dilemma that confronted the frontier residents of the U.S. at one time.