31″ x 41″
1987 Cowboy Artists of America Gold Award
1987 Western Art Association Best of Show Award
By combining their strength, the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians were able to crush General George Custer’s elite Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn in 1876. That victory was to prove as ill-fated to the Indian cultures as to Custer and his men. The U.S. government threw its might into destroying the Indians. Buffalo hunters slaughtered the bison, nearly exterminating the species. The Indians were hunted and harried, and, by 1881, the last Plains Indians had been driven onto the harsh, unproductive lands set aside as reservations. There, pestilence and privation decimated their numbers and the Indian culture waned. As a result, the Ghost Dance religion swept the Great Plains like wildfire. The Indians’ culture had been destroyed by the white man and the Indians were ready to grasp at any straw that would promise a return to the old ways. By 1890, most tribes were practicing the religion, which prophesied that all the buffalo would reappear, the white man would vanish and all the Indian dead would come back to life. It was said that the Ghost Dance shirts and dresses would protect the wearer from white men’s bullets, but at the Wounded Knee massacre, the Indians discovered that the garments gave no protection. After that tragedy, their last hope was destroyed and they lost heart.