CCHS vs. Custer
Posted by Andy Hanson (+149) 26 days ago
While a student in school at Custer Co. High School {52 to 55} I was fed the mythology of Custer’s Last Stand. Miles City, as most of you know, is a bird flight from the actuality of the Little Big Horn but centuries apart when considering its take on the American Indian. As a kid if I wanted to buy beer as a teenager I knew that all I needed to do was go downtown and find an Indian and have him buy it for me. I even remember teepees up near the Tongue River right outside Miles City. And I remember the signs set up right outside the rez near Lame Deer, No Indians or Breeds Allowed
Years later I became a teacher of social studies because my own education was so lacking in high school. By then I had read many accounts of the ‘last stand’ some by American Indian authors. I had even researched the subject at the Library of Congress where I finally came upon first hand accounts of the Custer fight by the Lakota and the Northern Cheyenne. My question is how could the teachers of CCHS
Believed the 7th Calvary accounts of a fight ,that was ultimately a disaster for the Plains Indian, that had so clearly been mythologized to fit the white racism against the Plains Indian.
Because I could not believe that I had teachers who had it so wrong I became a history teacher in the East. In fact my education came more from the US Navy than from any of the classes that I had from Marinkovich or Oloughlin, my teachers at CCHS.?????
Recently I checked into my own past wondering why I had been held up so long in 1962 to getting into the Peace Corps. I did what is called a Freedom of Information Act with the FBI. My results of this search gave me an answer about teachers at CCHS. Every teacher I had in high school gave me a very bad review as a person who should be in the Peace Corps. My teachers at CCHS hated me and tried to keep me from going overseas with the Kennedy Peace Corps. Luckily professors at the University of Colorado and San Diego State College gave me glowing reviews and it
took some time but I made it to the job of a lifetime in Liberia.
While teaching in West Africa I read a lot of histories and began to feel my way as
A teacher of that subject first at the University of Liberia and then later in a school that June and I took over for our final year in Liberia.
Back in the US I became a teacher of social studies in Massachusetts, Maryland and NYC. Now my study of the battle of Little Big Horn began. Some 50 years later I have just finished my, probably, 50th book on the subject. Guess what, nothing is changed, there are still people who believe the mythology created after 1876 and there are folks that know that we will never know what happened on the Little Big Horn and of course there are people who believe that Custer was a disaster in the West.
The racism of the teachers of my high school was unacceptable to me. To set the record straight that is why I became a teacher. My background of three years in the Navy, my degree in social studies from San Diego State, my two years in Africa, My MA in geography, my years of study on the American Indian have brought me to today. My study of Custer is pretty complete, he was an egomaniacal fool who got what he deserved and sadly took a lot of people with him. But the battle of the Greasy Grass was a huge turning point for the American Indian. The genocide of the peoples continued into the finish of the 19th century and well into the 20th . I wish I could say we are now more correct in our interchange with the American Indian.
I will end with a quote from Sherman Alexie.
‘Last Sept. 16th, I was walking in downtown Seattle when this pick up truck pulls up
in front of me. Guy leans out the window and yells, “go back to your own country,”
it wasn’t so much a hate crime as a crime of irony.’
My question is have we improved. I am not sure.
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Posted by MeiMei (+164) 25 days ago
This post was removed 25 days ago.
It was removed because it was a duplicate.
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Posted by MeiMei (+164) 25 days ago
Reply to MeiMei (#376612)
I am sorry for your experience at CCHS. I attended CCHS in the seventies. I do recognize now how misinformed we have been about the Battle of the Little Big Horn and learned a great deal recently after hearing a local gentleman speak from the American Indian viewpoint.

It is amazing to realize what those people were fighting to protect.
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Posted by TheDude (+107) 25 days ago
Well I too attended CCHS in the seventies.My recollections are quite different.My History teacher was Howard Ledke.I remember when our class was discussing the Battle of Little Big Horn.After reading the assigned text,the class was engaged in a discussion about what we had read.The history book didn't make Custer out to be a hero or a good person,but it sure didn't inform one as to the arrogant ass he was either.Mr.Letke went on to point out numerous inaccurate and misleading segments in the book.Our next homework assignment was to make a list of different wrongs and injustices that Native Americans suffered back then.
Knowing some of the other teachers back in those days,I would not be at all surprised to discover that they were bigots and racists.Just don't group Mr. Letke in with them.Howard Letke-He MADE you want to learn....RIP.
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Posted by MeiMei (+164) 24 days ago
Yes I agree! Howard was a great man!
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Posted by Andy Hanson (+149) 23 days ago
Great teaching always stands out. Of course I am referring to the 50's.
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Posted by wpnelson (+16) 12 days ago
I lived in MC from about 55 to 64 and while I have no memory of what we were taught at Custer High about the Custer folly and resultant disaster for the Indians I do not think it would have ended up any different for them. We were many and they were few.

There were about 5000 Indian warriors and slightly more US Calvery as zI recall. The out come of a battle against the best light horse (Indian) Calvery that ever existed would have been epic and the issue would have been in doubt to say the least. I think the Indians under Crazy Horse would have won that one due to their superior tactics.

The country was in a severe depression at the time and the gold discovery in the Black Hills clouded all else.

We were taught in officer training about how foolish Custer was and all the mistakes he made much to his hasten demise. As I recall he was one of the first wounded as they got to the bottom of the hill near the creek and they retreated back up the hill. He is not a hero to the army but is rather a fool.

I can not speak to everything in your missive but in general I do agree.
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Posted by Andy Hanson (+149) 11 days ago
Thanks, the military view on the escapade is very important. My view is based on a poster view of the 'last stand' which was enhanced by Budweiser that existed in almost every bar I went to in Montana in the 50's. And that view was continued into the high school American History class. But i did something about it and I share a concern that history should be about facts.
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Posted by ike eichler (+1214) 10 days ago
As is often the case there are two sides to any discussion. A great example of manifest destiny. The Indians were supposed to report to reservations by a certain time or be punished. The treaties of the past were ignored. The military and Custer were doing what they were ordered to do. Unfortunally the out come was the apogee of the plains Indians. Never again would tribes come together. Common today to blame Custer for this defeat and is the modern PC thing. Actually, this was only the start of the horrible reservation system, the wards of the government much like the determent camps of WW2 only still going today. To blame Custer as a fool and folly are not true.In hind sight federal reactions as a sign of the times has been and continue to be disasters.
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Posted by Bridgier (+8048) 9 days ago
JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS
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Posted by MilesCity.com Webmaster (+9047) 9 days ago
Reply to ike eichler (#376700)
ike eichler wrote:
As is often the case there are two sides to any discussion. A great example of manifest destiny. The Indians were supposed to report to reservations by a certain time or be punished. The treaties of the past were ignored. The military and Custer were doing what they were ordered to do. Unfortunally the out come was the apogee of the plains Indians. Never again would tribes come together. Common today to blame Custer for this defeat and is the modern PC thing. Actually, this was only the start of the horrible reservation system, the wards of the government much like the determent camps of WW2 only still going today. To blame Custer as a fool and folly are not true.In hind sight federal reactions as a sign of the times has been and continue to be disasters.

I don't know what you consider "Common today to blame Custer for this defeat and is the modern PC thing" and "To blame Custer as a fool and folly are not true", but when I was in school that was the storyline - a period which was hardly "modern" or "PC".
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Posted by ike eichler (+1214) 9 days ago
Depending on the teachers idea and how well they had studied history of the event. As noted there are two sides to every story. Same as today, Custer haters and Custer lovers. The truth is somewhere in between. As most history the "facts" are in the eye of the beholder.
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Posted by MilesCity.com Webmaster (+9047) 9 days ago
Reply to ike eichler (#376709)
ike eichler wrote:
Depending on the teachers idea and how well they had studied history of the event. As noted there are two sides to every story. Same as today, Custer haters and Custer lovers. The truth is somewhere in between. As most history the "facts" are in the eye of the beholder.

I suppose so. I'm just saying, as far back as the 1970's, I remember my teachers pretty much characterizing Custer as a reckless egomaniac - who basically disregarded orders - and lead himself and his men into a horrible situation that did not turn out well.

As for the plight of the American Indian, that is a different topic - of which I was taught by my grandmother (whose family had been in Southeastern Montana since about as early as they could have been in the 1800's) - the horrible things the white man did to the Indians.
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