Most of us have heard the name Crazy Horse. The name is used worldwide by steakhouses, saloons, and even an internationally famed Parisian cabaret.
But long before its adoption by big business, the name was made famous by an iconic Native American warrior.
Here are 8 fascinating facts about the brave Lakota warrior who appeared on the Great Americans stamp series.
Crazy Horse: 8 Interesting Facts about a Native American Hero.
1. He wasn’t named Crazy Horse until later in life.
When Crazy Horse was born, he was given the name Cha-O-Ha, meaning Among the Trees. When he reached puberty, he was given the famed name held first by his grandfather, and then his father—Ta-Sunko-Witko. After granting him his new name, Crazy Horse’s father took the new name Waglula, meaning ‘worm.’
2. His nickname was Curly.
Despite both names, his mother—Rattling Blanket Woman—gave him the nickname “Curly,” because they had the same curly hair, an interesting Crazy Horse fact. Sadly, his mother died when he was only four years old.
3. We don’t know when he was actually born.
The actual year of Crazy Horse’s birth is a source of contention for historians, although most of them agree that he was born between 1840 and 1845. Crazy Horse’s father told Lieutenant H.R. Lemly that his son’s birth year was 1840. Encouraging Bear—who was an Oglala healer and spiritual advisor—claimed that Crazy Horse was born in the fall of 1841. A close friend and companion to Crazy Horse—He Dog—believed that he and his friend were both born in the same season and year. Records show that this places Crazy Horse’s birth around the winter of 1842.
Both of Crazy Horse’s parents were descendants of the Lakota. His father was of the Oglala sub-tribe, and his mother was a Miniconjou.
4. He fell in love quickly…and often.
Oral accounts show that Crazy Horse fell in love with Black Buffalo Woman early in life, but she married another man. Not one to give up, Crazy Horse convinced Black Buffalo Woman to run away with him—and she agreed. Her husband was known to drink too much, and was given the name No Water. When No Water found out his wife had gone with another man, he borrowed a gun and tracked them down. As he prepared to shoot Crazy Horse in the chest, the warrior’s cousin—Touch the Clouds—attempted to knock the gun away. Instead of being shot in the chest, the bullet grazed Crazy Horse’s jaw. It left a scar, but he escaped with his life, an interesting fact about Crazy Horse.
Another woman—Black Shawl—was charged with caring for Crazy Horse as he recovered from his wound. He fell in love with her, and the pair were married. Black Shawl gave birth to Crazy Horse’s only child—a little girl named They Are Afraid of Her, who died of illness when she was a toddler.
5. His second wife was an outsider.
Crazy Horse was also sent a “half-blood” woman named Nellie Larrabee as a companion. She was the daughter of a French trader and a Cheyenne woman, and, by many accounts, she wasn’t trusted by the Lakota people. Many believe that Nellie Larrabee was sent to spy on Crazy Horse by Red Cloud. Chief Red Cloud was openly opposed to the Dakota war, and may have been in league with the army to bring about its end.
6. His distrust of white men started early.
Before Crazy Horse even entered his teen years, he witnessed the brutality of U.S. troops, an interesting fact about Crazy Horse. In 1854, a stray cow came into a Lakota camp. It was butchered and shared amongst the tribe. Soon after, 30 American soldiers entered the camp, led by Lieutenant John Grattan, to arrest what they claimed were “thieves” who had stolen a cow. The soldiers killed Conquering Bear—the chief of Crazy Horse’s people. In retaliation, the Lakota people killed all 30 soldiers, with a young Crazy Horse as witness. He would have been between nine and fourteen years old at the time.
7. He was a minimalist by nature.
In accordance with Lakota custom, Crazy Horse refused food and water for four days in order to seek a vision. A vision, by Lakota tradition, helped a young man to gain clarity around fulfilling his destiny. Crazy Horse’s vision told him that if he lived a simple life and refused accolades in war, he would never be harmed.
From that point forward, Crazy Horse carried only his necessities when he travelled, and refused war trophies and material rewards, an interesting Crazy Horse fact. His vision didn’t steer him wrong—he was only wounded once despite being a pivotal warrior in some of Native America’s greatest battles. One Arapaho account at the Battle of the Little Bighorn described Crazy Horse as the bravest man the warrior had ever witnessed. According to the warrior, countless American soldiers were firing on Crazy Horse as he called to his warriors, and he was never hit.
8. His death is surrounded by controversy.
In 1877, Crazy Horse’s wife became ill. The pair left the reservation they had been forced onto, to seek help from his wife’s parents and a traditional healer. He was arrested, and—during a struggle with soldiers—stabbed in the back with a bayonet.
Despite his immense pain and loss of blood, Crazy Horse refused to lie on a “white man’s cot” to be treated, and died on the floor.
Differing accounts of his last moments exist. His lifelong friend and cousin, Touch the Clouds, was with him in the end, and recounted the most common (and reliable) version of Crazy Horse’s story.
The warrior’s long-time enemy, Little Big Man, claimed he was the one to kill Crazy Horse. When the soldiers who were involved in the killing were interviewed, they each claimed they did not know who had stabbed the Lakota legend.
Of the 17 eye witness accounts taken, only Little Big Man claims responsibility for the murder. One states that the killer was a Private Gentles, and other soldiers give two other names. The true killer has never been confirmed.
Crazy Horse is revered internationally for his loyalty to the Native American people, his bravery, and for how hard he fought to preserve his people’s lands and culture. His legacy lives on through the Crazy Horse Memorial, an 87 ft. monument carved into the side of Thunderhead Mountain. The memorial welcomes over one million visitors every year.
I hope that this article on Crazy Horse facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!