THE CHRIS HEDGES REPORT: THE MONSTROUS MYTH OF CUSTER

Over a century since his ignominious defeat, the story of Lt. Col. Custer still plays a part in our national mythology—one that covers up our heinous crimes against Indigenous peoples.

BY CHRIS HEDGES SEPTEMBER 16, 2022

The playwright Eugene O’Neill said that one of the few events worth celebrating in American history took place on June 25, 1876, when Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, annihilated a unit of the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. There are few battles in American history that have generated as much controversy or been as meticulously dissected and examined. And with good reason. The death of Custer and his command stunned the nation. It turned Custer into a martyr for the cause of western expansion and imperialism. His death, portrayed as the ultimate sacrifice for the nation that was at the time celebrating its centennial, was used to justify a massive military campaign against Native Americans that would culminate in the massacre of some 300 Native Americans in 1890 at Wounded Knee. There is a vast disparity between the mythic presentation of Custer and the reality of the so-called Indian wars. Native Americans, including women, the elderly, and children, were slaughtered. The U.S. government repeatedly violated formal treaties to seize land promised in perpetuity to Native Americans. The buffalo herds, which sustained nomadic tribes, were decimated by white hunters.

Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Studio: Cameron Granadino, Adam Coley, Dwayne Gladden
Post-Production: Dwayne Gladden