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An Oglala Sioux war chief, American Horse opposed the white settlement of Sioux land his entire life. The son of Smoke and cousin of Red Cloud, American Horse fought in many of the skirmishes and battles of Red Cloud’s war to keep white settlers off of the Bozeman Trail. The trail was used by settlers and miners to illegally cross Sioux and Cheyenne land.
Even after the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868 with its short-lived peace agreement, American Horse continued to oppose the white settlers. He traveled with Red Cloud to Washington to meet with government officials, but the talks broke off. In 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills and the miners and speculators began once again to overrun sacred Sioux land. In 1876 American Horse sought to make the U.S. government live up to its treaty and took up arms.
He was one of the principal war chiefs during the Battle of the Little Bighorn. After the battle while Crazy Horse headed into the Black Hills and Sitting Bull traveled north to Canada, American Horse made the decision to go to an agency assigned by the United States. Along with forty lodges (Indian family groups) who accompanied him American Horse crossed paths with the troops of General George Crook at Slim Buttes. The Sioux encampment was attacked regardless of the fact that the band was on land guaranteed them by treaty.
Retreating to a cave along with four warriors and fifteen women, American Horse was shot through the abdomen during the fight. Captured by U.S. troops, American Horse refused the help of the army surgeons. Although Sitting Bull and Gall gathered a rescue party to secure his release, they never reached him in time and at the age of 76, American Horse died. He died as he had lived attempting to secure his homeland from invaders.