Was George Custer's defeat at the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, the greatest American Indian military victory? Or was it the beginning of the end of Sioux Country as the native peoples knew it?
On the eve of the 136th anniversary of the famous "Last Stand," retired National Park Service superintendent Paul L. Hedren examines that puzzle in After Custer: The Transformation of Sioux Country on Sunday, June 3, 2012, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
In After Custer - winner of the 2011 National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Book - Hedren looks at the aftermath of Little Bighorn and the inevitability of continued western expansion by the United States.
In the wake of Custer's defeat General Philip Sheridan flooded Sioux country with troops who mercilessly harassed the Lakotas and their Northern Cheyenne allies until they either gave way or fled to Canada. The tribes quickly went from a sense of invincibility at Little Bighorn to near-total collapse as they lost leaders and villages.
From the white man's perspective, the "Indian barrier" had to be removed before the Northern Pacific Railroad could advance westward. The northern buffalo herd had to be eliminated before cattle could spread across the same range.
"They made us many promises, more than I can remember," said one Sioux warrior. "But they never kept but one: They promised to take our land. And they took it."
Among Hedren's many books of Western history are Fort Laramie in 1876: Chronicle of a Frontier Post at War, Great Sioux War Orders of Battle, First Scalp for Custer, and the Traveler's Guide to the Great Sioux War: The Battlefields, Forts, and Related Sites of America's Greatest Indian War.
Admission is free. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.
This presentation is part of the Missouri Valley Sundays series, a program of the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library. The series is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.