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The Death of Crazy Horse

Crazy Bull in Robert Redford's The West
Crazy Horse as depicted in Robert Redford's The West

Have you ever wondered what type of cowboys lived in the American West? Sometimes it's best to turn to Hollywood for the answers. Step forward actor and legend of American cinema Burt Reynolds, who this week on Robert Redford's The West broke it down for us. "There were all kinds of cowboys.There were ones that were loud, drunk and a pain and then there were the quiet ones who didn't say anything, who sat in the corner. Those were the ones you had to watch out for." This week we met Billy the Kid, and he was a quiet one...

What went down this week?

After their defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, the US military seizes the Black Hills, forcing Sitting Bull to flee to Canada and Crazy Horse to turn himself into a reservation. 

With the Buffalo eliminated from the Great Plains, cattle take their place, populating the West with rough boomtowns like Dodge City, requiring the unorthodox tactics of lawmen like Wyatt Earp. 

As the railroads build further west to capitalise on the cattle boom, in Lincoln County, New Mexico, a young cattle thief named Billy the Kid get caught up in a corrupt war. 

And as Jesse James tries to adjust to an anonymous life in hiding, Crazy Horse decides he's had enough of life on a reservation, but he ends up paying the ultimate price. 

The Death of Crazy Horse

The Lakota Sioux leader Crazy Horse has been one of the heroes of Robert Redford's The West. Sadly, this week his story came to an end. After being forced onto the Fort Robinson Reservation, Crazy Horse tried to negotiate a new settlement for him and his people but was unsuccessful. 

This leader, who had defeated the US at the Battle of Little Big Horn, was feared by the US Government. As the historian Karl Jacoby says, "The US was incredibly scared about Crazy Horse. There were rumours that he wanted to kill a visiting US general. US authorities were forever concerned about these rumours of Indian outbreaks." 

He was arrested by US officials and during the struggle was bayoneted in the kidneys. As a result of his injuries, the man who fought his entire life to protect his people and won battle after battle against the UNited States army, died. "Crazy Horse's death is hard to talk about," Oglala Lakota filmmaker Larry T. Pourier tells HISTORY. "It's so fresh even though it's been that many years. I think we all died that day." Today Crazy Horse's legacy is that of courage and strength in the face of oppression.

Best did you know moment

Billy the Kid is one of the most notorious cowboys in the history of the American West but his journey didn't start out west. Billy was born in Manhatten. It wasn't until the early 1870s that he and his mother moved to New Mexico where his notoriety grew. Historian Paul Hutton tells the programme, "he came from Hells Kitchen in New York. There's a beautiful irony to the idea of a kid from the slums in New York becoming this icon of the Wild West."