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Healing the Culture Clash

In the midst of rolling green valleys and distant snowcapped peaks, Montana is home to a seemingly serene landscape. This peaceful setting, however, has been shrouded in controversy for more than 125 years. Originally known as Custer’s Battlefield, the Little Bighorn Battlefield east of Hardin was a continual reminder of the U.S. government’s predisposal to downplay Native American tragedies suffered at the hands of nineteenth century white expansionist policies. That reminder, however, began fading in 2003.

In an unprecedented act, Native Americans finally became an integral part of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Much to the dismay of Custer fans and history buffs, the pleas of angry area tribes were finally heard. Tribal activists argued that the Lakota and Sioux involved in the fateful 1876 battle were merely defending their way of life, not maliciously attacking the U.S. Calvary for no reason. As a result, the braves who lost their lives in the battle really deserved the same honor and remembrance as Custer’s soldiers who had long been memorialized. The tribe’s pleas were answered, and the “Native Pride” sculpture was erected at the National Monument Area 127 years after the historic event escalated tensions between Native Americans and the U.S. government.

Today, “Native Pride” is simply that - the pride Native Americans feel for the warrior ancestors who bravely fought to defend their legacy. Sculpted from thick bronze wires, a band of warriors rides into combat under the watch of silent and humbled visitors. Many visitors have tied bandanas to the proud riders while others have left touching mementos honoring those who fought and died in this legendary clash of ideals.

Although wounds from the Little Bighorn Battle continue to bleed in the hearts and minds of generations whose ancestors fell that fateful June 1876, “Native Pride” represents the first step in healing the barrier that has long divided two cultures. Scars of the famous battle may never vanish completely, but at least the memory of both sides involved is now honored with a long-awaited sense of serenity working its way into this quiet Montana landscape.

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