Red Horse: Battle of the Little Bighorn
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Red Horse: Battle of the Little Bighorn

October 27, 2019


For the past five years, I have taken a group
of Stanford sophomores to the Little Bighorn battlefield. Each student has
researched two individuals. As we walk the battlefield, they adopt the identity of that individual. General Custer will stand up and explain why he decided
to divide his troops. A minikanju warrior will
explain why the village wasn’t prepared for the battle, and actually do some primary research about what it was like
for the individuals there. It exposes students to a
different form of reality and so they’re much closer
to the historical truth than simply reading a book. The Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand, is, it’s iconic. And it has become legend,
it has become mythic, and the story has been embraced as truth. What’s important in the
dialogue is to actually create contested space so that all perspectives can be
shared and that that space is both provocative and
affirming for all people. So something very
rewarding in this process was creating my own
class about the exhibit. We looked at the Battle
of the Little Bighorn through the perspective
of the performing arts, history, anthropology,
archaeology, the military record, and our historical perspective,
a linguistic perspective. Interdisciplinary learning
really takes into account all the different perspectives and voices that are so necessary when you create an exhibit about someone’s voice, because if we can’t hear all voices, then we can’t hear one voice. To me, the
most haunting picture in the show is the one of the horses. Each horse is bleeding from a wound and the blood falls down to
indicate the flow of gravity but all the horses seem to be floating, almost lifted from the page. The eloquent simplicity of the lines, but also just the eloquence of repetition sort of holds your attention. The same forms shown over and over again with a mounting emotional impact. The collaborative process
is a critical aspect of what we do here at the Cantor. We really wanted to make
sure that our approach to these drawings really
reflected different ways of thinking about art, and
there’s these kind of fabulous intersections between these different ways of thinking about these
works that really highlight that there’s an important
relationship between the kind of art historical element but also language and also
document, also history. Seeing these
drawings by Red Horse helps us understand the face of battle at the Little Bighorn in ways that I think mere words can’t truly express. Every time I look at these
drawings, I see something new. For Stanford
to actually embrace this through a native lens, we’re
recrafting the narrative. That’s cutting edge, that’s innovative,

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