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Crazy Horse Leadership


Crazy Horse LeadershipCrazy Horse (1841-1877)


Leader of the Sioux Native Americans in the Great Plains of Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Continually fought against the invading whites, and the government’s order that all Sioux people had to remain on reservations after January 1876.

Crazy Horse (pictured right) defeated General George Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (1876).


Why was he a great leader?


1. Servant leader

He always put his people before himself.

He fought to defend their interests, territory, traditions and the buffalo, which was vital to their survival.

The buffalo gave them

  • food and shelter (their tents, or tipis, were made of buffalo skin). 
  • clothing, fuel and numerous utensils.

When the whites eventually killed off the buffalo, the Native Americans’ way of life died with it.


Crazy Horse Leadership

2. Brilliant tactician and learner

He used brilliant decoy tactics to lure Captain Fetterman (pictured right) into an ambush in 1866, killing him and all 80 of his men.

At the Battle of Little Bighorn , he learned from previous battles the importance of:

  • speedy decisiveness
  • spreading his warriors out (so that they did not block each other’s fire).

He quickly outflanked Custer and attacked him from an unexpected direction rather than attacking him head-on.


3. Bravery

He was famous for his courage, always leading his men into battle and yelling words of encouragement.


4. Integrity

He was a man of honour, who stuck to his principles with modesty and humility.

When offered tobacco by the American government as a bribe to give up its land, he said, “One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk”.


5. Determination and spirit

He was determined to be a great leader, despite personal tragedies (like the death of his daughter from cholera in 1874) and continual battles against the superior firepower and numbers of the white man.Crazy Horse Leadership

His greatest victories were the Battle of the Rosebud in 1876 and his defeat of General Custer (pictured right) at the Battle of the Little Bighorn soon after.

Crazy Horse only surrendered in 1877, when his people were exhausted from fighting and demoralized from dying buffalo and no clothing.

He hated surrendering to a people he considered inferior, but he had no choice. Four months later he was killed trying to escape imprisonment after being double-crossed.


Crazy Horse Leadership

6. Spiritual inspiration

The Sioux believed their lives were controlled by a sacred spiritual force, shown as visions to certain people (including Crazy Horse and another great Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, pictured right, whose vision foresaw Custer's defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn)

These visionaries were revered by everybody else as holy and powerful.

As a boy, Crazy Horse's first vision showed him riding first into battle as the servant of his people.

His father, a holy man, told him that this was his destiny. His many other visions increased people’s respect for him still further.


Key quote on life

My lands are where my dead lie buried.

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