I find it important to know about the past. The tragedies and the triumphs. The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site preserves one of the great tragedies in American History. At dawn on November 27th 1868 Lt Col Custer attacked the Southern Cheyenne village of Peace Chief Black Kettle.
This Oklahoma National Historic Site is located on its western edge. A long drive to the middle of nowhere but worth it to learn about this sad and dark day. The Battle of the Washita was long in the making and was hastened after the Medicine Lodge Treaty called for the Cheyenne as well as other Plains Nations to move onto reservation lands. That treaty was a sham. Most of the higher-ranking leaders of the Cheyenne had refused to sign. Many of the warriors took to raiding white settlements on their ancestral lands. Black Kettle, trying to protect his followers, searched for a peaceful way to end the hostilities. Unfortunately, before hostilities could be ended General Sheridan the commanding officer of the area had sent Lt. Colonel Custer and the 7th Cavalry to seek retribution for the settlement raids.
At first light Custer attacked the 51 lodges of Black Kettles group. In American history the fight is known as the Battle of the Washita while Native Americans called it the Washita Massacre. The aftermath changed the history of the Plains. General Sheridan’s brutal/ingenious tactics of attacking during winter was a success when the Native Americans realized that cold weather no longer provided protection from war. After the Washita tragedy, many of the tribal bands took up life on the reservation.
A visit to the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site should start with watching the very informative park film. A short twenty-minute film on not only the history of the battle but the events before and after it. There is also a small museum that is worth spending some time at. They do a great job of telling both sides and views to what happen on that day. It was incredibly moving to hear the first-hand accounts of the battle from their letters.
After learning about the history and importance of the site. A short hike to the hallowed grounds. Roughly a mile will take you to the river banks where Black Kettle’s camp once stood. The way is numbered allowing visitors to learn more about the specifics of what took place a number can be called that plays a recording of the events.
I think that visiting places that changed history are important. One to pay respects for the people and events that lived through it, but also learn about where our country came from. If we can learn from the past, then we will not repeat its mistakes. The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site is an important place to learn about the misunderstanding of culture and people led to an awful tragedy.
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Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Located at 18555 Hwy 47A Cheyenne, OK 73628
Hours of Operation The visitor center is 8 to 5 but the park is open from Sunrise to Sunset
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/waba/index.htm
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