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Crazy Horse's Dream

Dreamed summer 1854 by Crazy Horse (age 11 or 12; still called Light Hair)


Several days earlier, a cow wandered into the village. A cow from those whites called Mormons. The cow had knocked over meat racks and bumped into an old woman. A Mniconju had killed it. He had been visiting in the Sicangu village. The cow had been butchered and the meat given away to old people...

A messenger came from the Long Knives' fort [Laramie] to the Sicangu village's headman, Conquering Bear. The old man offered payment--several mules--for the cow. Foolish, the Mormon wanted his cow, not the mules. One mule was worth more than that skinny cow...

So the Long Knives had now come to take the Mniconju... riding in wagons, sitting shoulder to shoulder. Behind the wagons a team of horses pulled a strange-looking object. It looked like a thick, short log, but it was black.

Conquering Bear offered more mules for the cow. The soldier leader... demanded that the man who had killed the cow be brought to him. When the old man saw there was no use talking, he and his two men turned and walked away. The soldier leader shouted, and the soldier guns fired. The big black thing that looked like a log turned out to be a big gun. It was fired at the village. It boomed like thunder.

[Despite this, the warriors defeated the Long Knives. But old Conquering Bear died.]

Light Hair was very sad when he heard. Without thinking, he found his horse, mounted, and galloped away across the prairie. He was angry. He understood now why many Lakota did not trust the white people. They were loud and quick to anger, and eager to shoot their weapons at the Lakota...

He found himself at the base of a hill... he took his horse to drink from a small creek nearby.... He could not take his mind off the battle or off the old man who had died. When night came, he fall asleep.

Light Hair had no food. The next morning he awoke hungry, his stomach growling. So he drank water. Very slowly the day passed. He sat in the shade and walked around the hill. He took his horse to water again. Evening gave way to night once more, and he slept. Sometime in the night, the dream came.

It was a strange dream. Crazy Horse rides across the face of a lake. Sketch of 1854 dream, by Wayan 2019. Click to enlarge.


A warrior on a horse rode across a lake. Mountains and storm clouds rose to the west. There was the sound of thunder, and a red-tailed hawk flew above the man and horse.

As the horse galloped, it changed color, from black to blue to white and then red.

Bullets and arrows flew at the man but did not hit him.

Then the horse and rider reached the dry ground, and other men, who looked like the rider, rose out of the earth. They surrounded the horse and pulled the rider down.

Light Hair could almost feel their hands pulling. Then he awoke. His father and another man were shaking him.

"Wake up!" they said. "What are you doing here alone?"


The dream did predict Crazy Horse's adult life. His reckless courage was legendary, yet the Long Knives simply could not hit him, let alone defeat his forces. By his mid-thirties, having won every battle, he saw he could not win the war. He talked his people into accepting a reservation.

Just a year later, he was killed, in a crowd, by a tribal policeman, while a former friend held his arms. While whites had feared his leadership and schemed to get him out of the way, he was, as the dream foretold, pulled down by his own.

I think the horse changing colors isn't just a surreal touch, or a sign it's an important dream, or an implication he'll have lots of horses, or that he will earn his dad's name of Crazy Horse. In Lakota culture those changing colors might well mean the four directions and the changing seasons--the years! I think the dream not only showed the boy's future life but flagged itself as a dream spanning time and space. A life of travel and war, but a charmed life... until he settled down on the rez.

Source: In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse (2015; p.39-43) by Joseph Marshall III. He writes " primary source is the Lakota oral tradition through the stories and cultural information told to me by many Lakota elders."

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