At the Battle of Little Bighorn, in 1876, the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. George A. Custer, attacked a much larger group of Lakota and Cheyenne people in an attempt to force the Native people onto the Great Sioux Reservation. In a victory prophesied by Chief Sitting Bull, the Lakota and Cheyenne warriors wiped out the U.S. forces, and Custer was killed. Points of interest at this park in Montana include multiple battlefields, Custer National Cemetery, the 7th Cavalry Memorial, and the relatively new Indian Memorial, dedicated in 2003.
Archaeological Fun Fact: Archaeological investigations undertaken in the 1980s upended the myth of Custer’s heroic “last stand” at Little Bighorn. Using forensic techniques, standard archaeological methods, historic documents, and Indian first-hand accounts, Richard Allan Fox, Jr. showed that the fleeing Lakota and Cheyenne, rather than their village, were Custer’s target. Custer’s forces did not put up a valiant fight, but rather disintegrated in a state of panic as they were picked off by Indian riflemen.
Park website: www.nps.gov/libi/
Founded around 1100 AD, Cicuye Pueblo, later named Pecos by the Spanish, was an important center of trade, connecting the Great Plains to the Colorado Plateau. Coronado passed through Pecos in 1540, and Franciscan missionaries attempted to colonize and convert the settlement, with mixed results, throughout the 1600s and 1700s (residents participated in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680). Visitors to this park in modern New Mexico can tour the pueblo and mission church, as well as a Civil War battlefield.
Archaeological Fun Fact: Through excavations at Pecos from 1915 to 1929, Alfred V. Kidder established a basic chronology, based on pottery types, for the Southwest. In 1927, Kidder founded the Pecos Conference, an annual meeting of Southwest archaeologists that continues today.
Park Website: www.nps.gov/peco/