In June 1876, the Battle of Little Bighorn – commonly known as Custer’s Last Stand – was played out not far from the location of this remote saloon in Montana. For Americans of all ethnicities with a thirst for history, Big Horn has become something of a pilgrimage and for those with a thirst for alcohol, the saloon is the only place to get a beer within a 70 miles radius.
The US 7th Cavalry suffered big losses in the two-day battle – over 300 men – and the bravery of General Custer has become the stuff of legends. But so too the Crow Indians – who celebrate the occasion every year on its 25th June anniversary. The names of the Lakota Sioux Chiefs are now so familiar – Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Lame White Man and Two Moon. Arguably no battle in the history of the world has been of greater inspiration for naming pubs and nightclubs than The Battle of Little Big Horn.
The Crow Indians remain revered and as a result of some networking, I had the opportunity to meet with the current Crow Chief – a direct descendent of those that fought alongside Custer 140 years ago. Bulltail was an older man of great dignity and whilst he spoke some English, it was clear that Crow was his language of choice – as well it should be.
He agreed to be photographed by me and I had a preconception of what we could do. My idea was simply to cram the view finder with as many characters as possible and use the limited depth of field to prioritise the pivotal players in the scene. Preferably there would be some sense of movement – and the responsibility for that would lie with the wolf. Everything else was secondary to the wolf being sharp and I knew I could rely on the model – she always nails it.
This photograph is very much made in Montana and has been received well by many of my friends in the state. Equally, however, I think it should appeal to all those that find a visceral pull towards The Wild West.