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  • Writer's pictureNotes From The Frontier

Who Killed Custer? It May Surprise You: PART 2

Updated: May 11, 2023

Women have often been written out of history, especially when it came to women warriors. This may be one of the most dramatic cases in history.


A very popular previous post (Who Killed Custer?) discussed two warrior women who fought at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. According to Cheyenne lore passed down for 146 years, Cheyenne Buffalo Calf Road Woman was credited with killing Custer. Another female warrior, the Arapaho Chief, Pretty Nose, fought there, too. (She lived to be 101 years old and her grandson served in the Korean War as a U.S. Marine and later an Arapaho chief, just like his grandmother. )

There's more to the story of Buffalo Calf Road Woman, as told by nationally respected Cheyenne elder, Peace Chief, member of tribal government, and the National Historic Reservation Representative of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, Gordon Yellowman, Sr.:

"Cheyenne warrior Buffalo Calf Road Woman had fought a number of battles in leadership roles. At the Battle of the Little Big Horn, it is told she charged Custer, grabbed his saber, knocked him off his horse, and killed him with others. Afterward, Cheyenne and Arapaho women stabbed their awls in his ears, chanting "you will listen to our people in the next world. They were avenged."

The Cheyenne called Custer "Attacker at Dawn" because of the Washita Massacre of 1868, in which he attacked and killed Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle's camp and captured 53 women and children. According to Native testimonials, many women were raped as their village burned. This attack despite the fact that Black Kettle was peaceful, had signed the Treaty of Fort Wise and moved his people to the Sand Creek Reservation in Colorado as instructed. He was given both a white flag of truce and an American flag and told to fly both above his lodge to make clear his was a peaceful village. Both were flying when his camp was attacked and he and 160 mostly women and children (although the exact numbers are hotly contested) were slaughtered. Most warriors were away hunting game.

After the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Buffalo Calf Road Woman, according to Cheyenne oral history, kept Custer's saber. In the days and years to follow, she wore it honorably hanging from her leather belt. This woman was highly respected by all for her warrior deeds. For the many generations since the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Cheyenne women have continued to honor and remember her by wearing a leather sheaf with silver drops on their side attached to their leather belts. Aho!

POST SCRIPT: Scholars and military history lovers have argued since Custer’s death about thousands of points regarding the Little Bighorn (LBH). It is perhaps the most hotly debated battle in U.S. history among academic and "armchair" historians. One of the most contested issues: Did Custer have his saber at LBH? This particular point has been hotly contested for 144 years and at least one man was shot to death over a gun fight about this exact issue. Thousands of pages have been written supporting both sides.

One of the foremost experts, Evan S. Connell, who wrote the definitive volume, Son of the Morning Star, left the issue open. But he did say that Custer loved pageantry and especially loved sabers. He had more than 30 of them. Libby Custer claimed that he did have a saber with him at LBH and many historians claim he fought off several native warriors with it before being killed. The great Hunkpapa Sioux warrior, Gall, who was at the battle, claimed that some soldiers had sabers. Lakota Chief Red Horse, also at the battle, later rendered drawings of the battle depicting Custer on his Thoroughbred, Vic, accurately shown with three white socks and Custer and other soldiers with sabers. And, finally, Connell wrote that one of Custer’s favorite sabers was missing from his quarters after the battle, indicating he must have had it with him. Suffice to say, the verdict is still out and always probably will be regarding if Custer had a saber or not at the LBH.

This post and the original post have been one of our top five most popular posts, read by hundreds of thousands of readers and generating much discussion and controversy. Sadly, some of the comments were irate, sometimes even obscene. The mere suggestion that a female Native American warrior might have killed one of America's greatest warriors seems to enrage some. But stranger things have been proven true throughout history. The writer of this post does not claim to know all the answers about The Little Bighorn. No one knows the complete truth. We simply present this as a narrative that has been in the Cheyenne oral tradition for 146 years and dates back to eye-witness accounts by male Cheyenne warriors who fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

You may also enjoy this related post:                                                      

• Who Killed Custer? Part 1

• Bloody Knife, Custer's Favorite Scout

• Veterinary Care on Custer's Campaigns

You may be interested in this related post:

• Who Killed Custer? Part 2

"Who Killed Custer? Part 2" was first published on Facebook and on Oct. 29 2019, after Part 1 was posted October 14, 2019.

"Who Killed Custer? Part 1 & 2" is our second most popular post after "Stagecoach Mary."

945,300 views / 78,342 likes / 51,863 shares.


19,078 views12 comments


Scott Forrest
Scott Forrest
Aug 13, 2023

Stories were garbled within a year of this battle and there are several examples of Indians who took part in the battle and told two or more different stories over time. So after 145 years? The facts that make this Cheyenne myth completely untenable are that Custer did not carry a sabre into this battle, and one of the two gunshot wounds he received was fatal. No doubt Indian women and old men beat and mutilated the dead bodies after the battle, and certainly a woman could have hit his dead body with a tomahawk and created a story that got passed down for over a century. So what?


Apr 04, 2023

Custer had suffered two bullet wounds, one near his heart and one in the head. It’s unclear which wound killed him or if the head wound happened before or after he died. In the heat of battle, it’s unlikely the warrior who shot Custer knew he’d just killed a U.S. Army icon. Even so, once word spread that Custer was dead, many Native Americans claimed to be his executioner.


Apr 01, 2023

Custer and his Soldiers were outnumbered 100 to 1, my cat could have killed Custer with those odds.

Apr 03, 2023
Replying to

Agreed, served with Native people in the Gulf and would never question their bravery. In a nutshell, it is my opinion that Custer rode into battle armed with hubris, leading to nemesis.


Jan 07, 2023

Custer got what he gave in The End.. A Woman killed him. How Appropriate. West Point should remove Custer's grave, as he was a Heinous Coward Killed By A Woman. Booyah. Booyah.


lee s
lee s
Oct 13, 2021

Who knows why humans continue to kill each other. It seems that we would learn from our mistakes, but we don't. Even within families, we slaughter our loved ones. Teenagers wind up dead or in prison because they choose to kill their classmates. Rogue cops shooting unarmed citizens, black on black homicides, white on white, etc. I believe that even if we confiscate all the pistols and long guns, the killing will not cease. Look at all the homicides in the various prisons-we don't need firearms to take a human life.

Jan 29, 2023
Replying to

Agreed. Killing allowed humans to become planetary Top Feeders. Humans must kill! Unfortunately, weapons have progressed. When German Leopard 2 tanks approach the Russian border in a few months, WW3 will start. I don't care, I'm past Draft Age. I remember how horrible it was when relatives were suddenly forced into the Military during Viet Nam. Not all men or women can handle that deadly lonely life. Been steadily brewing for 20 years though, a good planetary killing is simply needed by human DNA. Can't be avoided or stopped.


Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa, she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, then at Northwestern University, Marquette and Mount Mary. Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens, includes credits in New York Times Magazine, New York Times, Connoisseur, many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook


Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Homeless Veterans Initiative, Humane Society, and other nonprofits.  


Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on, Facebook, and Instagram.

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