Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments

Published June 2003

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(PDF, 477 KB, 8 pages)

On June 25 and 26, 1876, Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors joined forces to defeat 12 companies of the U.S. 7th Cavalry at what is now Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, one of the most controversial figures in U.S. military history, led the cavalry and was among the 263 soldiers and other army personnel, including Arikara scouts, who were killed as the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho fought to defend their traditional nomadic way of life.

The Battle of Little Bighorn, as well as Custer and many of the Indians who took part, including Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Gall, Lame White Man, and Two Moons, have become the stuff of legend-chronicled in countless books, articles, documentaries, movies, plays, sculptures, paintings, and oral history. Just three years after the battle, Congress designated the site Custer Battlefield National Cemetery under the care of the War Department, and in 1881 a memorial was erected over the mass grave of the 7th Cavalry soldiers and scouts. In 1890, white marble markers were erected where individual members of the 7th Cavalry fell. In 1926, the government acquired the nearby Reno-Benteen Battlefield, and 14 years later both sites were turned over to the National Park Service. Connected by a 4.1-mile stretch of paved road, the two sites now comprise the 765-acre Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, renamed by Congress in 1991. In 1999 and 2001, red granite markers were erected on sites where Indian warriors were known to have died.

Located in south central Montana on the present-day Crow Indian Reservation, Little Bighorn includes a visitor center, museum, library, Custer National Cemetery, 7th Cavalry Memorial, Reno-Benteen Battlefield, and the new Indian Memorial dedicated in June 2003. In addition, the monument includes historic structures, archaeological sites, and one of the most impressive museum and archival collections in the National Park System.

This special place is one example of how people of different cultures can come together to understand the past and work toward a better future. Recognizing the significance of the monument, the National Parks Conservation Association's State of the Parks® Program assessed its resource protection. Through a peer-reviewed methodology, analysts evaluated the condition of Little Bighorn's cultural and natural resources and placed the results in context by examining "stewardship capacity"- funding, staffing, interpretive services, and external support. This evaluation is reflected in the scores contained in the chart.


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