Crazy Horse & Custer Tour: War on the Great Plains

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I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

– Chief Joseph's October 5, 1877, surrender speech to General Howard

On our exclusive tour through Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana, author, historian, television and motion picture consultant John P. Langellier, Ph.D. will share the stories of Crazy Horse and Custer and others based on more than a half century of passionate study of these legendary figures.

Relive their times and be immersed into the diverse cultures of these determined warriors. Walk the vast lands where buffalo and wild mustangs roamed, the iron horse roared across the tracks, and lonely frontier forts stood as bastions of westward expansion. Return to those exciting days of yesteryear set against the backdrop of history versus Hollywood with screenings and discussions of classic film and TV.

On your time travel to the past, outposts such as Fort Laramie, battlefields including the ill-fated Fetterman Fight and “Last Stand” at Little Big Horn, along with a world class museum visit at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West will be among the highlights of this not to be forgotten adventure.

Follow the Exodus of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce

The Crazy Horse & Custer Tour also includes the story of the dramatic trek of the Nez Perce people from the Pacific North West to the Canadian border in their bid for freedom.

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  • Nelson Museum of the West: Offers a broad spectrum of older western cultures
  • Fort Laramie: A fur trade outpost that played a strategic role in transforming the United States
  • Fort Robinson: Set amidst more than 22,000 acres of exquisite Pine Ridge scenery and Black Hills - Land venerated by the Sioux Nation
  • Wounded Knee and Pine Ridge: Sitting Bull’s final home and site of the Ghost Dance that ended the decades of conflict
  • Crazy Horse Memorial: Upon completion, this memorial will depict the great warrior, Crazy Horse, riding and pointing into the distance.
  • Deadwood, South Dakota: Where Calamity Jane and “Wild Bill” Hickok once played a part in the colorful town’s story
  • Devils Tower: Breathtaking volcanic curve that soars a spectacular 1,267 feet into the air, a sacred place for the Northern Plains Indian Tribes
  • Fort Phil Kearny: Along the Bozeman Trail, events that became known as the Fetterman Fight occurred nearly four miles north of this fort
  • Battle of Little Bighorn: The Monument for this momentous battle between the 7th cavalry and Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors, often referred to as “Custer’s Last Stand” should be a highlight of the day
  • Canyon Creek Battlefield: A victory for the Nez Perce Indians against the United States
  • Buffalo Bill Center of the West: Five museums under one roof

Day-By-Day Itinerary

DAY 1 Welcome

Flight to Denver International Airport (DEN). Guests travel independently to the tour hotel. The first activity is an evening Welcome Reception and tour overview, followed by dinner.

DAY 2 Fort Laramie, Wyoming to Fort Robinson, Nebraska

We start our adventure by driving north to Wyoming’s capital, Cheyenne. Named after the Cheyenne, who were one of the prominent peoples of the Great Plains, the city retains much of its “Wild West” atmosphere, such as its rollicking annual Frontier Days Rodeo.

Our opening experience will be at the Nelson Museum of the West, which offers a broad spectrum of indigenous cultures, cowboy regalia, Charro art, and military aspects of the West. Continuing on to Fort Laramie, we shadow the Overland Trail. Immigrants, soldiers, miners, and ranchers used these trails throughout the 19th century as they ventured through the region. Amazingly, the remains of many trail ruts and traces are in evidence to this day. 

Fort Laramie, at the junction of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers in southeast Wyoming, began as a fur trade outpost that later emerged as a military garrison. It played a strategic role in transforming the United States. Indian tribes trading buffalo hides could stop here along with thousands of immigrants bound for Oregon, California, and the Salt Lake Valley until the U.S. Army purchased the post in 1849.

En route from our stay at Fort Laramie to Fort Robinson, we stop to study the location of the “Grattan Fight” of the 1850s, considered to be the opening engagement of the First Sioux War. The late afternoon brings us to Fort Robinson State Park. The former U.S. Army garrison now serves as a protected area of more than 22,000 acres of exquisite Pine Ridge scenery. The stay at Fort Robinson captures the imagination, providing a dramatic backdrop as we continue the story of the Cheyenne and Sioux (Lakota) and their interactions with the frontier military.

We conclude the evening with a group dinner followed by a presentation in the restored Buffalo Soldier Barracks. Guests will overnight in a rustic, restored former barracks at this frontier army post turned state park.

DAY 3 Fort Robinson, Museum of the Fur Trade, Pine Ridge, and Rapid City, South Dakota

Our first stop this morning will be to explore Crazy Horse’s final days and the compelling story of the “Cheyenne Breakout,” followed by a tour of the Fort Robinson Museum.

Afterward, we will head to the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, Nebraska. This hidden gem stands on the site of James Bordeaux’s trading post, established for the American Fur Company in 1837. The scale and spectrum of the collection of over 6,000 primary pieces provide an amazing glimpse into the early exchange between Native Americans and the trader-trappers who came in the wake of Lewis and Clark’s epic trek into the West.

Now it’s time to head east to Pine Ridge, South Dakota. While the Grattan engagement launched the long war between many of Plains' early people and the westward advance from the United States, the story ended with Sitting Bull’s death following the tragic clash at Wounded Knee and the ill-fated “ Ghost Dance” movement of 1890-1891. This part of the tour will allow us to examine the full sweep of four decades of history in which Crazy Horse, Custer, and Sitting Bull all played prominent parts.

Then it’s on to Rapid City (Lakota: Mni Lúzahaŋ Otȟúŋwahe = “Swift Water City”) sprung up in 1876, the year the lives of our three principal historic figures crossed at Little Bighorn. Founded by unsuccessful miners who hoped to make their fortunes by supplying other gold seekers, they promoted their community, originally called Hay Camp, as the “Gateway to the Black Hills,” the area where the quest for yellow metal lured white men into Lakota lands. 

Day 4 Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota

While the military served as the vanguard of western expansion, the railroad represented an even more powerful agent in changing the face of the frontier. We’ll board a steam train at Hill City, South Dakota, to delve into this part of the trip tracing the era when the buffalo pony gave way to the iron horse.  

Then it’s on to the storied Black Hills, land venerated by the Sioux Nation; later, the place where Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry came to explore and spurred by rumors of gold. Its discovery ignited more warfare.

We proceed through inspiring forests to Mount Rushmore for lunch and a tour of this sculptured masterpiece. From Mount Rushmore, we will stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial. Upon completion, this memorial will depict the great warrior, Crazy Horse, riding his war horse and pointing into the distance. Construction began in 1948. Although open to visitors and complete with an 87-foot-tall head, the memorial sculpture is far from complete.

Later in the afternoon, we will arrive at our final destination for the day. Deadwood is a city in South Dakota that is known for its rich gold rush and historical Wild West lawlessness. Guests can walk along the charming streets of this nostalgic city where characters such as Calamity Jane and “Wild Bill” Hickok once played a part in the colorful town’s tale.

DAY 5 Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming to Sheridan

Departing Deadwood, our morning will begin at the Buffalo Jump site, known as the Vore. Native Americans used this sinkhole formed by eroded soil as a giant trap to stampede buffalo, their main source of subsistence, off the cliff to their deaths. The Vore has become an archaeological treasure trove filled with tons of animal bones; estimating around 20,000 buffalo were harvested here. This kill site proved important from 1500 to 1800 AD, before the horse became widely available to the Plains peoples. Discovered in the 1970s, this intriguing window provides a stirring glimpse into a long-bygone way of prehistoric life.

Continuing on our way, the next stop will be at the majestic Devils Tower, also known as Mato Tipila, or “Bear Lodge.” We will gaze on the breathtaking volcanic curve that soars a spectacular 1,267 feet into the air. For the Northern Plains Indian Tribes, Devils Tower is more than just a stunning landmark; it is a sacred place. Today, it remains to be a ceremonial site for rituals, sun dances, and offerings.

Afterward, we will depart for Fort Phil Kearny along the Bozeman Trail. The events that became known as the Fetterman Fight occurred nearly four miles north of this fort. In the summer of 1867, Sioux Chief Red Cloud, along with a thousand warriors, ambushed Captain William J. Fetterman and his command of soldiers and civilians six miles northwest of the same post, which had been under siege nearly from its establishment during what became known as Red Cloud’s War. Here we will also learn about another clash called the Wagon Box Fight, named for soldiers staving off their attackers from behind the protective beds of wagons formed into makeshift dense works. These engagements, a reconstructed section of the ill-fated fort, and the visitor center will offer a glimpse of the poignant episodes that once disturbed the now tranquil forests and meadows.

As we drive, we will watch a screening of a film on the Powder River War that predated the 1876 campaign led by such officers as Brigadier General George Crook and George Armstrong Custer. In the evening, guests will enjoy dinner on their own in Sheridan, Wyoming.

DAY 6 Battles of Rosebud and Little Bighorn, Montana

We will begin our travels at the historic Battle of Rosebud, where on June 17, 1876, Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and U.S. Army forces, along with their Shoshone allies, met in a prelude to the more famous, ill-fated defeat of the 7th Cavalry.

Next, we will visit the momentous Battle of Little Bighorn. Fought on June 25, 1876, between the 7th Cavalry and Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors, this legendary clash, often referred to as “Custer’s Last Stand,” should be one of the highlights of the tour. Not only did Custer lose his life in this cataclysmic fight between two expanding powers, but also the warriors annihilated five companies of his 7th Cavalry in their greatest victory. Yet their success marked the beginning of the end. In this setting, the battle remains moving among the truly magnificence rolling fields and an extensive plain where more than a century ago, the Indian village nestled near the meandering Greasy Grass River (aka Little Bighorn).

En route to lunch, we will watch a screening of the silent film Custer’s Last Fight. We will enjoy our meal at the traditional Garryowen pub, named after the famous Irish tune. This drinking ballad was beloved by Custer and the song most associated with the regiment. A tour of the battleground, led by a local Native American guide, will introduce a compelling counterpoint to standard military interpretations. There will be time after that to wander through the National Park Service visitor center before departing for our hotel in Billings, where we’ll share a fine meal.

DAY 7 Return to Little Bighorn

We will be back to Little Bighorn for a pageant staged by the Crow people charting the generations of change on the Great Plains and culminating in a rousing re-enactment of the duel between Custer, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull, and the warriors on both sides of the conflict who fought on that hot day in June of 1876. With that, it’s back to Billings for dinner on your own and our final night in Montana.

DAY 8 Cody, Wyoming, and the World-Class Buffalo Bill Center of the West

The end of time travel approaches as we leave Billings and pass-through areas where bison herds previously grazed by the hundreds of thousands, Native Americans followed the herds, and newcomers from the eastern United States came in a trickle, then as a torrent. We will be on our way to the town of Cody, Wyoming, and the impressive Buffalo Bill Center of the West—five museums under one roof. There will be an exclusive tour of the museum, along with a trolley excursion through the community founded by Buffalo Bill at the height of his popularity as one of the best-known characters of his time. At the end of the day, we’ll gather for a farewell meal, share our experiences, and prepare for departure the next day.  

Day 9 Home

The tour officially ends with one morning dropoff at Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody, Wyoming (COD).



Tour Dates

  • June 16 - 24, 2024
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TRIP COST $4,290

Price is per person based on double occupancy. For a single room add $900.

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