Little Bighorn Battlefield Among National Parks Offering Fee-Free Days

In 1991, Custer was removed from the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument moniker and a memorial honoring Natives was dedicated in 2003.

The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is among National Park Service sites offering a number of fee-free days in 2017, the first of which will be Monday, January 16, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency, Montana commemorates a significant battle in which 12 companies of the Seventh Cavalry were defeated by Lakota (Sioux), Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors. For many years the Native perspective of the Battle of the Little Bighorn was not told, and there wasn’t even a memorial at the site honoring the Native Americans who defended their homeland and traditional ways of life.

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Over the years, that has started to change. In 2016, a set of ledger drawings by Red Horse, a Minneconjou Lakota Sioux warrior who fought against George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn, were displayed in California. All 42 of the ledger drawings are housed by the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian Institution.

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It was back in December 1991 that President George H.W. Bush signed legislation to drop the Custer name from the monument’s official designation, to rename the site as the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and to honor the Indian heroes of the battle with a memorial.

Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn National Monument

This Indian Memorial was dedicated on June 25, 2003. It is seen here in front of the night sky at The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

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A competition to design an Indian memorial was held in 1996, and a winning design by Oglala artist Colleen Cutshall was chosen in 1997. Construction began on the “Peace Through Unity” inspired design in 1999, and it was dedicated in June 2003. It “has helped to re-image the place as hallowed ground for Indians as well as whites,” the National Park Service has said of the memorial.

“Our ancestors were given a clear message. In order for our two-legged to exist together collectively, we have to walk in peace, balance and harmony for all living things. Air, land, water, language, and culture are all one and the same,” Traditional Chief Phillip Whiteman, Northern Cheyenne, said in 2014. “Today we have the opportunity to return to that oneness. The Battle of Little Bighorn is part of the paradigm shift—it is part of the bigger vision of what our ancestors came together for at Rosebud Creek, near the Medicine Deer Rock: of learning not to fight.”

The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is just one of many national parks that offer free dates throughout the year.

Mark your calendars for these free entrance dates in 2017:

  • January 16—Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 20—Presidents’ Day
  • April 15-16 and 22-23—National Park Week Weekends
  • August 25—National Park Service Birthday
  • September 30—National Public Lands Day
  • November 11-12—Veterans Day Weekend

While there are 410 national parks across Turtle Island, 127 of them charge an entrance fee on most days. The fee waiver includes entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees.