According to a close friend, he and Crazy Horse "were both born in the same year at the same season of the year", which census records and other interviews place at about 1845. Chips, an Oglala medicine man and spiritual adviser to the Oglala war leader, reported that Crazy Horse was born "in the year in which the band to which he belonged, the Oglala, stole One Hundred Horses, and in the fall of the year", a reference to the annual Lakota calendar or winter count. Among the Oglala wintercounts, the stealing of one hundred horses is noted by Cloud Shield, and possibly by American Horse and Red Horse owner, equivalent to the year 1840-41. Oral history accounts from relatives on the Cheyenne River Reservation place his birth in the spring of 1840. Probably the most credible source, however, is Crazy Horse's own father. On the evening of his son's death, the elderly man told Lieutenant H. R. Lemly that his son "would soon have been thirty-seven, having been born on the South Cheyenne river in the fall of 1840."
Crazy Horse was named at birth 'In The Wilderness' or 'Among the Trees' (in Lakota the name is phonetically pronounced as Cha-O-Ha) meaning he was one with nature. His mother's name for him was 'Curly' or 'Light Hair'; his light, curly hair resembled that of his mother.
The mother of the younger Crazy Horse was Rattling Blanket Woman (born 1814), a Lakota as well. Rattling Blanket Woman was the daughter of Black Buffalo and White Cow (also known as Iron Cane). Black Buffalo is the one who stopped Lewis and Clark on the Bad River.* She was the younger sister of Lone Horn (born between 1790 and 1795, and died in 1875) and also of Good Looking Woman (born 1810).
Her younger sister was named Looks At It (born 1815), later given the name They Are Afraid of Her. His cousin (son of Lone Horn) was Touch the Clouds who saved his life at least once and was with him at the time of his death.*
Many people claim Crazy Horse's mother was Minniconju. However if Black Buffalo was the one who stopped Lewis and Clark, their papers stated the tribe was BRULE. She was the sister of Spotted Tail, who was a Brule head chief.
In gratitude he gave Waglula his two eldest daughters Iron Between Horns (age 18) and Kills Enemy (age 17) as wives. Corn's youngest daughter, Red Leggins, who was 15 at the time requested to go with her sisters and all would become Waglula's wives.
The camp was attacked by Lt. Grattan and 28 other troopers during the Grattan massacre. After witnessing the death of Lakota leader Conquering Bear, Crazy Horse began to get trance visions. His father Waglula (Worm) took him to what today is Sylvan Lake, South Dakota, where they both sat to hemblecha (vision quest).
A red-tailed hawk led them to their respective spots in the hills, as the trees are tall in the Black Hills and they could not always see where they were going. Crazy Horse sat in between two humps that were at the top of a hill just a bit north and to the east of the lake. Waglula sat just a little south of Harney Peak but north of his son.
One of his animal protectors would be the white owl, which according to Lakota spirituality would give extended life. He was also shown his face paint, which consisted of a yellow lightning bolt down the left side of his face, and white powder, which he would wet and with three fingers put marks over his vulnerable areas that when dried resembled hailstones.
His face paint was similar to his father's, except his father used a red lightning strike down the right side of his face and three red hailstones on his forehead. Crazy Horse put no makeup on his forehead and did not wear a war bonnet. He was also given a sacred song that is still sung today, and was told he would be a protector of his people.
His first kill was an enemy of the Lakota, a Shoshone raider who had killed a Lakota woman washing buffalo meat along the Powder River. He fought in numerous battles between the Lakota and their enemies, the Crow, Shoshone, Pawnee, Blackfeet, and Arikara among others. In 1864, after the Sand Creek Massacre of the Cheyenne in Colorado, the Lakota joined forces with the Cheyenne against the United States' military.
Crazy Horse was present at the Battle of Red Buttes and the subsequent Platte River Bridge Station Battle in July 1865.Because of his fighting ability, Crazy Horse was named a "Ogle Tanka Un" (Shirt Wearer, or war leader) in 1865.
Crazy Horse personally lured Fetterman's infantry up what Wyoming locals call Massacre Hill while Grummond's cavalry followed the other six decoys along Peno Head Ridge and down towards Peno Creek, where several Cheyenne women were taunting the soldiers.
Meanwhile, Cheyenne leader Little Wolf and his warriors, who had been hiding on the opposite side of Peno Head Ridge, blocked the return route to the fort. The Lakota warriors then came over Massacre Hill and attacked the infantry. There were additional Cheyenne and Lakota hiding in the buckbrush along Peno Creek behind the taunting women, effectively surrounding the soldiers.
Seeing that they were surrounded, Grummond headed back to Fetterman to try to repel them in numbers. The soldiers were wiped out by a warrior contingent numbering almost 1,000. In some history books it is known as Red Cloud's War, but Red Cloud was not present that day. The ambush, known as the Fetterman Massacre, was at the time the worst Army defeat suffered on the Great Plains.
The Lakota took substantial losses from the new repeater rifles the soldiers carried, which could fire ten times a minute compared to the old musket rate of three times a minute.
The Lakota would charge after the soldiers had fired, expecting them to be using the older muskets. The soldiers suffered 5 killed and 2 wounded, while the Lakota had between 50 and 120 casualties. Many are buried in the hills that surround Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming.
No Water had a reputation among the tribe at the time as someone who spent a lot of time near military installations drinking alcohol. It was Lakota custom to allow a woman to divorce her husband at any time. She did so by moving in with relatives or with another man, or by placing the husband's belongings outside their lodge.
No Water was away from camp when Crazy Horse and Black Buffalo Woman left for the buffalo hunt. No Water tracked down Crazy Horse and Black Buffalo Woman in the Slim Buttes area. When he found them in a tipi, he called Crazy Horse's name from outside the tipi. When Crazy Horse answered, No Water stuck a pistol into the tipi and aimed for Crazy Horse's heart. Touch the Clouds, Crazy Horse's first cousin and son of Lone Horn, was sitting in the tipi nearest to the entry and knocked the pistol upward as it fired, causing the bullet to hit Crazy Horse in the upper jaw.
No Water took off, with Crazy Horse's relatives in hot pursuit. No Water ran his horse until it died and continued on foot until he reached the safety of his own village.
The elders also sent Black Shawl, a relative of Spotted Tail, to help heal Crazy Horse. Because Crazy Horse essentially ran off with a married man's wife, he was stripped of his title as Shirt Wearer (leader).
At about the same time, Little Hawk was killed by a group of miners in the Black Hills while escorting some women to the new agency created by the Treaty of 1868.
The battle, although not substantial in terms of human losses, delayed Crook from joining up with the 7th Cavalry under George A. Custer, ensuring Custer’s subsequent defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Possibly Crazy Horse entered the battle by repelling the first attack led by Major Marcus Reno, but it is also possible that he was still in his lodge waiting for the larger battle with Custer. Hunkpapa Warriors led by Chief Gall led the main body of the attack, and, once again, Crazy Horse's tactical and leadership role in the battle remains ambiguous.
While some historians think that Crazy Horse led a flanking assault, ensuring the death of Custer and his men, the only proven fact is that Crazy Horse was a major participant in the battle and his undeniable personal courage was something several eye witness Indian accounts attested to.
Waterman, one of only five Arapahoe warriors who fought, said that Crazy Horse, "was the bravest man I ever saw. He rode closest to the soldiers, yelling to his warriors. All the soldiers were shooting at him, but he was never hit." Sioux battle participant, Little Soldier, said, "the greatest fighter in the whole battle was Crazy Horse."
They were unsuccessful, and American Horse and much of his family were killed by the soldiers after holing up in a cave for several hours.
On January 8, 1877, Crazy Horse's warriors fought their last major battle at Wolf Mountain, against the United States Cavalry in the Montana Territory.
On May 5 of that year, knowing that his people were weakened by cold and hunger, Crazy Horse surrendered to United States troops at Camp Robinson in Nebraska.
Rumors of Crazy Horse's desire to slip away and return to the old ways of life started to spread at the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies. In August 1877, officers at Camp Robinson received word that the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph had broken out of their reservations in Idaho and were fleeing north through Montana toward Canada.
When asked by Lieutenant Clark to join the Army against the Nez Perce, Crazy Horse and the Miniconjou leader Touch the Clouds objected, saying that they had promised to remain at peace when they surrendered.
According to one version of events, Crazy Horse finally agreed, saying that he would fight "till all the Nez Perce were killed". But his words were apparently misinterpreted by half-Tahtian scout, Frank Grouard, who reported that Crazy Horse had said that he would "go north and fight until not a white man is left".
When he was challenged over his interpretation, Grouard left the council.  (not be confused with Fred Gerard, another U.S. Cavalry scout during the summer of 1876). Another interpreter, William Garnett, was brought in but quickly noted the growing tension.
Crook ordered Crazy Horse's arrest and then departed, leaving the military action to the post commander at Camp Robinson, Lieutenant Colonel Luther P. Bradley. Additional troops were brought in from Fort Laramie and on the morning of September 4, 1877, two columns moved against Crazy Horse's village, only to find that it had scattered during the night.
Crazy Horse fled to the nearby Spotted Tail Agency with his sick wife (who had become ill with tuberculosis). After meeting with military officials at the adjacent military post of Camp Sheridan, Crazy Horse agreed to return to Camp Robinson with Lieutenant Jesse M. Lee, the Indian agent at Spotted Tail.
Arriving that evening outside the adjutant's office, Lieutenant Lee was informed that he was to turn Crazy Horse over to the Officer of the Day. Lee protested and hurried to Bradley's quarters to debate the issue, but without success. Bradley had received orders that Crazy Horse was to be arrested and forwarded under the cover of darkness to Division Headquarters. Lee turned the Oglala war chief over to Captain James Kennington, in charge of the post guard, who accompanied Crazy Horse to the post guardhouse.
Once inside, no doubt realizing the fate that was about to befall him, Crazy Horse struggled with the guard and Little Big Man and attempted to escape. Just outside the door of the guardhouse, Crazy Horse was stabbed with a bayonet of one of the members of the guard.
He was taken to the adjutant's office where he was tended by the assistant post surgeon at the post, Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy, and died late that night.
There are at least four possible locations as noted on a state highway memorial near Wounded Knee, South Dakota.His final resting place remains unknown.
The interview took place over a year after Crazy Horse's death. Little Big Man's account is that, as Crazy Horse was being escorted to the guardhouse he suddenly pulled from under his blanket two knives, one in each hand.
One knife was reportedly fashioned from the end of an army bayonet. Little Big Man, standing immediately behind Crazy Horse and not wanting the soldiers to have any excuse to kill him, seized Crazy Horse by both elbows, pulling his arms up and behind him.
As Crazy Horse struggled to get free, Little Big Man abruptly lost his grip on one elbow, and Crazy Horse's released arm drove his own knife deep into his own lower back.
“My friend, I do not blame you for this. Had I listened to you this trouble would not have happened to me. I was not hostile to the white men. Sometimes my young men would attack the Indians who were their enemies and took their ponies. They did it in return. We had buffalo for food, and their hides for clothing and for our tepees.
We preferred hunting to a life of idleness on the reservation, where we were driven against our will. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to leave the reservation to hunt. We preferred our own way of living.
We were no expense to the government. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers were sent out in the winter, they destroyed our villages. The "Long Hair" [Custer] came in the same way. They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same thing to us had we not defended ourselves and fought to the last. Our first impulse was to escape with our squaws and papooses, but we were so hemmed in that we had to fight.
After that I went up on the Tongue River with a few of my people and lived in peace. But the government would not let me alone. Finally, I came back to the Red Cloud Agency. Yet, I was not allowed to remain quiet. I was tired of fighting. I went to the Spotted Tail Agency and asked that chief and his agent to let me live there in peace.
I came here with the agent [Lee] to talk with the Big White Chief but was not given a chance. They tried to confine me. I tried to escape, and a soldier ran his bayonet into me. I have spoken. ”
Historian Walter M. Camp circulated copies of this account to individuals who had been present who questioned the identity of the soldier and provided two additional names. To this day, the identification remains questionable.
In 1908, historian Walter Camp wrote to the agent for the Pine Ridge Reservation inquiring about a portrait. "I have never seen a photo of Crazy Horse," Agent Brennan replied, "nor am I able to find any one among our Sioux here who remembers having seen a picture of him. Crazy Horse had left the hostiles but a short time before he was killed and its more than likely he never had a picture taken of himself."
Two decades later, the portrait was again published with further details about how the photograph was produced at Camp Robinson, though the editor of the book "remained unconvinced of the authenticity of the photograph."
Several photographers passed through Camp Robinson and the Red Cloud Agency in 1877—including James H. Hamilton, Charles Howard, David Rodocker and possibly Daniel S. Mitchell -- but none of them used the backdrop that appears in the tintype.
After the death of Crazy Horse, Private Charles Howard produced at least two images of the famed war leader's scaffold grave, located near Camp Sheridan, Nebraska.
The sculpture was begun by Ziólkowski in 1948. When completed, it will be 641 feet (195 m) wide and 563 feet (172 m) high.
Though still incomplete because of funding constraints, the sculpture has been criticized by some American Indian activists (most notably Russell Means) as exploitative of Lakota culture and Crazy Horse's memory as well as desecrating sacred ground.
He was a leading participant in the successful war against the Bozeman Trail (1865-8) and led the Oglala to victory at the Rosebud and the united Lakota and Arapaho/Cheyenne against Custer at Little Bighorn in 1876.
He was murdered after surrender at the Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska. Since 1949, at the invitation of the Lakota, the Ziolowski family has been excavating an equestrian sculpture of him in his beloved Black Hills (Paha Sapa) to surpass nearby Mount Rushmore in size.
Between 1866 and 1876, he gained distinction in combat with U.S. soldiers. On 21 December 1866, he led the decoy party that enticed Capt. William J. Fetterman and eighty soldiers to their destruction near Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming. He also participated in the Wagon Box Fight nearby on 2 August 1867.
His greatest fame, however, arose from his role in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 25 June 1876, when he and other warriors wiped out an entire unit of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry Regiment.
The Indian victory prompted decisive military reaction, and on 6 May 1877, Crazy Horse surrendered at Camp Robinson, Nebraska. On 7 September, resisting confinement in the post guardhouse, he received a fatal wound from a soldier's bayonet. His people buried him at an unknown spot on the plains. He is remembered as the greatest of all Sioux war leaders.