Crazy Horse, a Native American war leader and member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, lived from the mid-to-late 1800s, and is perhaps most recognizable as the leader of a victorious war party at the Battle of Little Bighorn, which took place in June of 1876. Crazy Horse was also known for his visions and vision quests—in one such vision, he was told that he would be remembered as a leader and protector of his people.
Alexie references Crazy Horse several times throughout the narrative. Crazy Horse is, in many ways, the “ideal Indian.” His status as a platonic ideal is one that’s both perpetrated by white romanticizing and stereotyping of Native people, and one that’s grown to become internalized by several of Alexie’s Native characters as well. After a failed sexual encounter with an Indian woman, Victor says he “wished he was Crazy Horse.” In “Imagining the Reservation,” Alexie asks his reader to “imagine Crazy Horse invented the atom bomb in 1876 and detonated it over Washington, D.C.,” wondering if the plight of Native people would have continued had Crazy Horse—or someone like him—come to their rescue. When Junior Polatkin wins a basketball game for the Wellpinit Redskins in the last three seconds of the game, gossip “all around the rez about Junior’s true identity” abounds; “I think he was Crazy Horse for just a second,” says one Indian.
Crazy Horse’s appearance throughout these stories signals both individual and collective yearning for the embodiment of a cultural touchstone that represents strength, agency, and connection to the spiritual world—three traits that, as we see through Alexie’s stories, are difficult to come by on the modern-day reservation.
Crazy Horse Quotes in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
It’s almost like Indians can easily survive the big stuff. Mass murder, loss of language and land and rights. It’s the small things that hurt the most. The white waitress who wouldn’t take an order, Tonto, the Washington Redskins. And, just like everybody else, Indians need heroes to help them learn how to survive. But what happens when our heroes don’t even know how to pay their bills?
Imagine Crazy Horse invented the atom bomb in 1876 and detonated it over Washington, D.C.; imagine Columbus landed in 1492 and some tribe or another drowned him in the ocean… Imagine every day is Independence Day. Imagine that your own shadow on the wall is a perfect door. Imagine a song stronger than penicillin. Imagine a spring with water that mends broken bones. Imagine a drum which wraps itself around your heart. Imagine a story that puts wood in the fireplace.