One of the principal Sioux leaders, the Hunkpapa Chief Gall, attended the 10th anniversary observance at Custer Battlefield in June 1886. An interview with him on the scene of Custer's annihilation was published as follows in the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press of July 18, 1886:
"How long before all the soldiers were killed?" The chief made the sign of the white man's dinner time which means noon, and then with his finger cut a half, which would signify half an hour consumed in slaughtering everybody.
"Did the red men shoot guns or arrows?"
"Both. We soon shot all our cartridges, and then shot arrows and used our war clubs."
"Did the soldiers have plenty of ammunition?"
"No. They shot away all they had. The horses ran away, carrying in the saddle pockets a heap more. The soldiers threw their guns aside and fought with little guns." (Pistols.)
"Who got the horses?"
"The Cheyenne women. A lot of horses got into the river and I jumped in and caught them."
The chief's mind seemed to dwell particularly upon the number of horses they captured rather than the terrible slaughter which took place.
"Did the Indians fight standing up?"
"No. The soldiers did, but the braves fired from behind their horses. A lot of Indians fell over and died."
"When the soldiers had no more cartridges left what did the Indians do?"
"The braves ran up to the soldiers and killed them with hatchets."
"How many Indians were killed?"
"Eleven down in that creek, four over there and two in that coulee."
"How many were killed, altogether?"
"Forty-three in all. A great many crossed the river and died in the rushes. They died every day. Nearly as many died each day as were killed in the fight. We buried them in trees and on scaffolds going up Lodge Pole Creek toward the White Rain mountains."
"How many different tribes were in the fight?"
"Uncpapa, Minneconjou, Ogalalla, Brule, Teton, Santee and Yanktonnais Sioux, Blackfeet, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and a few Gros Ventres."
"Who fought first, Custer or Reno?"
"Rena was whipped first and then all with Custer were killed."
Of course the chief did not understand the names Custer and Reno, but he indicated by pointing and other signs whom he meant.
"How soon after Reno charged did Custer come down the valley?"
"We saw all at one time before they separated. When Reno charged, the women and children were moved down stream: and when the Sioux bucks drove Reno on top of the bluffs, everybody came down and fought Custer. All the Indians were mixed up then."
"How soon after Reno charged was Cuter attacked?"
No satisfactory answer could be gotten to this important question; but it would seem that as soon as Reno was lodged safely on the hill the whole village massed on Custer at once and annihilated him.
"Did Custer get near the river?"
"Then how come the dead bodies of soldiers on the river's bank where we think the white chief crossed or attempted to cross?"
Gall's answer came without a moment's hesitation.
"They were soldiers who fled down another coulee, crossed the river lower down, were chased up stream again toward the village, driven back into the river, and killed on this side."
"Did the soldiers fight on horseback or on foot?"
"They fought on foot. One man held the horses while the others shot the guns. We tried to kill the holders, and then by waving blankets and shouting we scared the horses down that coulee, where the Cheyenne women caught them."
"Did you kill any soldiers?"
"Yes, I killed a great many. I killed them all with the hatchet; I did not use a gun.
"Who had command of all the red men?"
"I held command of those down stream."
"Who was the first one killed with Reno?"
"I don't know; but some of the Sioux say it was a Crow [Arikara] scout named Bloody Knife."
"Where was Sitting Bull all this time while the white soldiers were being killed?"
"Back in his tepee making medicine."
"Did he fight at all?"
"No; he made medicine for us."
"Did you fight Reno?"
"No; I only fought the white men soldiers down this way."
"Then you know nothing of what happened at the upper end of the village?"
"No, I was down among the Cheyennes looking after horses when the first attack was made on our village."
"Did the old men and boys fight too?"
"Yes, and the squaws fought with stone clubs and hatchet knives. The squaws cut off the boot legs."
"Were there any white men or breeds in your camp?"
"No; we had only Indians."
"Did the soldiers have swords?"
"No, there was only one long knife with them, and he was killed too."
"Who had the long knife?"
"I don't know."
"Did you see Curley on that day?" (Pointing out the Crow scout who is the only survivor of all who marched within Custer into the Little Big Horn valley.)
"No; but my braves say he ran away early and did not fight at all."
"Did you take any prisoners, and if so what did you do with them?" This question was put to find out if possible the true fate of Lieutenants Harrington, Jack Sturgis, Dr. Lord, and about fourteen others whose bodies were not found on the field, nor has anything been heard of them since the morning when the command was divided.
"No, we took no prisoners. Our hearts were bad, and we cut and shot them all to pieces."
"Do you remember seeing Custer, the big chief, after the fight?"
"I saw the big chief riding with the orderly before we attacked. He had glasses to his face (field glasses). During the fight there were so many soldiers scattered all around for me to see him."
"Did any of the soldiers get away?"
"No, all were killed. About fourteen (indicating the number with his fingers) started toward the Wolf Mountains, but the young braves got on their trail and all were killed."
No doubt Harrington, Sturgis, Lord and the other missing ones were of this party endeavoring to escape toward the Wolf Mountains.
"What did you do after all Custer's soldiers were killed?"
"We went back to fight the soldiers on the hill who were digging holes in the ground. We staid there until big dust was seen down the river, when we all moved up Lodge Pole Creek toward the White Rain Mountains."