In the Indian wars of the 1870s, Sioux tribesmen used a tactic against the United States Cavalry known as a “brave run” or a “dare ride.” An Indian warrior would gallop close to the American soldiers, drawing their fire. The purpose was partly practical — to get the soldiers to waste their ammunition — and partly psychological — to taunt. The Sioux sometimes showed their contempt for their enemies by appearing naked or nearly so, displaying their genitals and buttocks. Then the Indians would close in. “Soldiers always tried to keep an enemy at bay, to kill him at a distance,” Thomas Powers writes in “The Killing of Crazy Horse,” his richly textured account of clashing civilizations on the Great Plains during the late 19th century. “The instinct of Sioux fighters was for exactly the opposite: to charge in and touch the enemy with a quirt, bow or naked hand while he was still alive. There is no terror in battle to equal physical contact — shouting, hot breath, the grip of a hand from a man close enough to smell.” The whites were repulsed by the smell of Indians — “an odor resembling a mixture of smoked beef, muskrat and polecat,” according to a correspondent for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly quoted by Powers; “a pungent, musty odor something like that of combined smoke and grease,” Lt. William Philo Clark, a cavalry officer, wrote. For the Sioux “who wanted nothing to do with whites, visceral differences like smell were only the beginning,” Powers writes. The Indians particularly resented white treatment of Indian women. “Many whites beat or abused Indian women, exploited them sexually after capture in battle, and sometimes bought them for cheap trinkets and liquor and later cast them aside.”
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