Jul 10, 2017

There is a lot to do in Fort Robinson, NE

 Crazy Horse’s real name was “His-horse-is-crazy.” He was the leader of the Oglala Lakotas and led a group of like-minded Native Americans in a fight against the United States government protesting the government’s encroachments on their land and the effect it was having on the culture of the Lakota people. He and his followers finally surrendered to U.S. troops and Crazy Horse was imprisoned at Fort Robinson. On September 5, 1877 Crazy Horse was bayoneted to death by a guard who said he was trying to escape. 

Crazy Horse is just one of the unique stories of Fort Robinson which is located near Crawford, Nebraska. When I think of a fort I envision a massive stone or wooden fort encircled by a moat.  Fort Robinson is not like that.  Today it is a destination where people can stay, dine, tour, enjoy sports, and even go to a Broadway-like production. The Visitors Center is in a 1909 red brick building with white pillars looking a bit like a southern estate mansion but was actually the men’s barracks.   

The fort’s museum is fascinating.  There are Native American artifacts but even more interesting to me were the displays dealing with the African American cavalry units. The 9th Cavalry was one of the U.S. Army’s regiments set aside for black enlisted men. They
participated in numerous frontier campaigns plus they fought alongside of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the attack on San Juan Hill, Cuba. Nicknamed “Buffalo Soldiers,” besides fighting while serving at Fort Robinson they captured horse and cattle thieves, built roads, and protected the U.S. mail, stagecoaches and wagon trains. 

In 1942 Fort Robinson became a War Dog Training Center. Nearly
5,000 dogs, half of all the dogs used by the army in WW II, were trained at the center as guard, scout, messenger, and sled dogs. The training took about 8 to 12 weeks. The center was deactivated n 1946.

The museum also has a display dealing with the time during WW II when the fort became the temporary home of about 3000 POWs.  They helped maintain the fort, cared for the animals, and did agricultural work.  With so many American men off fighting the war there was a
labor shortage. POWs were given postcards to mail home telling their family where they were and that they were in good health. One interesting display shows POW Dietrich Kohl in his uniform before he donated it to the museum in 1996. 
I wish I had time to go tubing on the Niobrara River and then attend the Post Playhouse’s production of “Mama Mia.”  There is never enough time to do everything and there is always so much to see.  

Nearby the fort John and I visited the Fur Trading Museum. There is always a lot written about those who settled the West but not so much is written about the people who paved the way for them – the fur trappers. The trappers explored the area and made contact with the Native American. The museum depicts the time “...when skins were money.” Fur trading is America’s oldest business and made John Jacob Astor America’s first
millionaire. Outdoor displays included a trading post and one display showed how 10 tanned buffalo hides were compressed into 2 by 3-foot bales for easier shipping.

Life on the frontier was not easy.  I wonder how I would have fared when faced with such hardships.